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1930 Buick Pickup Truck

Looking for a one-of-a-kind project car? I've got just the thing for you. It's sitting on the windswept plains of southeastern Colorado near a town called Kim, and it probably hasn't moved for half a century.

 

This is a 1930 Buick pickup truck, a vehicle unique in all the world.

If you consult the history books, you'll quickly find that Buick didn't make pickup trucks in 1930. Buick did, however, build a rather jaunty coupe with a rumble seat which was known as the Model 56; one is pictured at right. Somewhere along the way, some farmer or rancher took a Buick Model 56 and replaced the trunk and rumble seat with a pickup bed, "kitbashing" it into a work vehicle. I don't know if the truck bed came from another vehicle or was scratch-built from sheet metal. I do know that whoever did the conversion was a true craftsman, if not an artist; the bed is integrated with the stock rear fenders so nicely that it looks like it came from the factory that way.

When my friend "Perk" photographed this truck last August, he wrote that it "would make great bones for a full restoration." The steel appears solid beneath the surface rust and the weathered patina, and the chrome radiator and headlights are eerily well preserved. The frame is probably in equally good shape underneath.

The interior is intact, including the aftermarket "necker's knob" on the steering wheel and the goofy Art Deco Zeppelin fan. It seems to need no more than new upholstery on the seat and a good cleaning and painting. With 95,561 miles showing on the odometer, the engine and transmission are probably due for a rebuild. If they're not restorable, you could swap in a modern engine and a four-speed, but I wouldn't hot-rod this one. Out of respect for the artistry of whoever turned it into a truck, I'd keep the appearance "stock" and restore it to its post-conversion blue-collar glory.

Notice that the keys are still in the ignition. I think the truck wants to get back to work.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

The gorgeous Model 56 coupe belongs to Cathy and Charlie Boland, and the picture of it came from John's Old Car and Truck Pictures. The other photos were taken by the late Dr. Paul C. Perkins, an avid reader of this website and whose Lotus Elan Sprint was featured here during our last "Our Cars" Week. He was also a talented amateur photographer whose favorite subjects were airplanes, cars, architectural details, and the magnificent spaces of the American west. In the last year or so of his life, he posted a small portion of his work on a photoblog.

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There is a beautifully restored early '30's Buick "pickup" around where I live (Sorry, I can't find a picture of it) and the owner told me that many cars were modified into trucks during WWII to take advantage of the increased allowance of gas rations given to trucks. Not sure its true but it sounds quite plausible.

This is not the only car of the era to be transformed into a truck:

http://www.carlustblog.com/2009/08/beverly-hillbillies-truck.html

And the trend continued well into the 70s, for better or worse:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2581/4151422743_6a30ef6237.jpg

As a big Travis McGee fan, please, please, PLEASE tell me he's planning on calling it "Miss Agnes" once he's finished restoring it.

We had another name for the 'necker's knob' on the steering wheel back in the day....a term of racial opprobrium.

ExurbanKevin: That was EXACTLY my thought!

Travis McGee ROCKS!!!

RIP John McDonald.

This is a Colorado car. No salt on the roads and a dry climate = almost zero rust. All you automotive restoration gurus -- have at it!

My first car was a 1933 Buick Series 90 (7 passenger sedan) limousine, back in the early 1960s. We thoroughly restored it, getting most of the parts we needed directly from Buick - back then the nice folks at GM sold us parts based on the original 1933 list price! 344.5 cubic inch straight 8, "high compression" 110 hp, with a vacuum clutch, 7.00x17 tires, etc. I always regretted my Dad selling that car, but it did pay for most of college....

We think this car was my grandfather's. I just happened to click on this link through Instapundit today and was interested because my mother grew up in Kim, CO and my grandfather homesteaded there in the early 1900s and stayed in the Kim area until 1955 or so. I just got off the phone with him (he'll be 97 in a couple of weeks and is as lucid and clear as anyone I know with a memory that is not to be reckoned with!) He is pretty sure it was his Buick that you have in your blog and he did the modifications to it. He told me that it was a "straight 8" and he did the pickup modifications during the war when there was tire rationing. They wouldn't allow him new tires for the Coupe, but pickups were in demand and if it were a pickup, he could get tires for it. So he drove back to Kim and had the trunk cut off and put a pickup box on it, drove back to Trinidad, CO and applied for four tires and got them! He said that he didn't put the 'necker's knob' or the fan on, though. Those would have been added after he traded it a few years later for a Hudson!

I am sending him the pictures and the article today to confirm, but he sounded pretty sure that it was the Buick he owned and turned into a pickup. Such a coincidence that I would look at this article - he loves to talk about the past and we just had another lovely conversation and I learned just a little bit more about a man I think is an icon and should be in the history books! I always tell people that if there is anything they should do before they die, it's to spend two hours with my grandfather. It would be an amazing lesson never to be found in the history books!

It's not really a mystery, these coupe-to-pickup conversions were pretty common. Most were home made, but there were aftermarket kits. I have a '31 Ford Model A coupe hot rod, and when I found the car in a barn it was an old pickup conversion. The rumble seat and panel below decklid had been replaced with a small pickup bed (I subsequently changed it back to a standard coupe deck lid).

The main reason for these conversions was very simple: WWII gasoline rationing. Passenger cars were highly limited, but if you had a "truck" you got a better ration stamp.

That said, I've never seen one on that early of a Buick (I've seen some late '30s). Check the windshield and dash for a rationing stamp.

Man, what a great project vehicle. Other than surface rust, and, really a bunch of other stuff, it's highly doable. By the way, we always called those steering wheel knobs "suicide knobs". Not entirely sure why. Nice post.

@DeeAnn -- I think we all would be very interested in hearing more from your grandfather about his truck. Please feel free to e-mail us or leave another comment.

DeeAnn:
I'm a Canadian in Eastern Ontario and I would gladly drive thousands of miles to meet your grandfather. (I'm 72 and a car nut too).

A stated in DeeAnn's comment about being her grandfathers truck and a "straight eight", then it is a 1931 Buick. 1930 buicks were straight 6's, 1931 was the first year Buick put a straight 8 in. Either way, a great car/truck.

This is not a 1930 Buick. It is very clearly a 1929 model. Thanks, Michael

Actually I currently own a 1930 Buick 5-window Victoria coupe. The vehicle shown above is without question a 1929 model and would have had a straight 6 cylinder engine. As noted above the first year of the Buick straight 8 was in 1931. It was quite common for people to turn the cars of this era into pickup trucks. During the second world war, production of private cars and trucks had ceased with all efforts going into creating military vehicles. For farmers, ranchers, and others, cars were turned into pickups which from their point of view were much more utilitarian.

Michael: Thanks for giving us the correct identification. My friend Perk, who took the photos, believed it to be a '30, so that's what I went with.

I would like to buy this truck and restore it

How much? I would like to buy it.

cars were allways in short supply in NZ and any thing with a chassis was given the ute treatment some done well like this Buick some rough as just to get some more use out of a rusty heap.

I just found what I think is a late '20's-early '30's Buick V-8 pickup. It has wooden spoke wheels, a Buick v-8 in it and axles that are strapped on with some canvas I think. The tranny shifts ok.the truck is pretty much rusted out. How valuable is this thing??
I have pics if anyone wants them.
Thanks]

Please send more detail pictures. I am restoring the same car. Tank you

They did make a truck Model years 30 through 32 it was called a Buicks Car with box. My dad owned one for several years. they were a flat or steak bed truck. I have talked to the company about them when my dad and I were trying to get plans to rebuild the wood on it.. Dad later sold it to a friend who turned it into a funny parade truck after someone stole several of the key parts off of it

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