The Way To Build Rough Finds: 1951 GMC Truck

1951 GMC Truck

So what do you do with those barn finds that are wearing their original patina, but have damaged engines and need all new interiors? That’s a question I’ve actually asked myself on many occasions. Finds that are all original and still in great shape are a lot easier to know what to do with. Those finds you want to just clean up and make safe to drive, but what about the ones in rough shape? Well I think this seller had a great idea what to do with this old GMC truck! They kept the body as found, but rebuilt the chassis, suspension and installed a modern drivetrain. It gave this truck a new life, while preserving some of its history. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of it being lowered quite so much, but the rest of it looks so great I can overlook that. Find this barn find turned street rod here on eBay in Grinnell, Iowa with a current bid of $35k!

1951 GMC Truck Engine

While I’m usually a fan of keeping things original, I kind of like what has been done with this truck. The frame is the original, but has been redone and everything mounted to it is brand new. It’s been upgraded with disc brakes and the drivetrain from a 2001 Silverado. It now can cruise at 80 mph comfortably while getting 20 mpg! I’m sure this modern V8 also offers considerably more get up and go than the original engine ever could.

1951 GMC Truck Interior

Of course a build like this wouldn’t be complete with a ratty old interior, so they redid it and it looks fantastic! I wouldn’t mind making a cross country trip sitting in this cab.

1951 GMC Pickup

It really is amazing what some people can do with an old vehicle. It’s always a bit sad to see survivors extensively modified, but I’m really impressed with this rig and the direction the seller took with it. The only thing I would change is the ride height. What do you think of this truck? Would you ever build your rough barn finds into something similar?


  1. jay

    Oh come on, that thing needs a paint job!

    • jaygryph

      Why, so it can look like every other over restored, restomodded chevy pickup of that vintage?

      Like 1
    • John

      It has been painted, with clear coat. It’s a patina rod. I prefer a proper paint job myself.

      Like 1
      • Bobsmyuncle

        It clearly states that it WASN’T clear coated.

  2. Bob's your uncle

    “current bid of $35k”

    No surprise, just look at it, it’s perfect.

  3. Mike

    Love it. Bit of a sleeper. Needn’t worry about door dings.

  4. grant

    It looks perfect in the last pic, but for a driver? Cross the finish line and paint it.

  5. Brian

    I would daily this. That is a great looking truck.

  6. Jon

    Perfect ride height without getting ridiculously low…. This is what makes a great truck… I would not change a thing on this one…..

  7. Howard A Member

    I think it looks sharp too, however, I am a supporter of updating the drive train, just not into a fire-breather, like this. I know I’m getting old, but a modern in-line 6, and a modern OD automatic, I don’t have to blast down the highway at 80 mph all day long. Maybe some do. I do like the interior, a little old, a little new. Nice truck, but not for me.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Howard, while sporting a significant power upgrade, this engine does not qualify of the term “fire-breather”. It is a stock 5.3LS motor with a matching transmission, pulled from a relatively low miles 2001 Chevy pickup. I had one of those in a Suburban of the same vintage. Plenty of get-up and go, but not a 1/4 mile gas-guzzling barnstormer. Does not surprise me at all that the seller claims 20 MPG for highway running.

  8. Keith

    Restomods usually do nothing for me, but this one I can get behind.

  9. geomechs geomechs Member

    While I’m still in the purist crowd and would’ve restored this one to its original boring status, I have to admit that the builder has done a good job on this one. However, I’m completely fed up with the P-word; it should’ve been painted up, even the original dark green (that more than half of the old trucks were painted) and driven. I have to agree with Howard in using a more modern six cyl. warmed up to make it more conducive to modern freeway driving but I’m sure that this choice of powerplant will make a trooper grin from ear to ear….

    • Dave Wright

      I am thinking about a ” modern” in line 6 engine…….I guess Jeep makes one….does Ford? There are not many out there.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Jeep USED to make one. Now it’s a corporate V6. :-(

      • Howard A Member

        Ford stopped the 300 in 1997, Chevy, in ’98, Jeep, 2006. Perhaps geomechs knows more, but I was surprised to hear GM returned to the in-line 6, in 2002 with the Atlas series for the Trailblazer. I tell ya’, that’s the modern auto industry for ya’. Of all the designs of motors, they go with a 100 year old design. I’m thinking a 292, and be done with it.

