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My 5 decades long restoration, nearly……


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Finally on the home stretch with help from my friends, including help and advice from great people on this forum. I thought I would share my story with you all.  I grew up on a farm that had a lot of old machinery. I loved all things mechanical and In 1971  when I was twelve years old I decided to “restore” a 1936 GMC 1/2 ton pickup.  This pickup had sat since 1956 , it was complete except for the front axle that was borrowed for a trailer project. Sin number one, never tear something completely apart, especially when you have no skills or a plan.  Sin number two, do not tear apart a vehicle that is in good original condition without A proper evaluation .

in the summer of 1971 I took this nice old pickup and completely disassembled it , thank goodness I did not grind all the rivets off the frame.  Not knowing what to do I asked around for advice , some said hot rod others said why in the heck did you go and do that for.  I was fortunate to know a pretty good machinist who said , son start by evaluating components and then make up a list of parts that you will need, meanwhile start to develop skill on the simple stuff first.  Of course I had school and chores , years fly by .  The one good thing that happened is I learned to work on old hit and miss engines.  Actually restored a couple of them and learned how great it is to complete a project, if I only learned that lesson first (before sin number 1). 
  fast forward a decade , finally got the engine evaluated and the engine block was not usable I then spent many years trying to find a original style engine.  In 1936 when GMC introduced their first light duty pickup they wanted it to have a pressure oil system.  They chose Oldsmobiles 213 cu flathead six with a few differences 

like different motor mounts, distributor, water pump, clutch ect.

To me the most important thing to have in this truck was the proper letter and number sequence on the engine block, GMC used the letter T to begin the serial number.  Another decade latter I finally found a complete engine 2,500 miles from me.  I bought the motor and had it shipped to me, I sent it out to be rebuilt at a very busy machine shop, I continued to put pressure on them to get it done , secretly hoping that did not get it done too fast as I was always short on time and money , you know, got married, bought a house, had a kid, got divorced repeat, as some say life got in the way.  That takes us to decade four.  The machine shop calls and says pickup your motor, I was thrilled until I learned that they did not finish it.  The owners decided to retire, however they said that all the machining was completed and the engine only needed to be assembled, they even gifted all the labor as they felt bad.  Fortunately I had become good friends with a nice young man who has a restoration shop near me , he specializes in pre world war classics , does Packard’s, Pierce Arrow and many other engine complete overhauls.  I took the engine to him and within a few weeks he called me with the bad news, the engine that had sat all those years at the previous machine shop and had all the work done on it was never magnafluxed .  It had water jacket cracks inside the block were the side valve chambers are. I started my search again, like trying to find a needle in a haystack, in 1936 GMC only built 12,000 trucks with this engine. I reached out to some new found friends that I met on this site along with the VCCA and someone remembered a guy who dropped a small block in his truck, I was able to buy it as is, so until it made it to my friends restoration shop I had no idea if it was rebuildable, thank goodness it was.  Anyway the engine has been on the test stand and runs great, truck is pretty much back together, just waiting for the new radiator core to be installed . Not sure how many pictures I can include on a single post so I will start with a representative photo of the beginning and one near completion,  moral of the story is, it took me 50 years but you can sometimes Make up for the sins of your youth,  Michael

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r1lark, here you go, these pictures are from 2015. What is not shown is the boxes of NOS parts and components that were cleaned and rebuilt and ready to go.  I had to move all the parts 3 times, but was lucky that in 50 years it sat indoors. With the exception of the cab and box that was pulled out of the barn in 2012.  I also am amazed that I only lost a few items and of course as life would have it, I found some of those pieces misplaced after I spent years looking on eBay and countless phone calls begging1E104A97-FDC8-4633-828E-72E73B3661E4.jpeg.7d9cb20f2dac349ed39f93934820441d.jpeg

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Sorry I have been having issues with pictures, but I think I figured out what I was doing wrong.  Two of these pictures show some great pinstripe application, we decided to have the tailgate GMC logo hand painted instead of using the store bought decal. The other picture shows how a modern material can be easy to apply and come out great, I am referring to the brown wrinkle finish on the interior.  originally the factory took the interior panels and painted them with a special paint and then baked them in a oven.  The paint would wrinkle and then they would be screwed into place with clutch head screws ( I would call them one way screws, hopefully you will not experience what I went through with these). The modern solution to this ,as that paint is not available is a wrinkle finish powder coat.  The material was less than $200, I took my panels to my local powder coat shop and they charged me $400.  As many of you know there is no way you could sandblast and paint those pieces or upholster over them as cheap as this.  Not to mention it came out perfect5EF840E2-981E-4A84-A1AB-5EAFEAE58224.jpeg.5317ce6e335d84a966e82851fb66d497.jpeg

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I am very excited to see so much progress the last few days. This weeks project was to recore the radiator as we need to get the radiator shell and hood on before this Thursday when the pin stripper returns to finish off the doors and hood for proper alignment of stripe.  We had a surprise with the radiator core, the new one was of poor quality, the fins were very close together, very modern looking.  So the shop owner said let’s see what the original 85 year old radiator has to offer.  This radiator has the original date code of 1936 with the GM Harrison tag.  Surprisingly    After cleaning up it was leak free and it flow tested better than the replacement core, possibly because 50 years ago I stored the radiator with soluble oil or just lucky. Here is a photo of finished product, if it fails we have the core with a spare set of tanks ready to go

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Ericmac, we are so close I can taste it, we left the front fenders off so that the pinstriper can stand closer to the hood and cowl.  Last month he did the back of the cab, but did not want to do doors in case there was a alignment issue with hood. He is scheduled now to come in either Monday or Tuesday and finish.  We just have to route a few wires and solder some sockets for the headlights.  Having a little routing issue with the exhaust system, but getting help from a friend in Florida that has the same model truck, thanks Patrick. Interior is nearly complete I just need to decide what ribbed rubber mat would look close to original.  I have a sales brochure that shows a drawn picture of the interior so I have a little something to go by.9E728BB1-B71B-40D6-BD8B-B3F20511F775.jpeg.aced8b1c9a4ff9184003bc760f2867a7.jpeg

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Can anyone suggest a vendor that might have bulk rubber mat material?  I found some but the ribs are real wide and as you can see from the picture above the original must have been very narrow or fine.  I have been trying very hard to put it back as original as I can. The fact that trucks during the depression were used for a much longer period of time as money was tight and the fact that when World War 2 came along these trucks had to keep going as few people could get a permit to buy a replacement. I could also mention that I do not believe that anyone ever parked these trucks in a garage from new and just sparingly used it to go dump their trash once a week like people do now with their trucks. I have looked for 50 years inside every 36 through 38 Chevy or GMC pickup either in person or magazine to see what the floor mat looks like, I have yet to find even a remnant of the mat

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Really pleased with the pinstripe application, right side done left side will be finished in a hour or so.  Next week fenders , headlights , door handles and a drive around the block. Imagine I started this 2,608 weeks ago!

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Thank you all, Nickelroadster thanks you for the tip.  The two places that Had bulk mat were wrong, one had a pebble pattern which reminds me of my 1958 Ford custom 300 that has original interior.  The other one is from Jim Carter truck parts and it has a really wide rib pattern.

  Next week we will finish truck hopefully and I will post some more pictures 

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