Sep 23, 2013
Teddy Field
Comments Off on Game Changer: The Chevrolet Cameo [video]

Game Changer: The Chevrolet Cameo [video]

In the 1950s, pickup trucks were the utilitarian tools of the working man. Luxuries were limited to a vinyl bench seat, painted trim, and, if you were lucky, a heater. Guys who drove trucks were the calloused, hard-working sort. They needed to get a job done, and a truck helped them do it. Nobody thought that trucks needed to be anything but tough. Then Chevrolet designer Chuck Jordan decided to take the pickup in an entirely new direction.

Chuck Jordan liked to think ‘outside the box’, and the brass at GM preferred that approach. His idea for a new pickup would fit in nicely with the redesigned 1955 Chevrolet line, but there were a few issues with the initial design. The new truck had lashings of chrome, and a bed that was integrated with the cab. Chevrolet’s engineering department immediately nixed the unibody idea, in favor of a more cost-effective fiberglass outer shell.

Using a standard narrow steel bed, fiberglass panels were fitted to make the sides of the bed, to make it appear flush with the cab of the truck (all trucks up to this point used a ‘stepside’ design). Chrome bumpers, hubcaps, interior trim and seat fabric were nicked from the Belair parts bin (to save money, the bean-counters demanded that existing parts be used). Then a radio and power steering were added to the short options list. In its day, the Chevrolet Cameo was revolutionary. For the first time ever, luxuries that were normally reserved for top-spec passenger cars, were now available on a truck. Think of it like a 1950s GMC Sierra Denali, or a Ford F-150 Limited-Platinum-Peppercorn-Ranch.

Built from 1955–1958, the Chevrolet Cameo enjoyed brisk sales in its first year. Some 5,200 copies were sold in 1955, but that number dwindled to around 500 by 1958. Chevrolet’s new Styleside pickup offered the same slab-sided look as the Cameo, but it had more room width-wise, and durable steel fenders. As a result, the less practical Cameo was dropped from the catalog midway through the 1958 model year.

While Chuck Jordan was busy designing a new Chevy truck, Ray Lambrecht was busy selling the old one. Farmers in Pierce, Nebraska loved Chevrolet’s dependable pickup, and Ray sold a ‘heap of em.’ Lambrecht Chevrolet Co. was becoming one of the highest-volume Chevy dealers in the nation, and this afforded its owners, Ray & Mildred Lambrecht, the luxury of doing things ‘their way.’

Ray Lambrecht felt that second-hand cars weren’t nearly as safe and dependable as a brand-new car. And since he was already a wealthy man, he’d simply stash the dealership’s trade-ins at his farm outside of town. Unsold new cars were viewed the same way, so any leftover inventory was sent to the farm as well. This went on for 50 years!

Back in 1958, Lambrecht Chevrolet Co. was shipped a turquoise 1958 Chevrolet Cameo, equipped with the 235ci inline-6 and a 3-speed manual transmission. The truck was rolled off of the transporter and into the dealership for display. Halfway through the model year, Chevrolet discontinued the Cameo, even though it had just been given a new front end design. When Chevrolet told Ray Lambrecht to stop taking orders for the Cameo, he immediately sent his dealership’s 1958 Cameo to storage. It had covered just 1.3 miles.

Now in their mid-90s, Mr & Mrs Lambrecht have finally decided to sell their massive collection, which includes over 500 vehicles from the 1920s–1990s. Many of the trade-ins and unsold new cars were stored in warehouses near the dealership. But after a heavy snow storm one year, the roof on one of the buildings started to collapse. This resulted in a slight amount of damage to some of the cars, including the Cameo. If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll notice that the roof above the windshield is slightly pushed in.

Ray had the rare Chevy moved to the dealership’s main building before he closed his franchise in 1996. It’s been there ever since—plastic on the seats, owner’s manual in the glovebox.

Now being offered through VanderBrink Auctions, this turquoise 1958 Chevrolet Cameo will cross the auction block on September 28th. We don’t know for sure, but we think that it’s the lowest original-mile Chevrolet Cameo in existence. It’s probably the only brand-new Cameo (it was never titled, and comes with the original MSO) left in the world too. Chuck Jordan would be proud.

To see the modern-day equivalent of the Chevy Cameo, click here to checkout America’s Most Expensive Pickups


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