Legacy Makes an Old Chevy Napco 4x4 New Again

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What is it about well-built classic pickup trucks? They seem to be the closest thing we have to an actual time machine, even when an old truck has been updated to like-new specs in almost every way. We recently had the chance to drive Legacy Classic Trucks' latest creation in this vein and it was impressive.

As with the Legacy Power Wagon and Jeep Scrambler before it, the latest from Legacy is arguably one of the most iconic pickups ever: a late-1950s Chevrolet Napco 4x4 3100 series. This truck is basically a fresh version of the classic, swoopy Chevy pickup with a four-wheel-drivetrain twist.

For GM aficionados who may not remember, Northwestern Auto Parts Co. was a company founded in 1918 that installed all the parts and pieces as an aftermarket kit to convert Chevrolet and GMC pickups for those discerning customers who wanted four-wheel drive. It wasn't until 1960 that GM (for Chevy and GMC pickups) started building 4x4s in-house, no longer needing Napco for the conversions.

It All Starts With a Donor

Like all of its custom-ordered restoration projects, the Legacy builds begin with a donor truck (usually with a good frame and rusted body panels]) that is completely recreated to meet the specs and needs of its customer.

One of the most interesting things about these Legacy restoration builds is that they use some of the best, most modern parts and pieces available, which means this restored Chevy had heavy-duty Dynatrac ProRock axles (Dana 44 in front, Dana 60 in back), King remote reservoir shocks with pressurized bump stops, ARB locking differentials and 4.11:1 axle gears. The suspension is also specially tuned with extra-long Alcan Spring leaf springs (front and rear) and a unique Offroad Design shackle reversal kit to allow the axles more flex.

In order to give the truck the proper four-wheeler stance, the Chevy Napco will fit the 33-by-10.5 or 33-by-11.5 Toyo tires (customers can choose between the Open Country all-terrain sizes and whether or not they want a set of TrailReady beadlock rims) under the fenders.

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Under the hood, the Chevy Napco offers a choice of two aluminum-block V-8s (the current-generation 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter), as well as a choice between GM's 4L65-E four-speed automatic or Aisin AX15 five-speed manual. We should also note that there's a bulletproof Atlas twin-stick transfer case (with 4.3:1 gearing) for rock crawling. One of our favorite features to this powertrain is the quad-pipe dual-mode Corvette C7 exhaust system that offers one of the greatest notes we've heard coming out of any pickup.

Taking It on the Road

From behind the wheel, it's difficult not to feel transported back in time, with shiny Horween leather bench seats (without whiplash-saving head restraints) and soft leather-lined doors, roof panels and foot panels. The steering wheel is a custom Nardi Torino-designed wheel that seems like it should have been offered in every 1950s luxury sedan. Legacy also includes a Vintage Air climate-control system, a 900-watt sound system (with under-seat subwoofers) and the classiest set of V-shaped instrument gauges you've ever seen.

During our short test drive near Ojai, Calif., we had the chance to run the Legacy Chevy through a few neighborhood streets and even on a few off-road trails in the local mountains.

As you might imagine, with a rather tall and big-tired vehicle, there is a little bit of wander with the large steering wheel and heavy-duty steering box — it'll keep you on your toes. This is not the type of vehicle where you can sit back and rest one hand on the steering wheel; you need to be alert. Still, the manners and handling dynamics aren't bad for a classic pickup that's completely reconditioned and rebuilt. Notably, the original frames were only designed to accommodate a two-wheel-drive powertrain, so the upgraded, fully boxed and structurally reinforced frame makes for a solid foundation, which translates to a solid feel on the road.

When driving, our biggest surprise of the day was how stable it felt cruising, but maybe that's not surprising with the top-of-the-line King shock package and relatively soft leaf springs. But all of that is nothing compared to the wonderful sounds coming from the back of the truck when you mash the throttle.

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Our test truck had the AX15 manual transmission, which is equipped with a heavy-duty flywheel to keep the shifts smooth and solid, and your left leg well toned. In back, although the Chevy does have a wonderfully reconditioned polished oak wood panel bed, we're told the payloads are pretty close to the factory ratings of the truck when it was new some 60 years ago.

What It Costs

Like other Legacy Classic Trucks, the Chevy Napco 4x4 is relatively expensive: To start the process with the basics of the truck order — assuming it already has a donor platform — pricing begins around $120,000; then you can start checking option boxes to your checkbook's content. The model we were driving, which was designed as a preproduction tuning truck, costs around $150,000. Yes, that sounds like a lot, but we would argue there is some solid value here.

