Sunday, January 30, 2011

The history of our 1963 Chevy truck, the history of your 1963 Chevy truck, and some 1963 Chevy truck pictures

I’ve mentioned in this column before about our old truck “Mater”. It’s a ’63 Chevrolet C-10 Short Bed Fleetside, and we have a great time tooling around in the old beater, taking it to car cruises, hauling junk to the dump, and dreaming about how nice it could be if we won the lottery.

Whenever I stop to get gas or have the old truck out and about, I usually run into somebody who had one like it, or knew someone that had one like it, or had a family member that had one like it. Lots of people have stories about this style of truck.

And for good reason. This basic style went from 1960 all the way through the 1966 model year. And during that time, Chevrolet broke all records for truck sales up-to that point.

They really were good trucks, too. Mine is original, and I like to tell people that it works better than it looks. The long rear truck arms and coil springs provide an amazingly smooth ride, and the body feels tight and rattle-free. As long as you plan ahead for the four-wheel drum brakes to take hold, this 46-year-old truck has no problem keeping up with modern traffic. Even the inline, “High Torque” 230-c.i., six-cylinder engine purrs along with ease. There’s no power steering, but as long as you’re moving, you don’t really need it. Even the three-speed shifter on the column clicks into gear with ease.

Over the years, there were many subtle, and not-so-subtle changes throughout these trucks lifetime. The 1960 and ’61 models are the only ones that came from the factory with the “eyebrows” in the hood, similar to the oval pods found on a ’59 Chevy car. The grills are a bit different between the two years, and ‘60s have the bullet-centered hubcaps carried over from the ’57 – ’59 models, while the ’61 caps had a flatter design.

In ’62, they went with the more subtle rectangular parking lights in the hood. ‘62 also was the first year for two headlights instead of four, and they were housed in a unique “sad eye” bezel and grill setup.

‘63s like mine had another new grill, with round bezels around the lights. The bigger news was underneath, as ’63 was the first year for coil springs under the front suspension as opposed to the torsion-arm setup in the earlier models. Out of the box, the new suspension probably didn’t ride as soft, but it lasted longer and wasn’t nearly as hard on tires.

The big change in ’64 was the flat windshield that replaced the old knee-knocker curved glass of the earlier models. This necessitated an entirely new dashboard layout as well. The grill was fitted with a finer mesh, and the headlights sat in a slightly squared-off housing.

From 1964 until the last of this style rolled-out in 1966, there were very few appearance changes, save the style and placement of the side emblems. Of course, engine choices changed and improved along the way, and there were other subtle differences, but all-in-all, this style endured for quite some time.

Kansas City is actually a haven for ’60 – ’66 Chevy Truck restoration parts. Three of the biggest catalog warehouse businesses for these trucks are right here in town.

Classic Parts in Riverside, Mo., handles all kinds of reproduction restoration parts for these and several other old GM trucks. They also have a neat walk-in showroom where you can see their show trucks on display, as well as dig through the scratch-and-dent discount pile.

Jim Carter’s Truck Parts has been in business in Independence, Mo., for many years. While I get the impression that their hearts are in the Advanced Design trucks of the 1940s/early ‘50s, they still have one of the most comprehensive selections of parts for these ‘60s trucks that you’ll ever find. Jim Carter’s also has a cool bone pile filled with older trucks and parts when reproduction stuff just won’t do.

LMC Truck, located in Lenexa, Kan., also has an extensive selection of new parts for Chevy, Ford, and Dodge trucks. It is amazing what they can come up with sometimes in there.

Finally, there’s a guy named Tony Smith who has an obsessive collection of parts for ’64, ’65, and ’66 trucks. He just loves them, and he sells parts to enthusiasts all over the country. You can see some pictures here: He doesn’t have a website, so if you want to get something from him, you’ll have to send an e-mail.

My in-laws used to live in Harvard, Nebr., a very small town a few miles from Hastings. My wife and I would go up there to visit every so often, and as much as I like her parents, I often didn't find myself with all that much to do during our visits. To borrow a line from Smokey and the Bandit:

"What do you think they do around here for fun?"

"Oh, probably sit around and watch the cars rust."

The funny thing is, I really did go up there and watch the cars rust. Well, actually, it was one truck in particular.

Parked in the street across from my in-laws house was a very, um, patina-heavy '63 Chevy short bed truck. I looked at it so much it grew on me, so eventually boredom took over, and I went over and asked them if they wanted to sell it.

That meeting didn't go very well. But about a year later, my mother-in-law called me while I was home in Kansas City, and said the neighbors were having an estate sale, and the truck was being sold "right now", so I had to bid if I wanted it. About a minute later, I owned it.

