By Richard Truesdell / photos courtesy of RM Auctions
Judging from the feedback we’ve received over the past three months, we can say there is a strong interest in classic pickup trucks on this site. But is it strong enough for any readers to take the plunge and consider buying a classic American pickup?
On Oct. 20 in Grapevine, Texas, RM Auctions in will sell the cars and trucks of Charlie Thomas, a well-known Texas-based auto dealer and former owner of the Houston Rockets. Among the more than 100 lots are almost a dozen pickups covering a wide range of trucks: prewar pickups, drivable postwar half-ton trucks, dead stock originals and modified offerings, including car/truck hybrids.
Each is offered at no reserve, so you could score a bargain if you're interested in a truck that doesn't garner interest from other bidders.
Here are the trucks that merit your attention, listed from oldest to newest.
1930 Ford Model A Roadster
This Model A-style 76-B 40-horsepower pickup might be considered the granddaddy of the modern pickup truck. It was a dedicated pickup, clearly separated from Ford's passenger cars from the windshield to the back bumper. The pickup bed floor is done correctly in varnished oak with painted sub-strips and a differential cover. This well-restored classic is sure to make a stunning impression at any classic car show and certain to be a crowd pleaser.
1940 Ford Custom Pickup Truck
In the years leading up to World War II, the modern pickup continued to evolve, as shown by this 1940 Ford. This two-owner pickup is powered by Ford's classic flathead V-8 and sits on a 112-inch wheelbase. This example benefits from a body-off restoration and has been tastefully modified with an Isky camshaft, Edelbrock high-compression polished-aluminum heads, new Stromberg 97 carburetor, Mallory ignition and a 3.78 rear end. A 12-volt system was installed with an upgraded 50-amp alternator to provide creature comforts, such as the Alpine stereo.
1941 Chevrolet Half-Ton Pickup Truck
This 90-hp truck was Chevy's answer to Ford's prewar half-ton pickups. It countered Ford's flathead V-8 with a 216-cubic-inch overhead-valve six-cylinder mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Chevy trucks of this era feature many art deco styling touches, especially the grille, which lends a distinctive look. This Chevy benefits from a body-off restoration in 2005 and will provide the new owner an example of a Chevy truck whose design has truly stood the test of time.
1941 Ford FlareSide Custom Pickup Truck
If a more modern drivetrain would serve your tastes better, this customized 1941 Ford FlareSide is sure to please. In the mold of a street rod, it's powered by a small-block Chevy V-8, in this case displacing 350 cubic inches with 330 hp on tap. Adding to the modern driving experience is the 700R4 automatic transmission and the independent Mustang II front and leaf-spring rear suspension with a floating axle. Adding front disc brakes enhances the FlareSide’s stopping power.
1951 Chevrolet 1300 Five-Window Pickup Truck
This 1951 Chevy model 1314 is a bit unusual because it was produced in Canada. This 92-hp, 216-cubic-inch overhead-valve six-cylinder engine is mated to a three-speed manual transmission, and it represents the 1951 version of Chevrolet's Advanced Design models introduced for the 1947 model year. It’s interesting to note that Chevy led Ford in sales over the model's production run until the design was replaced at the end of the 1954 model year. Since then, Ford has dominated the sales race for half-ton pickups.
1954 Ford F-100 Custom Pickup Truck
This pickup looks stock on the outside, but under the hood you'll find the heartbeat of a much more modern Mustang — in this case, a Cleveland 351-cubic-inch overhead-valve V-8 coupled to a three-speed C-4 automatic transmission. With a wheelbase of just 110 inches, this pickup would be considered a compact today, but in its day it was the very definition of a full-size pickup. With their fat fenders, these Ford F-series pickups have found favor with street rodders over the years, but unlike so many of those hot rod trucks, this one is Blue Oval all the way. No small-bock Chevy V-8 is to be found under the hood of this classic.
1957 Chevrolet 3100 Half-Ton
This 1957 Chevrolet 3100 is what many Chevy loyalists think of when they name a classic Chevy truck from the Eisenhower era. It’s powered by Chevy's 140-hp, 235.5-cubic-inch six-cylinder mated to a three-speed manual transmission. It still looks showroom fresh and looks like it's ready to serve the needs of any local tradesman. Its design is credited to famed GM truck designer Chuck Jordan, who would later lead all of GM's design efforts over his long career. Even though it was into the third year of its styling cycle, the overall design retained a freshness that makes it still a favorite among Chevy truck fans. The catalog description notes that like most pickups of its era, it is not equipped with a radio, but it has the correct “delete plate” in the dashboard.
1958 Chevrolet Half-Ton Cameo Carrier
You're looking at one of the best examples of the first modern factory-built sport truck. First offered in 1955, the Chevrolet Cameo Carrier was never a strong seller, mainly because of its hefty price tag compared with the rest of Chevy’s pickup range. The Cameo is important because it marked the start of introducing passenger-car styling elements to the utilitarian truck field. Its fiber-glass rear fenders are widened to the same width as the front end, producing a unique flow-through look. Again, the work was attributed to Jordan. The catalog says “this is truly an elegant worker, perhaps too nicely restored for utilitarian duty, but certainly one of the best half-ton pickups we have seen to date.” We agree.
1959 Chevrolet 3100 Apache
Stock appearance on the outside but modern under the hood, this 1959 Chevrolet 3100 Apache is powered by a 350-cubic-inch small-block V-8 backed up with a five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel leaf-spring suspension with live rear axle and power-assisted hydraulic front and rear disc brakes. With modern amenities like air conditioning and a stereo, this is an older restoration that might go for a reasonable price, given the auction's no-reserve basis. And don't you just love the idea of a side-mounted spare?
1972 Chevrolet C10 Custom Fleetside
Now we're clearly into the modern iron with this customized 1972 Chevrolet C10. Its 250-hp, 350-cubic-inch V-8 shows the overall purity of the Chevy C/K pickups. When the C/K line was introduced in 1968, Chevy advertised this truck by saying it was “the most significant cab and sheet metal styling change in Chevrolet history.” Its simple yet elegant lines were aged gracefully. With new trucks coming in 1973, this last-of-series 1972 model will be a welcome addition to the garage of any Chevrolet collector.
1978 Chevrolet El Camino Black Knight
This is one of the 1,200 limited-edition Black Knight models that became so popular that Chevy dealers would clone other super-sport models to mimic it. The 1978 model was the last El Camino equipped with a 350-cubic-inch motor; subsequent models would get the 5-liter 305 V-8 under the hood. This is a well-equipped El Camino with power steering and brakes, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and a remote mirror. If it were our El Camino, we would swap out the wheels for a set of classic Rallye wheels. Wouldn't you?
Ready to Bid?
If any of these trucks interest you, here's how to get set up to bid. You can accomplish all of this over the phone and online, but we strongly suggest attending the event, arriving early so that you can do a pre-auction inspection. Then do your homework: Check out the completed auctions on eBay and other recent auctions (use Google to search for similar vehicles sold in the past 12 months), then set a bid limit for yourself.
To register as a bidder, contact the car specilaists at RM Auctions. They can walk you through the registration process that will include the financial arrangements, such as registering a credit card or submitting a letter of credit from your bank.
If you are a serious bidder and attend the event, don't let the emotions of the bidding get the best of you. Stick to your limit, and if bidding goes higher than your comfort level, let those with bigger bank balances fight things out. Chances are that they will overpay; that's how new pricing benchmarks are set. And if you win, be prepared to close the deal within 24 hours and be ready to take title and arrange shipment of your prize. Good luck.