Well, That Didn’t Work

Well, That Didn’t Work

The orignal headlight socket and wiring illustrates the importance of checking, or replacing original cloth insulated wiring in a ’51 Chevy.

As late as March of this year it still seemed feasible. The Beast would not be finished but it would be drivable (safely and with dependability) by the first of May in time for the Route 66 Fun Run. It just needed a wiring harness, new gauges, and installation of a clutch, an H.E.I. distributor, and higher gear ratio rear differential. Easy, peasey.

Shortly after acquiring the truck in December, and driving it down Route 66 to Kingman from the desert near Hackberry, Arizona, I reached out to Jim Carter, a company that specializes in vintage Chevy truck parts, for a catalog. More than a decade ago when bringing a ’50 Chevy truck to life this company provided everything I needed.

I can still recommend them to anyone working on a vintage Chevy, but with a caveat. At this point in my attempt to bring The Beast back to life, I have to give Classic Parts in Kansas City, Missouri a bit better review.

The wiring harness for this ’51 Chevy panel truck was order from Jim Carter. The instructions provided for installation were little more than a succinct list of numbered wires included. Even worse, the “instructions” provided were incorrect. As example, I was holding wire numbered nineteen but there was no wire number nineteen on the list!

The company was quick to respond. They emailed the correct instructions. But as noted it wasn’t much help. The wires were numbered and there were notations such as “high beam.” But the headlight switch is a key junction point and there were no instructions as to which terminal the high beam wire should be connected to. Frustrating to say the very least.

Fortunately these trucks are very popular. So, with a relatively Google search I found a more detailed instruction sheet that included illustrations of the headlight switch and other key junctions. Without this illustration I don’t see how a proper installation could be completed. So, I am rather amazed that something like this wasn’t included with the wiring harness.

Using both instruction sheets seems to be working, even though to date the work schedule has only allowed time for removal of the old wiring and gauges, and installation of new fender terminals wired to the headlights and parking lights. But the plan is to dedicate Saturday to making progress on this stage of the project.

There are a couple of other issues to address. The orignal ignition system included a off/on key switch, and floor starter. And the original wiper motor was vacuum. At some point an electric wiper motor was installed and the foot starter was replaced with a button. But I will cross those bridges when I get to them.

So, a more realistic deadline is being set. Now the plan is to have The Beast roadworthy for the fall tour in October that includes the Miles of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois. That will still be tight as there is a need to find tour and project sponsors, and a trip of that length will require a great deal of additional work. In addition to the clutch and differential, the entire front end will need to be evaluated and rebuilt, wheel bearings replaced, fuel tank cleaned, weather stripping replaced, radiator checked, manifold and carburetor fixed, and oil leaks addressed.