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The Classic Chevy Truck Handbook HP 1534: How to Rod, Rebuild, Restore, Repair and Upgrade Classic Chevy Trucks, 1955-1960

The Classic Chevy Truck Handbook HP 1534: How to Rod, Rebuild, Restore, Repair and Upgrade Classic Chevy Trucks, 1955-1960

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by Jim Richardson

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This essential guide for owners of Chevy trucks built from 1955 through 1960 provides step-by-step instruction on frame and chassis cleaning, suspension rebuilding and upgrades, rebuilding steering, upgrading brakes to front discs, rebuilding the engine, cooling system upgrades, transmission choices, electrical rewiring, and much more.


This essential guide for owners of Chevy trucks built from 1955 through 1960 provides step-by-step instruction on frame and chassis cleaning, suspension rebuilding and upgrades, rebuilding steering, upgrading brakes to front discs, rebuilding the engine, cooling system upgrades, transmission choices, electrical rewiring, and much more.

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Penguin Publishing Group
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Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page




Chapter 1 - Small-Block Chevy 101

Chapter 2 - Cooking with (Pump) Gas

Chapter 3 - Working with a Machine Shop

Chapter 4 - Headwork

Chapter 5 - Intake, Exhaust & Cam Combos for Sixes

Chapter 6 - Bottom-End Prep

Chapter 7 - Top-End Tricks for Sixes

Chapter 8 - Clutch Play

Chapter 9 - Rebuilding a Saginaw Tranny

Chapter 10 - Mopar Tranny Swap

Chapter 11 - Replacing Worn Kingpins and Bushings

Chapter 12 - Stop-Dead Brakes for Vintage Haulers

Chapter 13 - Adding Sway Bars

Chapter 14 - Replacing Worn U-Joints

Chapter 15 - Slamming a Straight-Axle Truck

Chapter 16 - Bearing the Load

Chapter 17 - Fuel Tank Swap

Chapter 18 - Cold Patching

Chapter 19 - Rust Patching

Chapter 20 - Paint Stripping

Chapter 21 - Color Sanding

Chapter 22 - Tail Spin

Chapter 23 - Remaking the Bed

Chapter 24 - Going Digital

Chapter 25 - Painless Glass Replacement

Chapter 26 - Cool Tips for Hot-Running Trucks

Chapter 27 - Aftermarket A/C





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While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.




Copyright © 2009 by Jim Richardson


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

HPBooks is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


eISBN : 978-1-101-01491-2





NOTICE: The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations on parts and procedures are made without any guarantees on the part of the author or the publisher. Tampering with, altering, modifying, or removing any emissions-control device is a violation of federal law. Author and publisher disclaim all liability incurred in connection with the use of this information. We recognize that some words, engine names, model names and designations mentioned in this book are the property of the trademark holder and are used for identification purposes only. This is not an official publication.


First I must thank my editor, Michael Lutfy, for giving me my start years ago and for sticking with me through thick and thin. And I also wish to thank my son Steve, an accomplished welder who knows air conditioning better than anyone I know, for all of his hours of help doing this book. Also a big thank you is due to my good friend, master mechanic Larry Cain, for his help with all the wrenching. I would also like to thank my pal Bruce Haye, consummate panel beater from Whitianga, New Zealand, for his help with body and fender work. In addition, I must thank John Sloane of the Eastwood Company whose wise council and assistance was invaluable. I also learned a great deal from all of the fine companies listed in the Sources section who were very generous with their assistance as well. And finally, I need to thank my wife, Bette, who put up with my months of effort and time away from home and hearth in order to make this book happen.


Before the mid-’50s, Chevrolet’s pickups (as well as everybody else’s offerings) were lumpy and utilitarian. They were merely appliances. And then came the new Bow Tie offerings for 1955, which were styling knockouts, especially the beautiful Cameo, slab-side models. As a result, although the pickups of the mid-’50s and early ’60s were still working vehicles, people began driving them to town and to church on Sunday as well. Thanks to their handsome new looks, pickup trucks became acceptable as daily transportation. And that’s a trend that still exists today.

Big back windows, two-tone paint schemes, stainless trim, as well as deluxe interiors were available for those who wanted them, as were outstanding innovative 265 cubic-inch V-8 engines and automatic transmissions. But underneath the new bodywork was essentially the same simple workhorse Chevrolet pickup for which the company had become famous. Yes, the closed driveline was dumped for a more modern open driveshaft system, and the 216 six-cylinder engine with its splash lubrication and cast-iron pistons was jettisoned for the more modern 235 inline-6 with full pressure lubrication and aluminum pistons. But the chassis remained nearly identical.