      • Dave Wright

        292’s are wonderful engines but something with modern fuel management would be a big upgrade. I am replacing the 258 orignal engine in my 75 Scout with a late model fuel injected, stroked Jeep motor. It comes out as a 4.7. But I am not high on AMC engines particularly in this great old GMC. We used to like the GMC 302’s out of the early 50’s military trucks, they are a great engine but still have antique fuel systems. There used to be a lot of hot rod mods around for them but all to make more power.

      • Rev Rory

        well, BMW…

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Jeep was pretty much the last holdout for the inline six. For this truck I tend to favor a 292. You can put HEI ignition on them and run multiple carbs, or even a single 4bbl. It seems to me that an EFI system is available. The Task Force Chevies and GMC’s weren’t designed for a V8 and consequently the steering column gets in the way. If you decide to run a V8 you likely end up using a steering box that mounts to the outside of the frame.

      • Junior Johnston

        GM had a straight 6 in the Trailblazer/Envoy.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi geomechs, maybe that’s why it’s for sale,,,can’t keep their right foot out of it. :)

  10. Luki

    So tired of seeing the character completely erased from vintage cars and trucks,
    A lot of them lot like fiberglass reproductions of their former selves.

  11. Jumping g

    It needs paint. Patina is just a better way to say RUST…..

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Yes, Jumping g, patina is the politically correct way to say: ‘RUST.’ Obviously the nay-sayers don’t agree with us. But that’s exactly what it is: metal breakdown, oxydization, good old ferric oxide. If you want to keep it use WD-40. Clear coat it and the oxydization just got driven inward accelerating the deterioration of the metal. I got sick of patina 40 years ago when I was still on the farm. Half the trucks in the county bore various stages of ‘patina.’ Those that didn’t get fixed up are now rustier that a bed-wetter’s mattress springs…

      • Dave Wright

        To me it just looks like someone is too cheep or poor to do a nice paint job on them. Sort of like the old days sometimes we would drive a primered car a little before we sent it to the paint shop but if you drove it too long like that there was a problem.

  12. PackardMike

    That’s what I like about cars. Everyone has their own ideas about what is “right”. I like what I like, but I have to remember to respect what other people like as well. I think the truck looks GREAT! If it was mine & I could afford to paint it I might. Still be fun driver as is. Let’s just agree to cruise together!

    • James Doherty

      I agree. I really like a nice paint job, but then I get worried about scratching it so I would hesitate to drive it. A cheap paint job without clear coat is very acceptable to me. Along with a truly weathered look, maybe a couple dings, things that bring character I like as well. Full on rust as a look, can be done well, it can be artistic but that’s really a case by case basis. I really like the look of this truck because much of the ratty rust is very minor and the overall look of the weathering looks natural, I don’t see rot. Contrast the exterior with a gorgeously done interior, it makes you want to get in it, feel the newness of the interior but not worry about scratching the exterior. That’s just a big win for me.
      I equally love the modern drivetrain as well as keeping the original drivetrain. There are pros and cons to each but i’d never shun either. I struggle w this in what to do with my ’67 C10, I’m going to fix all the rust but want to keep the overall bodywork more on the dull or weathered side. It’s got a 283 that I love, but I also own a 2000 Silverado w 5.3 and im very tempted to swap the drivetrain in. Right now, i’m focused on keeping the 283, getting it together in stock form and enjoying it until I feel as though i’d want more power. Or I’ll convert the Silverado into a trophy truck or put it’s LS into something else….maybe my FoxBody

  13. Dairymen

    Why not a 6 cylinder dodge Cummins diesel?

    • Dave Wright

      They are a good engine and I own several but they are noisy in a modern well insulated chassis it would be crazy in this one. They have a rather short torque band so gearing is critical and they are expensive. I think a modern small block is still probably the best.

    • Howard A Member

      Probably wouldn’t fit. I think you may have cylinders 5 & 6 in the cab with you.

    • Steve

      Cummins 6BT are VERY heavy, and the rest of the drivetrain has to be brought up to standard. Cummins also has a 4 cylinder 4BT which has plenty of lower for a pickup like this. They were originally used in commercial trucks like bread trucks and in industrial equipment. I have two 55 chevies. One first series and another second series. Some day i plan to install a 4BT in one or both.

