Friday, February 15, 2013

Barn find 1941 Stovebolt Suburban served as funeral home flower truck that could "carryall"

Serving those six feet under. 
A 1941 Suburban "Carryall" has resurfaced in Alabama after decades of duty at an Atlanta, Georgia funeral home. The winding road of rescue led to Alabama, but not without a few bumps along the way. This retired, flower-hauling, pre-war SUV was headed for a bath of fluorescent paint and chrome during the 1980s, when the second owner got his hands on it. Luckily, it was forgotten and stashed in a barn for two more decades. The complete but dusty ’41 was eventually forced out of the barn and outside, under a make-shift shed. A gear head, with wandering eyes, rescued the Suburban before the rusty grip of the Grim Reaper grabbed hold.

Redesigned 1941 Chevys, like this Suburban, featured much wider, art deco-inspired grilles that created a more massive look.

Fat fender find
  Pat Doonan stumbled onto this complete, half-ton 1941 Carryall Suburban in North Alabama several years ago. It belonged to an 80-year-old hot rodder, living in North Alabama, who had bought the fat fendered Chevrolet from a funeral home in the 1980s. The truck served as flower transport to-and-from the cemetery until the funeral home took it out of service. The truck had been sitting for many years but the man drove the truck home and parked it, with plans in his mind to build a street rod out of the low-mile, original truck. After storing the truck indoors for 20 years, the man moved the Suburban outdoors to a shed, which provided minimal shelter from the elements. The thinning 40-year-old, Brewster Green paint gave way to surface rust as the front half of the 1941 Carryall was subjected to harsh sun and rain.

"Not for sale" Suburban
  Here’s where Doonan entered the picture and made his pitch to buy the Carryall. “The man didn’t want to sell any cars in his collection,” said Doonan. But Doonan was persistent and made a case that was good enough to convince the gentleman to unload the neglected Carryall. “It took a lot of negotiating but we finally made a deal.”
  Doonan hauled the truck to his brother Tim’s basement, in Odenville, Alabama, for temporary holding while he collected a few missing NOS parts and planned for a stock rebuild of what he found to be a rare ’41 Chevy. 

A three-speed manual tranny put the potent Stovebolt’s power to the wheels.

1941 Suburban Carryall production numbers, facts
  GM built 2,999 of Suburbans in 1941. Not a big number by any means but this truck has panel doors in the rear, which makes it more of an oddity. Only 880 Suburbans were equipped with panel doors at the rear in 1941. Their doors were hinged at the sides and swing outward. Chevrolet designated these as 3106 models.
  The other 2,119 Suburbans featured clam shell rear doors or tailgate doors. On these, the top half of the rear door has a one-piece, framed glass that lifts up. The bottom half of the door opens downward like a tailgate on a traditional truck. Chevrolet designated these as 3116 models.
  Most of these Suburbans were used as work trucks whose primary job was hauling laborers and tools. When World War II broke out in December 1941, civilian automobile production came to a halt. All vehicle production was limited to military use only, until the war ended in late 1945. The 1941-and-older models handled their fair share of abuse from families during wartime. The number of surviving ’41 Suburbans is few and far between. 

One brake light, mounted to one rear panel door, was standard equipment on 1941 Suburbans. 

Engine, paint, interior
  The 1941 Chevy truck was built in Atlanta according to the data plate. It wears the original coat of Brewster Green paint, which was a standard color for trucks that year. The pinstriping color used along the sides was called Green Apple. The fenders and running boards were painted black. An inline 216-cu. inch, six cylinder engine powered the four-door Carryall. Chevy had yet to build a V8 but their straight-6 engine out-muscled Henry Ford’s V8s by 5 horsepower – 90 HP to 85 HP.
  Two doors in back and one on each side limits the access to the passenger area in the middle of the Carryall. Two rows of upright seats, covered in original upholstery are stationed behind the front two driver’s and passenger’s seats. The weary headliner lost its grip on the roof at some point during the last 72 years. The gauges have been removed but otherwise the interior is intact, just as it was built by GM.
  The truck does not appear to have been abused, modified or wrecked. The damage inflicted by the elements during the years it was parked under a shed seem minimal. If kept in dry storage this Suburban is good for another 72 years.

Tim Doonan raises the hood on the ’41 Carryall Suburban.

Death, taxes and change
  Time marches on and Doonan’s ’41 Suburban has to find a new home. “I have been storing it in my garage since Pat purchased it,” said Tim Doonan, Pat’s brother. “He has been busy collecting parts to do a complete restoration, but, as we all know, things change and he has decided to sell the truck and all the NOS parts that he has collected.” Pat also has some rare accessories and hard to find NOS parts to go along with it, such as a deluxe heater, radio and electrolock just to name a few.
  Email Pat, at if you are interested in buying the truck. He wants $8,500.

– Jody Potter,

Know of a car or a junkyard I need to visit or want to send me photos and info about a barn find, car or junkyard?  
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Once pristine black fenders and running boards accent the green body on the ’41 Chevy Suburban.

The original headliner, now hanging down, lasted longer than the headliners in any modern-era Chevrolet. Modern (’80s-‘90s) foam-backed headliners collapse far too soon. I know.

The original 90 HP, Straight-6 Chevy engine chugged through Georgia graveyards for many years.

A shot of the 1941 Suburban before Doonan removed the new-for-’41 bullet-shaped headlight.

A wood floorboard remains in the half-ton ’41 Chevy.

Brewster Green paint clings to the sides of the truck. The sun devoured paint on the truck's flat surfaces.

Squint your eyes and you can see the shape of modern day SUVs in this 1941 Chevy Carryall Suburban.
One-of-880 Chevy Suburbans built in 1941 with rear panel doors!

Hidden headlights? No. Headlight buckets were removed for restoration. 

Original rear seats, in the 8-passenger Suburban, show little wear after 70-plus years of captivity inside the ’41 Chevy's shell.

Split front bench, folds to allow access to the rear seats on the 1941 Carryall. Seating for three in the front row, two on the middle row and three more in rear.

Fill-er up! Don’t spill gas on my running board though.

Gauges were removed for the ’41 Carryall would-be restoration.

Stovebolt Chevys have a huge following. Most of them cruise in traditional pick-up trucks.

The stock 216-cu.-inch, Stovebolt, straight six cylinder pumped out 90 horsepower in 1941. Think economy – 1941 style.

A crank hole and cover were designed into the grill of the 1941 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban for the sake of the old-timers who believed all vehicles needed a manual crank.

Ron Kidd, left, and Jody Potter climb aboard the 1941 Chevy Carryall Suburban. The official junkyardlife company vehicle? I like that stripe!

Know of a car or a junkyard I need to visit or want to send me photos and info about a barn find, car or junkyard?  
Send emails to

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