The Chevrolet Advance-Design Trucks Of 1947-1954 Part I

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taken from the Light Commercial Vehicle Association (LCVA) - Jan/Feb 1984


To this point our discussion has been entirely with cab type trucks, now let’s take a look at what Chevrolet called Single Unit Bodies.  These were trucks created by elongating the cab to form a panel truck type body.  There were five trucks in this series – three on a 116” wheelbase and two on a 137” wheelbase.  The 116” wheelbase ½-ton trucks were a Panel, Carryall Suburban, and Canopy Express.  The 137” one-ton units were a Panel and Canopy Express.  These trucks were exactly the same as the cab models from the front bumpers back to just behind the doors where a normal cab would end.  From there on back they had an enclosed-body designed to haul either people or other loads.

If we can assume that these figures are typical for all manufacturers, owners of panel trucks and canopy express trucks can see how rare your vehicles are. The challenge for the manufacturer was to manufacture these low volume special use bodies as economically as the cab type bodies.  Chevrolet’s solution to this problem was to use pre-fabricated complete sub-assemblies such as windshield cowls, doors and gates, side panels, tops, platforms, seats, partition panels, and smaller parts such as floor mats and hardware.  To obtain cost savings of mass production, cab sub-assemblies and equipment were used wherever possible.  Hence, cab design influenced the designs of these bodies to a very great extent, and many desirable features of the cab automatically were included in them. Chevrolet was very clever in their merchandising of these special single-unit-body trucks as they were able to market three types of vehicles from one basic body on two wheel bases.  A Panel, a Carryall Suburban, which converted from passenger hauling to freight hauling, and a Canopy Express.  To the best of my knowledge, Chevrolet was the only truck manufacturer to make a Canopy Express later than the 1947 models.  They were the only company at this time to make a Suburban type body also. I have never seen a Chevrolet Canopy Express from this era, but the Panels and Suburans are seen fairly often.

The obvious improvements of the single body vehicles over their 1946 replacements were more modern styling and the load space was much larger and more useable: an increase in load capacity from 132 cu. ft. to 150 cu. ft. in the ½ ton and an increase of from 177 cu. ft. to 202 cu. ft. in the one ton.  The driving compartment was much wider giving more room for passengers.  The driving compartment roof-lining panel in the Panel and Canopy Express bodies and the full-length roof lining panels in Carryall Suburban were made of durable fiber board, grained and painted to match the interior colors.  Much more glass areas in the windshield, side door windows, and rear windows gave a total increase of 174 sq. in. to 1715 sq. in.  In the Carryall Suburban, the increase in total glass area was 341 sq. in. or 25%.

Chevrolet’s pickup line for 1947 continued the same three-size lineup as in 1946 with the exception that all three pickup bodies were now the same size except for length.  The new lengths were 78”, 87” and 108” inside, for ½, ¾ and on ton sizes respectively.  The ½ ton and ¾ ton bodies were larger than the 1946 bodies, while the one-ton body was slightly smaller because its height was lowered.  Chevrolet made this change to provide greater commonality of parts.  All pickup bodies were 50” wide inside.  For all you Chevy owners who have replaced your bed floor boards with oak during restoration I have bad news, the bed floor boards were originally longleaf yellow pine!

Stake body trucks were changed very little for 1947.  The only change was that the front corners of the racks were made square instead of rounded to permit better loading. Chevrolet’s practice had always been to mount their cab on their conventional truck chassis and then add to the cab and chassis a body which could be a pickup, stake or single unit.  The bodies were built in Chevrolet’s own commercial plant in Indianapolis.  Before launching the new truck line this plant was expanded by 80% and equipped with more machinery in anticipation of greater truck sales in the future.  This plant was the world’s largest truck body plant.  In addition to complete trucks, Chevrolet sold a great quantity of chassis with windshield cowls, with flat face cowls, and with cabs.  These were supplied to makers of special equipment to mount on them bodies and other equipment of all kinds.  Sales of this type generally accounted for 45% of total sales.  A typical truck sales year was 1940, and sale break down was as shown in the tables on the right.

