A beaut from 1946

In Classics Locker, June 20229 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 15, 2022

This 1946 Chev has spent its entire life in the North Island and still runs its original motor (though not for much longer). It’s a fantastic restoration that transports all who see it back to another time.

Dean Tredrea’s prized 1946 American AK series Chevrolet half-ton pick- up truck is a conversation starter. “Everywhere I go, someone wants to talk to me about it. They are very popular,” he says.

The truck isn’t used as a promotional vehicle for his glazing business, and he has no intention of this happening, ignoring the suggestion that he paint ‘The Glass Shoppe’ on the doors.

He has owned the Chevy for about two years and describes its current upgrade as “a work in progress”.

The restoration required far more than a spit and polish.

Since he has owned it, a wellside tray, with a spare wheel on the passenger side, has replaced the wooden flat tray, and a sun visor fitted over the front windscreen. His plans for the Chevy include adding a cab to the wellside and fitting a bumper to the rear of the tray. “I still want to keep it looking how it did originally,” he says. “The military wheels won’t be changed.”

Dean chose the location for this article’s photographs at the car park by the Hutt River at Silverstream. After parking the Chevy, a damp patch on the tar sealing saw the pick-up hastily moved on. The wet surface would have given the wrong impression of the truck leaking oil.

Since the photo shoot, the Chevy has been stripped down, ready for an engine refit to give it more power.

Dean had no issues with the 90hp straight-six, No.4058657, fitted when the Chevy came off the General Motors assembly line. “I went to Rotorua and back with the original motor doing 100kph. It didn’t miss a beat,” he says. From the way he speaks, it’s evident he has much pleasure in being behind the wheel. The fuel consumption is unknown because the fuel gauge hasn’t worked in his ownership.

The wellside is a more recent addition. A canopy and bumper will be added in the future.

His engine upgrade will include a General Motors 350 short block motor, General Motors turbo 350 auto three-speed transmission, a differential from a 1994 Pontiac Esprit, and Jaguar XJ6 front suspension with disc brakes. When completed, Dean will have a smart-looking sleeper hot rod. For a layperson such as myself, this is a hot rod that doesn’t look like a hot rod.

He has the original ownership papers that show the Chevy’s plates have always been EI 3721 and that the pick-up has never been registered to a South Island owner.

John Donald Macmillan, a farmer from Katikati, bought the truck new from CF Washer & Son, the General Motors dealership in Tauranga, on 11 May 1946. He sold the truck to his son-in- law Wayne (Clarence Wayne) McCormack in 1960, and Wayne registered it in the name of his business Wayne McCormack Ltd in 1966.

Chris McCormack, Wayne’s son, shares a few happy childhood memories of life with the 1946 Chev.

“Dad taught my grandfather how to drive the Chevy, and he would often tell the story of my grandfather (Donny) yelling, ‘Woah, woah’ to the Chevy when he wanted to stop.

“As a boy, I recall having to stand on the foot pedal to engage the starter motor and quickly get off it once started.”

His dad built a canvas-covered box for the tray that Chris and his sister would sit on when the family made the trip of over two hours from Tokoroa to Katikati.

George Lozell, another Tokoroa resident, bought the Chevy from Wayne McCormack Ltd in 1969 and kept the truck until 1976, when he sold it to William Henry Scott of Onehunga. The registration papers show the Chevy had three more owners until the purchase by David Kaijser.

David passed Chris McCormack’s childhood memories with the vehicle onto the current owner Dean Tredrea.

Dean Tredrea is the Chev’s seventh custodian in almost 80 years

David purchased the truck from Michael Latham of Waiatarua in September 1995. To say the pick-up wasn’t in the best state is an understatement. David says he learnt an important lesson when the Chevy arrived aboard the transporter at his then-business Stichbury Automotive Care in St Aubyn Street East, Hastings.

“We had viewed the truck in Auckland on a rainy, miserable day, the truck was parked out in the elements, and the wet look of the truck hid the many defects. What was going to be a quick spit and polish ended up being a full restoration!”

The upgrade came to a halt for several years while he worked overseas. He says the project took on a new lease of life on his return. “Many, many parts were imported from Jim Carter trucks in the USA, right down to the period-correct cab-lining screws.”

David says Stichburys used the Chevy briefly as ‘a workshop hack’ before starting the rebuild. “I believe it was the original (engine), which we rebuilt along with a gearbox.”

An interior from a different time. Note the floor-mounted starter pedal

The original straight-six with 90hp soon to be replaced by a 350 short block.

He says he had the honour of driving his daughter to the church on her wedding day in 2017 in the well-groomed Chevy.

With some sadness, he sold the pick-up to Aucklander Damian Hooper in 2018. Dean bought the truck from Damian on Trade Me at the Buy Now price and hired Brent White Classic Towing to transport it to Upper Hutt.

Dean displayed the Chevy publicly for the first time at last year’s Super Chevy Sunday in Upper Hutt, where the pick-up appeared without its sun visor. The established annual event is put on by the Wellington Chevrolet Club.

Its membership includes both Dean and his brother Lance Tredea, the club president. At last year’s club prize giving, a happy Dean took home the award for the vehicle with the most work done on it.

Super Chevy Sunday has a reputation for bringing out trucks not displayed and admired at other Hutt Valley vehicle shows. Seeing Dean’s Chevy at last year’s show is where the idea for this article came from. Dean is disappointed that a scheduled trip down south means he can’t take the pick-up this year.

With the photos in the camera, Dean and passengers headed off with him driving the Chevy with its original motor for one of the last times.