By on February 17, 2011


This truck has been parked a block from my house since I moved to Denver in June, but early-1950s GMC and Chevy trucks are sort of like fire hydrants or street signs to me— they’ve been around so long that they just seem like standard street accessories, and I tend to overlook them. Finally, I went over and got some shots of this great-looking survivor.

How many 60-year-old vehicles do you know that still do work? Aircraft, sure, but light trucks? I’m putting this one down as a 1951 model, based on the lever-type door handles and lack of pop-out driver’s vent (yes, I’ve photographed a few of these things over the years), but junkyard parts swaps tend to blur model-year lines on workhorses like this; it might be a ’53 with ’50 doors, or it could be a ’49 with a ’52 cab… oh, hell, it could be a GMC with Chevrolet grille and emblems, and God only knows what weird engine is under the hood. I’ll leave that debate to the purists.

The half-ton ’51 Chevy pickup scaled in at a mere 3,120 pounds. The current Chevy Colorado weighs 3,735 pounds, so Model Bloat hasn’t been too bad over the last 60 years (though you could make the case that the Silverado is more the descendant of the ’51, in which case its 4,733-pound curb weight does trigger the Model Bloat alarm).

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19 Comments on “Down On The Mile High Street: 1951 Chevrolet Pickup...”


  • avatar
    86er

    Ah, that’s amore.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    An old friend of mine’s dad owned and ran a body shop back in the 60’s. His dad had a 1951 Chevy pick up just like the one pictured. In 1968, he painted it a shade of very nice bright purple and put large daisy decals on the doors and called it “The Love Truck”. The paint color WAS a shade that a guy could confidently drive, too. Man, I wanted to buy that truck sooo bad, but, no cash, no ride. I had to make do with my rusted-out ’52 Chevy and later a ’61 more rusted out Chevy!

  • avatar
    obbop

    In the words of the female who viewed a friends abode that is around 75 percent devoted to tools, machinery, raw materials such as metals, pipes, wood, etc. (the living room is near impassable but the garage and yard is full);
     
    It is so…. so…  industrial!!!!!!!!
     
    Despite the inherent beauty that gal would likely say the same about that wondrous pick-up from a by-gone era.

  • avatar
    anchke

    It’s the right size, designed with form follows function in mind, RWD, durable, easy to maintain …  I can picture myself perched on the tailgate with a cold one. Mighty nice.

  • avatar
    TR4

    The floating rear axle and the bedsides with three vertical stake pockets say it’s a 3/4 ton.  Wish my ’50 looked that good!  Someday…

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Let’s see now…iirc the vent windows showed up in 1952, pushbutton door handles in 1953, curved windshield in 1954. I never did learn how to distinguish the 48-51 models.
    We had two different friends that used the dark blue half-ton version of this as personal transportation from new…they were definitely ahead of their time. Compared to today’s 150/1500 pickups these were little more than motorized wheelbarrows…light, straightforward, and easy to drive and maneuver.

    • 0 avatar

      The way I learned it…47-48 had “Chevrolet” emblems on the hoodsides with “Thriftmaster” stamped into the bottom of the emblem. Although that may have been ’47 only.
      Model designation (“3100″, etc) was added below the “Chevrolet” in ’49 or ’50.
      Vent windows came in ’51, push-button door handles in ’52, I think the “Chevrolet” was replaced by model designation in square numbers for ’53.
      Facelift in ’54 – one-piece windshield, new grill, emblems and dashboard. Emblems changed again for ’55.
      All-new truck debuted mid-55, now known as “2nd series”. ’55’s based on the 1947 design became “1st series”.
      Country Music fans reading this may recognize these trucks as they were used as props on album covers for years…
      Randy Travis – Storms Of Life
      Kentucky HeadHunters – Pickin’ On Nashville
      Patty Loveless – If My Heart Had Windows
      Southern Pacific – Southern Pacific
      Just a few…

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    If Chevy could legally make ‘em like that now, with a modern drive train, they’d sell a million of ‘em. Literally.  Bet that thing gets >20 MPG….no airbags, no 5 mph bumpers, no idiot lights, no IPod ports, no cupholders….(we doan need no stinkin’ cupholders!  Tuck your Pabst Blue Ribbon can between your thighs, mate.)  No power windows or locks….no wussified leather upholstery.  Just an honest truck.

