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What to know when buying a Chevy 47-55 truck?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Thankful, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. Thankful
    Joined: Feb 13, 2012
    Posts: 4


    Hello all.

    I have been doing a ton of research on these trucks. I really want to do the right thing when buying my first one. This will be my first -- how should I say it -- Hot Rod project?

    I am very familiar with cars and bikes -- own a few and have built a few projects of my own. Just nothing this old -- in a car or truck that is.

    I really love the lines and look of the 47 - 55 Chevy Trucks.

    I have been looking at every site that sells them -- eBay, here on the HAMB and about 3-4 other sites as well. Really to do my due diligence to know what is out there and what costs should be etc.

    Since this is my first old truck -- I would obviously like to buy one that is pretty solid and runs pretty good.

    I am going to eventually put a newer engine in it and modernize some things for durability and reliability -- but I want to maintain the look and feel of the old truck.

    In saying that - I have a few questions.

    - Area where I purchase this truck.... I would love a solid truck with little to no rust. People have often said - stay away from the heavy states with snow -- as you may find more rust on the truck from that. Not sure if this is true or just a miss-understanding.

    - When looking at these trucks -- where should I look for rust the most?
    - Under the door's?
    - Floor in the cabin?

    - Are there any years out of these that are more desirable? I am a big fan of the 5 window and would love to find one of those to start my project.

    - Costs -- I have seen decent and running trucks go from $6,500 - $15,000. Yes there are the ones that are already built and customized -- but I am not looking for that.

    I am looking for a solid truck -- that is in good working condition -- where I can improve on it and make it unique to myself.

    I am located in South Florida -- there used to be a lot of old trucks down here -- but property is more valuable now for high rises and hotels -- and farm lands are becoming less and less.

    So I am willing to go anywhere in the U.S. to find the right truck.

    Thank you for any insights on how I can be a better consumer. What I should look for when looking at them etc.
  2. 1967gtafb
    Joined: Mar 22, 2012
    Posts: 41


    Typical rust in NC is as fallows Cab corners, lower fender's, under the seat,Bed all and windshield frame, That's what i have run into But you want a driver so most of that will be replaced. I know where there is a few 47-55 1st's i'll PM you with names and number.
  3. Steve Ray
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 673

    Steve Ray

    Know how to get it titled and registered in your state. The original VIN is on the engine block only, and many states used that for titling purposes; and if that's gone your title won't match the truck. A State-assigned VIN is no big deal. Make sure your title matches the truck.

    Forget it. After 60 years they all have rust, even in Arizona. Mostly in the cab corners and inner and outer cowl panels. Usually the floor too. All these parts are available new, and fairly cheap. Buy an inexpensive 115v welder and teach yourself how to use it.

    The most desirable ones are the ones YOU like. Three or five window, 47-53 or 54-55, whichever you prefer.
  4. Salty
    Joined: Jul 24, 2006
    Posts: 2,259

    from Florida

    Like the guy above said.....I bought a AD 15years ago that was a New Mexico native....had a bad case of cab corner and lower cowl rust....very few you'll find now days that are rust free.....

  5. Truckedup
    Joined: Jul 25, 2006
    Posts: 3,964


    Steve Ray says;"The original VIN is on the engine block only"
    Oh,there's this plate on the cab door frame with a vehicle serial number that is also used by many states for registration purposes.
  6. OldoginMd
    Joined: Dec 20, 2008
    Posts: 290


    Definitly look at the door bottoms . Open the hood and look where the fire wall
    and inner fender meet there can be rust , there will be a small removeable piece on each side that can be rusted but look around them . Funny thing is these trucks [ AD’s ] were undercoated and advertised as long lasting in the ads at the time , trouble was the water went under the tar they smeared on them .

    I have never used the engine # for titling purposes but check anyway the Vin will be on a plate on the drivers door jam and this # will match the title . If there is a plate on the fire wall or anywhere else be careful
    Joined: Dec 16, 2008
    Posts: 2,748


    Braking systems. The early ones have HUCK style brakes that work fine but take some work. Later trucks have the bendix style drums.

    Rust around the battery under the floor board on the passenger side.

