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Classic Glamper? 1951 Chevrolet 3800 Panel

This 1951 Chevrolet 3800 is referenced as, potentially, a “glamper”. The Oxford dictionary defines “glamping” as, “A form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.” Uh, I think this truck misses that mark – by a lot. Tongue-in-cheek perhaps? Maybe so but that doesn’t mean that this Chevy would have no role in exploring the great outdoors. Hold that thought and let’s give this 3800 a lookover. It is located in Salem, Iowa and available, here on eBay for a BIN price of $4,995. There is a make an offer option too.

The seller lists this vehicle as a Suburban but research from Chevrolet documentation of the era states otherwise as Suburbans were windowed, not panel trucks. Also, it’s listed as a 3600 but Chevrolet literature references only 3100 and 3800 series panel vans available in ’51. The extended wheelbase and rear hubs are indicative of 3800 traits. Of note is the claim that this Chevy was originally orange, documented by the orange firewall. The seller adds, “The color was not available to the public, and only offered in the commercial line.” It’s true that orange was not available on a passenger car but it could be standard fare on any Chevrolet truck in ’51 (note the Chevrolet supplied palette and option 234-E, Omaha Orange).

The exterior of this Chevy is in fair shape, not great but not terrible. There is surface rust showing through what looks like a primer finish, a finish that has been used to cover the few chrome bits that serve as trim. The passenger door has an obvious dent but it looks to be minor in the scheme of things. The seller adds, “Has some outer panel rust but is normal panel repair stuff, floors and wood are in good shape for age.” Interesting to note as I was not aware that panel trucks of this era still had wood floors. The rear bumper is obviously a homemade replacement, designed for some purpose, and most of the glass is beyond use. The forlorn condition of this Chevy looks like something more appropriate for morgue use than a camping application.

Check out the accommodations! The highlight of the interior is a 1920’s style spring mattress fashioned to fit around the rear wheel well. I don’t know about you but a used mattress is usually the first thing on my jettison list. There is really nothing of a camper flavor going on in here at all but it is sort of comical.

The passenger compartment has more crisscrossing going on than the front of the late Eddie Van Halen’s Fender Stratocaster. I suppose they are straps, orange in this instance, green and red in another image, that are designed to lock down the steering. There is a mass of wiring perched on top of the dash too, not sure if that is something necessary or just taking up space. Beyond that, there is very little here with which to work. Note the serious rust of the under-dash on the passenger side.

Non-operative power would be provided by a 92 HP, 216 CI, in-line, six-cylinder engine driving through a four-speed manual transmission. These were primitive engines as they employed Babbit-style bearings lubricated by a non-pressurized oiling system. The design sounds like a formula for disaster, especially in heavy commercial truck use, but it worked. Note the original orange painted firewall.

I’m not sure what I’m seeing here but a camper isn’t it – then again, I don’t have a lot of imagination either. The seller proffers, “Neat to fix and drive as rat truck or to restore with an extremely rare color. Restore, or get mechanically sound to drive and have fun with.” I’m outta ideas on this one, what would you suggest?


  1. Jon

    Definitely a Chevy 350 and automatic transmission would be the most cost effective
    Drivetrain for this,then on to brakes,radiator and bodywork. Definitely would last years after being gone through.

    Like 7
  2. Turbo

    Not sure I understand the crime scene tape, but it reminds me of the fun that could be had at the drive in back in the day. Also not sure if I remember a single drive in movie that I ‘watched’ back then. Maybe its the Makers Mark talking, but I hereby declare the name of this time machine to be: “Big Sexy”

    Like 4
  3. angliagt angliagt

    THe six cylinder engines didn’t have an oil filter until 1960.
    My ’60 panel truck also had a wood floor.

    Like 6
  4. Howard A Member

    Nice find, who knows what poor soul called it home. Forget the camping shtick, it’s not that much fun, and just restore it as a regular panel truck, something a lot more useful. Panel trucks led a rough life. They were usually a businesses bottom vehicle, and went through a slew of drivers that didn’t want to be in it( usually some sort of unloading involved) and were killed accordingly. To see one like this is pretty rare.
    Quick panel truck story, when I had my union bread hauling job, at the awards ceremony for drivers, they had “Old Buck” say a few words. He was Brownberry’s( now Bimbo,,,snicker) 1st truck driver, and they had “Mabel”, a panel truck like this for deliveries. He said, when we had that truck full, it was quite an accomplishment, and was amazed that bread was now hauled on 53 foot trailers. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice, to find a panel like this, paint it Brownberry Bread colors, and display it as a reminder of the companies past,,,it fell on deaf ears. Can’t be many left like this.

