The introduction in 1955 of the "Task Force" trucks was the biggest mechanical change to GM's truck line more than 10 ten years. These trucks followed the lead set by Ford with the introduction of the 1953 model F-100. The F-100's brought about the need for GM to increase cab size and modernize their trucks. The "Task Force" Series runs through the 1959 model year.
The 1955 - 1957 style trucks are very much in demand and everything in the way of parts is available for them. These trucks also make great first time project trucks. Also these are the first trucks which were offered the small block V-8. V-8 upgrades in these trucks is very easy.
There are no big changes until 1960, when GM changed the from the straight axle to a torsion bar suspension. This lasted only through the 1962 model year. In 1963 GM switched back to the straight axle. This retro-designing was part of GM's effort to cut costs. These trucks are pretty much the same mechanically. The 1960 - 1962 trucks have X frames which supported the torsion bar setup and are different from any other year Chevy truck. Parts are somewhat more difficult to find and pay for on these trucks. Unless your really nuts about these trucks, I would not recommend them due to their poor resale and flat market appeal.
By 1963, the cab height of GM's trucks had drop and the cab widened. GM introduces the new 230 inline 6 to replace the old Stovebolt 235. The 1963-1966 trucks are the first of the modern body style trucks. These trucks are more comfortable and easier to drive. They have more room and make good daily drivers. Parts availability for these trucks is very good. These trucks have made a very good come back in the last few years and are growing more popular all the time.
The 1967-1972 trucks carry on the previous improvement with a more desirable look. These trucks are highly sought after in the market today. Many good examples can still be found and prices are in the affordable range for now. These trucks make an excellent investment truck as well as very fine project trucks. Parts availability is excellent, with almost everything available. These trucks make excellent daily drivers and hold there resale value well.
FORD: 1930's to mid 1940's
These trucks are hard to find! Most of the good examples have already been restored or converted in to Street Rods. These trucks have very small cabs and are of simple construction. Most of all the early trucks have mechanical brake systems prior to 1939. Many of these trucks will be V8 powered, although 4 cyl and 6 cyl engines were available. Do to the popularity of the '39 -'41 models, there is an abundance of aftermarket parts and accessories. If you can find a sock running example, it will be costly to obtain. A stock restoration is your best investment on these trucks.
POST WAR FORDS, '46-'49
The 1946-49 trucks are a rehash of the pre-war trucks. Parts and materials for restoration are fair to good. The F-1's restyled cab is still not very popular. This are good service trucks, but there ride is poor.
FORDS of the 50's& 60's:
The 1953-56 F-100, known as "The" Ford collector truck. This is Ford's first modern truck with a large cab and modern engine. The strong points of this truck are it's tremendous popularity and the large amount of parts to make them like new. If any truck can be identified as the most popular collectors truck, it has to be the 1953-56 F-100. Their weak areas are the brakes, suspension and steering. These areas will almost certainly be wore out many miles ago if you find an untouched truck. Production of these trucks was high and many survived. You can still find these trucks at a fair price. In the rust belt of America, check carefully, as no truck is immune to the rust devil. The doors and lower cab areas are the first to go. For some reason, rust is a problem above the windshield area as well.
Fords of the late 50's and 60's are not very popular today due to their styling. Still, they are very good trucks, strong and dependable, with excellent mechanics. Many have survived due to their toughness. Single beam axles were used until the Twin I beam came into service in middle sixties. The Twin I beam trucks are much more preferred due to the improved ride and handling. From a collectors standpoint, these trucks are starting to catch on. Parts are fair, you can still get most through local parts houses or the dealer.
The Ford Unibody experiment in the early 60's, was unique, but these slab sided Fords were so unconventional that they may never be popular as a collector vehicle.
The 1967-72 F-100's are just now starting to come on strong as collectable trucks. These trucks are well built, tough and ride very well. Equipped with the Twin-I-Beam front axle, these trucks are very comfortable to drive. The toughness of these year trucks make them excellent daily drivers. One weakness is the exhaust systems and steering sectors. The large FE block 360 and 390 are notorious for exhaust manifold leakage. Steering sector problem still plagued Ford into these trucks. Good example high mileage truck should not be frown on. These truck are tough!
From here on 73's-80's, there is not much interest from a collectors stand point. These are fine work trucks and at this point are generally uncollectable at this time. But, don't pass on a good example, these truck will rise in value as good examples become scarce.
DODGE & OTHER ORPHANS
There are lots of very good trucks that for one reason or another are not as popular as others. Dodge is one of these type of trucks. While Dodge trucks are unique and have features others do not, they tend to lag the field in popularity. Dodge, as well as other Orphan trucks, are a challenge to restore. This is true of any other truck out of production. Don't count these trucks out because of their popularity. But, you should know what your getting into when choosing one. The restoration job will be more difficult, cost more and leave your investment in doubt. These trucks present more of a challenge and provide a uniquely different finished product. Almost anyone can restore a vehicle with parts that are easily available from dozens of suppliers. All it takes is money. The Orphans will take ingenuity, detective work and lots of parts hunting. But, the end result is a tremendous joy of accomplishment.
Studebaker, Nash, Plymouth, International, Mack and Diamond T make up the bulk of the Orphans list. There is still a considerable number of these type trucks out there. All are well built and will make a fine project trucks, but they are not recommend for the first time restorer. One of these trucks can make a first time restorer, a last time restorer. Deep pockets and a lot of drive is needed to complete one of these baby's. We salute those that can and have taken up the challenge of restoring an Orphan.
NOW, GET OUT THERE!
We hope this article has provided some insight in to buying a project truck. Always remember to do your homework before you buy. It helps to look at a vehicle with a friend or relative. Taking along someone to help you inspect a vehicle and discuss the condition, as well as the price, is sound advice. Don't be too quick and don't fall in love. Most important, know when to walk away. While a truck maybe worth the asking price, it may not be for you. Good Luck and we hope to see your pick in the Classic Truck Shop Classifieds