    If it's a six triple check if it's a 235 or a 216. Either work fine but the 235 tends to be a better engine. My dads is a 50 and it has the HUCK brakes and has a 55 235 in it.

    They are cool trucks. I've got one on my list, too. There is a guy here in California that seems to have a new one for sale every week. I can't remember his screen name right now. His all fall into that range you mentioned.
  8. EnragedHawk
    Joined: Jun 17, 2009
    Posts: 1,080

    from Waco, TX is an awesome resource for parts. I swear you could build a brand new truck from them; they have pretty much everything.
  9. chiro
    Joined: Jun 23, 2008
    Posts: 902


    Look under the truck on the frame rails under the bed, especially where the frame rail dips down in front of the rear axle. they get a little thin there. Also, check the frame cross-member that is right between the cab and the bed. sometimes they rot out too. '50 and up uses the Bendix brakes. Earlier than '50 uses the Huck (rhymes with SUCK) brakes.

    Most desirable years are the '54 and '55 first series because they have a one-piece curved windshield. I like the 5-window cabs better. Many of the '47-'53 trucks may have had the splash oiling 216 engine swapped out for the '54 and later 235 engine., The '54 235 is a one-year-only engine. Tough to find and not any more desirable than the '55 and up 235 engines. You would definately want a 235 engine. Lots of these engine swapped trucks have the radiator core support hacked up to fit the later radiator as the water pump on the 235 engines has a longer snout. This seriously screws up the front end of the trucks as the core support is key to a lot of the front end stability of the sheet metal and even the handling of the truck. The way to fix that is to get an un-hacked core support and an adapter plate for the 235 engine so you can run the earlier 216 water pump with the shorter snout.

    These trucks are fun to drive and easy to work on but make no mistake, they are FARM trucks for sure and top speed on a stock driveline is 50-55 MPH tops with the engine SCREAMING. Seriously old time technology and it's scary to take it over 50 MPH anyway. Enclosed driveshaft (torque tube) makes upgrading the rear end with lower gears difficult and EXPENSIVE. You cannot swap out with an open driveline rear end without changing out the tranny (or at least the rear part of the tranny if your truck is lucky enough to have a Muncie SM 420 4-speed). The '53 and earlier trucks had 4.11:1 rears, '54-'55 first series had 3.90:1 rears which really didn't make that much of a difference. Some '55 first series trucks had open driveline and some had closed driveline. Apparently Chevy wanted to use up the old closed driveline stock. '55 first series were only produced until March or May of '55.

    You should be able to find a running, driving truck for a few thousand dollars although it will probably not be very pretty.

    Rust issues are going to be the cab corners (those ALWAYS rot), then the cab floors, bed front and bottom of the bed sides where they meet the bed floor. Look out for the frame rotting as I mentioned before.

    Lastly, DO NOT BUY AN EX-OLD NAVY DISPLAY TRUCK unless you really know what you are doing. Those trucks were slapped together with spit and a prayer and were never intended to see the road ever again. I have seen those trucks with cross member hacked out, frames spliced and bolted together to make short bed trucks out of long bed trucks. etc and so forth.

    Farm trucks. If you want to go fast, you are goint to have to put a differnet front suspension in by grafteing a front clip from something else, changing out the entire driveline, etc a decidely HAMB-unfriendly S-10 frame swap (SHUDDDER). It certainly is the easy and cheap way to put a great looking truck body on a frame and driveline that has updated technology and there are companies that make very good kits to mount the body to those frames, but it is VERY un-HAMB like.

    Good luck, though. The styling is very cool and one of these was my kids first build. We all love the truck and use it as a work truck. In fact, I used it today to pick up a bed full of mulch for the wifes garden. It is a driver and it is an ex-Old Navy store display truck, but I got lucky and got one that wasn't all hacked up with good original floors and a very good body. The frame was junk and I needed to buy a parts truck to do a frame swap.

    Oh yeah, last thing. The frames for the '47-'53 are different than the '54-'55 first series because the beds are different. You may need to know that if your'e slapping together one truck from a couple of parts trucks. I was lucky I didn't know this when I bought my parts truck. Good thing both trucks were '54-'55.

