Patinaed Rarity: 1949 Chevrolet Canopy Express

1949 Chevrolet Canopy Express

I love finding cars that I have never seen or heard of before, but finding something new and unusual is typically rather difficult. You certainly wouldn’t think there would be many cars from a major American manufacture that hasn’t already crossed these pages, but as it turns out there are still a few American cars out there that I have neither heard or seen of. Until today, I certainly had no idea what a 1949 Chevrolet Canopy Express was, but that’s because they only built 270 or so of these specialized trucks. Find it today here on eBay with a starting bid of $5,600 and no reserve.

1949 Chevy Canopy Express Project

Before you heckle me for saying I’ve never heard or seen of a 1949 Chevy 3100 truck, take a closer look at this one and you will notice it is neither a Suburban nor a truck. It is actually based on a panel bodied delivery truck, but with the panels removed for displaying whatever product you might be trying to sell along the side of the road. Vehicles like this can still be seen in other parts of the world, I just haven’t ever seen the Chevy version. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any canopy style delivery vehicles here in the states. I’m going to guess that has something to do with our love for big box stores and urbanization, but I won’t get into that.

1949 Chevy Canopy Express Engine

After the initial surprise and awe wore off, I started to notice how rough this truck is. Being a big Chevy truck has its advantages, parts are fairly easy to find and it is built like, well a truck. Sadly, rust is a major issue here, which can bring even the best built vehicles to their knees. Someone has already gone through the 216 cui inline 6, which should save some time and headache. Fixing the rust shouldn’t be a huge issue and given how rare this truck is, I truly hope someone will tackle this project!

1949 Chevy 3100 Canopy Express

I can already see this truck all cleaned up, with some shiny new paint and a stack of produce in the rear compartment. If it were me, I would buy fruit and snack food to sell out of the back at every car show I attended. Not only would you make a little money to offset restoration costs and fuel, but you would get to bring back a slice of Americana that has long been forgotten. The question is though, what would you do with this open delivery truck? Would you restore it or leave it rough? Most importantly, would you put it to work or just let everyone enjoy it from a distance?

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Comments

  1. GaryMc

    My dad bought one of these somewhere around 1959 as his shop truck. Sadly, he heavily customized it with a chopped pickup top. Many fond memories as one of the first vehicles I drove regularly running for parts all well before I got my license. His was powered by a modded 305 GMC with 3 Carter Y type sidedrafts.

    • GaryMc

      This is a pic to illustrate the above

      • Lee H.

        Way cool!

  2. Robert R. Member

    Hey Josh, here’s one that been listed I believe for 4 or 5 years.
    http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/chevrolet/unspecified/1083248.html
    “1950 Chevrolet 1/2 ton canopy express-rough,rusty,and beat up,but it has mostly original paint(including the factory pinstripe). It runs, and yard drives,with the original 216 six,and column mounted three speed.Ready to restore,or build into an unusual streetrod. Affordably offered at $2,450.”

    Like 1
    • Josh Staff

      Thanks for sharing that Robert! I honestly can’t believe I haven’t ever spotted this. I think it has something to do with the fact that at first glance it just looks like a ’50s truck. I love finding new stuff like this, although I end up doing so much digging trying to learn more about them that I waste half the day on the web!

      • Rspcharger rspcharger

        I’d hardly consider that a waste of time :)

  3. Alan (Michigan)

    Ref the underside shot of the Sunbeam Tiger Josh M posted in “Reader Finds”…

    Why oh WHY do some sellers spray the entire underside of an older car black, prior to taking a photo? It HIDES Everything that someone would be interested to see, like creeping or severe rust! Dumb. Sneaky/deceptive. Seems to me that it would irritate the very people who might be otherwise be interested in it. Can’t see a darn thing; what is being camoflauged?

    • JimmyinTEXAS

      I have been asking the same question. It is sickening to see something interesting all painted over. If I really like it, I cuss them out, then close the page in disgust…

  4. MikeW

    My first job was delivering groceries in a ’40 model Chevy of the same style. We called them vegetable or delivery trucks.

  5. Vince Habel

    I remember seeing hucksters using these to sell fruits and veggies. Haven’t seen one in years. Hucksters are a thing of the past too.

    • Randy Forbes

      Exactly what I was going to say Vince, but I thought I’d read down to see if (or how many) beat me to it ;))
      As a kid growing up on Detroit’s NW side, I can remember one of these trucks coming down our street selling fresh fruits and vegetables, even into the early 60s.
      Thanks for the memories!

      • redwagon

        Randy, NW Detroit whereabouts? my first residence was on meyers just north of schoolcraft (i96 ended up bisecting our neighborhood) i too have very vague memories of a vegetable / fruit truck selling door-to-door circa 1964-65.

      • Randy Forbes

        redwagon:

        Kentfield (3 blocks west of Evergreen) 6 houses south of 7-Mile. You were a few miles to the south and east of where I grew up.

        Being born at the end of 1954, Detroit was a GREAT place to grow up during the 50s/early 60s.

        By the time I moved away, in 1975, Detroit was getting the reputation as the Murder Capitol of the World__even in the movies, all the “hitmen” were from Detroit and drove Cadillacs!

        I really hope Detroit can make a comeback, but it will never prosper like it did in the first half of the 20th Century; certainly not until this country can get a leadership that will bring manufacturing back to profitability…

    • Ed P

      I remember these trucks in Baltimore being used by hucksters. (called A-Rabbers in Baltimore) I thought they were customized panel trucks and not a factory model. Surprise!!

  6. Andrew S Mace Member

    I passed on a similar truck in Connecticut many years ago (then, like now, I didn’t have the money). I would love to have one. I also remember, as a child, that our milk was delivered to our house by a “one-man dairy” who drove a circa 1946 Dodge Canopy Express. I would love to have that truck as well!

  7. jim s

    a very had life for both the truck and driver. last one of these i saw was at Carlisle car show, i think that truck belonged to Hemmings but not sure. i do hope this one gets saved, kept close to stock and driven. great find.

  8. geomechs geomechs Member

    This one goes beyond a little patina. The rest of the truck deserves the full treatment. Then drive it like it was intended. I agree with the comment about using it as a vendor truck at the Show ‘N’ Shine events.

  9. Tom

    I think turning one of these into a food service truck for car shows would be a great project, plus then you’d get to go to car shows and make money.

  10. Charles

    In the rural south up to the early 70’s there was such a thing as rolling stores. Usually a retired school bus was used with the seats removed and bins built in. There was an independent grocery store in my hometown in South Georgia that had a fleet of them that ran daily to rural settlements, farms, ranches, plantations in the area. They also owned one of these canopy express panel trucks that was used on routes that did not require the size or expense of a bus. They would load it up with an assortment of items from cigarettes, to detergents, to blue jeans, to apples, and go on a preset route that repeated every week. The building still stands and is a farm supply store these days. The busses and the canopy express are long gone. The people who owned and operated this business have been dead and buried for many years, It is nice to see that a couple of examples of these unique trucks have survived. I agree about using the truck as a vendor truck at car events. If used in that manner it will attract a lot of attention.

  11. Jerry

    One sold in January at the BJ auction for, I believe, $85k. Fully restored back to original.

  12. Rex Kahrs Member

    Question: would there be some type of canvas covers that would be fastened down over the openings to keep rain out? Or maybe wood panels on hinges? Just curious.

    • DT

      canvas

  13. Tom McNally

    There were two of these at Barrett Jackson this year. (restored)

  14. Brad

    Makes me want to rearrange my entire life: quit my job, sell the condo, buy a farm, master the art of growing and harvesting organic produce…. JUST to have an excuse to buy this truck, get a little striped awning, hand-paint a clever name on the doors, and make a killing in the trendy, urban farmer’s market scene.

  15. DT

    A thing of Bueaty,that deserves a full ,accurate,photographed, documented restoration

  16. rick

    Did these have windows or rollup sides and tail?

  17. Rancho Bella

    Guess the ain’t that rare………here is another one in New Mexico

    http://sandiego.craigslist.org/csd/bar/4897960086.html

    • Vince Habel

      That one looks a lot better and even has the side curtains.

    • OttoNobedder

      @Rancho-that grille guard is a thing to behold!!

  18. steve

    Here’s a pic of my 49 panel…. I’m debating on cutting it up into a canopy express !! Mine is on a 79 1/2 ton chassis with a small block motor.
    I’ll be building a 4 link and bagging it soon
    Unless somebody has a canopy express to trade ???? Wishful thinking !!

  19. Jeannie

    Here is my dad’s 1939 it was handed down from his grandfather

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