1949 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup Proudly Shows Its Age

WATERBURY, CT – Paul Mendyka of Waterbury has no plans to cosmetically alter the 1949 Chevrolet 3100 pickup that he bought in 2019. “I like it the way it is. It’s kinda crusty like me,” he said, “and I just absolutely love the truck the way it sits. I’ve had more comments about the patina on it.”

It’s easy to understand why the truck gets looked at when he takes it out. It shows its age; still handsome but worn. Dark green in color, the 75-year-old truck has chipped areas in the paint that display rust, and has chrome elements that are pitted and weathered. One of its running boards has decayed. But the truck runs well. 

Paul Mendyka and his 1949 Chevrolet 3100

Mendyka recalled setting his eyes on it for the first time when RIDE-CT visited him last fall. “I was on the way home from work one day from Bristol. I saw it on the side of the road and fell in love with the truck,” he said.  

When he bought it, “it was pretty bad. It was drivable but I didn’t trust the brakes. I had it flat-bedded home from Bristol and and then put it in the garage and put it up on the lift and took it apart. The brakes were shot. Only two cylinders had fluid in ’em and they were water. The other two were just completely dry, so it was a good call to bring it home on a flatbed.”

There was good news, too. “It did run and it did start,” recalled Mendyka, who had not been seeking to buy a classic pickup at the time. “I was looking for a 1956 Chevy ’cause my wife and I were both born in ’56 – preferably a station wagon ’cause my dad had one and I really loved that. But I was looking to get one that was done.”

Instead he got the 1949 Chevy pickup that needed work. It’s an example of the brand’s post World War II sleeker “Advance-Design” truck model, which debuted in 1947 and lasted until 1955. The “3100” designates that it’s a ½-ton truck, which refers to payload capacity.

That Mendyka ended up with a vehicle that bears Chevrolet badging was perhaps preordained given his upbringing. 

“Dad was always a Chevy guy; always had Chevy station wagons. Had to be nine passenger wagons because we had three kids and we’d take the grandparents out for a Sunday drive, and the three kids would sit in the back of the station wagon. It would be really kinda cool,” he said.

“I learned to drive on a 1967 Chevy Bel Air station wagon. It belonged to my dad. That’s the one I drove full-time,” Mendyka said before adding that he learned to drive a manual transmission on his brother’s Opel Kadett.

See the 1949 Chevrolet 3100 pickup in action in this YouTube video…

Mendyka has done a lot of work on his pickup since carting it home. He’s taken care of items that can’t easily be seen. “I’ve been working on it ever since,” he said, ticking off such items as a new water pump, new fuel pump, new radiator, and brakes. 

“I’ve completely rewired the whole truck. Put brand new tires on it. The white walls I think look pretty good. I put some mirrors on it.”

The pickup doesn’t have its original engine. A 261-cubic-inch six cylinder engine replaced the 216-cubic-inch engine inline six that came with it. “Whoever had this truck before I did put in a 261 engine which is 140 horsepower instead of 90 horsepower like the 216 was.”

The original price of the 3100 model when new was $1,253. Mendyka’s was assembled in June 1949 at Chevrolet’s plant in North Tarrytown, N.Y. The person he bought it from paid $4,000 for it in 2005, while he paid $8,000 for it in 2019. 

Asking prices on hemmings.com for 1949 Chevy 3100 models range from $45,000 to $120,000, which makes Mendyka’s truck a true collectible.

The truck still needs “a little more TLC. I’ve got some rust patches I want to take care of. Various other items,” he said, listing period correct tail lights as an example.

And Mendyka has no plans to part with it at any price. “It’s a driver. Drives really well,” he said. “I’m going to hang on to it and hopefully pass it down.”   

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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