The Auto Enthusiast’s Ultimate Guide to Classic Trucks

The Auto Enthusiast’s Ultimate Guide to Classic Trucks

classic truck

Image via: Pixabay

We love classic trucks for all kinds of reasons. They bring back memories or remind us of a cherished parent or grandparents. They help us feel connected to happier days; to a time of personal and national innocence that is difficult to recapture in a day when most people are letting an electronic voice tell them how to get from work to home.

For some of us, classic vehicles are also a hobby to work on (is that truck ever really perfect?). Some of us love the feel. Today's cars and trucks are so advanced that sometimes you barely feel like you're driving at all. We want to feel the road and our vehicle. We want something independent, hardworking, and reliable.

Man checking the engine

Image via: Pixabay

If all this resonates with you, then keep reading. We’re going to break down classic trucks: what are they? How do they differ from antiques and what makes them classic? How do you find one, restore it, and help it keep value? How can you get it insured, and how do you sell one? Finally, what are the best classic trucks for the enthusiast collector and the best resources for anyone interested in classic trucks?

How Can They Be “Classic

This is a good question. After all, trucks were meant to work, not play. They were meant to take serious abuse and still get you where you need to go. They aren't the sort of thing one would expect to become a classic collectable.

But like all kinds of quality mechanical items, classic trucks are highly valued because they work reliably, a normal person can actually fix their engines without the aid of a computer, and they have a classic look associated with America itself.

Classic Trucks vs. Antique Trucks

Yellow car

via Giphy

There are all kinds of terms we could use here. There are antique trucks, vintage trucks, and classic trucks. What’s the difference?

infographic vintage car

Image Truckersection.com

Why Own a Classic Truck?

There are some great reasons to go for a classic truck. Here are just a few:

They Are Easy to Find

mix color of classic trucks

Image via: Pixabay

Classic cars have a wider following than classic trucks; so if you’re interested in one of these amazing and beautiful workhorses, you will be able to find one fairly easily. This is especially true if you’re looking for classic Chevy or Ford trucks.

They Are Affordable

If you’d like to get into the classic vehicle collection business, you’ll either need to start with something affordable, or you’ll need to be a millionaire. Classic and vintage cars cost a mint: but for whatever reason, classic trucks have traditionally been more affordable.

You, Too, Can Work on Them

Classic trucks are largely American-made. They are simple, have clean lines, work beautifully, and are fairly easy to work on. You can find parts for them very easily, and they look great on the road. Because they’re American-made, you’ll also have little trouble finding help and advice to get your truck where you want it.

Parts Are Easy to Find

Man on junkyard

Image via: Pixabay

Today, if you want to work on a car, you’ll need an engineering degree, a fancy computer, and a precisely machined part that will only fit the vehicle you are working on. Found the same part for the model the year before? You might be completely out of luck.

But when it comes to classic trucks, there’s plenty of crossover.

You Have Something Unique

Ever been to a classic vehicle show? Cars dominate. That’s fine: there have always been more cars around than pickup trucks. But the world could use a few more classic trucks, and you’ll enjoy having something extra special in a gathering of special vehicles.

They Might Increase in Value

money bag

Image via: Pixabay

Like all classic vehicles, if you restore and care for your classic truck, you can expect to get more out of it when you sell later. Of course, you might not want to sell, but the market for classic trucks has been slowly growing. If you get into collecting now, it could be a smart investment for the future.

Finding Classic Trucks

A simple Google search will turn up plenty of options for buying classic trucks, but how do you know if you’re getting good value? Fortunately, classic trucks haven’t yet fallen prey to the marketing blitz that classic cars have. There are plenty of classic trucks out there to be had for a minimal investment: especially if you’re willing to do some restoration work.

Know What You Want

Yes or No

Image via: Pixabay

Your best bet is to start with cursory search, see what’s out there, then identify what you’d like to have. Any search for classic trucks online is going to turn up an enormous among of variety when in prices.