Today, classic (’55-’60) Chevy trucks are still plentiful because of their nearly invincible ruggedness and simplicity and the fact that replacement parts are still cheap for them. In fact, nearly everything is available for them for a lot less than what parts for new trucks would set you back. As an example, a new fuel pump for a classic Chevy truck goes for just $45. Try finding one for your modern truck for that price. And a professionally overhauled small-block V-8 can be had for as little as $500. Also, you can rebuild your truck’s entire steering system for under $200. In fact, I would guess that you could restore a tired classic Chevy truck for less than you could buy a contemporary pickup!

And if you did, you would have a vehicle that would continue to increase in value rather than be worth less and less as the years go by. After all, the ’50s-era second series Chevy trucks have already stood the test of time. And they are still fairly common and inexpensive to buy unless you just have to own a rare Cameo with all the accessories, or want a fully tricked-out show truck all ready to go.

Of course, there are those who will tell you that the old trucks don’t go as fast as modern ones, and they would be right, but that is easily remedied. In fact, just about any engine you can imagine will fit under the hood of a classic Bow Tie pickup with room to spare. And transmissions—both automatic and standard, four, five or even six speeds—are also available. We’ll tell you how to install my favorite, the Mopar New Process A833 four-speed with overdrive.

"Yeah but they don’t stop very well either," you say? That’s easily remedied too, with a bolt-on power disc brake kit that can be installed in an afternoon. Upgrading ride and handling is no big deal either. In fact, nothing on classic-era Chevy trucks is very difficult to do. All of the upgrades and restoration work outlined in this book can be done at home with fairly basic tools, and we will show you how to make a tired old basic work truck into a vehicle that you will be proud to drive and enjoy.

You too can have a new classic Chevy truck that will last a lifetime, look great and be worth more ten years from now than what you put into it originally. Read on and we will show you how.

Jim Richardson

Chapter 1

Small-Block Chevy 101

This is the engine that started it all in 1955. Note bypass oil filter on top unique to that year.

You can put any engine you like in your classic truck. There is even room for a huge Chrysler Hemi or one of those 500 cubic-inch Cadillac motors if you so desire. On the other hand, these days, with fuel prices being as high as they are, most of us would prefer to stay with one of Chevrolet’s small-block engines. Any of them will bolt in, you can tune them to make 600 horsepower or more if that’s what you want, and everything in the way of replacement parts and speed components is readily available for them at nominal prices.

That’s because the Chevy small-block is quite possibly the best American automotive engine design ever. It is over fifty years old and still being produced, albeit in modified form. And it has been put into everything from VW Beetles and vintage Willys coupes to Jaguars and even Fords because it is light, powerful, dependable and inexpensive to super-tune.

And if you are one of these guys who believe that there is no substitute for cubic inches, you can always install the 400 cubic-inch version that is the big daddy of all small-blocks. However, even the little 265 that Chevy debuted in 1955 can be made to perform pretty well with a little tweaking, and the 283 that first appeared in the 1957 models is an old favorite with hot rodders that has no real shortcomings either, except perhaps its small displacement.

Of course, many of our trucks came with Chevy’s venerable 235 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, which is an excellent powerplant as well, but if you have a classic pickup that was V-8 powered from the factory, it will most likely be one of the first two engines listed below. Also, if you want to swap a six for a V-8 it’s pretty easy, but you will need to change out the bellhousing for one that is designed to accommodate a V-8, and you will have to move the radiator back behind its cradle.

Chevy has built its small-block engines in a number of different displacements over the years and with a couple of exceptions, they are all great motors, even in their stock form. And any of them can be built to produce truly impressive power with a little effort and a few bolt-on parts. Problem is, they all look pretty much alike, and you will want to know which engine you are working on. So before we get into tuning, let’s review the possibilities:

All of the Chevrolet small-block V-8s were painted Chevy orange, with a couple of exceptions. In 1956, for that year only, the V-8 engine was ruby red. And then in 1957, though the 283 was offered for the first time that year, the 265 was still available in trucks. These smaller engines are easy to spot because they were painted a bright lemon yellow.


Meet the Author

Jim Richardson is the tech editor for Classic Auto Restorer and the author of HPBooks' Classic Car Restorer's Handbook.

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The Classic Chevy Truck Handbook HP 1534: How to Rod, Rebuild, Restore, Repair and Upgrade Classic Chevy Trucks, 1955-1960 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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