      • Dave Wright

        4bt’s are great engines, I have 2 of them right now, one in one of my forklifts and one in a wood chipper. Again, noisy and I think it would get boring in this little truck. They are fine in an off road Jeep where you are crawling around but in a truck like this you are going to want to hit the highway from time to time. Peddle to the metal it wouldn’t get out of its own shadow if geared for the highway or top out at 55 if geared to pull. The 5.3 that is in it is great. We had one in a pickup that nearly made its own fuel, it wasn’t great with a load but drove very well light.

  14. JW

    I love this truck but I have to admit it needs to be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches higher, never been a fan of the slammed look on classic cars & trucks. JMHO !!!

  15. Bob Hess

    Love ’em low!

  16. Jon H

    To each his own… and this guy nailed it. Not all that radical! !!
    I guess if you like stock.. Well then, build one to your liking ….

  17. waynard

    praise the lowered.

  18. Junior Johnston

    Good luck getting the 7.5/7.625 rear end to live very long behind that 5.3.

    • Steve

      As long as he has street tires he wont have to worry about breaking the 7.5 since it wont hook up. I was running mid 13’s in an all steel 79 malibu with a 383, 200 4r mt et streets And a 7.5″ rear with 3.42s and a mini spool. Never broke but i swapped it when i found an 8.5 3.73 posiout of a 442

      • Junior Johnston

        The 7.5/7.625 in my 99 S10 didn’t last at all, and mine is just a 4.8/4l60e set up. I was running PepBoy cheapo tires, and basic same set up as you except 3.73’s. Broke both axles and split the carrier doing a rolling burn out.

  19. Randy W

    Wow, so many comments. I have a 51 chev p/u restored in and out except for the patch panels I have to get welded to the back cab and front of rear fenders. Mt problem is deciding whether to paint or leave patina. Going to put up for sale, I’m leaning to paint maroon to show off all the wood. Appreciate any comments, 235 6cyl.rebuilt.

  20. HeadMaster1

    To low if that’s a fixed ride height, if it’s on air then it’s all good

  21. Blindmarc

    I think this a great looking truck. And could be a daily driver for someone. But at that price it’s not for me.

  22. Joe Haska

    From the comments, I would say the builder did just what he intended to do. If you don’t get it you think its a barn find that has been lowered with 17″ wheels. In reality it is a total build to perform and drive like a new truck. It is not suppose to be painted, in fact the patina was probably as much work as a paint job!
    I drive a 53 Ford P/U everyday – everywhere, it has a 351W, C-6, nine inch, disc brakes, Valarie front suspension, slammed, 17 & 20’s on custom wheels. It is half original Patina and half new to look like the old. I have had lots of hot rods, and this truck is by far the most fun I have ever had with a custom car. People want to look at it, always asking if its for sale, and generally shocked when they realize what a nice truck it is. That’s when I know I did a good job.

  23. Jay Bree

    Perfect as is…. fantasticJay

  24. Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    I love it as is! It draws me in!

  25. Fred W.

    I like the look. At first glance looks like a refugee from the junkyard, until he smokes you at a stoplight. A bit too low for my taste but to each his own.

  26. JW454

    Looks fake. Paint it.

  27. Rob

    Looked up the definition of cool in the dictionary. There is a picture of this truck.

  28. Jon H

    Yep I saw that also. ….

  29. Tyler

    Very tastefully done & nearly perfect in my opinion. On this truck, I would rather have this finish than satin black or some shiny fresh paint. The fact that it’s a GMC instead of a Chevy makes it even better. Kudos to the builder, I dig it.

  30. Rando

    I like originals, I like Hoto Rods. What the heck, I like all kinds of things. Someone else has built this. It’s not original anymore, never will be again. So like it and buy it, or not. A butt for every seat?

    But what abouy the original hulks that are wasting away all over the world that have been modified in some way or too far gone to be restored or preserved? May as well upgrade them and drive them. I love seeing these old trucks like this. There’s a guy in town that keeps one built up about all the time. drives it as shop truck and displays it in front of his business. Always for sale. Sells it and builds another or buys another. This particular style of build is pretty hot right now.

    I like to look at it, but have driven one of these trucks before but really don’t like the view over the front from the cab. Yep, that’s weird.

  31. TonyG

    Love all of the comments here. This truck got the same response at the car show that I took it to yesterday. Some people dismiss it as incomplete and others think it is perfect. My wife calls her ” ‘tina”. I think she is perfect. We had her tatooed last week with a tribute to my grandfather-in-law’s post WWII plumbing business.

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