My truck is no beauty queen. But we still manage to do lots of things with it. I take it to some of these car cruises I write about during the summer. My son plays in the bed; family and friends tend to gather around the back. And in spite if its well-worn look, people still seem genuinely interested and want to talk about it.

But that's not all we do with it. Since it's an old truck, it gets to dress up as Tow Mater for Halloween. We take it to the trunk-or-treat event at church every year. When my son was younger, we'd even throw the Mater face on it at the car shows. It seems silly--but the kids really do love it.

I also use it like a real truck on occasion. Large item dump days seem to be a common occurrence. Whenever we buy a new appliance, or big shelves, or tires, or whatever, they go right in the back of the truck. My son's Big Wheel is usually stored in the back. It is surprisingly handy to have around. And since it isn't in pristine condition, I don't get too worried about scratching it up.

So finally, to round-out this article, I am including a slideshow pictures of Mater from around town. Some of them are posed, but many are just shots from the various car shows and activities that we hit throughout the summer. You might not really want to look at this slideshow, but it's winter, there are no car shows this weekend, so what do you have better to do? OK, don't answer that.


  1. Craig, back in the mid-70s we had a '64 Stepside as a farm truck that was like yours in terms of drivetrain: 3 on the tree, inline 6, manual everything. Wish we still had it! To me they were the high-water mark for GM trucks. The next generation was almost as good, but I like these better. Simple, tough as nails, no pretensions. The Fleetsides like yours looked handsome too.

  2. Great write up, as usual. You've got old Mater looking quite good these days. Even the underhood is a little snazzy. Spend a dollar or two on nicer looking battery cables.
    I'd love to sit down and talk with an engineer who helped design this (and other) vehicles. I didn't know that earlier trucks had torsion bar suspensions. Looking at each set up, I can't imagine that a coil set up was as cheap to produce, so why the change? Ahh, the ever-elusive, 'guy who knows' and isn't just guessing to avoid saying "I don't know".

  3. Thanks, guys!

    Haha--of all the things that I've planned on replacing, and there are many, the battery cables were never really something I gave much thought too!

    I guess that torsion bar setup on the front of the '60-'62s was a big deal at the time. Even the long rear truck arms and coils like on the rear of mine are making a comeback, though--ever look under a new Dodge?

  4. I also have a 1963 C10. I have owned it for over 26 years and still emjoy driving it. The body style is beautiful! These are real trucks and built tough.

  5. The 1960 model year introduced a new body style of light pick-up truck that featured many firsts. Most important of these were a drop-center ladder frame, allowing the cab to sit lower, and independent front suspension, giving an almost car-like ride in a truck.

  6. Headlights features the character of the car whether how big or small it is. And I say the 1963 Chevy model that you have needs a little bit of an improvement on headlights to make it more appealing. Headlights should be one of your priorities too when planning on some replacement. This would make you more than ready to hit the road.

  7. Love these trucks! Had a 63 myself - same colour as yours, bottom trim level [no mouldings] and long/wide. Mine had 4.88 rear gears from the factory -'twas wound a bit tight at 80mph!
    Another one in that [factory] non-metallic light blue and white, with disc brakes added, is on my list of wants. 4sd would be nice, but not required.
    I ask you, really, is there anything better than old Chevy pickups?

  8. I really enjoy to read this awesome blog post.

    Rent Chevrolet

  9. What a great site you have here! AND, a great truck! You've done an awesome job keeping her original and I'm sure she run's as good, if not better, than she looks! These trucks were, most definitely, "well built masterpieces" and the foundation for GM's current line-up of heavy duty pick-ups.

    Thanks for the "trip down memory lane"!

    Larry and Dee Blackman
    LDJ Auto Body & Custom Shop

  10. Great article. My wife and I own one or these and love it. Thanks
    Bill & Kate
    Wnite Stone, Va.

  11. You have told us the history of the 1963 Chevy truck. Vey relevant information, thanks for sharing

  12. You have told us the history of the 1963 Chevy truck. Vey relevant information, thanks for sharing

  13. I was blessed shortly ago with a similar truck. Not as nice as yours but I drive it daily. Thanks for the words.

  14. I was recently blessed with a 63, not as nice as yours but I drive her daily. Thanks for the memories.

  15. LG

    My first vehicle 1963 shortbed with a 283 cui, very fast

  16. Great truck. We got one for our son in 1988, when he was 16.

  17. l have a 64 C-10 stepside with the 6 cylinder and 3 speed transmission. Also a 65 Deluxe cab C-10 with a rare drive train combination. lt has the 283 V8, power steering and power brakes. But it also has the 4 speed ''granny gear'' transmission from the factory usually seen only in 3/4 or 1 ton trucks. A surveyor ordered the truck new. My daughter loves the truck and has been driving it since she was 12.