The world was changing when the 1960s rolled around, especially in the automotive world where pickup trucks were becoming the new passenger car. The 1950s was a decade dedicated to the station wagon, which signaled the country’s drive to lead bigger lives. Leading a bigger life meant that folks needed more space to carry all the stuff for their adventures. Chevrolet figured this out and released their redesigned truck line, the new C/K series pickup.
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The new C/K series trucks also debuted a new method of model designation in 1960. Half-ton trucks were now tagged with the “C10″ designation for model identification, with the “C” representing conventional, or two-wheel drive. A “K” indicated a four-wheel drive pickup. The “10” identified a half-ton truck, and a “20” represented the three-quarter ton truck, and a “30” signified a one-ton pickup.
What made the C/K series truck special in 1960 was the independent front suspension, which was the first time a pickup was treated to the design, and giving it a more car-like ride. The front suspension was sprung with torsion bars instead of coil springs, and the rear suspension used coil springs instead of the standard leaf springs in previous years. The 1960 model was also the first year that Chevy pickups offered a full-width bed as standard equipment.
Chevrolet also attempted to add features of the jet-age with aircraft-inspired “nacelles” in the hood of the redesigned truck. To the public, these nacelles looked like unruly eyebrows, and the 1960 through 1963 have often been referred to as “eyebrow trucks.” Even with the redesign and change in suspension, the new C/K series trucks were priced to sell. The 1960 C20 Fleetside originally sold new for $1,289, which was within $300 of what we paid for it 56 years later.
Not a bad view (from 100 feet), and the engine fired up!
How We Found Our Eyebrow Truck
As luck would have it, an enterprising young worker at a salvage yard began seeing some beat-up but special cars come through the yard to be crushed. They started listing these rugged old classics on eBay, which returned much more than scraping these vehicles would bring. We just happened to find one of the auctions, and placed a modest bid, not really thinking we would win the truck.
The truck was very stock original, including the wiring. No raid oradded gauges, either.
As stated in the ad, we knew that the truck was running and had been registered. We could also tell from the photos that the truck was pretty stock and original. No hood swaps, engine swaps, or anything like that. The dash was even original. There were some issues with the exterior, but they didn’t appear to be that bad. Two days later we received a notification via email that we had won the auction, and we needed to make arrangements to pay and pick up our Apache.
We called right away to make arrangements, feeling pretty good about saving a real treasure from being crushed. A day later, we were standing in a wrecking yard near the Mexican border, just south of San Diego.
The four headlight arrangement only lasted two years in the first generation C/K series trucks.
Taking Stock Of What We Had
Standing next to our new purchase, the first elements that stuck out were the awesome wraparound windshield and unique hood, both of which are very difficult to find as replacements, and ours were in good shape. The hoods on 1960 through 1962 model years were notoriously difficult to stamp at the factory, which led to their discontinuation and redesign in 1963. Most of the 1960, 1961, and 1962 Chevy pickup trucks running around today have the latter hoods mounted due to the scarcity of the originals.
The Apache’s infamous nacelles gave the hood a unique look. These difficult to press parts were changed quickly by Chevrolet and are difficult to find today.
The big, bold front end also featured four-headlights. That feature would only last until 1962, when the Chevrolet engineers reverted back to a dual highlight system. The uncommon “eyebrows” are even more formidable in person. Photos simply do not do these nacelles justice.
As far as the powertrain goes, our truck was very commonly packed with the inline-six. The 235ci, 135 hp Thriftmaster engine was considered a real torque-monster in its day. It was so highly regarded that Chevrolet used the high-pressure 235ci engine, equipped with mechanical lifters, as the original 1953 Corvette engine. The yard worker that was showing us the truck said, “It’s not a 350,” and appeared to be saddened. Our response surprised him: “Good! We are going to love this truck, and its parts, for what it is, not what is isn’t.” The old stove bolt engine deserves respect and we have no plans on changing it.
A Three-On-The-Tree Shifter
Among the many things to love about these old trucks, like the foot-operated headlight dimmer switch, and the parking brake level mounted horizontally beneath the steering column, is the three-speed column mounted shifter. Yes, driving in Southern California traffic with a manual transmission can be a workout, but there is no way we are going to change out this feature. Everyone that has ever driven a three-on-the-tree vehicle makes a fond comment when they look inside the truck and see that chrome handle on the column.
All-in-all, the interior was in great shape and the floorboards were solid.
