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Original Character: 1938 Chevrolet Short Box Pickup

I’m not sure how our readers feel about this, but one thing that doesn’t really give me any great thrill is faked patina. However, the real deal is something that I respect, because it shows that a vehicle has really “lived.” Of course, your view may be different from mine, and if it is, then I respect that. That’s the case with this 1938 Chevrolet ½ ton Short box Pickup. What you see is real, and the seller has decided to preserve this look. The Pickup is located in Waukon, Iowa, and is listed for sale here on eBay. With bidding now sitting at $8,700, the reserve hasn’t been met.

Until recently, the Pickup had been the property of the same family since new, and it was apparently used as part of their well-drilling business. It was taken out of service in 1962. The owner then passed away, and the old Chevy sat in the family barn for decades. The current owner purchased the vehicle, and apart from applying a clear coat to preserve the Pickup, the body and paint remain unchanged. It sports a few dings and dents, but given the active life that it must have led, these are surprisingly few. Rust is not an issue, because it does appear to be remarkably clean. The family barn must have been a pretty favorable storage environment, because even the timber in the bed, which is so often either rotten or gone altogether, looks to be in quite solid condition. The windshield is cracked, but the mechanism to wind it in and out still works perfectly.

When you open the door, you can see more clearly the fact that this old Pickup was most definitely a workhorse. The seats are looking pretty tired today, but the dash actually looks quite nicely preserved. Restoring the interior would be a pretty easy job, but if I owned the vehicle and was going to leave the exterior untouched, I’d be inclined to just throw a blanket over the seat and use it as it is. Maybe a new shifter knob would be nice, and a rubber mat on the floor would also be tempting, but that would be it.

The story of Chevy’s little Pickup gets more amazing when we pop the hood. What lies here is the original 216ci Blue Flame six, which sends its power to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. There’s nothing earth-shattering there, that’s for sure. However, when the owner purchased the vehicle from the estate sale, he found that both the engine and clutch were free. He took it home, flushed the gas tank, converted it to a 12-volt electrical system, sloshed some fresh fuel into the tank, and away this old girl went. Since then it has been given a full service, the master cylinder has been rebuilt, all of the fluids have been flushed, and the Pickup now drives as good as gold. It is ready for the next owner to drive and enjoy exactly as it stands.

It doesn’t seem as though it was many years ago that virtually every person who looked at a vehicle like this Chevy Short Box would either have wanted to immediately restore it or use it as a foundation for a custom project. Today, that thinking has changed a lot…and I don’t mind that one bit. Now, there are people who will look at this vehicle, and their first thought will be to preserve it exactly how it stands today. We have come to recognize the fact that in the past so much of our history has been lost. While I would respect any person who bought this old beauty and undertook a full restoration, I would feel like we have lost something along the way. Personally, I would love to see this one preserved exactly as it is because it reflects the hard work and ruggedness of the life that its owners must have lived decades ago. That makes it part of our shared history. What do you think?


  1. Avatar photo geomechs Member

    First of all I like this truck. 1938 was a bad year for sales so everything is rare. This would be a restoration project for me. Right down to the 216.

    Now for the criticism: Clear coating surface rust is about the worst thing you could do. You just sealed the rust in and the deterioration just accelerated. A wipe down with WD40 would’ve been a better way.

    I’ve said my piece about 12V conversions many times in the past so all I will say here is that I wouldn’t have done it.

    Like 10
    • Avatar photo Nevadahalfrack Member

      Now marked as “No Reserve”!
      I’m with you, Geomechs-What a great truck to restore and drive.

      Like 5
  2. Avatar photo geomechs Member

    So many people complain about the cost of a repaint. Well, this ’38 GMC was done in my friend’s farm shop and the paint came from ‘Ace is the Place’ hardware store. It’s Massey Ferguson Red, and basic black. The truck looked good enough to get featured in Vintage Truck Magazine…

    Like 10
    • Avatar photo Michael Sawyer

      I have a 1970 Torino GT convertible runs drives great 302 auto p.s. I’LL trade the Torino plus $1,500.o.o cash for the chev pickup

      Like 0
  3. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Sure makes me wish I had my ’33 pickup back. I like paint but all the graphics on the doors and bed would be neat to save. Not sure how to do that but then I come up with bunches of ideas that turn out can’t be done.

