Retiree Nurses '49 Chevy Pickup Back to Health

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By Bruce W. Smith

"Mom, now your education begins."

Those were the first words Mary Corrington's son, Tom, said when the registered nurse was handed the keys to a 1949 Chevrolet pickup she'd found rotting under a pile of junk in a barn near her home in Eugene, Ore.

That was six years ago. Today Corrington, who is 72 and enjoying retirement in "the slow lane," says her son was right: It was a learning experience doing her first restoration, bringing an old, forgotten relic from the late '40s back to pristine condition.

"When we went to roll it out of the place she was stored," Corrington said, "the old truck was going backward down an incline. There were no brakes and the emergency brake broke off. … It took four people to stop her. The brakes were shot, so my son redid the brakes for me. He said, 'I don't care if it runs but it needs to be able to stop.' "

The retired RN is all about being in charge; she's meticulous, and hands-on, typical of someone who spent every day of her career helping to save lives. She took on her beloved pickup the same way she did her patients — she has done whatever it took to nurse it back to health.

She didn't waste any time, either. She tore out the rotted boards in the bed, bought pine replacements and spent the first winter hand-rubbing both sides of the boards with eight coats of wood-finishing varnish so they'd be ready when it was time to put them in.

During the same period she gutted the interior, took the seat to a local upholstery shop, and then tackled sanding and repairing the cab.

It took months of sweat equity, but screw by screw, bolt by bolt, stitch by stich Corrington readied every piece needed to put the Chevy back together, including making a headliner to match the original. She splurged a bit, buying special insulation to keep the summer sun at bay.

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During the refurbish process she had a local electronics expert rebuild the radio, vacuum tubes, push buttons, faceplate and more.

She took the same care with the old Chevy's original heater.

"I spent hours at my kitchen table through the winters, polishing and working dents and scratches out of the little heater," Corrington said. "It's a rare one with an aluminum plate that says 'Deluxe.' When it was as good as I could make it, I painted the words back as original and reattached it to the heater."

Although trying to keep it all "numbers original," she did add two items that weren't originally on this pickup: a rearview mirror and a passenger-side sun visor.

The Chevy's 216-cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine compartment wasn't in any better shape than the interior: The wiring was nearly rotted away; the engine filthy. With the help of her son and grandson, Corrington pulled everything out and started cleaning and rebuilding.

Corrington said she "bit the bullet" and bought a cloth-wrapped vintage wiring loom for that period truck as well as a voltage regulator, rebuilt generator and plug wires.

She and her 16-year-old grandson enjoyed some unique bonding time as they sat in the kitchen rebuilding the engine's carburetor while across town the cracked engine block was being repaired and readied for a complete rebuild using stock parts.

Arthritis prevented Corrington from manhandling the heavy transmission, clutch and rear-end rebuild. So her son, a mechanic with plenty of experience rebuilding vintage trucks, handled those tasks while Corrington sanded, painted and refurbished/replaced smaller parts along with tackling a myriad of other details.

That included pulling out the corner windows and having them polished instead of replaced. She continued her automotive education by replacing the front turn signals with driving lights and converting the parking lights to turn signals. She even cleaned up and repaired the old spotlight that served its original Montana owner back in the 1950s as a way to hunt game at night.

Corrington said she didn't handle the final paint/bodywork. She turned that over to Todd's Auto Body in nearby Springfield. The shop followed her instructions to use single-stage Seacrest Green to make her beauty shine.

After the paint job, Corrington put the interior back together and then meticulously went over every inch of the old Chevy to make sure nothing was missed. Corrington was finally able put the boards back in the bed.

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Then she cleaned, hand-sanded and carefully painted each of the four rims that now had brand-new bias-ply Coker Firestone tires in place of the rotted ones that were under her truck when this all began.

"She turned out so pretty that I decided to show her," Corrington said. During the past several years her '49 has been a consistent car-show winner. "But she's not a trailer queen!"

Last year Corrington convoyed with her son and his old truck on a 14-day, 3,000-mile road trip to see the Grand Canyon and travel historic Route 66. She towed a custom tear-drop trailer behind her green 3100, loving every minute.

"Oh, we did have our adventures. She is still six volt and runs on bias-plies. The joys and trials of driving a restored-to-original vintage truck were part of the experience that I would not trade for anything," she said with a twinkle in her eyes.

They didn't travel fast, and the graphics on the back of the trailer warned those who came roaring up behind with this saying as simple as the '49 Chevy towing it: "Enjoying the journey from the slow lane."

