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Maintain Or Modify? 1955 Chevrolet 3800

You’ve got some serious and heavy-duty hauling to do if you need a one-ton vehicle like this 1955 Chevrolet 3800 Panel Truck. I would never need a one-ton anything for any reason, but this thing is just about as cool as it gets in my weird world. The seller has it listed here on eBay in Santa Cruz, California and the current bid price is $6,000.

A few years after high school while I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, after dropping out of college where I was studying business, I started and ran a commercial cleaning service. The only reason I mention that is that during one “cleaning seminar” (I know, weird) that I attended, the speaker mentioned the importance of having your business name on your vehicle no matter what kind of vehicle it was or what condition it was in. If it was a beater, just literally paint it with a brush to make it look good from twenty feet away and put your name on the side until you can afford a better one.

I’m not saying that this ’55 Chevy panel truck isn’t in good condition, it just reminded me of the importance of having a vehicle like this with a company name on it for business owners. This truck is so much cooler than the four Dodge vans that we had in my cleaning business, although it’s a lot more heavy-duty than we ever needed.

Chevrolet’s Task Force trucks covered a mind-boggling seventy-five models in different sizes and shapes on fifteen different wheelbases, from chassis and cab to pickups and panel trucks such as this one. There’s a lot of room in the back and although this one needs work inside and out, it sure would be an eye-catching business vehicle. The seller provides a wide range of photos so kudos to them for that, they even show a couple of underside photos and it looks solid.

The engine is Chevrolet’s 235 cubic-inch Stovebolt Six which had around 120 horsepower. This one has been rebuilt and this truck has been the seller’s daily driver for the last – are you sitting down? – sixteen years! This is one cool seller. It has a 4-speed and pretty much everything works other than the gas gauge. There is some rust but nothing that most Barn Finds readers couldn’t handle. What modifications if any would you make to this Chevy panel truck?


  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    What would I do with this? Run it and fix it. Well, I would try to get the letters off of the body so I can do my own sign work. Reupholster the seat is a no-brainer. The 235 will get you from Point A to Point B; if I had my druthers I’d prefer a 261. But as is it isn’t bad at all…

    Like 18
  2. Howard A Member

    Here’s what I think the deal is here, like the author states, any kind of hauling chore that requires inside cover, drywall, for example, doesn’t do well in the rain in a pickup, aside from these corny transit vans that are all the rage, there really is nothing today like this. The farm I lived on, the guy did a fair amount of remodeling and had an older Chevy van to haul building materials around in. Stuffed a lot of crap in that van, you know the saying, 10lbs of,,in a 9lb. bag, all on a “collector” plate, with a max weight of 500 pounds. He never got stopped,,go figure.
    This is a great find in that regard, but like all these, something must be done with gearing. You could hold this motor wide open for hours with no damage, but that still will be only around 60, and just not a good idea, driving something around all day with your foot to the floor,,,2 cycle Detroits and L10 Cummins, the exception, of course. Nice find, not sure what will happen to this. Almost too big for any kind of resto-mod, and not too useful, mechanically as is. Have to wait and see.
    As a side bar to the toughness of these, in Milwaukee in the 60’s, the newspapers, Journal/Sentinel had delivery panel trucks like this to take bundles of papers to route stations around the city early morning. It was a popular part time job for HS kids, as it began around 3am and were done by school time. Well, it was open season on trying to kill these trucks for these kids. They really took a beating,,,papers got there every morning. Looking at “images” of 50’s panel trucks,, very, VERY few stock. All lowered with clown wheels and some motor that could pull a load of cheese. I’m afraid, folks, this is the last time we’ll see this truck looking like this, the appeal for a resto-mod is just too great today, and that’s okay.

    Like 17
  3. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Pretty cool, and another example of the variety we get to see here on Barn Finds. Seventy-five models and fifteen wheelbases, that’s crazy. I wonder if they sold like a mere dozen in a specific configuration that model year. Kudos to the seller for using this as his daily driver work vehicle for the last 16 years; I wonder what changed…. perhaps he had occasion to see one of those “corny transit vans” (Howard’s words) and thought, hey this thing is real nice. Or maybe he is retiring.

    I also wonder what is the future of the vehicle. When you read the ad it does have some issues (what 67 year old work vehicle doesn’t).

    Good job Scotty.

    Like 8
  4. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Not my style, but has me thinking that Hellcat chassis posted before. Nice ride for sure. Funny to see the plate covered, it would not be hard to track it down with the name and number plastered all over it. I am sure the one ton chassis worked well for this painter, Howard will tell you how heavy it gets hauling paint around. Happy to see the fire extinguisher in the cab. It should be an easy sell, surprised at only one bid so far. Oh, and what is that mail box inside the back door for? Paint brushes?

    Like 7
    • Jim in FL

      I worked as an installer for a carpet guy for a bit. Out van had a paperwork box that was held to one of the barn doors with sheet metal screws. Maybe that’s the use for the mailbox? Our van was an early 80s Chevy van with no insulation, carpet, and only 2 seats. This is far more elegant.

      Like 4
  5. angliagt angliagt Member

    These are really cool rigs,but no fun as a daily driver.
    With mine (the one in my avatar) I’d be in 4th gear in the
    first 1/4 block,& was extremely noisy on the highway.
    Most of the were used hard as they were intended,
    so few of them survive in really good shape.These are also
    about 20 feet long,and fairly tall,so won’t fit in most garages.