    Like 4
    • Paul Jackson Member

      I have an affinity for these trucks, one even had a raised bed in the back! Hadn’t had one in 40 years finally bought the last one I’ve seen on this sight in May 2019. It’ll be a swap meet special, carrying Indian motorcycle parts home and my crap to the meets

      Like 3
    • Mountainwoodie

      Colorado mountain story again. Late sixties early seventies these and the half ton, ’47-’51 were literally easy to pass on a daily basis. Favorite of the unwashed! If you went to a concert , say Tulagis in Boulder, you could cram a few.ummm.people.into the back……….doing lord knows what .

      Like 1
  5. don

    I just picked up 1959 Apache panel van and I intend to keep the 235 (small mods) and redo the brakes, steering and suspension and drive it as is. Everybody mods these out and you never see one that looks like it did out of the factory. Sure they weren’t refined but they were work trucks and got driven into the ground.I plan on keeping mine stock and enjoying the feeling from 1959.

    Like 11
  6. Rick

    It actually doesn’t look that bad for the price. I’d certainly be a player if I needed a project. I wonder what the availability is on sheet metal and replacement glass for these things?

    Like 5
    • Terry

      From the front doors forward, virtually EVERYTHING is available, because its the same as the pickups. From the front doors back is another story. Not enough demand I guess……

      Like 1
  7. Geowy

    I would transplant a 70s suburban 4×4 drivetrain and build an overland camper/weekend hunting machine.

    Like 5
  8. Duke reed

    My home town had one of these for an ambulance back when-
    Red of course with real gold leaf lettering
    As fate had it……they updated and the truck sat about until the DPW took it over
    They painted the entire truck in single stage enamel green……the beat the bag off the truck and it soon disappeared
    Very sad
    I knew what it was being a young lad and wanted the red truck being so nice

    Like 2
  9. Ron Agnello

    My 1954 Chevy had an oil filter.

    Like 1
    • angliagt angliagt

      I seem to remember reading that they
      were on ’60’s & newer,on stovebolt.com

      Like 0
      • Robin Baker

        No oil filter on my ’63 Rambler (straight 6).. As a teenage girl, it made me crazy trying to figure out how to change the oil and filter without going to Daddy for advice when I first bought it! (Blushing still)

        Like 2
  10. lbpa18

    I believe there will be a day not too distant when these longer than long bed trucks and panels will be sought after. There arent that many around because they were used hard. Not many made it to old age gracefully. I actually never understood the short bed thing because you cant haul as much with it and a truck is to use as a tool. John Wayne wouldnt ride a shetland pony and he wouldnt drive a short bed. He’d be driving a 1T 3800 and if he needed a panel, it’d be one of these.

    Like 2
  11. jerry hw brentnell

    i remember a local farmer landed the job to haul kids to our local one room school he put planks down both sides and the back, in rough riding heap like this thing! after 3 months riding I quit and rode my bike the 5 miles to school! plus the times I just didn’t even go and just hid in a old barn for the day!

    Like 3
  12. KenB

    Was in Civil Air Patrol in Lawton Oklahoma in the late 60s. We had one of these from the Air Force. 6 volt system. We called it the Blue Goose. What a truck!!
    The only other 3800 panel I’ve seen was the one Elvis used to drive, now at Graceland.

    Like 0
  13. Moe Moe

    This would be cool on a late Model 4×4 Chassis rollin on 35’s.

    Like 0
  14. pixelpusher

    I have a 1953 3800 I bought from a fire department in the 70’s with under 10K miles on it then. Was the chief’s truck. Still under 100K today as I drove it all around the US for a couple of years. This is a nice candidate, as it hasn’t had any windows cut into it which always seemed to happen to them in the van conversion 80’s. Sheet metal is all same as pickup doors forward. This is a one tone with the floating axles as shown.

    Like 0
  15. Pete

    Oh look an original bang buss. :-)

    Like 2
  16. Eddy Dawson

    I have a 53 3800 panel uses as a electricians service truck till 70 when my dad purchased it to use in his antique furniture business in New Orleans. It’s Ben sitting in storage since 1980 waiting for restoration. One day soon !!

    Like 0

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