Prior to 1947, Chevrolet had not manufactured trucks to the SAE standard “CA Dimensions”.  The “CA Dimension” of a cab chassis is the length from the back of its cab to the center of its rear axle and is one of the most important dimensions of a truck because it establishes the relation of the wheelhouses to the body front. Standardization of this dimension is very important to the industry because it allows the body manufacturers to manufacture standard size bodies to fit any chassis.  In the past, Chevrolet and others were reluctant to switch to the standard CA dimensions because they already had many customers using their chassis and didn't want to obsolete them. During the just recently concluded war, the industry had not manufactured many trucks for civilian use, so the number of trucks on the road was at an all time low;  and,  the demand for trucks was at an all time high, so Chevrolet took this opportunity to adopt the standard CA dimensions. The chasses for 1947 were changed primarily to accommodate the new cab, bodies and sheet metal.  Overall, 50 improvements were made to the new chassis which ranged all the way from SAE “CA Dimensions” to new, rust-proofed tools in a canvas bag.  We won’t go into all the new chasses details.  Actually, Chevrolet made extensive chassis revisions with the 1946 chassis which incorporated the changes learned through making military trucks during the War.

For you who like detail and want to know what the correct tool kit and contents should be for your 1947 Chevrolet restoration, it is as follows.  An envelope type tool bag of durable duck containing the following tools – a set of three open-end wrenches, a spark plug wrench, a 6” round shank screw driver, a 6” pair of pliers, and a 10 oz ball peen hammer.  All of these were rust protected by plating except for the hammer which was painted.  A new wheel wrench, also painted, was provided.  In addition, a jack of suitable capacity - 2500 lbs for ½ and ¾ ton models, 3000 lbs capacity for one-ton models - was provided, with a jack handle for the 3100, 3600 and 3800 series jacks and a tire changing iron which also was used as a jack handle for the heavier duty models.  If you have a 9” adjustable wrench or a crank you are in trouble as they were discontinued for 1947.

Cab-Over-Engine trucks were also all new for 1947, but because they were part of the two-ton 6000 series trucks they are beyond the scope of interest to LCVA and we will touch just lightly on them.  The new COEs shared the same chassis from the back of the cab to the end of the frame, most of the same mechanicals and much of the cab sheet metal and interior appointments were the same.  Three wheelbase lengths were available and the COE’s were available in three configurations, windshield cowl chassis, cab chassis, and complete trucks with either stake or platform bodies.  The most popular style was the short wheel base cab chassis to be used for tractor-trailer combinations. In my opinion, these COE trucks were as ruggedly handsome looking as any COEs ever produced.  The last chart on the right shows the relative number of the various kinds of trucks in Chevrolet’s total truck production for the calendar year 1946. This chart points out the rarity of COE models as they accounted for only 2% of total production. The 3000 series included ½, ¾, and one-ton vehicles.  The 4000 series was 1-1/2 ton and 6000 series was two-ton. All COE’s (5000 series) were also rated at two-tons.

For the new 1947 truck line, Chevrolet carried over its tried and proven engines, the 216.5 cu. in.  Thriftmaster for the Thriftmaster line and the 235.5 cu. in.  Loadmaster engine for the Loadmaster line.  A number of improvements were made to these engines for the 1948 model year which we will discuss in the next issue.

Chevrolet introduced their new “Advance-Design” truck line in June of 1947.  I have heard that this is the “Second series” 1947 line, but all the Chevrolet literature refers to the “Advance-Design” line as the 1947 line and the earlier 1947 production is called the 1946 line.  Call it what you will it’s all history now.

In the next issue we will follow the “Advance-Design” line through its succeeding years in detail, year-by-year through 1954.

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1946 1/2 ton Pickup


For the year 1940 Chevrolet's truck
sales broke down as follows:

1. Trucks w/cabs & cab/chassis*
2. Light duty panel trucks
3. Flat face cowl chassis
4. Windshield cowl chassis
5. Medium duty panel trucks
6. Carryall Suburbans
7. Light duty Canopy Express
8. Medium duty Canopy Express


*Includes complete trucks such as stake truck as well as cab chassis for mounting numerous types of special bodies.




Windshield cowl chassis
Flat face cowl chassis
Cab chassis




1947 4108 1-1/2-ton Platform

1946 1/2-ton Carryall Suburban








Cab Chassis

Trucks w/Cabs

All Others



1/2 -1






1 1/2























1947 3805 1-ton Panel


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