Once you know what you want, you can shop around for the price you want.

Know the Market Value

Coins

Image via: Pixabay

Yes, we just said that the prices vary a great deal on classic trucks. That’s true: but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a ballpark figure on the worth of any vehicle you’re looking at. But just remember: unlike classic cars, trucks are “ordinary” things. They aren’t muscle cars or hot rods. They’re old workhorses, and the price should reflect that heritage. Check out the NADA truck value. 

Consider Condition

Part of the truck’s value is determined by the condition. Look for problems like the following, and the more you find, the less you should pay for your vehicle:

For more help on how to get a great truck, check out this helpful video

Cars to Look For

Dodge Power Wagon

Image via: Pixabay

These cars are the most universally acknowledged classics on the market. There’s a good market for them, and everyone agrees they are awesome classic trucks:

  • 1933 Reo Speedwagon
  • 1937 Mack Jr.
  • 1948 Dodge Power Wagon
  • 1949 Diamond T
  • 1955 Ford F-100
  • 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier

Modern Classics

Red Car

Image via: Pixabay

These are trucks that were made from 1960 and beyond. The outer limit of the classic cutoff is the early 90s.

  • 1991 GMC Syclone
  • 1990 Chevy 454 SS
  • 1980 Ford Ranchero
  • 1961 Studebaker Champ
  • 1960-63 Ford Falcon Ranchero

Darlings of the 50s

Chevrolet

Image via: Pixabay

The ’50s were an amazing time in American car and truck making, and there are a lot of classics from this era. Here are some to look for:

  • 1957-59 Dodge D100 Sweptside Pickup
  • 1957 Chevrolet 3106/3116 Suburban Carryall
  • 1956 Ford F-100
  • 1954 Chevrolet Series 3100 Half-Ton
  • 1951 Studebaker 2R5
  • 1950 GMC FC101

Wartime Favorites

Chevrolet Series AK

Image via: Pixabay

These gems were made in the 1940s and are well worth looking for. More of them may need to be restored than later models, but you can often get them for a good price (and sell them for an even better one).

  • 1949 Diamond T Model 201
  • 1948 Dodge Power Wagon
  • 1947-54 Nash Model 3148
  • 1947 Dodge Canopy Delivery
  • 1941 Plymouth PT-125
  • 1941 Chevrolet Series AK
  • 1941 Chevrolet Series AG Sedan Delivery and Coupe Pickup
  • 1940-47 Ford Half-Ton

Early Classic Trucks

Ford Model

Image via: Pixabay

These trucks are the first ones ever made: amazing classic finds if you can source them.

  • 1939 Studebaker L5
  • 1938 Dodge RC
  • 1937 Mac Jr. Half-Ton
  • 1937 Plymouth PT-50 Half-Ton
  • 1937 GMC
  • 1935 Dodge KC Half-Ton
  • 1933 Reo Speedwagon Model BN
  • 1928-30 Ford Model A/AA
  • 1925 Brockway E-3000

Outliers

These are trucks that many people already consider classics but which are not necessarily officially classified as such. Some of these are definitely worth looking for. Give it another few years, and there’s a good chance they’ll be worth a small fortune.

Toyota Tacoma

Toyota tacoma

Image via: Pixabay

These trucks are highly sought after. These Toyota pickups are reliable, strong, and seem to never stop running. Tacomas made between ’97 and ’09 are the most sought after.

Some of these trucks have had an issue with frame rust, so it’s a good idea to check them out before you buy. In some cases, Toyota will replace the frame because there was an issue with the original steel.

Ford F-150 Lightning

Ford F-150 Lightning on the road

Image via: Pixabay

This was the Ford version released prior to the Raptor in 1993. It’s a great truck with a strong frame and tight suspension. It features an F-350 diesel transmission and was discontinued in 2004.

