By: Alvin Shier
In 1916 General Motors staged a promotional gimmick by driving a G.M.C. truck laden with a load of Carnation milk from Seattle to New York. It took a total of 31 days to accomplish, and was successful in gaining much needed publicity for the fledgling company which had been formed only five years previously in July of 1911.
The timing for this stunt was right because G.M.C. trucks were ordered up to the tune of 21,000 units for participation in the great war of 1914-18 Forty years later, in October 1956, in the picturesque Rocky Mountain town of Blairmore in Southern Alberta, William Halstein had just taken delivery of a new 1956 G.M.C. 9300 Series from Blairmore Motors Ltd.
Mr. Halstein kept the truck well over the years, even going to the extremes of wrapping the rear leaf springs in gunny sack material to help preserve them.
It is unknown exactly when in the 60's Mr. Halstein passed away but the truck did remain in the possession of his widow, all the time in a garage until in 1970 it was purchased by a relative of the present owner Audrey Friesen. Now its new home is Coleman, Alberta, but that changed again when Audrey's father Benjamin Friesen purchased the truck and moved north to Calgary where it was used as everyday transportation and to perform light duty operations.
When Mr. Friesen retired in the early 80's so did the faithful little shortbox. For the next couple of years it sat in the back yard of the Friesen residence until Audrey through persistent nagging was able to claim the truck with restoring it in mind.
A second job was required to finance the project and with every check from that job new items were purchased toward the restoration. It took three years of scrounging accessories and purchasing new parts before, in 1984, the project began in earnest.
Credit for the minor body work required and for returning the paint to its OEM specifications goes to Pegasus Autobody of Calgary. The original powertrain has not been touched, and with only 68,232 original miles, Audrey is able to keep tabs on minor tuneups and maintenance herself, something her father taught her to do as a young girl.
The most obvious feature of this beautiful shortbox is the rare panoramic rear window. Add to that the equally rare four speed hydromatic transmission and without even mentioning the other features a genuinely unique truck emerges. Those other features include turn signals, radio, arm rests, white wall tires, chrome hubcaps, oil bath air cleaner, locking gas cap, door handle shields, rear license plate trim, traffic light viewer, steel exterior sunvisor, fender skirts and stock rear bumper. Worthy of mention is the original seat upholstery, which is still like new.
A 235.5 CID six cylinder provides adequate motivation, and never fails to provide the owner with dependable service, a characteristic of all General Motors powertrains of the era. Since the completion of the restoration the truck has only logged 3,000 miles mostly in parades and driving to and from show and shines. Audrey is proud to point out that she has stepped up to the podium a number of times in competitive showing to accept awards for her restoration efforts.
Equally proud was she to enjoy her dad's company on a few occasions while attending some of these events before his passing a short time ago. Trucks are generally thought to be a "guy thing" but Audrey's love for her diminutive S.W.B. stepside 1956 G.M.C. helps remove that stereotype. - CTS