On a recent trip to the water-town of Suzhou, west of Shanghai, I was browsing through a small antique shop. There were tons of old books and magazines and posters, most on the subject of China and Chairman Mao, still a very popular figure here. Stores like these are very common in touristy areas, and it can be hard to be sure that an article truly is old, as there are some very convincing fakes. I was out the door and heading down the street when a small blue book caught my eye on a table in front of the shop.
I’m glad I stopped to take a look. The book was a pocket-sized guide entitled ‘Truck Data Book for Chevrolet Salesmen’! A peek inside showed that it was printed in 1937, and was the Chevrolet salesman’s handy pocket guide when listing specifications and details to prospective customers of their 1938 truck lineup. The book has a very thorough listing of the features, specifications and dimensions of the Chevrolet truck lineup from that year. There were open bed, bare chassis, and panel-side versions. There were multiple engine options depending on the intended use. Even details like tire sizes and load ratings were included: if it could be measured, dimensioned, or explained, it was done so in this book!
The handbook itself was in relatively good shape, considering it was printed 77 years ago, and somehow found its way halfway around the world, from the US to China. Think about it: as the ink was drying and the pages were being bound, the Second World War had not yet started! Interestingly, the pages were attached with a crimped steel binding! I had never seen anything like this, and while it had rusted and discoloured some of the pages, that just adds to the authenticity in my eyes.
I’m assuming the typical Chevrolet truck buyer at the time was male, because the guide makes clear reference to the potential buyer as a ‘He’. Sorry ladies, apparently you had better things to do back in the day then drop down to your local Chevy dealer to discuss heavy-duty diaphragm spring clutches and combined torque and Hotchkiss drive!
Even more interesting was the ‘Weights and Measures’ section. The Chevrolet team had gone to the trouble of compiling what they stated was the most comprehensive listing anywhere of standard weights and measures. Want to know how heavy a live hog is? Ever ask yourself just how much a bushel of peaches might weigh? Curious about the weight of a 50-gallon barrel of molasses? Well I can tell you: 675 pounds! This handy book is the equivalent of a modern day automotive manufacturer's website and Google all rolled into one!
There are also some very specific instructions included in the book, my favourite being the following (in reference to proposing the Economy Model engine):
In this day and age, where we can find everything we want to know at the click of a mouse, and most car dealerships have lost their personalised attention to each customer’s needs, it is refreshing and entertaining to stumble across a gem like this. I asked how much the store owner wanted for the book and he said 10 RMB, which is the equivalent of a little more than one dollar. Without hesitating I took it, not because I suspect it has any significant monetary value, but because I think that it is a wonderful collectible for an automotive fan like myself.
If ever any of you find yourselves on a TV show contest like “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and are asked the size and weight of a small vegetable crate of radishes (with tops!), use your ‘Call A Friend’ option wisely and give me a ring!
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!