1951 GMC Pickup
Ford’s first-generation off-roader has gone from cult classic to mainstream collector.
The Dodge Li'l Red Express set a standard on how to make a great performance truck. All Dodge Li'l Red Express trucks came from the factory painted in Bright Canyon Red in 1978 and Medium Canyon Red in 1979. Every Li'l Red Express was a regular cab Adventurer with a stepside bed.
Classic Car Overview
... looking for a new home.
Manufactured in Pontiac, Michigan, I was the 21,327th GMC (out of 28,735) built in the 1951 model year.
I'm not exactly sure what date I came off the line, or when I was purchased from a dealer, but I do know I was officially titled in January, 1953, in Luzerne County, Pa. And give or take a few dollars, I'm pretty sure my original retail price was around $1,250.
I was probably the least expensive truck on the lot. I have a short 116" wheelbase, the smaller 228 cu.in. engine, a 3 speed manual shifter on the column, and a 1/2 ton carrying capacity. The list of options I DID NOT have included: heater, radio, rear bumper, passengers side mirror, passengers side sun visor, or chrome (with the exception of the front bumper and hub caps).
I was purchased by a hard working man with two jobs. He was a coal miner during the day and farmer all the rest of the time. He used me to commute to the mine every day, he used me to help move hay, feed, and anything else needed moving, he used me for taking his wife and grandson to the grocery store on Saturday mornings.
The farmer was proud of me, no doubt about it. In an attached image you can see him proudly displaying his 2 new granddaughters atop my front bumper. And if you look closely you'll notice that even when I was 6 or 7 years old I still had a nice shine on my hood.
About 5 years after the picture with the granddaughters, the farmer passed away. When the family got together after the funeral, it was the grandson, now 13, the one who'd been a frequent passenger since he was 1 yr old, who took me (and his brother and cousins) on my last ride around the farm. After this picture was taken, he backed me into the barn and that's where I stayed, untouched, 67,000 miles on my odometer, for 30, lonely, years.
The next picture shows the grandson and his uncle after rolling me out of that same barn and winching me onto a U-Haul trailer for my trip from Luzerne County to Maine. And a new home, and a 3 year, part-time, effort to get me running again.
I was in need of a new radiator, battery, fuel tank, tires, exhaust system, hoses, belts, spark plugs, wires, cap, rotor, brake cylinders, brake lines, and light bulbs. The most challenging obstacle to running again, though, was my engine. After sitting for 30 years, the oil in the oil pan had separated - into a clear liquid - like kerosene, and a hard, black, plastic-like material that literally required chiseling for removal.
But despite all that, one day, around 1995, I coughed, smoked, rattled and ran - back to life. And started enjoying a new, second home.
Just as I was settling into this new, second life, the grandson in Maine moved to Northern California. I was upset, but I went with him, making the 3,000 mile trip inside a moving van along with the grandson's other valuables.
And when I got to N. California, the grandson found a qualified shop to finally put my charging system to right. I became a daily driver again! Well... almost... only on Friday's, the grandson would drive me the 5 miles to his work and back. But it was still a treat, and even though I was a little rusty, dented, and scratched - I still got more than my share of thumbs up and horn toots!
Ten miles, every Friday, for 12 years. I wasn't the primary vehicle I'd been for his grandfather, but I sure enjoyed the opportunity to be of service again. I was well cared for and had a garage to myself. It was a good second life and I even made my way into a clothing catalog!
Then... another move! Another van ride back to Maine! And on this visit the grandson asked a couple of car restoration pro's if they'd be interested in restoring me - from the ground up.
I was nervous. But I didn't need to be. Suddenly, I was special, and treated that way. I got carefully disassembled, sandblasted, powder coated in some cases, primed and painted in others and then carefully reassembled.
It took 2 guys, working part time, from 2012 - 2014, to make me new again. They went to great lengths to keep things as original as possible. They had the pin striping replaced around the cab's beltline and around the wheels. They copied the assembly line's chalked writing (inside my hood) and redid it using white paint. They made the exterior body paint color match the original. In fact, as far as I know, they only changed three things, all with a nod towards safety - I got an all metal fuel pump instead of the original with its glass bowl, I got a dual brake master cylinder instead of the original single and I got a new (October, 2022) Optima, Red Top, 6v battery.
I live in Montana, now. Its been about 8 years since my frame-up, body-off restoration. I've got new brakes, wiring harness, new primer and paint, a rebuilt engine, carburetor, and generator.I've got the options I've never had - the heater, rear bumper, passenger's side mirror. I've been regularly started and driven. Late last year I had a complete inspection done by a qualified, local mechanic who fixed leaks, replaced some of the rubber moldings, fixed a couple of electrical issues and replaced the steering box seals.
I still have a tiny oil leak here and there, I haven't been a daily driver for 8 years, but my paint is stellar, and I start quickly and run like a charm. I've always been in a garage. In total, I've been driven about 1,600 miles since the restoration.
The grandson had a milestone birthday last month. He's getting up there in years, and he doesn't have friends or family with the interest or resources to give me a good home.
So, my heart is breaking. 72 years in the same family with only two, regular drivers. And except for that 30 year barn hiatus, I've been well cared for and maintained. If I had one wish, I'd love to have a new home with that same kind of care and attention for the next 72 years.
From the grandson:
In the images you'll see 3 original oil paintings. They were painted by Sonoma County artist David P. Jensen. They are not paintings of this exact GMC, but they do elegantly capture its working spirit .
Youll also see a pencil drawing, sketched on my birthday by watercolor artist R. Alden Burt. It captures the GMC in my garage, just after it had been moved from Pennsylvania to Maine.
If you are interested, these could be included in the purchase price.
And you are welcome to any of the remaining 350+ restoration and miscellaneous photographic images that I've collected over the years.
- Classic Car ID101803943
- Stock NumberN/A
- CategoryClassic Trucks
- Body StyleTruck
- Mileage1,620 miles
- Engine6 Cylinder
- Drivetrain2 wheel drive - rear
- SuspensionSolid front/rear axles
- Exterior ColorGreen
- Interior ColorGray
- Seat ColorBurgundy? (see image)
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