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Kenneth Carney

    Hey Geomechs, did you and your friend paint the truck with spray cans or a
    compressor? I’m looking for a way to paint our F-350 on the cheap and still make
    it look as good as the truck you show here. I’ve seen young folks using spray cans to paint cars on YouTube much the way I did 50 years ago with mixed results. Last 9ne I did was on a Volvo PV 544 I bought for $25. Wound up
    selling it to an upper classman for $650. Yeah, they effed this truck up by
    putting clear coat over surface rust. Now, it needs to be taken apart, and
    repainted properly. Nice starting point though.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Nevadahalfrack Member

      Kenneth Carney, this may sound crazy but my dad and I repainted our ‘56 VW in our garage with his Kirby vacuum cleaner PAINT ATTACHMENTS. Our Bug looked pretty good for a home job; We were a kind of tight on cash so he took a VERY temporary job selling Kirby’s when he retired from the USAF which is why we had the “equipment” on hand-worth a look if you’re looking to save some $$.

      Like 2
    • Avatar photo geomechs Member

      Hi Kenneth. Actually the paint job was done with a 40 year old deVilbis conventional spray gun and an Ingersol compressor with an old 100 lb propane bottle for a pressure tank. That setup has painted a number of projects including a lacquer paint job on a ‘49 Chevy pickup. I painted a motorcycle with rattle cans and it turned out reasonably well but it was actually more work than a spray gun. A good paint job is more a result of preparation than the equipment. JMHO.

      Like 6
  5. Avatar photo Dan

    Fake patina is completely insipid. Real patina is something I’d deal with on a case-by-case basis. If a restoration would be needed, I’d have the vehicle looking shiny and new. If only minor work was needed to get it driving, and the body and frame were solid, I’d keep the patina. After all, a truck can be restored umpteen times, but it’s only original once.

    Like 5
  6. Avatar photo TimM

    Another piece of automotive history!! Geeze if they could only talk!! I’m with the majority here and would restore this to its original glory!! I would paint it as original as I could fine the colors from PPG!!! It would make a great Sunday cruiser to the local car meet!!!

    Like 3
  7. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    I’m with TimM. Good paint job in the original colors AFTER taking good pictures of the graphics and having a good artist reproduce them after the paint job, and maybe some hub caps. (one of my bunches of ideas)

    Like 2
  8. Avatar photo Billy

    Too bad he shilled it the first time around last week when it sold for $10,000. Second time around will not bring the same money good luck with the sale. The clear coat is pretty lame.

    Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Rube Goldberg Member

    I swear, the auto paint industry has 4 colors, black, silver, white and clear. This is clearly ( pun intended) a half baked attempt to cash in on what some people sadly think what an old truck should look like. You want patina, leave it faded.
    Looks aside, a great find, got a snowballs chance in Hades of staying original, but shows, they’re still out there.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Dan

      Either beige has belatedly fallen out of favor, or the industry has five colors…

      Like 1
  10. Avatar photo 38ChevyCoupeGuy

    I pretty much agree with all that has been done to the truck with the exception of that d@#m clear, please, please, please future car/truck care takers,don’t ever coat old paint with clear to try to”preserve”, while it may protect what’s left,it doesn’t actually preserve, I agree with the wd40 guy or old tranny fluid, otherwise good job with the truck,and I hope someone enjoys it as is for years to come

    Like 2
  11. Avatar photo Nevadahalfrack Member

    SOLD-7/31/19, 7:15 PM, $9,250.
    A lot of money and it needed more money put in to it but a very decent truck, all told.

    Like 0

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