Adventures With The Beast

The Beast is more than a truck and project. It is has become a parts house, a tool box, and a never ending educational opportunity.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. And on occasion it still does. But that depends on the frustration level as I make a valiant attempt to install a stem to turn wiring harness and upgrade the ’51 Chevy, AKA The Beast, with turn signals, twelve volt gauges, and an alternator instead of generator.

There is a long row to hoe before this old workhorse is back on the road and earning its keep. Still, I am cofident that at some point between now and the Route 66 centennial this panel truck will be a rolling studio for Jim Hinckley’s America programs, a book store, a Route 66 information and travel planning center, and a promotional billboard for sponsors.

If all else fails, I suppose I could sell the wheels and tires, add a mail box to the fender, and call The Beast home. My dearest friend has displayed tremendous patience over the course of the past forty years, but there is a good chance that something like that might be just pushing my luck.

When this endeavor started I was in search of a Model A Ford. For reasons unknown that is a vehicle that I have wanted since before learning to drive. And I am confident that at some point in time one of these old timers will find its way to our house.

But for this endeavor there was an aspect of practicality to consider. This truck will barely make the grade without major upgrades. Ideally I should have been looking at a truck manufactured after 1957.

Sentimentality played a role in my decision to purchse this old truck last December. The Advance Design series of Chevrolet truck is woven into countless memories from childhood and my youth. A ’53 pick up was the first truck I drove solo. This was also the first truck that I drove on a multistate Route 66 adventure. Shortly after my dearest frined and I said “I do” a ’49 panel served as my work truck. When I was a kid we moved from Arizona to Silver City, New Mexico with a ’53 pick up truck. And a ’53 pick up was what my pa used for deliveries at his appliance store.

Transitioning parking lights to turn signals

The goal with this project is to carefully blend the past with present. For a brief moment I had a hair brained idea to blend it with the future with a full conversion to electric. But as much as I am fascinated with modern technology, at heart I am an old timer. And so I will be pushing this old timer down the road with a carburetor on a six cylinder engine and four speed transmission.

The project won’t be fully complete by October. Chances are that it will never be coompletely finished. Still, the loose target date for having it dependable and road worthy is October, and the fall Route 66 tour that includes the Miles of Possibillity Conference in Pontiac, Illinois. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I need to figure out where this green wire goes.