Old Farm Trucks

Old farm trucks are one collector’s best-kept secret

| October 2012

In today’s world, old trucks have a different status than old cars. The term “truck” in this instance refers to large vehicles built to haul heavy loads. Even though people commonly regard everything from small SUVs to huge over-the-road semis as trucks, originally cars hauled passengers and trucks hauled loads.

The most common truck today — the pickup — primarily hauls people rather than loads. The “real” trucks of earlier times had a small cab (if they had a driver enclosure of any kind) and a large rear platform or box that held cargo. When pneumatic tires became common in the late 1920s, real trucks almost always had dual rear wheels.

Frustrated as they watched older used cars siphon away sales, car manufacturers in the late 1920s lobbied unsuccessfully for passage of a law requiring vehicles older than a certain age to be scrapped. As a result, used cars of every vintage remain widely available at affordable prices. Old trucks, however, never figured into that equation.

Since they were large, slow, accommodated few passengers and “drove and rode like a truck,” most veteran trucks — those that were not completely worn out by extremely rigorous use — had no value and were scrapped. Old farm trucks occasionally escaped that fate but were abandoned nonetheless. Today a person sometimes finds one of those survivors. If he is fortunate, his “find” turns out to be a noteworthy vehicle. That happened to me.

Meet a used ’35 Chevy

An uncle of mine farmed during the Great Depression and continued through World War II and into the next decade. By 1937 he was able to buy a used 1935 Chevrolet 1-1/2-ton truck. For almost 20 years, that truck transported all the grain from his large dryland Idaho farm to storage facilities 10 miles away. The truck was also used to haul loose hay and other items. When a new truck was purchased in the early 1950s, the old Chevrolet had no value so it was just parked far out in the machinery lot.

Although the old farm truck sat outside all its life, our dry climate and my uncle’s careful maintenance meant that it was still in pretty darned good shape when I learned of the truck as a young man. My uncle had retired several years earlier and was getting rid of his equipment. Knowing of my interest in old vehicles, he gave me the Chevy.