By Patrick Smith
We left off our last segment on this 1961 Chevrolet Apache restoration with a detailed examination of the truck. An unmolested survivor vehicle makes a great starting point for a good restoration if you make note of the details for reference later on. The subject vehicle is a 1961 Apache rear wheel drive fleet side from farm country in Manitoba. The owner is Chris Medwechuk, of Mississauga, Ontario. He gave us a complete rundown on the particulars of this truck and how he came to own it.
"Back in the 1990s, I visited this farm in Oakville, Manitoba. There was a work truck being used for running back and forth to the field. Wooden blocks were installed on the pedals for the underage farm kids to drive out lunch for their Dad. My wife, Lisa, recalled sitting in the back of the truck box as a child when it was still used as a daily driver as they went to Portage La Prairie for a visit to Dairy Queen."
Chris tells us the truck was purchased new by Inter-City Gas in Portage La Prairie in June, 1961. Richmond Irvine of Oakville, Manitoba bought it in late 1962. He drove it many years then passed it down to his son, Russell Irvine. Russell was his wife's uncle.
"After Russell passed away, his wife, Barb Irvine remembered how I expressed an interest in the truck every time I visited. I remember Russell telling me interesting things like how he had to bleed the hydraulic slave cylinder every spring. Barb Irvine contacted me and sold it for $500. I drove it to Winnipeg to a transport yard and loaded it onto a flatbed for shipping home."
Chris got to work right away by removing the cab to fix the floor, cab supports and rocker panels. Chris bought New Old Stock (NOS) outer fenders from Mile High Classics and changed the inner fenders as well. Chris said, "I also redid the brakes and suspension to make it roadworthy. It became a regular driver on the back roads of Halton County after adding a vintage cloth and vinyl seat cover. I decided last autumn to send the truck to Floyd's Body Shop for body work and paint."
Floyd did a tear down of the truck after our first photo session to assess and repair the fleet side box rust. The inner wooden planks were separated from the frame after removing the metal lock strips and carriage bolts through the planks. The bushings and bumper were removed and the box lifted off. Next the inner wheel wells were disassembled and rear quarter panels separated. This revealed the inner panel and braces that were welded diagonally from top of wheel well panel to the top of wheel well arch. These braces were added to prevent the quarter panels from bending while being loaded and driven over roads. Floyd shows us the positioning of the brace in relation to the wheel well housing and inner fender panel. The braces are rolled on the inside and have ledges where debris can build up. Over time, exposure to the elements created rust pockets and that's why there was erosion at the end of the braces and the wheel lips. To repair this, the braces were removed then stripped, cleaned and repaired. The eroded wheel well arch was repaired with new metal. You can see how the braces are connected to the inside of the wheel wells and inner box wall in this photo of the restored box. This was taken after the wheel wells were cleaned, prepped and painted as were the lock strips, quarter panels, tail gate and rear box wall. New wood planks are being supplied by Chris to finish the bed restoration. Before that can take place however, some chassis and cab work has to be done first.
Quarter panel braces traps layer of dirt over time, causing rust.
The braces are removed for blasting, metal repair and painting.
Inner fender lip rust area is cut out, filled in with new metal and welded.
After much sanding, welding, priming and paint, the inner brace to quarter panel sections are restored.
A look at the rear of the chassis shows us the strong reinforcements used to make sure the load is carried safely without stressing a member. Sections of the chassis are double walled such as the area surrounding the rear axle and leaf spring mounting perches. As the chassis nears the cab, the member returns to open channel for weight reduction. A horizontal frame tie on either side of the axle carrier secures the pickup bed and provided diagonal frame stability. A coating of dust appears to be the only wear on the chassis, but the frame will be repainted black as part of the restoration process.
A close up of rear chassis reveals the boxed section around the rear axle.
We were fortunate to have a rust free chassis to work with. The mounting pads and braces for the pickup bed were in good condition. A thorough cleaning and prep was all that was needed to spray on the chassis black paint. You'll notice in the overhead view the rear portion of the X brace used to tie the frame together and how it forms the inner wall for the rear axle part of the frame. It may be overkill for a light duty half ton but it's necessary once you move into the three quarter ton range. Owners have been known to overload work trucks so it's nice insurance to have.
The chassis was in good condition and required only clean up and painting with chassis black.
Once the metal repairs were done, the fenders, inner wheel wells, tail gate and box rear wall were block sanded and primed. Then the parts were sprayed with two coats of Brigade Blue paint, sanded, and sprayed again. Here are the fenders after the initial two coats of paint before sanding and re spraying. In this photograph, you can see how the braces appear in relation to the inner wheel well housings. Having the braces painted this time will slow down corrosion considerably. The rear portion of the metalwork on this Apache has been completed by this point. The wood slats will be added when the truck is re assembled after the chassis, cab and interior panels have been restored.
The box quarter panels and wheel well housings are re assembled on a jig, as tail gate and hardware goes on next.
The next segment will cover the engine bay and outer cab restoration of this truck and will show the finished truck bed floor installed with new wood slats. We will also show you the interior cabin restoration process with pictures of the interior before restoration and the tear down, preparation and painting of the inner doors, dash, cabin wall and headliner area. This will wrap up the rejuvenation of this farm truck to like new status.