Small business owners needing cargo haulers have some good options these days, thanks to the new generation of small commercial vans including the Ford Transit Connect, Ram ProMaster, and Ram ProMaster City. But if you’re willing to venture off the grid and add some elbow grease, a classic panel delivery truck is bound to attract attention and make those trips around town a lot more fun. Bringing your classic truck to local car shows and drive-in nights will give your business additional exposure.
1966 Chevrolet C-10 Panel Truck
Restored vehicles such as these delivery trucks are the easiest way to get on the road, requiring minimal mechanical and cosmetic work. Here are three example of vehicle for sale right now on eBay, but there’s an ongoing supply of available vans and trucks:
1947 Ford Panel Truck
1954 Chevrolet Panel Rat Rot
1966 Chevy C-10 Panel Truck
If funds are limited, consider doing the job yourself. There’s a wealth of sheet metal on the market, such as this ’58 Chevy, that’s basically all there but in need of both body and mechanical work.
This 1935 Ford delivery sedan is a good project vehicle.
There are two ways to bring the truck back to running order: a factory original restoration or swapping in modern drivetrain components and a new interior. While retro mods can’t guarantee the resale values of factory originals, there are a lot of real-world advantages: easier access to maintenance and repair parts, better fuel economy and better performance among them.
1954 Chevy Rat Rod
Theoretically any vehicle can be restored, but we recommend looking for the following to stack the odds in your favor:
Clear title and complete history
Has been with the current owner for a period of time. Generally, the longer a person has owned the vehicle, the more he or she has emotionally vested in it.
Orphan cars can be great fun, but remember that parts will be harder to find. Car clubs are a reliable source for locating shop manuals and NOS parts. If you don’t want to commit to what can become a second career, go with Detroit iron. There’s a lot to be said for counting on the local parts store for an emergency distributor cap or carburetor rebuild kit.
This 1947 Ford panel truck (also shown at the top of this page) has plenty of cargo room available for delivery duties.
Unless you have the tools and experience to do so, consider using a professional restorer for the bodywork. Body restoration and paint work is time consuming, requires specialized equipment and good ventilation. Mechanical work is doable in a well-equipped home garage with the right tools and skills.
Using a crate engine saves time over a complete teardown and drivetrain rebuild. You will want to go through the suspension and braking system as well. Even if the car appears to be in good mechanical condition, evacuating, inspecting and refilling any hydraulic system is a good safety measure.
While some owners prefer to keep classic tires on their vehicles, newer radials offer a much smoother ride and don’t get flat spots in the morning the way the old corded nylons did.
Most older vehicles need some interior work. An easy and less expensive alternative to reupholstering is seat covers. Forget the ugly plastic slip covers you found on your grandmother’s couch: these are custom made and look quite similar to the originals.
As part of the restoration process, find out about licensing, emissions testing and insurance. Hagerty is a leading supplier of insurance for classic cars and trucks. While most vehicles produced before the 1960s are emissions-exempt, those rules vary from state to state.