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Grandpa’s Workhorse: 1952 Chevrolet Half-Ton Pickup

What is it with me and trucks. So many examples still wear the evidence of years of work, punctuated by the styling signatures of long ago. Is it possible to be glamorous and practical at the same time? I think so: here on eBay is an “Advance Design” 1952 Chevrolet 3100 short bed pickup bid to $3450, reserve not met. Its generously rounded sheet metal reminds me of some 1940s actress but in fact, it was Chevy’s first facelift after WWII, and the credit for its lines goes to Harley Earl. Launched in 1947, the Advance Design series was longer, lower, and wider than Chevy’s pre-war trucks. Features such as headlights incorporated into the front fenders, a taller greenhouse, and more cabin room made this a best-selling truck. Take your trailer to Watertown, South Dakota to retrieve this pickup, as it’s been sitting for decades and no doubt needs recommissioning.

The seller is representing the truck for his grandfather who apparently took it as a trade in 1985 and left it stored indoors from then until now. The original engine is still in place; that would be Chevy’s 216 cu. in. Thriftmaster straight six, aka the Stovebolt. The motor does run but it also knocks. The transmission is a three-speed column shift manual. If you’ve never driven an early truck like this, it’s both a treat and a trial. Double-clutching is de rigueur, but the musical whine of all those gears meshing is quite rewarding.

New upholstery is on the “to-do” list here. The radio and/or its blanking plate is missing and I don’t see evidence of the optional heater. But by 1952, occupants were enjoying quarter windows that opened, dual cowl vents, and a clever adjustable front seat that rose as it moved forward, bringing shorter drivers closer to the windshield. The exterior door handles were the new push-button type, rather than downward swivelers. This is a rare five-window cab, and fortunately, the corner windows are intact but every other bit of glass is cracked. The bed needs new wood, too.

The painted grille is correct. Many an owner has replaced the painted version with a chrome look-alike, but I’d keep this one stock. It’s not only part of the history of this particular truck, it is an artifact of human history: the Korean War caused shortages of many materials including the metals required for chrome plating, so car makers made do with paint. Driver quality 3100s will sell for $30k all day long; the question is how much time and money will this one absorb. What direction would you take with this truck?


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevada1/2rack Member

    A good friend found one in exactly the same condition minus the motor. Being as he’s a degree in mechanical engineering and many years in the trade it didn’t seem like an issue to install a SBC and tranny he had from a previous project.
    Therefore it was with great puzzlement when we would be working on it and another personality come out-that of Gunny Hartman in his finest!
    A terrific truck to restore, it’s a cinch that someone like Geomechs, Howard A or another BF reader of the old truck ilk can tell us what to look for in that motor knock!
    Now, if we could only find more of these at an affordable price-as in any one of us can reasonably afford.

    Like 8
  2. Troy

    $4500 and still hasn’t cracked the reserve I haven’t followed this market closely enough to know if this is still a good price or if the seller is on something it will be interesting to see when the reserve is finally hit and see

    Like 2
  3. Lars O

    Let,s go remanising for a short spell ( Dad,s Chevy pickup ).Yep !!! this would be the same year an model that I cut my teeth on learning what driving was all about ,both for me an my older brother.That was one tough truck.Dad worked nights ,we would push it out of the driveway an go territorize the neighborhood.,All that ended when parking the truck back in the same place at home (as luck or not) it stalled going up the hill to the house ,wouldn’t start of course guess who pulled up right behind me YEP ! you guessed it. Not going into any further details as to what happened next ,but I am sure everyone can make up there own version of this situation. ( Hand in the cookie jar type) We all learned driving experiences growing up but at least for most of us were still here to talk about those days .

    Like 6
  4. Kenneth Carney

    Where’s Geomechs when you need
    him? He and Howard are certainly the authority on these old beasts. I
    recall my family owned a ’51 3/4 ton
    long box with a 235/4-speed tranny.
    We used it to pull our ’54 Shasta
    canned ham camper and on weekends, we’d pile in it and visit the
    great outdoors. The bed had a steel
    cover over it and Sis and I used it as
    sleeping quarters while Mom and Dad
    slept in the camper. Now that was
    adventure sleepin’!

    Like 7
  5. RaySchlecht

    Same here remember the starter pedal? Sold it for $500 to a freind

    Like 1
  6. kendall

    It will go to 10,000 more than likely maybe a little less maybe a little more, See that big ole hole where the radio goes ? Great big tube radio went in there I know because I had a 50.

    Like 3
  7. George R.

    I’m seeing 25-30 to bring her to life sure would be a cool old truck ! That drive train
    Was what my grandad had in his old trucks
    He was a speed shifter he would go from first to third and the old truck would chug through it they were tough for sure

    Like 1
  8. B Goat Gruff

    The knock might be burnt babbet rod bearings which were cast into both halves of the connecting rods. Found out the hard way on my ’53 five window model with the 216. Those motors had no oil filter, low oil pressure and splash lubrication for the crankshaft and rods.

    Like 2
  9. Glenn French

    If it’s not rusted out$5,000.00 would be it for me.

    Like 0
  10. Wayne Warner

    Right out of high school in 1951, I got a job at Mannerud-Huntington Fuel Co., Eugene, OR. Turnover was rapid, and they had two ton and a half Chevrolet trucks sitting in the shop–blue and green. Brand new. Finally, the company decided to put new sawdust boxes on the two, and because of the turnover, I was promoted to the green one–when I was 19. I hauled sawdust from a lumber mill about 15 miles away to the Eugene Water and Electric Boad (EWEB) in my classy truck with the corner windows. It had a 4-speed tranny and a 2-speed differential. I thought I was a big-time truck driver. Because of that experience, I was later appointed truck driver for the personnel office I was assigned to in the army. That army truck was a GMC with the awful early automatic transmission. We rarely used the GMC but still pulled maintenance on it: “Driver check oil. Driver check lights.” ETC. Wow! That was about 70 years ago! Other than the transmission, it was a fun truck to drive.

    Like 1
  11. Mountainwoodie


    The latest bid is at 5700.00. For a truck which is basically in need of everything, that says something about the market for these great old “5” windows as my pals used to call them back in my yute.

    Would be a great long term project for a DIY’er if you had the room and the wherewithal.

    Like 0
  12. TC Galloway

    It’s begging for a supercharger on that old stovebolt.

    Like 1
  13. Darren Dover

    Umm. If you are double clutching that then you may need a lesson in driving.

    Like 0
  14. Yblocker

    Story seems a little confusing, so the grandfather was a dealer? And this truck went into inside storage in 1985? Must’ve been a pile in 85, vehicles don’t get in this condition when stored inside. Stupid money for a major project

    Like 1
  15. Joe Freeman

    Well Im not much of a truck guy but this truck is one of a few that I liked the style of.
    Clearly it literally needs…. everything.
    So Id find a late model… post 2010 or later GM pickup or SUV that has close to the same wheelbase and track that has been in a rollover or hailstorm take the body of the existing frame and put it on the modern chas s is.
    That gives me the opportunity to repair any rust and a good paint job.
    Id be using it as a driver and carrying stuff in the bed so after replacing the wood and paint Id use a drop in liner.
    Id try for a donor vehicle with the LS 2 or 3and the better 4L70E trans
    As for tge interior if the interior of the donor truck was in good shape Id yse the sests and console out of that if possible.
    Ive seen similar swaps done that turned out well.

    Like 0

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