Land Rover Defender

One of the reasons these old-school off-roading trucks are so popular is that they are fairly hard to find. Technically these are SUV crossovers, but they are still worth picking up if you can find them.

Subaru Baja

baja

Image via: Pixabay

People laughed when this little truck came out. It only sold between 2003 and 2006, but it didn’t sell well, and Subaru stopped making it (though they’re talking about putting a pickup on the market again in 2020).

The Baja is a true compact pickup, and in a world of F-series trucks, it just wasn’t that popular. However, it won a lot of awards for reliability and now has a cult following. Give it another couple more years, and you won’t be able to get one for love or money.

Registering a Classic Truck

Without a Title

Vintage Car

Image via: Pixabay

If you get a classic truck, you want to register it as such: especially if you live in a state with stringent emissions regulations. For the most part, these regulations are set aside when it comes to classic vehicles.

Another issue is that some classic trucks don’t have a clear title. The older a vehicle, the better the chance that the original title has been lost. Of course, when you buy, you’ll need to find out why there isn’t a title (you won’t enjoy it if the truck turns out to have been stolen). But most of the time, a classic truck has no title because it was abandoned or discarded.

Here’s what to do to make sure you’re safe:

  • Run the VIN through two different agencies: the NMVTIS (https://www.vehiclehistory.gov/) and the NCIB (https://www.nicb.org/vincheck)
  • Have an iron-clad bill of sale
  • Get a notarized declaration from the seller that it’s not stolen and how they got it
  • Liaise with a local title service company to get a new title

With a Title

Ford On the Field

Image via: Pixabay

If you have a title, or once you’ve acquired one, your next step is registering the car in your state. You’ll need to find the exact definition of “classic” in your state, and be aware that if you move to another state, your truck may no longer qualify.

If your truck qualifies, you will likely be given a special registration and license plate. Your next step is to check what restrictions are in place for classic vehicles. Some states won’t let you use a truck registered as a classic as your primary vehicle.

If you choose not to register a truck as a classic, be aware that it might not meet your state’s specific emissions or safety regulations. You might have to do some work to bring it up to code.

Getting Insurance on a Classic Truck

paper and laptop on table

Image via: Pixabay

Any classic vehicle needs special insurance. For one thing, classic trucks lack the safety features of modern vehicles and won’t protect you the same way in an accident. For another, they are often worth more than a comparable modern truck.

When it comes to classic vehicles, figuring out insurance rates is a more subjective process than it is for a regular car. That’s because the Blue Book value doesn’t actually reflect the true value of the truck and the truck doesn’t depreciate according to the same rules.

Always shop around, expect to have to negotiate, and hire an appraiser to give you a written estimate of the truck’s value. Keep the appraisal document, so you have an official record. Some insurers won’t cover any damage to classic cars over 20 years old, so be sure to get Stated Value Coverage to cover you in the event of a loss.

Restoring a Classic Truck

Car on accident

via Giphy

Classic trucks are amazing, but while classic cars have often been coddled and treated with kid gloves through their whole life, trucks have usually been through the wringer. Of course, they have: they’re trucks.

Start With Safety

Before you worry about making your hot rod look slick, you should worry about making it safe. No one cares if the side is covered in flames if the first time you take it out you and your passengers die in a blaze of glory.

Choose Your Style

Woman in the car show

Image via: Pixabay

Do you want to restore your baby to its full original glory? That will mean sourcing materials, colors, and parts true to the original. You don’t have to go this route: you can upgrade, or you can try to improve the original and replace nothing.

If you do choose to stay true to the truck’s original design, it’s worth looking for replacement parts that are original. Look for parts from trucks that have been permanently scrapped. You can get these at salvage centers and online.

Time or Money?

If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll need to do the bulk of the work yourself. If money isn’t an issue and you want to get things done quickly, you’ll want to hire a professional restoration company.