From the first look, we could tell that this project vehicle is an unmodified three-quarter ton fleetside truck, which is pretty rare for a 56-year old vehicle. The previous owners didn’t even add a radio. The dash, like the rest of the truck, was totally unmolested.
A Closer Look
Once we retrieved the truck and got it back home, we had time to go over it with a fine tooth comb. Gathering numbers is always a good starting place, so we did some research on the VIN and engine ID. The VIN number (0C254L121279) told us that the truck was manufactured for the 1960 model year (first digit), a two-wheel drive (second digit), three-quarter ton cargo (third digit), pickup (fourth digit), Los Angeles assembly plant (fifth digit), 21,279th vehicle built (remaining digits). The engine number also told us that it was manufactured in Flint, Michigan, on Tuesday, January 5, 1960.
The VIN number and data plate provided a lot of clues to the old warhorse.
The data plate on the inside of the cab told us that the truck was sent out of the factory with a flaxen yellow paint job, paint that was still on the truck … mostly. The exterior was mostly faded flaxen yellow with a substantial amount of patina. At some point, patina becomes just plain old rust, and our truck was right at that precipice.
Like any project car that a hard-working, blue collar, mechanically-inclined enthusiast picks up, we plan on driving this beast daily! No kidding, this project will be the daily driver of our Rod Authority editor, Bobby. Like most enthusiasts at Power Automedia who own project cars, he will be driving it when possible, and walking when necessary. This is a straight-up, lay on your back on cardboard, on the concrete driveway project build.
You won’t see many fancy parts installed. For instance, the stock OEM steering wheel has broken and missing segments of plastic on the spokes. It would be easy to replace the wheel, but then you lose some of the originality of the vehicle. Plus, it costs money to replace every single part that has problems on such a weathered old truck. Like many budget builders do everyday, we plan on repairing and repainting the steering wheel, not replacing it.
Our truck is a numbers-matching vehicle, and we intend to keep it that way.
The plan also includes keeping the stock numbers matching engine. While many turn their nose up at the old Chevy straight-six engines in favor of the commonplace small-block 350, we intend to keep the original engine in place.
The first tasks will be to make the truck roadworthy and safe to drive in the open. Then we will move into restoring the moldings that keep the outside environment on the outside. Replacing worn bushings that make the ride nicer, and working with the suspension a little bit. The truck could stand to be lowered — not much, just about an inch will do. This can be accomplished without too much expense and will greatly enhance the stance.
Those changes won’t take a big bite into our budget and will allow us to spend the money where it really makes a difference — like with a radiator and cooling components. You really don’t want to cheat yourself on a decent radiator system. With very few gauges in the truck, we also want to improve the instruments. Money spent here is a great investment, as not only will the driver benefit from accurate information, but looking at nice gauges enhances the driving experience.
Wheels and tires are going to be replaced, but finding 8-lug wheels might pose a problem.
Tires, wheels and brakes are high on the list, too. These are basic safety items but they really lend themselves to the appearance of the vehicle, too. The right wheels and tires can instantly change the way other people see your project car. More than any other component, wheels and tires will make or break a project.
No wood in the bed provides a great look at the rear suspension but makes it very hard to haul anything.
Finally, we plan on getting some wood in the bed. Currently there is none. Zero. Nada. Nothing. While it may look neat to see the full rear suspension while you are driving, no wood in the bed defeats the purpose of having a pickup.
There is a point when patina is actually rust, and our truck had some very heavy patina areas.
Keep Your Eyes Out
The eventual goal is to take our truck to local car shows where the three-tone flaxen yellow, patina, and rust will be appreciated. Until then, the slow and steady repairs will be addressed as problems are presented. As with any hard-driven project vehicle, we may experience a breakdown on the side of the road. There is a strong possibility that you will see us at a car show, or on the side of the highway so keep your eyes open. If you see our proud Apache Geronimo, stop to say hello and lend a hand if we need assistance.
For build updates, newest to oldest, scroll down.
September 30, 2016: Stock Generator To Powermaster Alternator Conversion
On of the easiest and best conversions anyone can do to bring new life into a vintage vehicle is upgrading the electrical charging system. Specifically, getting rid of the stock style generator and replacing it with a Powermaster PowerGen Alternator or Powermaster stock replacement alternator.
The stock generators were good for their era, but these bulky beasts required an external voltage regulator and performed poorly at idle.
