SURREY, B. C. - Don't call multi-vintage truck owner Glen Morrow a mere collector. His hobby is also a business -he modifies his trucks for commercial use, vehicles which he says can compete with any ...
CHEVROLET WAY: Antique truck collector and restorer extraordinaire, Glen Morrow, shows off a couple favourites from his private collection.
SURREY, B. C. –Don’t call multi-vintage truck owner Glen Morrow a mere collector. His hobby is also a business -he modifies his trucks for commercial use, vehicles which he says can compete with any vehicle on the road.
“It’s not collecting. It’s changing,” says the 65-year-old owner of S. W. A. T. (Specialty Work All Types). “Everything I do is an improvement. It’s worth more, in all respects, the value of it.”
His vintage modifications melds easily with his specialty four-wheel drive service, and other miscellaneous repair services, which includes fabricating and welding. Morrow works out of a mechanic’s dream facility, a spacious commercial shop that’s almost 3,000 sq.-ft., and located on the Fraser Highway in Surrey. It’s the back half of a larger 5,000 sq.-ft. facility that he owns, with an adjacent yard.
The other portion of this increasingly valuable property in the pricey Metro Vancouver region is rented out to another business.
It’s a solid real estate investment, but the facility also brings in revenue that helps to support Morrow’s singular passion.
Inside his commercial shop, there
are three vintage vehicles on the main level, with a loft overtop for spare parts and other equipment, and a corner for a huge display of truck show trophies. In the opposite corner, the mechanic/welder/metal fabricator has parked one of his proudest possessions: a 1959 Chevy five-tonne Spartan 80, slide tilt roll back. That multi-award winning vehicle formerly had a basic cabin chassis, which he has modified to a six-wheel drive. He calls it a six-wheel drive, because it has gear lockers in both ends, which mean all six wheels turn exactly at the same time, “even if it is in the air” it will still be turning, he says.
“Most of them have an open differential, so if one wheel is in the air, then the power won’t transfer to the ground.”
Morrow has plans to improve the mileage on the ’59 Chevy truck, by replacing the gasoline engine with a Cummins diesel twin turbo,”bigger” fuel injectors and other “miscellaneous components,” including a six-speed, double-overdrive Allison transmission.
“Those things shift so smooth,” he says. “Unless you are watching the tach -the RPM -you’ll never know it shifted, especially in town.”
When he bought the 59 Chevy, it had 12,889 miles on it, and was previously a fire truck in the Fraser Valley, with an 80-gallon a minute pumper, according to Morrow, before it was sold to the Chilliwack army base as a Vancouver-area emergency back-up vehicle. At that time, it packed 15,000 lbs of water in the tanks, adds Morrow, who enjoys researching the background of his vintage vehicles and talking about the historic, and modified technical details of his unique collection.
Also in the commercial shop, Morrow has made space for his latest project, a decayed, but rare 1928 2.5-tonne Pontiac flatbed truck, which has an adapted box from another dilapidated truck, all of which came from a 100-acre antique vehicle junkyard at the Reynolds- Alberta Museum, located near Wetaskiwin, Alberta. He has big plans for the rusty antique, from the ground up -some of which are already complete -although not immediately apparent.
“It will take a while, because we are doing the woodwork in the cab now. But all the sheet metal is done: the fenders, the aprons, the running boards, the grille radiator surround is done. It just needs to be plated in the bumper. I’ve got to cut one, and organize that for the plating. The box in the back is a grain box, with all the cast iron stuff on the side. I’m going to duplicate that, rather than having a flatdeck. Flatdecks to me are not very exciting. No imagination.”
Outside in the yard, Morrow has parked his “everyday” truck, a 1959 GMC. He took the GMC, with the two other vintage trucks, to a truck show in Chilliwack a few weeks ago, but otherwise it could have 5,000 pounds of scrap loaded on it, he says.
“I work everything.”
His home is only five minutes away from the commercial shop, where Morrow has another large 1,200 sq.-ft. six-car garage, where four vintage vehicles are kept dry and warm.
That’s where he houses the only car in the collection: a 1938 Chevrolet two-door trunkback town sedan, which he purchased almost 50 years ago, when he was 17.
It was a purchase he instantly refitted for street-racing, and subsequently raced in a circuit that included the old Mission drag strip, as well as Washington State events, including Arlington, Bremerton, Kent and Puyallip. It’s a resurging hobby, not only for himself, but many of his peers who were otherwise compelled to forfeit drag racing due to family and business responsibilities that often curtail youthful pursuits.
Also in the same home shop, is a 1934, 2.5-tonne Diamond T refrigerated cube van, that Morrow believes was used to deliver cheese in Vancouver. He also has a beloved 1979 Toyota four-wheel drive pickup, which he believes was the first, and is the oldest Toyota four-wheel drive truck in Canada, which makes it a likely attraction at truck shows.
“I got it right from the dealer: serial number 00009365,” he says. “It came from Japan on a special order.”
Unlike most truck enthusiasts, Morrow refuses to baby his vehicles.
“I don’t care if it’s raining or snowing. I’ll take the (Chevy) ’38 out in anything. I’m not afraid of rain drops. Most people are afraid of a rain drop. They’ll trailer them to a show, rather than drive them,” he says.
As for salt, or other roadway grit, Morrow says you just have to deal with it, and clean it thoroughly later.
“The Toyota has been so brown, you don’t know what colour it is. But right now you could eat off of it, anywhere, underneath it. The (59 Chevy) five-tonne is the same way. You could eat off of it anywhere, (including) underneath the deck.”
Morrow has an efficient, and thorough system for cleaning and polishing his vehicles, and he doesn’t get fancy about the products that he uses, favouring plain dish soap liquid and hot water. He recently spent five and a half hours to prep the 59 Chevy for a show, a job that he prefers doing solo.
“If you get help, it takes longer because you’re fighting over the hose and the bucket. I have a system that works. I’ve done it long enough. I’ve figured out a way, that’s inside and out. I could get even fussier, if it was important,” says Morrow.
At the shows, Morrow enjoys the older visitors, who recall driving similar models of the working vintage trucks that he displays. However, when critics start to advise, he’s not impressed, or open to further discussion.
“Everybody has an answer or a comment saying: ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda.’ However, I’ve found the ones with the lips that flap the most, have the least, or don’t do anything. They just talk.”
Quite a few of Morrow’s trucks have appeared in locally shot TV or film productions numerous times, sometimes with Morrow driving, which means extra remuneration in this credit-conscious business.
“They like it because it’s not too shiny,” says Morrow. “They don’t like shiny vehicles, because there’s too much glare from the lights.”
Morrow has an interesting background: first purchasing a welder as a teenager, for hobby purposes. He also had a long stint building aluminum boats for the fishing industry before its downfall, and subsequently did specialized welding for pulp mills and breweries, as well as working on logging trucks and flatdeck trailers. He eventually opened his own business, and purchased his Surrey property in 1973, where he’s earned a regular flow of customers, much of it through word-of-mouth, including over the Internet.
“It’s just steady,” he says. “I’m busy all the time.” •