    They should have re-made this instead of the Camaro. 

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Of course, it also would have to come with AM radio, 3 speed column shift manual transmission, solid steel dashboard with no seat belts, 4 wheel drum brakes with a single hydraulic reservoir, and bias ply tires.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      “They should have re-made this instead of the Camaro. “
       
      That’s what the HHR and the SSR were about.  Unfortunately for us, motor vehicles like this fine specimen don’t meet Big Brother’s safety edicts.  By the time the retro-Suburban and truck were brought up to standards, then fitted with all the gee-gaws to make them attractive to the cupholder crowd, they weighed as much or more than a typical modern car.
       
      Someday, one hopes, there will be an exemption path for those of us who understand the risks but still want to buy.  A reverse-engineered old Chevy, fitted with minimalist smog equipment and FI,,,or a recreated Jeep, like AMC’s concept Jeep II…would sell like beer at a Teamster’s picnic.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Denver doesn’t seem to have a bunch of weird, funky looking homes like Eugene.

  • avatar
    tiredoldmechanic

    3/4 ton longbox. You see very few of these surviving. Back in the early 50s the only purchaser for one of these would be someone who needed a serious work truck, and most were beat like a rented mule for thier service lives and then scrapped. The half tons were reasonably civilized for thier day, but driving the 3/4 or 1 ton versions was work. A friend of my Dad had a yellow one and we would borrow it to go fishing once in awhile. Once you got it up to speed on the highway it rumbled along alright, but around town it was a beast.  I wouldn’t mind grabbing a six pack, borrowing this one for the afternoon and picking up the old man one more time though.
     

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Grandpa had one of these, a ’53 3/4T long bed. It was his farm truck, but the “Custom Cab” model with extra windows in the rear corners of the cab and a pushbutton AM radio. As I recall the data plate stated that it had 85 Certified Net Horsepower from the splash-lubricated six. It was interesting to drive, with the foot operated starter, hand choke, non-synchro first gear and an odd hand throttle. I think the latter was for anything run off the Power Take Off from the transmission.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Everytime I would see the GMC version at a car show my dad would talk about the one my grandfather had for many years.  A black GMC with the steel wheels painted red and the “dog dish” hubcaps (as my father calls them.)  “Three on the tree” and it was what my father leaned to drive on back in 1970.  It was gone by the time I was born in 1977, the old guy had decided he didn’t really need a truck anymore and just would keep a second hand car around for getting himself to work, my grandmother having the “nice car” that would take her to the grocery store and them to church on Sunday. 

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Want want want!  These are permanently impressed on my mind as the definition of “pickup truck.”  It’s so hard these days to find one that hasn’t been street-rodded or resto-modded to within an inch of its life.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s wrong, but I’d prefer an IHC pickup to a GM one.

  • avatar
    obbop

    “but driving the 3/4 or 1 ton versions was work.”
     
    Advice for the uninitiated.
    Refrain from angering those who have driven vehicles to any great extent without the assistance of power-steering, especially larger, heavier vehicles.
    Some vehicles definitely require MUCH more physical exertion just to make the wheels turn that other non-power-steering-assisted models.
    The constant physical effort can result in massively strong arm and shoulder muscle power.
    Unlike the muscle-type displayed by professional body builders, even those not using enhancing drugs, it seems that those muscle-types developed for show tend to not possess the less obvious but brutally strong muscles from folks engaged in work.
    Well, I detected a difference from my high school wrestling days to a few altercations over the years; from simple “shoving matches” to brutal brawls.
    It was the non-body builder types who were the toughest power-punch-packing hombres.
     
    Scrunch, ouch, what were we fighting about? Not worth it. You win. Wanna’ beer?

  • avatar
    nikita

    When grandpa still had his ’53, I was driving a ’71 version of the same basic truck, straight six, three-on-the-tree, manual steering and brakes (front disc, though). It built arm and leg strength without bulk. I still looked just as scrawny, but was a lot stronger after a few months driving it.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The  1/2  tons  were  just  like  the cars  of  the  era. The 3/4 tons were  beasts.


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