    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  10. 48stude
    Joined: Jul 31, 2004
    Posts: 1,170


    Look inside the fender behind the front tire toward the back of the fender. There is a mud seal or J-panel that fits between the outer side of the kick panel and where the fender bolts on. These panels will rust heavily . If they're real rusty you will see a half moon of rust on the inside kick panel. I've seen them so bad that the lower door hinge pocket is gone along with the outer cowl panel. The rocker panel extends past the front and rear of the door jambs.It will look okay where you can see it but be rusted away behind the cowl panels and cab corners. This is typical of northern trucks and are the places I look at first. Bill
  11. OldoginMd
    Joined: Dec 20, 2008
    Posts: 290


    """"Most desirable years are the '54 and '55 first series because they have a one-piece curved windshield"""

    I believe he is talking about the 47 - 55 Advanced Design trucks which are much easier to get metal back into if need be
  12. jetnow1
    Joined: Jan 30, 2008
    Posts: 1,728

    from CT
    1. A-D Truckers

    One additional point- the 1/2 ton- 3100 series trucks used the same cab sheetmetal as
    the larger trucks. The bigger trucks sat higher off the ground and often were not driven
    an much so many have less rust and give a good cab to swap to a 1/2 ton. The 3/4 ton
    (3600 series) used the same fenders as the 1/2 ton but the larger trucks used different
    fenders to clear the larger wheels. 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton look the same except for the
    bed length and the 8 lug rims on the 3/4 ton. Jim
  13. OldoginMd
    Joined: Dec 20, 2008
    Posts: 290


    Also the 1954 and first half of 55 are different truck so if you like the AD body style stay with 53 and earlier ... do you smoke .. than stick 52 and above has wings in the door [ only if you care about being original in looks ]
  14. Truckedup
    Joined: Jul 25, 2006
    Posts: 3,964


    Chiro says;
    There's plenty of AD trucks running at modern hiway speeds on original type front suspension.Some actually have modified inline 6 engines with manual trannys.Not everyone needs or wants a V-8 auto tranny frame swap truck.I can get that shit in a modern daily driver PU truck.
  15. Kens 50 PU
    Joined: May 13, 2008
    Posts: 54

    Kens 50 PU

    Chiro sounds like he has one and my guess would be 55 1st series!:D OK, I cheated. We built our trucks about the same time and used to spend hours on another forum cussing and discussing! Here's a few shots of these old trucks, each with their own set of problems. Enjoy the pics and study them. They are good examples of what most of these trucks suffer with.






    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  16. Dizzie
    Joined: Feb 7, 2012
    Posts: 245


    Yes, where the fender bolts to the cowl does rust badly, and around the lower hinge pocket. Mine had problems in this area. It isn't too hard to fix, if you have the time and equipment.
  17. bobwop
    Joined: Jan 13, 2008
    Posts: 6,098


    many good tips already provided.

    one that needs to be re-visited...VIN. If engine number matches title, then you may run into a problem if you switch engines. Some used the body tag ID number for VIN on title and that would be preferred if intending to change engine.

    if you don't change up powertrain immediately and want to drive it at highway speeds, then look for a four speed truck. My rationale is this allows a gear change, or taller tire change, and then using the granny gear as your gear for starting out.

    I like to install 215/85/16 tires on OEM rims to get some gearing. This makes first gear on a three speed a bit tall for initial start out. But it isn't a deal breaker.
  18. Rude Dude
    Joined: Dec 14, 2003
    Posts: 356

    Rude Dude

  19. Make sure it's never been flat blue or said "Old Navy" on the doors! :D
  20. Mine looked great when I got it, should have painted it and drove it till the bondo fell out. had to replace all four bottom corners on the cab. but the floor was solid lol

    Attached Files:

  21. Thankful
    Joined: Feb 13, 2012
    Posts: 4


    Thank you.... I get to NC often and would love to check a few trucks out. Thank you for passing on any info you come across.
  22. Thankful
    Joined: Feb 13, 2012
    Posts: 4


    Truckedup -- Thank you for the info on the Original Vin Plate. I have seen these pictured before in ads. So I will make sure to add this to my list when looking at trucks.

    OldoginMd - Didn't know about the whole undercoat process back then. Great bit of info. I too will also check into the engine # etc. I would like this process to be as smooth as possible when I go to purchase a truck and title it etc.

