How to Identify an Old Truck

By Jennifer Marlowe
Check out the grille and tailgate for your first clues when identifying an old truck.

Automobile historians know the fun in determining an old vehicle's make, model, year and other specifications. Vintage trucks make a special challenge because of the utilitarian role of the truck. Some truck owners rely on a vehicle for a livelihood. A farmer with a smashed grill on his 1957 Chevy truck, for example, may have swapped out the old grill with another from a 1956 Chevy truck in order to keep his farm running. Luckily, plenty of old truck enthusiasts exist to help you sort through the pieces and parts until you find a solution to your mystery.

Determine the make of the truck. Look at the grille and hood for emblems. A 1955 Chevy Task-Force Second Series truck has a long, recognizable Chevrolet emblem above the grill. A 1966 Dodge Power Wagon has "DODGE" in big letters right up front. If the front emblem is missing, check out the tailgate for the maker's name stamped on back.

Search for tags. In the event the tailgate and front emblem are missing, start searching for the truck's metal stamp with the manufacturer's name and, hopefully, a serial number of the truck. Vintage trucks have tags in strange places so make sure to check the cab's firewall, door jambs and side panels. Under the hood, on the engine-side of the firewall, is another hot spot for tags.

Establish the truck's age. You have established the truck's make, with some luck, and now the fun begins. Gather your detective gear because this task requires some digging. The difference between a 1955 and a 1956 Chevy Second-Series truck, for instance, is the length of the emblem on the hood. The 1956 has an emblem which is longer at the bottom than the top. Take photos of the truck from every angle and head to the nearest computer.

Type into an online computer search engine the word "Vintage" followed by the truck's manufacturer. Sort through the auto parts shop ads and find a website devoted to vintage trucks from this manufacturer. Chances are good you will find images of restored trucks. You can compare your pictures to details from the online images to establish an age for your truck.

Head to the library. Look for reference books like the "Pictorial History of American Trucks" by Niels Jansen or get specific and find a book focused on a particular truck manufacturer. You may find a model year and other facts for an old Dodge by looking through the "Dodge B-Series Trucks: Restorer's and Collector's Reference Guide and History" by Don Bunn.

Ask for help. When all else fails, send or take pictures to a collector, vintage truck website, local car show or area vintage car club. Antiquechevytrucks.com, for instance, has loads of Chevy truck specs, truck values and forums. Online vintage truck forums, for a specific make, are great sources for help.

About the Author

Jennifer Marlowe is a seasoned journalist with experience since 1994. As a former reporter and columnist, she has written for a variety of publications including "The Cleveland Plain Dealer," "Sew Simple Magazine," "Northern Ohio Live," "Ohio Game & Fish" and "The Country's Best Log Homes." Marlowe holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Akron.