January 2018
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Miles of Memories

Harry Harrell restores a 1946 Chevy and a piece of his own history.

 

Harry Harrell restored the 1946 Chevrolet purchased by his grandfather in 1948.

A rusty, old farm truck that had seen better days: this was what most people saw when they looked at the truck. But to Harry Harrell the old truck was a part of his family; a priceless treasure that had made miles of memories through the years.

In 1948, Thomas McZingo, Harry’s grandfather, purchased the ‘46 Chevrolet truck to use on his farm. Harry grew up, riding with his grandfather and sharing special moments. After McZingo suffered a stroke, his daughter, Willie Grace (Harry’s mother), drove the truck for many years. Again, pictures of his mother driving the old truck brought special memories to Harry. After his mother died, Harry’s wife, Barbara, used the truck to buy groceries and run errands.

Happy times were associated with the truck … times that were a special part of Harry’s life. As time passed, however, newer models replaced the old family truck, and it was eventually stored in a metal building for over 30 years.

Harry always dreamed of bringing his family’s old Chevy truck back to life. He would often tell Barbara that one day he was going to build his own shop and restore his granddaddy’s beloved truck. However, raising his three girls and holding a full-time job left little time for anything extra.

After retiring in Boise in 1999, Harry felt the time had come for him to begin the restoration. His plans hovered in the "talking stage" for 10 more years, before Barbara finally gave him an ultimatum.

"I told him to build that shop or be quiet!" she laughed.

He took her advice and the couple built their shop. Then they began to take the old truck apart, piece-by-piece. Since Harry had grown up in his Dad’s one-man garage, he was well-acquainted with automotive work.

The Harrells worked as a team in every phase of their journey. Harry stripped down the old truck and cleaned it to remove the rust. Barbara meticulously tagged every part, identifying where each piece had been.

"We had parts with little tags on them all over the shop and everywhere else we could put them," she laughed.

She took pictures, placing them in a book to create a timeline that helped Harry immensely.

Barbara and Harry Harrell worked as a team to restore their family treasure. The old farm truck that belonged to Harry’s grandfather is now a part of the family again.

 

One of the biggest problems Harry encountered was finding parts that would fit. Even though he was able to use some original parts, many others had to be replaced. He was lucky to purchase an old "parts truck" he could use. He also found a business in Missouri that supplied many of his needs. Some of the new parts he ordered, however, would not fit properly, so he often had to work with them to get them in.

"One friend told me I would have to put every part in four times before it would work," Harry stated.

The differences between a 1946 truck and modern trucks presented even more challenges. The transmission and gears in the older truck were straight, causing them to make more noise. The drive shaft was enclosed, as were the universal joints. It was hard to get into these areas to work. The emergency brakes, gear shift and light dimmer were all on the floor. The gas tank was inside the cab and the windshield rolled outward. Many friends advised the Harrells to change the truck to look more like a newer one, but they both wanted to maintain its originality as much as possible.

Harry replated the original grill himself, but he took parts needing rechroming to Florence. He also purchased reproductions for the bumpers. Wiring the truck proved to be difficult because he could not find a schematic. Nevertheless, Harry persisted, putting his beloved truck back together, piece-by-piece.

Choosing the color of the truck was another major decision. While the Harrells were in Shelbyville, Tennessee, for a horse show, they spotted an older 1937 truck with colors they liked. The lights were the only difference between the trucks: that one’s were on the hood where theirs are on the fender. Even though the colors were not original Chevy colors, the Harrells found what they wanted.

"Nothing about restoring Granddaddy’s truck was easy," he recalled. "I thought about giving up a lot, but Barbara was always telling me I could do it."

Harry also had help from some good friends. When the black knob on the gearshift did not match, his friend, Bud Rodgers, fashioned a special knob out of zebrawood to match the color of the truck. Another friend, Sloan Marx, helped with the body work and painting.

There were, however, some mishaps along the way. While backing out of his shop one day, Harry hit his lawnmower and bent one fender. Marx straightened and repainted the damaged fender. On another occasion, Harry accidentally backed into a disk. Fortunately, the damage was minimal.

For 4.5 years, Harry and Barbara labored on their dream, but both say it was worth it. Now, they enjoy their rides through the countryside on Sunday afternoons. So far, the farthest they have driven is 50 miles along backroads. They have shown their work at local antique car shows in Jackson, winning "Best of Show Pre-War" in 2015 and "Best of Show Post-War" (out of 120 entrants) in 2016.

 

Harry looks through the album, created by Barbara, containing the photos establishing the timeline of the restoration. Barbara carefully recorded each step of the process so they could share this experience with their family.

"I don’t know if I’m finished with my truck or not," Harry laughed. "Even after you get through with a truck, you still have to work on it. I can always find something else to do."

That "something else" has been to build a climate-controlled garage to house his beloved treasure.

Harry has many talents. He is an accomplished wood worker, building his own woodworking shop. He proudly shows all the den furniture he built with Barbara’s help. He is also a dedicated outdoorsman. He grew up hunting with his father and mother, and he still loves to hunt today. For years, he favored deer and hog hunting, but, now, he prefers squirrel hunting.

Until a few years ago, the Harrells rode their horses on local trail rides. In addition, Barbara bred and showed walking horses. Together, they built a barn for her horses, as well as all the fences for their pastures. The barn is a showcase for Barbara’s horse tack, hundreds of ribbons and trophies, and beautifully sequined show outfits. She also keeps a wall display, honoring great walking horses and their owners. The Harrells still own three horses, but rarely ride anymore.

Both the Harrells now enjoy a quiet life on their farm, just north of Jackson. The Double H Farm sits only a short distance from the old garage where Harry grew up, helping his father.

Harry may have waited later in life to fulfill his dream, but the wait has been worth it. When asked why he wanted to restore his granddaddy’s old truck, Harry spoke softly.

"It was his," he said, "and now, it’s a piece of me."

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..