High Plains High Boy: 1955 Chevrolet NAPCO 4×4

We’ve featured several NAPCO 4×4’s here on Barn Finds over the years. Although they were made in relatively small numbers, there seems to be quite a few still around. If you aren’t familiar with the Northwest Auto Parts Company, it was founded in Minnesota and provided 4×4 conversions for numerous manufacturers beginning in the 1940s. This particular truck is from 1955 and can be found for sale here on eBay with a current bid over $6,000. Currently located in Cody, Wyoming, the seller claims the truck spent its life on a Montana ranch. It looks like the truck has quite a bit of life left in it, what do you think?

These NAPCO conversions are pretty neat. During the initial years, the conversion was done as a kit that the customer would order and install. You could purchase a two-wheel-drive pickup and order a conversion kit to turn it into a 4×4 over a weekend.  Later, you could have it done as a “factory-installed option.”  You can see “NAPCO” stamped on the axle in the photo above. If you are interested in more details, you can read about NAPCO and learn about its history here.

The straight six was recently tuned up and the seller describes it as a running and driving project. The transmission is a 4-speed manual with a dual-lever transfer case. The brakes have been replaced with a new master cylinder, wheel cylinders, and shoes. The lights function, but the gas gauge doesn’t work.

Although this truck worked most of its life, all the glass is good and the wheels and tires look decent. The seller says the body has “plenty of character.” I think it looks great and would make a cool project for anyone. The seat has been re-covered at some point and the rest of the interior looks workable. Let us know what you think of these old NAPCO’s and thanks to Pete M. for the tip on this cool 4×4!

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Comments

  1. Kenbone

    Now that there is an awesome truck. Somebody’s really gonna enjoy that

    Like 13
  2. Johnny

    I like these old vehicles. They were alot better made then what any new one is made today. Just my opinion.

    Like 12
    • Jay E.

      Your will never, ever see one of these in the fast lane at 75 pushing Prius out of the way like modern trucks seem to insist on doing now. They were work trucks, rugged and rough.

      Like 4
      • David Ulrey

        You COULD drop in a big block (or LS I suppose if that’s what you want) change the gearing, add a menacing pushbar and get behind them and scare the crap out of them. :)

        Like 2
  3. KSwheatfarmer

    It’s amazing what a game changer 4 x 4 was for farmers and ranchers,dad has told me stories of his first one, a late 50s I H C. Trucks like this one are where it started.Hope it gets the respect it deserves.

    Like 11
    • petemcgee

      KSwheatfarmer so true! My grandpa owned a large cattle and wheat ranch and was an old school guy. My uncle bought the first 4wd pickup in that corner of the state, and gramps scoffed and said “2wd is just fine”. That is, till he borrowed my uncle’s truck one time when his 2wd was buried in a snow drift. It was 4wd from that day on up at the ranch!

      Like 7
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I sometimes wonder what took ranchers so long to get with the program and start using 4x4s. Back when I was a kid, the odd rancher had a surplus Jeep. Then about 1956 Dad bought an IH S-120 4×4. But it was broke down and in the shop all the time. Thinking 4×4 was troublesome, Dad traded it in for a ’59 Binder B-120 2wd. When it started breaking all the time Dad realized that it was the ranch foreman that was the master of destruction. We ran 4x4s ever since and never looked back. The original ’56 Binder was bought by a rancher out east, in the Sweetgrass Hills. It’s still in use today.

      Like 9
      • Howard A Member

        Not sure about out west, but in the midwest, farmers long knew the advantages of 4 wheel drive. Every farm had one mostly Power Wagon or Jeeps or IH. Probably because many GI’s came from farms, and on their return, brought 4 wheel drive with them. Out in the “country”, is the only place one saw 4 wheel drive pickups. There were a smattering of Jeep wagons in the city, and the CJ/Scouts running around clearing driveways, but 4 wheel drive didn’t catch on for the masses until the freeways were built and people settled farther from the city. This is a great example. I had to look at a NAPCO shift pattern, that lever to the left of the shifter, is front axle in/out and the stick on the right is H/N/L.( a center stick would have been for a PTO, if equipped) I believe with a NAPCO you could engage the front axle “on the fly”. It also used 80% GM parts, according to one source. When GM went to their own 4×4 in 1960(?) it practically devastated NAPCO. I think this particular truck would be a handful at anything over 35 mph.

        Like 2
  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    The NAPCO conversions are great and I sure would like to have one for myself. They look and operate just fine in full stock regalia and I see no reason to make any changes. Keep the six and have a good time. Give it a nice refurbishing and use it. It might not ride as smooth as a modern one but I’ll just wear a helmet…

    Like 13
    • TimM

      That is one sweet truck!! The only thing I might change is the rims and tires!!

      Like 2
  5. Bob S

    My uncle used an ex WWII Jeep until 1957, when he bought a new NAPCO ’57 Chev with the 6 cyl engine. He loved that truck and worked it hard for 12 years.
    They were great trucks.
    Bob

    Like 6
  6. TimS Member

    Sure they’re not as powerful as today’s, but these trucks just look tough, like they could climb any hill and carry any load while doing it.

    Like 5
  7. Cattoo

    Kinda funny thinking back on it but all of our work trucks were 2wd except for the pickup we went to town in or grandad was pulling the silver streak down to AZ for out to Hells Canyon. Those were 4×4 rigs. If something ever got stuck we fetched a tractor and pulled it out.

    Like 2
  8. Gloin

    Not usually a fan of the “patina look” but I may reconsider. This thing is awesome

    Like 3
  9. KSwheatfarmer

    All good comments,geomechs as to why folks were slow to embrace power to the front axel I think it was fear of new equipment plus these old guys were very frugal,just not gonna spend that extra money. My dads old uncles saved all scraps of bailing wire and rolled it up on a spool in the barn and then re-used it for fixing fence, not spending on luxury items like new galvanized tie wire! They did eventually get a Jeep pickup 4×4 in 62.

    Like 6
  10. v

    i like the rubber foam around the shifter. these things were not great for interior heat . but the foam got you 2 more degrees of warmth…

    Like 6
  11. Richard Gugenberger

    spent lots of time plowing with a 57 Chevy 4×4 short box step side 6 cyl 4 speed , 6 volt , no Ps or PB Meyers 2 way plow , that was electric lift , everything went on dim when you pulled that lever to raise the plow , real work horse . It got replaced with a Jeep Gladaitor v8 auto hydrolic plow 4 way , ps , pb long box style side , nice truck

    Like 1
  12. Nomader55

    RICHARD. Never heard tell of a 6 volt 1957 Chevy anything. GM went to 12 Volt system in 1955. One year before Ford and Chrysler.

    Like 2
  13. Richard Gugenberger

    my mistake on the 6volt , is all I know when Dad pulled the lever to lift the plow all the lights and heater fan motor almost died , at time when he could Dad plowed with the lights off to save the battery ,generators were not anything compaired

    to alternators of today , if he knew a storm was coming he would pull the truck into the heated shop and put a charger on the battery to give it an extra boost . In 1957 I was only 11 and my job was to turn the plow from right to left or back to the center , as this unit had up and down only. When I went into the military Dad got a Jeep Gladiatior with a Fisher 4 way plow no more in and out to change plow angle

  14. John

    Clear coat it and leave it as is.

  15. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    SOLD FOR $18,500. WOW! It’s cool but it looks like faux patina with the newly recovered seat, shading of the GVWR on the door,etc…

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