1965 Chevrolet C15 Fleetside gets diesel power

1965 Chevrolet C15 Fleetside gets diesel power

By John Gunnell

This truck was owner-restored during one Wisconsin winter.

Diesel engines are catching on with hot rodders and other enthusiasts these days. Diesels are showing up in cars, station wagons, SUVs and even classic pickup trucks. Sometimes the use of a diesel is for convenience purposes, such as you have one available to you at a good price and you need something to power that old pickup you’re redoing. In the case of this 1965 Chevy C15 Fleetside, a diesel seemed like a good idea.
Before we get into the gas-diesel engine swap, let’s take a brief look at the history of this cool-looking truck. The styling of the 1965 Chevrolet pickups dated back to 1962, when the Chevy light-duty models took on a new appearance with a lower, flatter hood. There was a bevel around the front fenders and hood, and rectangular parking lamps were placed at each corner of the bevel. The styling lines were somewhat angular, but the front had rounded edges. The owner-restored truck featured here shows off this styling well.

Air slot openings were punched into the front of the hood bevel on either side of centre. Large headlight housings sat at either side of the grille. The C10 1/2-ton Fleetside (slab-sided) pickups had a 115-in. wheelbase and 6-1/2-ft. long cargo bed, but the C15 versions (also rated for ½-ton loads) had the 127-in. wheelbase and 8-ft. bed of the ¾-ton Chevrolet trucks. Custom Fleetsides—including this beautiful orange one– got new silver anodized aluminum bodyside moldings with white accents between them.

The same basic hood treatment was carried over from 1962 and used all the way through 1966, but in 1964, the cab was restyled to eliminate the use of a wraparound windshield, which was considered too 1950s-ish. Instead of slanting rearward at the bottom and forward at the top, the re-worked windshield pillars now slanted in opposite directions — forward at the bottom and rearward at the top – for a modernized look.
Also, in 1964, there was a new grille with twin horizontal bars running from the top and bottom of the headlight surrounds to the area in front of the crosshatched grille. The Chevrolet name in black-accented block letters was embossed into the upper horizontal grille bar. The entire grille ensemble was also framed with a chrome outline molding.

In 1965, the basic styling was untouched, except that the badges on the sides of the cowl were moved higher up, above the fender bevel. An anodized aluminum grille and body side moldings were part of the Custom Appearance Group package.
Chevrolet promoted the 1965 models as “Work Power” trucks and advertised “The Long Strong Line for ’65.” This was the first year for the C1500 (and four-wheel-drive K1500). According to official Chevrolet production records, 186,461 C1500s were built along with 2,024 K1500s. These trucks outnumbered the short bed C10/K10 models.

The ‘65 Chevy VINs were stamped on a plate on the left front door hinge pillar and on the right side of the cowl under the hood. The first symbol in the serial number indicated the type of truck: C=Conventional Cab two-wheel drive. The second and third symbols indicated the series and weight class: 15=1/2-ton Long Bed 127-in. wheelbase. The fourth symbol indicated the body style: 4=pickup truck. The fifth symbol indicated the model year: 5=1965. The sixth symbol indicated the assembly plant: J=Janesville, Wisconsin. The last six symbols are the production sequence number in the specific factory.

This truck was built in the good old days when trucks cost less than cars. It originally sold for $2,060. With a shipping weight of 3,315 lbs. it cost less than a buck per pound. This truck does not have its original Chevrolet engine. During the restoration, a 239-cubic inch Cummins four-cylinder turbo diesel with intercooler was installed. The engine dates from 2000 and is believed to have only 38,000 miles of use on it.

Like the grille and front bumper, the rear bumper is painted white.

The Cummins 4BT is essentially a 5.9L 12v Cummins engine minus two cylinders. This 3.9L, 4-cylinder, inline diesel was commonly used in commercial van applications (a very popular application was in Chevrolet Step Vans such as bread delivery trucks.) It was pretty common to see one in a variety of construction and agricultural equipment. Generous amounts of torque in a small package make the 4BT common for engine swaps in Jeeps, small trucks and SUVs. In fact, one might argue that the 4BT is the most popular and desirable engine for such swaps because parts and resources are widely available.
The 1965 C1500 Long Bed trucks rode a ¾-ton 127-in. wheelbase. This one has a brand new MD3500 five-speed overdrive transmission with a hydraulic clutch and a 12-bolt rear axle. Other updates include all-new disc brakes, brake calipers, heavy-duty (3/4-ton type) front springs and all-new suspension bushings. Other features include heavy-duty spindles, power steering, all-new sway bars, all-new suspension bushings and springs, a new wooden deck in the cargo bed and a dual master cylinder brake system.

This 1965 Chevrolet C15 ½-ton long bed Fleetside pickup truck was owner-restored by Doug Nelson of Central Wisconsin. When the photos were taken just after its restoration, it hadn’t been driven since it was completely rebuilt and had zero miles on it.
The rebuilding process was extensive and included the installation of aftermarket Dolphin gauges; a new reproduction factory type Custom Trim package; new Cooper Cobra GT radial tires; Halogen headlamps; tilt steering; painted white trim (not decals); a new factory-style upholstery kit; a high-density air cleaner and a new radiator.

As everyone in the collector vehicle hobby knows, old trucks are getting as popular as new ones and prices are following this trend. According to the National Automobile Dealers Assoc. (NADA) online price guide, this truck is worth as much as $633,800 for a perfect, stock condition example. Online ads on the HEMMINGS Website are asking between $25,000 and $90,000 for restored examples with modifications. A nice owner-restored ’65 Chevy pickup like this one would probably sell in the $30,000 range today.

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