If you choose to do it yourself, make sure you source:

  • A place to work
  • All the auto tools you need
  • An original owner’s manual
  • A community of restorers who can advise you

Make a Budget

Calculator and coins on the table

Image via: Pixabay

Let’s be honest here. Once you start a project like this, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in it that you lose track of how much you’re spending. Make your budget and then stick to it. List out what will need to be restored or replaced, keep records of what you’ve done, and be patient.

Get Help

Help is available everywhere, including online. For tips on how to restore the finish on your own truck, check out this video

If you need help with your vehicle’s interior, this video will take you step-by-step through the process.

For a complete rundown from start to finish, take a look at the five-part series available from SWRNC.

Maintaining Your Classic Truck

Once you’ve gotten your truck and gone to all the work to fix it up, don’t let it lose value by failing to maintain it properly. This doesn’t mean you have to go out to the garage and wax it every night. It does mean keeping up with the basics.

Selling a Classic Truck

If you’ve put effort into your truck, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best possible price for it when you choose to sell. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your classic truck sale.

Get an Inspection

engine

Image via: Pixabay

Before you put it up to sell, make sure you take care of any little repairs that need to be done to bring it up as close to perfect as possible. If you are sure there aren’t any problems with the engine, you can command the highest price.

Research

You need to find out what people are paying for trucks like yours in a similar condition. Granted, this might be difficult. There might not be many trucks like yours in the same condition as yours. Just find out as much as possible to help you set the right price.

Advertise Right

newspaper

Image via: Pixabay

You want to get your truck specs in front of the right crowd. Advertise in magazines and websites where you know people are looking for classic vehicles. It also doesn’t hurt to leverage friends and family connections. Be sure to take quality pictures of your truck, inside and out.

Quote Slightly High

Your starting price should be based on your research, but slightly higher than what you hope for. That gives you some room to negotiate if you find an interested buyer.

Justify Your Price

You’re always going to get a cheapskate or two who will challenge your price and try to make you feel bad about asking for it. You can forestall some of this by crafting a good advertisement. Justify your price by explaining why the truck is great and what you’ve done to it.

For more tips on how to get the most out of the internet when you’re selling a classic car, check out this helpful video.

Tips and Tricks

To keep your truck in the best possible condition, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Never Ignore Rust

Your starting price should be based on your research, but slightly higher than what you hope for. That gives you some room to negotiate if you find an interested buyer.

Justify Your Price

car rust

Image via: Pixabay

Rust is just something that happens. Ignoring rust is like ignoring your taxes: it might feel good at the moment, but you’ll live to deeply, deeply regret it. The good news is that if you find and deal with rust quickly, you can stop it in its tracks.

Consider Your End Goal

2 trucks

Image via: Pixabay

Paint is paint, right? Wrong. Fresh paint may be the most critical cosmetic improvement you can do for your new truck, and this is the last place you want to skimp. Skip the re-painting until you can afford great paint and a good topcoat layer.

Resources for the Enthusiast

If you love classic trucks, you need to connect with the community for support, information, help, and just plain fun.

Websites:

  • Antique Truck Club of America (https://www.antiquetruckclub.org): An amazing resource with links, discussion, and local chapters
  • Classic Truck World (www.classictruckworld.com): Online social community
  • Classic Truck Shop (http://classictruckshop.com/): Great place to get parts

Magazines:

  • Classic Trucks (https://www.magazine-agent.com-sub.info/Classic-Trucks/Welcome): everything you need to enjoy your truck, even if you don’t have one yet
  • Vintage Truck (https://www.vintagetruckmagazine.com/): A new magazine, but one worth supporting

Parts:

  • Classic Parts (https://www.classicparts.com)
  • Brothers Trucks (https://www.brotherstrucks.com)
  • Classic Industries (https://www.classicindustries.com)

Classic Trucks

Classic trucks are for a special group of people. These reliable beauties showcase everything that’s great about the United States. They symbolize the independence, hard work, and reliability that makes America home to the best trucks the world has ever produced.

american truck

Image via: Pixabay

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: