Special Delivery: 1949 Chevrolet 3800 Panel Truck

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Chevrolet’s truck division received its first post-war restyle in 1947; called the Advance Design series, the name captured an eagerness to move on with life after the singular disruption of WWII. While it’s arguable whether the new sheet metal was that much more attractive than the AK series before it, Chevrolet highlighted its new truck’s heavier frame, larger cargo capacity, and most of all, “the cab that breathes” – referring to its artful ventilation system. “For transportation unlimited”, here on craigslist is a 1949 Chevrolet 3800 panel truck, with an asking price of $18,500. The new owner can ramble it home on back roads from Pollok, Texas. T.J. found this brawny beast for us – thanks T.J.!

Big changes came to the Advance Design cab: the conventional truck bodies were wide enough to seat three abreast on an adjustable bench seat, though the panel delivery was equipped with two roomy individual seats. Both a heater and a defroster were now standard equipment. The windshield area increased for better visibility, and the cab itself rode on flexible mounts to absorb road shocks. Buyers could even order a radio. This one-ton panel truck was used as a delivery vehicle – first furniture, then produce; it’s had only three owners including today’s seller. All the gauges except the odometer are in working condition. The cargo area remains beautiful; could you see this truck made into a vintage camper?

The same powerplant carried over from the AK series, all the way through 1953 – Chevy’s 216 cu. in. Thriftmaster six-cylinder, good for about 90 hp. The Thriftmaster is paired with a four-speed floor shift manual gearbox. These trucks are comfortable at 45 to 50 mph but not much more, which is why so many have seen engine/transmission swaps. This example is painfully original, and repairs performed in 2019 aimed to keep it that way. The brakes and starter have been rebuilt; the battery and tires are new. The truck starts readily and runs well.

Only minor rust is noted, and the truck comes with receipts, vintage photos, and other historical documents. I can’t quarrel with the condition; this truck is so authentically appealing. But I am going to quarrel with the price. The seller leans on rarity to convince us that $18,500 is reasonable, and he points out that restored versions can bring over $50k. It’s true this body style is rare – but does that make it desirable? And the over-$50k Advance Design panel trucks I’ve found were customs with at least a couple more cubic inches in the engine compartment. This plain-vanilla ’54 – which benefits from the larger factory 235 cu. in. engine – sold somewhere near $15k. So count me skeptical – but what do you think of the price here?

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  1. HoA HoAMember

    More memories, not “late night rants”,,sheesh, anyway, the zenith of my trucking career, I got a union job hauling bread. Brownberry Bread, now Bimbo,,chuckling,,,sorry, Obviously, the best job one could have, and still wasn’t right, but they had an awards ceremony for the drivers. Anyway, at the ceremony, they had “old Fred” to say a few words. “Old Fred” was the companies 1st driver in the early 50s, and his truck was a long Chevy panel van like this. He would get to work around 3am, load the truck, and spend the day “pedaling” it off. Naturally, he was amazed at the 53 foot trailers of today full of bread, EVERYDAY,,, never in their wildest dreams.
    This truck obviously was kept undercover for years, and looks to be used today for fun, but make no mistake, these were made to haul things, and haul they did. It’s why so few are left. Quite a find, and will appeal to a different crowd being a stick, but one thing clear, it’s “working days” are long gone, along with Old Fred,,

    Like 20
  2. jeffschevelle

    Price is not unreasonable in light of the condition, completeness, and originality. Good luck finding another original and complete one this nice for less!

    Like 10
  3. Kenneth Carney

    Would use this truck to deliver Door
    Dash part time. What a balloon hauler this thing would make if we got
    a run from Party City! We would have to split a delivery with another driver as today’s vehicles are too small to take everything. Since we don’t use the freeways all that much, this truck
    would be a good fit for that job. Thing is, I’d have to talk Sis into driving it!
    Unless I build one from a basket case
    with all the modern stuff she and my
    niece want in a modern car. Really
    like this truck though.

    Like 2
  4. David A Sanford

    Very nice truck. I’d leave it as it is, it would be a shame to swap a generic modern drive train into it, seeing as how the original condition looks so nice. Looks like it’s got split rim wheels. While these are undeniably cool, it may be a challenge to find a tire shop to work on them.

    Like 4
  5. scrapyard john

    Heater and defroster were standard equipment? My dad’s 1950 3100 has neither. Same engine as this panel van. While I’d hate to hack it up…a bit more modern drivetrain would make it much more usable. I’d probably just drive it as is until the old suffering six conks out. After that, I’d definitely consider something more modern. Great find.

    Like 2
  6. geomechs geomechsMember

    Looks pretty good which is a lot more than I can say for the majority of these. Not nearly as common as the tonner pickups that littered our region, but then, a lot of small farmers used the pickups.

    What would I do with it? Keep it going. I’d see what I could do with getting the old paint to shine and I’d just keep driving it. I would love to drive this one down the local 2-lane blacktops while the import jockeys crowd up behind then try to pass on a double-solid line, all the while giving me that new single digit wave. Yep, 45-50 with the windows down, heading for the next swap meet/old truck gathering…

    Like 7
  7. Al camino

    Wow,just reading all these comments makes this truck just too much fun for me!

    Like 2
  8. CarbobMember

    Looks pretty good from my couch. I wouldn’t be surprised if the seller gets his asking price or close to it. I don’t think that there are many of these left in this kind of condition that haven’t been restored. These were work trucks and when they wore out or rusted out they were sent to the scrap yard. When I was growing up in the 50’s my neighbor was a painter and had a truck similar to this. Same color too but not as long. I loved looking at it while hanging out in his driveway talking with his daughter who was a teenager and was nice enough to acknowledge a young kid. I liked looking at her too. Good memories. He retired and sold it about the time I got my driver’s license. Always liked the style of these and I bought a 1950 GMC half ton pickup a few years later for $300. I can verify that these are pretty much maxed out at 60 mph. I kept that old truck for about fifteen years and I used it to haul many a load and pulled side jobs with it. The guy I sold it to in 1988 restored it and was nice enough to send me some photos. He did a good job. I hope it is still rolling. GLWTS.

    Like 3
  9. Speedo

    I must politely disagree with Michelle on one point. I drove a fully loaded ’51 Chevy panel coast to coast on the Interstates with 140,000 on the odometer. The rear main seal did start to fail but it was comfortable at 60mph the whole way. At 160,000 I replaced the engine with a low mileage one from a farm truck and sold it with 250,000 on the chassis. Much of the last 100,000 was also on long trips. It was a great truck and I hope it is still rolling. :)

    Like 3
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      Beautiful story, thanks. Reliability was certainly a strong suit for these trucks, and I appreciate the performance note too.

      Like 1
  10. George Birth

    Tough old truck. I’d love to have it to haul my handicap scooters in as well as all the baggage needed to take trips with. However I agree with Michelle on one thing though, the price is a bit steep for this one, Consider the possiblity the motor is the origional and quite possibly is working hard on the second or even possibly third hundred thousand mile journey.The motor will probably need an overhaul soon. One thing though these motors will run up to 70 mph if the rear gears are set up right. I had one of these motors in a 69 chevy C-30 with dual rear wheels could run deliveries anywhere 65-70 with no problem. Loaded it as high as I could stand on cab
    with a load of tree logs and branches, springs were bent in reverse “u” shape truck drove like it had no load. Weight at dump was 2&1/4 tons over truck weight.

    Like 1

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