My Classic Car: John’s 1949 Chevrolet 3100

Truck is restored and will be driven cross-country to family reunion in 2018 | John Schneider photos
Truck is restored and will be driven cross-country to family reunion in 2018 | John Schneider photos

My 1949 Chevy truck came into our family in the summer of 1981. While living his dream of a cross-country bicycle trip, my brother Peter stopped in the village of Preston, Missouri, for a cold drink. During that stop he asked if anyone knew of an old truck for sale. He had always wanted one, and figured a truck from that area of the country would be in better shape than anything similar that he might find on the northeast coast, where we live.

Sure enough, one of the guys he spoke with did know of such a truck, and down the road they went to take a look. The deal was made and Peter left a deposit with cash that his wife Susan wired to him, and then he got back on the bicycle to finish his coast-to-coast ride.

After reaching California, he packed up his bike and headed back east on a Greyhound bus, stopping in Missouri to finalize the truck deal. He put the bicycle in the back of the truck and drove straight to Ohio (where both our parents were from), making it just in time for our annual family reunion, which has been happening on the family farm every August since 1969.

John in the 'bed'
John in the ‘bed’

I saw the truck for the first time as it sat at our grandmother’s house, just down the road from the farm, loving it instantly.

The ’49 ended up back home in Connecticut, where Peter used it as a work truck for a few years before parking it in his garage, where it sat for the better part of two decades. For the entirety of this extended hibernation, I never missed an opportunity to harass my brother about getting the truck back on the road. He had always taken my good-natured ribbing well and wanted to do a restoration, but life kept getting in the way.

Eventually, when his children started reaching driving age and he needed the garage space for another car, he called and asked if I wanted the truck. Of course I did, but wasn’t sure where I would put it. My girlfriend Meg and I had talked about it briefly, and then without telling me she called Peter back to say yes for sure and arranged for a place to store the truck.

Finally, after more than 20 years of being in love with this old Chevy, I actually owned it. I was very excited.

As I’m sure many others in the same situation understand. There was no spare money to have the truck restored, so it just sat where we brought it for another six years or so. Then one day the owner of that space called, saying he needed it and that we had to come get the truck. I couldn’t afford to have it stored anywhere else, so we brought it here to the house. We have no garage and it killed me to have to leave it outside, but I had no choice.

As it turns out, however, bringing the truck home was probably the best thing that could have happened. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t stand seeing it sit there without doing anything. I would do small things here and there, whenever I had a few bucks to spare.

Finally, on July 9, 2011, after sitting in the driveway for about 16 months, the truck ran again for the first time since 1985. Unfortunately, a couple long bouts of unemployment would keep me from actually taking it down the road for another four years, but I did finally drive my dream ride for the first time on May 30, 2015. It was a beautiful day that I will never forget, with many friends and family here at the house to see it happen, and it’s all documented with a video.

From day one, the entire effort surrounding this 1949 Chevy has been a tribute to our mother, who passed away tragically just as the truck was coming into the family. She never got to live her own epic road trip dream, so I want to live it for her in this dream ride. The goal is a cross-country/Route 66 run, culminating in a stop in Ohio for our 50th family reunion in August 2018, and a return to the spot where I saw the truck for the first time, just down the road from the family farm.

— John Schneider, Bethel CT

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