    Like 7
  6. Glenn C. Schwass Member

    I like it as is. I’d take off the lettering and redo the seat.

    Like 9
  7. gaspumpchas

    If you needed a work truck with more punch, I’d upgrade to v8 power, disc brakes and a rear to match the mill and tranny. I’d also leave the rest of it alone, would also make a cool camper, you could install air. Not very often you see one this unmolested for sale at such a decent price. If you decided to keep the stovebolt, if its the stock mill, its got insert bearings and durable, but slow. Add a 5 speed out of an s-10 possibly. Good luck and happy bidding!

    Like 5
  8. Glen Naler

    Had a 59 one ton panel with windows, 4 rows of bench seats, 2 front seats. Would seat 11 full size adults. With seats out fit 3-4 dirt bikes or 2 full size Harley’s in the back. Drove like a tank. 305 V-6 4speed. stump puller. Wish I never sold it.

    Like 6
    • Pops in TX

      Wasn’t this in the Cheech N Chong movie?? Shoot the moon, shoot the moon!! Haha, just reminds me of the one in the movie for some reason

      Like 1
  9. TBone

    Looks like it was painted with a roller and a brush. But I like it.

    Like 5
  10. The Tower The Tower

    Love this look and love the Brodie Knob even more!

    Like 4
  11. PaulG

    Purchased one almost identical to this in 1980, no engine but otherwise complete and bone stock. Put a 283 in it and used it almost daily for work (carpentry) I paid 400 and sold the motorcycle parts in the back for 500.
    Cool feature, the rear floor is wood, and it’s 10’ from the back of the seats to the rear door!
    I’d love to have this but retirement looms…

    Like 12
  12. Tom Bell

    A classic from a time before vans. The writer suggests “modify”–he’s no fan of automotive history.

    Like 2
  13. Tracy

    If it was closer to the east coast I would consider this and make it a DJ rig for a family member.

    Like 1
  14. Steve Clinton

    PLEASE don’t modify, definitely just maintain it. There aren’t many of these left. Perhaps just do a reupholstery job.

    Like 10
  15. Bellingham Fred

    Looking at the hoses that have been added to the air cleaner and the oil filler cap, I’m thinking there might be an issue with blow by.

    Like 1
    • Willam r HALL

      The closed crankcase and other plumbing are for California emissions which were also retrofitted to older vehicles.

      Like 1
  16. RexFox Member

    Install a 283, upgrade the brakes and rear end gears, put a bed, a small kitchen and a porta-potty in the 10 foot space behind the seat and hit the road. There’s just something really special about driving an old truck like this

    Like 2
  17. George Birth

    This could make a great weekender camper with few modifications to the rear and addition of bucket seats and air, as well as a roof top camper A/C unit.

    Like 2
  18. Greg

    Recover the front seat, maintain it & drive.

    Like 4
  19. Moe Moe Member

    Put my Bid in.
    Buddy has a 95 Suburban/BBC/33″s
    Cut Chassis to fit.
    Old-school body New Drive line.
    Drive the wheels off it.
    Lots of work.

    Like 4
  20. GOM

    I hope it can be left as it is, original engine and drive line included. Not everyone needs V8 power, disk brakes, and gearing that will allow 80 mph cruising. This would be a good display of what trucks used to be. I would probably install a dual circuit master cylinder (which, I think, could be done unobtrusively) which would give peace of mind; I’m old enough to have experienced complete brake loss due to a single failed component, and that is a surprise you don’t want to have! Otherwise, leave it alone and enjoy it as a relic of a different era.

    Like 6
  21. Greg

    I agree with GOM, keep it just like it is, fix the seats as close to stock as possible, a good set of plain Jane, tires and show it off

    Like 4
  22. Moe Moe Member

    Pulled Back on bid sent seller a email-3500.
    Train Wreck it needs alot of love.

    Like 1
  23. RBCJr

    LS swap!

  24. Cycle Salvage Kevin

    This thing is awesome! A classy vehicle from which to sell my wares at local automotive swap meets, 45 miles and 60 miles away. The roads to them have 55 MPH speed limits so the OEM drive train is fine. I’m approaching retirement age but have no intention of ever retiring so just drive it as is, including their advertising.

    Like 1
  25. Clarke

    I would prefer one that has passenger side doors so you would not have to climb in to get to items in the front of the truck.

  26. pixelpusher

    Not to hijack the original post, but here’s my 1953 3800. I’ve owned it since 1975. It has less than 90K original miles on it with the 216 swapped for a 235. Enjoy.

    Like 2
  27. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Jan 30, 2022 , 8:31PM
    Winning bid:
    US $7,000.00
    [ 7 bids ]

    Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, Mike!

      Like 2
      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        You are very welcome Scotty! I have been around here long enough to see some vehicles come back here again. And I like the closure, LOL! Take care, Mike.

        Like 2
      • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

        That’s excellent, thanks! I like to come back to a post in a year or two and see what it sold for, that’s why I started to copy the craigslist ads and post them so folks can see what the original ad was years later.

        Like 1
  28. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great work on the CL ads Scotty! I thought for a time they had some kind of blocker on the old ads? It is cool to go back and see them later.

    Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, Mike! They quit their “adsaver” website which was great for looking back at old craigslist ads, so now I just do a screenshot of the listing and trim the junk off of the edges so everyone can see the original listing.

      Like 1

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