    DRUGASM - Thank you for your feedback there on the engines and brakes. And if you do come across the guy in California that sells the trucks - please let me know. I will actually be out in California this Thur - Mon.

    EnragedHawk - Chevsofthe40' -- great resource and site! Thank you!

    Chiro -- Great info. Thank you for sharing all of that. I have read a lot about the Old Navy trucks -- so to hear some first hand knowledge on them -- means a lot.

    You bring up a lot of great info -- one thing I would like to inquire more about:

    The whole S10 frame swap etc. So this is traditionally taboo I take it? I have heard this go both ways....

    My question is - if I am going to swap a crate engine or something of that nature down the road -- along with tranny and all necessary parts etc. Do I need to go with an S10 frame? I am sure I can do this without it -- but my next question is regarding brakes and suspension.

    Will I be able to upgrade the brakes and even get the suspension to sit the way I want -- nice and low and mean with a rake -- like a lot of you have your trucks setup now -- without going to an S10 frame?

    Again - I am learning and want to be as educated as possible. This info you all are sharing is SO VALUABLE!

    jetnow1 -- Great info on the different models of these trucks.

    Kens 50 PU -- Love the photos for reference. Thank you!

    Dizzie -- HOLY CRAP your truck is amazing! Would love to learn more about it!!!! I may PM you if you don't mind chatting about your lovely truck!

    bobwop - Really good feedback - thank you.

    Rude Dude - THANK YOU! Perfect site for me here.
  23. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 18,026

    from California

    "Most desirable years are the '54 and '55 first series because they have a one-piece curved windshield."

    I think they are the least desireable for the same reason. plus the grille is not as cool as the older ones.

    if you want one of these trucks to sit right and ride nice I'd go with a MustangII.

    of course you can upgrade the stock axle with disc brakes, maybe get it dropped or buy one dropped, or even get an aftermarket tube axle.

    I'd stay away from clips, or any truck that already has one.

    frame swaps are probably as much work or more than modifying the stock frame. I'd leave the frame swaps for people who do not have to ask if it is a good idea or not.
  24. D-man313
    Joined: Mar 17, 2011
    Posts: 1,156


    Like others have said, all four corners rot out. My truck looked alot better than it was once I took it all apart

    I was one that went with a s10 frame swap and I couldn't be happier, wasn't to hard to do, runs great, all the frame parts are easily accessible at the local parts store.

    Feel free to pm me with any questions
  25. jcmarz
    Joined: Jan 10, 2010
    Posts: 4,636

    from Chino, Ca

  26. blue 49
    Joined: Dec 24, 2006
    Posts: 1,333

    blue 49
    from Iowa

    They're all saveable.


    Attached Files:

  27. Kens 50 PU
    Joined: May 13, 2008
    Posts: 54

    Kens 50 PU

  28. I got my 1947 from California and brought it home to Arizona. Not too much rust on it, but the toe board is see through, the transmission cover does not require the need to remove for inspections, the fronts of the rear fenders, and the lower edges of the front fenders on my truck need fixed. Not too bad for a 64 year old truck. I paid $1500 without a title and a transmission, but I searched for a 1947 for 5 years. I plan to keep it original and I drive it everyday everywhere with the 216, 3 speed, enclosed driveline, 6 volt electrical, floor start button, single tail light, pretty boring but I love it.
  29. ol'chevy
    Joined: Nov 1, 2005
    Posts: 1,283


    My assembly thread on a truck I built.

    If you want low....MII setup. You will spend as much getting a dropped axle setup and still have driveability issues.

    If your frame is good, just box the whole helps alot, and do a modern axle swap....8.8 Ford, S10 4X4, whatever you find....Mine is a 95 Tbird IRS.

    Most any engine will fit in these trucks.

    Count on replacing all cab corner inner and outers, I prefer the whole cowl panel on the outer. You will frequently need to replace the cowl upper panel as they like to ust around the vent. The front floors and kick panels are usually gone. Rear corners are almost guaranteed to be rusted out. Doors are 50/50. Many will have the outer cowl dented in from an over extended door.

    Everything is reproduced in these trucks, so don't worry.

    Hit me up at Classic parts if you need anything.




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