Now that's healing power. photos by Bruce W. Smith


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great write up, love stories like this

Nice truck. Good story.

What a sweet story!

I'm working on a '96 Dodge Ram 1500, but because of salt corrosion in this rust-belt state, it will come out nothing as nice as this without a frame-off rebuild and restoration. I am 72, too, and even have sign on the back of the Ram, saying, "CAUTION - SLOW TRUCK", --- meaning I actually go the speed limit and don't do jack-rabbit starts.


Beautiful truck, beautiful story, beautiful lady. One day my 78 d-150 will look as good as she runs. I'd like to see more articles like this here. Won't be anyone standing on a soapbox pontificating about how their favorite brand is the greatest thing since balloon tires and all other trucks blow along with the people who like em.

Beautiful truck, beautiful story, beautiful lady. One day my 78 d-150 will look as good as she runs. I'd like to see more articles like this here. Won't be anyone standing on a soapbox pontificating about how their favorite brand is the greatest thing since balloon tires and all other trucks blow along with the people who like em.

It's good to see a truck so well preserved and then used as a driver.

The work Mary has done to restore the old pickup is motivational and positive.

Good story.

Great truck. Would be fun to see some before pics before she went through the careful restoration.


2014-'15 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Recalled for Stalling and Fire Risk

You can't kill a GM truck, but Ford trucks die every day!

Breaking NEWS

September 8, 2015

2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Trucks Missing Seal

Vehicles affected by service bulletin:

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD
2015 GMC Sierra 2500 HD
2015 GMC Sierra 3500 HD

The problem: These vehicles may have been built with a hose connection within the power-steering fluid cooler unit that’s missing a seal. If this is the case and the vehicle is driven, the power-steering system could run low or dry, resulting in difficult steering and possible damage to other parts of the system. Additionally, should the power-steering fluid find its way to an ignition point, such as a hot exhaust manifold, it could ignite, causing an under-hood fire.

Ram assembly screwup yields recall


Ram found out that some trucks were build incorrectly, so that a wiring harness may chafe against a bracket, leading eventually to a short circuit. So far Ram is not aware of any fires or crashes. The fix will be done at no cost, and is unlikely to apply to every vehicle. Those who see a warning light on the dash should contact their dealers immediately, or call the company at 1-800-853-1403.

Very nice old Chevy. Be nice if people would stay on topic though.

It is a cool story, but I wish we could get an update on something else like the 2018 RAM HD major update.

great story

See what I mean. Some douches just can't help themselves

Nice Job Nurse Corrington! The whitewalls look slick like spat's on a gangster.

I never thought of my RN wife as a hero until I saw her in action saving a fellow vacationer who didn't take his insulin. Not a moment of hesitation, taking charge of the resort staff trying to help him.

She not only saved a life, she saved the resort Dr.'s job who turned out to be one of the staff she was barking orders at. That dude was sweating bullets.

I was so proud of how cool she was under pressure and I have utmost respect for RN's everywhere.

I think you'll find many of these HEMI style comments are put in PUTC by non Ram people, ie, The few from the Frod Phan Clan.

It's a pity the Phord Phans must stoop to these levels.

I think it might just be you Al who is starting all of this. Now I remember why I quit coming to this site.

I like everything they did with the truck except one thing--the paint is too glossy. Slightly less shine would be more authentic in my un-informed opinion. Not flat enamel, but a bit more satin finish--gleam instead of mirror shine.

two cents

Great story and beautiful restoration. Please post more stories like this.

@papa jim--There is someone who lives near me that is an ex-Bengal player that has an old Chevy truck this vintage that has completely been restored like this except the truck is a little bit of a darker green and it has polished oak rails attached to the sides and polished oak bed. That truck was restored by a nearby business that restores old cars, trucks, and motorcycles. I have seen a lot of old restorations from that business like pre WW II Ford, Chevy, and IH woody wagons and a beautiful red 57 Desota convertible.

@Jeff S
Do they have shiney paint too?

@papa jim--Yes the old chevy truck similar to this has shiny paint, but is a darker green. It is a beauty though. I have seen several restorations of old trucks and muscle cars. The red 57 DeSota convertible had a red interior and was all original. The guy that owned it had to have been in his late 80's to early 90's. I didn't get a chance to talk to him but he was either the original owner or bought it and had it restored. The old Chevy truck that I saw I believe was owned by Max Montoya a former Bengal.

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