Still, as optimistic as Legacy Classic Trucks wants to be for choosing this beloved American Chevy pickup, it's not likely to sell more than 20 or 30 per year, but we'll see. Whatever the case, don't expect this to be the last classic pickup it brings to market. For more information, go to www.legacyclassictruck.com or call 888-589-1664.

Manufacturer photos; Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

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Comments

Best of both worlds!
I worked with a friend who had a red one like this.
It was really rough to drive and got 8 MPG.

Beautiful old truck with classic timeless design square wheel well openings. Just beautiful.

Looks nice and there are a couple of benefits like emissions but I wouldn't pay half of that for a fixed-up old pickup. It'll never be safe in an accident.

What an awesome piece. Wonder what the tow rating is. Wanted to buy me a Legacy Power Wagon called Legacy and talked to Bent super cool guy. tow rating was only 8,000lbs not enough. Didn't need two trucks so I bought they A.E.V Prospector Power Wagon thanks to PUTC because I didn't know they built Power Wagons until PUTC had the article. Thanks.

To much money for these "Legacy" trucks. Anyone with some know how could do the same for well under half the price these guys ask.

For that cost you'd figure they could come up with a less ghetto way to mount the fuel tank.

That seems like an awful lot for pretty standard parts. I would expect either a 100% dead-on original to the NAPCO complete with replica stickers, or a custom truck that is a lot more offroad-capable. Alright, maybe a lot of that amount is allotted for body and frame work and paint for an Eisenhower-era truck, but you get my point.

BD agreed, if I ever thought of throwing 100,000 down on a truck it better be dead stock original, even then 100,000 is way to much.

Definitely a neat old truck. Love the idea of adding a newer engine and transmission. Always been a fan of mixing the old with new. Cannot stand the exhaust in the rear or the fuel tank location but that is minor stuff. It is rather spendy but for those with money and not a lot of time it could be their ticket. Otherwise it is a great project truck for a father and son team.

too bad PUTC isn't blocking content or moderating the site.

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I just don't understand the excitement of old trucks.
I have owned pickups from 1975 and they don't compare in quality to the new trucks.
The old 4x4 driveline was always a problem in the old trucks where I had to replace the front axle u-joints every year, not to forget the steering and suspension problems, and working hard every spring to tackle the rust.
When I see one of those old trucks on the road all I can think of the guy is an idiot for throwing the money at it instead of using the same money to buy a new truck.

I just don't understand the excitement of old trucks.
I have owned pickups from 1975 and they don't compare in quality to the new trucks.
The old 4x4 driveline was always a problem in the old trucks where I had to replace the front axle u-joints every year, not to forget the steering and suspension problems, and working hard every spring to tackle the rust.
When I see one of those old trucks on the road all I can think of the guy is an idiot for throwing the money at it instead of using the same money to buy a new truck.


Posted by: BankruptinPA | Sep 26, 2016 3:23:18 AM

Some people like old vehicles and some dont. It is really personal preference. It is like old muscle cars, old land yachts, etc. They suckered in comparison to today's vehicles but there is just something different and special with them. My generation will likely kill off old cars. You rarely see anyone in my generation rebuilding or driving old cars like previous generations of people. The next generation will only be worse.

Cannot stand the exhaust in the rear or the fuel tank location but that is minor stuff.

Posted by: LMAO | Sep 25, 2016 6:00:27 PM

I can't believe this but I actually agree with you, kinda. The exhaust is straight off the awesome Corvette, plus it looks like the duel mode exhaust which is even cooler. Unfortunately, the exhaust use in this application doesn't look finished. If a rear roll pan was integrated to fill in the space between the lower rear quarters panels this may have been a very compelling area of the truck.

GMSRGREAT, there is nothing wrong with agreeing with me. The exhaust does look great on the vette but as you mentioned it looks out of place/unfinished. But cool truck none the less. One sweet thing about car shows is you see stuff like this. The better ones is where the owners will roast the tires on the way home.

Nice job on this old Chevy. I really like the interior. I like these old trucks but I would not spend my time or money on one. I do appreciate those who keep and restore old vehicles. If you go on the Legacy website there is a tour of their shop and they show you what projects they are working on. There is an old Dodge Powerwagon with a Cummins diesel that has been converted into a 6 wheel drive and a 49 Chevy Thriftmaster pickup with a Corvette engine. There are also some old Broncos and Landcruisers that have been custom rebuilt. Legacy has a backlog of jobs for the next couple of years.

If I had the money .... sigh.

I don't know how you can call this a Napco when the front axle is not Napco. Love their Power Wagons, But would have loved to see the drivetrain stay original on these.



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