Making a Cameo
Between 1955 and 1958 the Chevrolet Cameo Carrier model 3124 was a low-production pickup truck suited for the buyer that needed truck hauling capability, but wanted the elegance of a well-equipped full-sized sedan. In an era of dolled-up hardtops and an option sheet a few miles long, the Cameo fit right into the "have it your way" philosophy that was evolving at General Motors. Today, we've grown accustomed to seeing Silverados and F-150's with leather seats and pricey 'platinum' trim levels. Back in the mid 1950's a decked-out pickup was something that few buyers were interested in, so when one comes along today its a treat!
|Side profile of the 1955 Cameo. Compare to the truck below.|
|Your typical 1955 3100 series truck. Note the stepside bed, smaller rear window, and lack of chrome.|
The Cameo models, and their GMC Suburban Carrier cousins, were a beautiful mix of form and function with their special bed sides fabricated out of Owens-Corning fiberglass (similar to the 2 year-old Corvette), which made the bed and cab appear flush with one another. This eliminated the occasionally awkward side appearance of the traditional stepside beds. As a result the truck's profile was clean and elegant. Their contrasting inner box panels, patterned interiors made with breathable fabrics were combined with full wheel covers, chrome wrap-around rear bumpers and elongated tail lamps to make the Cameo stand out in a crowd. But this was more than just a pretty truck!
The Cameos sat atop a similar frame as their 3100 series 1/2 ton kin, but featured a shorter wheelbase & longer leaf springs for a smoother ride. Subtle differences on the interior also set these trucks apart from the other truck models, and it was clear when you opened the door that you were entering something different.
While mostly unchanged throughout its model run, the 1957 and 1958 Cameos received a Corvette-inspired cove on the bed side, painted with a contrasting color to match the inner box & interior panels.1958 was the final year for the Cameo, and by then buyers could choose from a stepside or fleetside bed.
This summer I've had the pleasure to take in a few Cameos at various shows. One of which was restored and currently owned by fellow VCCA members Roger and Mary James of Minnesota. This 1955 model features a 235 "Stovebolt Six" and was impeccably restored to factory specs. Just take a gander, and see for yourself.
You can tell that a lot of time and care was taken to make that Chevrolet one of the nicest in the country. I wish ours looked like that! Hats off to Roger and Mary James for another quality restoration of a milestone Chevy. The next sighting was another '55 Cameo at the 2013 AACA Grand National Meet, and this one was also nicely restored. Here's Dad checking out the "Thriftmaster" engine.
Two in one summer...that's pretty good odds considering that they built And two weeks ago, I came across something I've never seen before. An unrestored Cameo. This '57 was finished in "Tropical Turquoise" and originally came with a V8, but has been modified somewhat with a Buick steering column and floor shifter. I didn't get to talk to the owner, but I'd be curious to see where it came from and what had been done to it. With only 2,244 of these trucks built that year, it would be worth some bread restored, or in any condition.
|Note the new-for-'57 cove panel.|
Remember the GMC cousin, called the Suburban Carrier? Yeah, there's one of those around Illinois, too. This well-restored model features an optional 347 Pontiac-based V8 and Hydramatic transmission. We saw this at the Illinois Railway Museum's "Vintage Transport Extravaganza" recently. Its the only one I've ever seen, and likely will ever see up close.
I don't think I'll see another Cameo or Suburban Carrier this season, but you never know what the Midwest has to offer. Sometimes these things have a habit of being discovered. It just so happens that a 1958 Cameo is being auctioned off soon as part of the Lambrecht Auction in Pierce, Nebraska after languishing in an old dealership for the last 55 years. Talk about rare, this final year offering only saw 1,405 units, so this baby needs a good home and a bubbly sponge bath.
If you've spotted an endangered Cameo in the wild, share some pics and tell me about it.