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Stovebolt Trucks Be Good

Stovebolt Trucks Be Good
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Back when all my buddies were into big window Fl00s, I had a ‘54 Chevy pickem-up. The five window variety, mind you. They were common as whatall, but nowadays they seem to be one of the rages.

I got my truck already equipped with a 394 Olds engine. It came about with the trade of a 3-window ‘32 coupe, which I had bought because of another engine. Anyway I ended up with the truck as my daily driver around Los Angeles, and it proved plenty good for my needs. Except it looked like, well, a 1954 Chevrolet pickup! It sat a mile high, it rode rough, and it steered like a truck!

I set about making changes to it that would require it being off the road the least amount of time. I did a lot of road testing of new cars back then, and often had test cars at my house, sometimes several at a time. Enough that some neighbours thought I was a used car salesman. I certainly couldn’t rely on the family car, which most often was a station wagon of some lineage. Wife Pegge had permanent dibs on the wagons, so I had to do improvements on the truck when I had other wheels available.

First order of business was getting rid of the manual transmission. I had been doing an almost overwhelming amount of articles on the B&M 4-speed, which increased their sales manifold. In return, they would work on my projects for free, or at whatever their cost was for parts. In this case, they spiffed up one of the Hydromatics and installed it behind the Olds at their old HQ on Lankershim in North Hollywood. The change was dramatic in how much easier to drive the truck was in traffic, and it had a low gear drag racers loved.

First order of business was getting rid of the manual transmission. I had been doing an almost overwhelming amount of articles on the B&M 4-speed, which increased their sales manifold. In return, they would work on my projects for free, or at whatever their cost was for parts. In this case, they spiffed up one of the Hydromatics and installed it behind the Olds at their old HQ on Lankershim in North Hollywood. The change was dramatic in how much easier to drive the truck was in traffic, and it had a low gear drag racers loved.

Didn’t have discs and kits back then, so I found some GM drum brakes and spindle assemblies that cleaned up reasonably well, they had the same kingpin diameter and length as the original truck units, and they had the same GM wheel bolt pattern as the rear-end. Trouble was, this work took almost a full week of effort.

Then, I tackled the appearance. Out came the buckled wood in the bed, replaced by good Oak planks. The body was absolutely straight, so several days of sanding at home, and off the truck went to the paint shop. One of the biggest names, who I can’t remember in my advancing years, but he was the one who invented lace and spider web painting. A set of mags, and I was humming.

I consistently got over 23 mpg with that big Olds anchor, and one of the propensities of the Olds engine was a penchant to run cold. No fan was ever used, and it never overheated in the notorious LA traffic jams. If Brian’s new project turns out half as good, it will be a winner.

I’ll add an afterthought. I am seeing a growing number of these Bowtie trucks imported into the hot rod scene in Australia. Some of the 5-window style, and they all seem to have come via a good building environment rather than some home-grown hatchet job. You’re in good company, Brave, just don’t go slamming the doors too hard and breaking the door glass.