We opted to use Powermaster’s 100 amp one-wire alternator (part #7294). Using the Alan Grove Components, Inc. Alternator mounting bracket (part #224L), we were able to mount the alternator without an issue. Choosing the correct wire size and adding a ground wire was performed by direction of the experts at PowerMaster. No more dim lights at idle RPM for our project truck after this conversion.
Modern alternators take less space, look better, and do the job more efficiently.
The full conversion article can be view at: Project Geronimo: Generator To Powermaster Alternator Conversion.
The finished product made us wonder why this wasn’t done earlier?
June 6, 2016: Upgrading With A Spin On Oil Filter Conversion
The optional stock canister oil filter was a nice piece in 1960, but filtration and oil technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the past 56 years. Clean oil is important to extend the life of any engine and the filter elements for the canister filters are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
Using the Trans-Dapt adapter, a homemade adapter plate, and some common hardware, adding a spin-on oil filter to the engine block was a snap.
Adapting a spin on type oil filter is a quick, easy, and inexpensive conversion with the Trans-Dapt No. 1028 remote oil filter adaptor. We managed to do the full conversion to a common off-the-shelf Chevy Fram PH8A oil filter for under 30 bucks (not including the cost of the filter). The full article can be viewed by clicking here.
This conversion looked like it was designed to be there from the factory.
May 6, 2016: Improving Combustion With Performance Distributors
Some may ask how changing a distributor would be one of the first things we opted to do to our project truck. Clearly this is not the usual direction, but after we had evaluated the old straight six “stovebolt” engine, it was the right choice.
The stock ignition system was a traditional external coil, contact breaker points style ignition, that was extremely worn. Unable to achieve a steady idle, or hold decent oil pressure, we knew that we had to change the dizzy.
The stock distributor was well worn. We were going to have to replace it just to make the engine run stable enough to determine if we could continue to upgrade or rebuild the mill. Our friend Steve Davis at Performance Distributors has been dealing with these old Chevy engines for decades, so we asked for his help.
The differences between the DUI HEI unit and the OE stock unit was dramatic. There were no fitment issues however. The DUI unit was designed to fit perfectly, and even reduce the clutter in the engine bay.
Steve guided us to the Davis Unified Ignition (DUI) HEI unit that was a popular item in their arsenal. We added some Performance Distributor’s Live Wire spark plug wires and overnight had an engine that was ready to be the daily driver that we were looking for.
The DUI HEI distributor solved all of the timing issues we had. The unit incorporated the coil into the distributor housing and did away with the ballast resister. The Live Wire plug wires were sized to fit the application perfectly, so there were no extra-long plug wires to cause problems.
Along the way we received a top notch education on vacuum advance and how it works to make our old beast continue to purr.
Along the way we managed to learn a few things about the vacuum advance system too.
You can read the full distributor upgrade article here: Improving Combustion with Steve Davis of Performance Distributors.
February 16, 2016: Evaluating A Vintage Engine
The primary goal of the project is to show how a vintage truck “saved” from the crusher could be brought back to life as an economical and dependable daily driver by investing “smart money” within a shoe-string budget. Also keeping in mind that a secondary goal of this three-quarter ton Chevy truck from 1960, is to make it outperform a three-quarter ton truck from 2016. The only area where our worn out, straight-six, three-on-the-tree truck could approach the performance levels of newer trucks is on gas mileage. Under this scope of operations, we really needed to take a good look at our drivetrain, starting with the engine, to see what could be done to achieve those goals.
Using our five senses and a vacuum gauge, we take a good look at the health of the vintage 235 cubic-inch Chevrolet. After coming to a rough conclusion, we make some immediate plans for the build. You can follow along with our engine assessment by reading the article Evaluating A Vintage Engine.
June 16, 2015: Changing A Voltage Regulator
We suspected a bad voltage regulator in our vintage truck, because the engine would continue to run when we turned the ignition to the off position. We don’t mean “run-on” like stumbling until it died – we mean RUNNING, like we could leave the key in the off position and drive into town, cruise the boulevard and drive back to the farm. This is not uncommon in a vehicle with a generator. The voltage regulators have a reverse current relay that would fail, and allow the generator to keep the ignition alive.
Removing the old voltage regulator.
Fortunately, replacement parts for the stock voltage regulator were available off-the-shelf at a local parts store and we were able to swap out the voltage regulator fairly quickly. This reminded us of a couple of special things that vehicles with generators required that alternator equipped cars do not. For more details and the full story on the V/R swap, click here: Project Geronimo Update: Changing The Voltage Regulator.