Cameo Takes a Starring Role

Rare Chevy Pickup Gets Rescued from North Dakota Shed

By Jeff Barnes

When Gene Schneiderman first spotted his Chevy Cameo pickup truck sitting in a North Dakota shed in 1996, he had no idea of what was really there.

DSC_0238.JPG

“It was covered with crap and building materials and had been sitting there for ten to twelve years,” he said, and returned to Bellevue. “My brother called me later and said the owner didn’t want it and his kids didn’t want it. The Hemmings guide said it would be worth $10,000 – I told my brother to offer him $3,000, but I wouldn’t take it if it was a basket case.”

It was anything but a basket case. What the original owner sold for the offering price was a 1958 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier, what many consider the premiere of the “sport truck” and among the most coveted trucks of the era.

DSC_0207Obviously Schneiderman got his Bombay-White-and-Cardinal-Red truck for a song. He considers his “barn find” typical of North Dakota farm culture, however. “The farmers up there buy cars-trucks-tractors and run ‘em and park them when they’re done,” chuckled Schneiderman, a North Dakota native himself. “They don’t trade them in – they just stick them in a shed or under a tree.”

The Cameo came out during the burgeoning days of Detroit in the ‘50s, when the auto manufacturers were flush with cash and willing to invest in new designs and new models, including pickup trucks. Introduced in 1955, the Cameo was meant as a luxury truck for town as well as country, sort of a “take the hogs to market on Saturday and the family to church on Sunday.” The streamlined design – featuring flat fiberglass side panels, chrome wheels, whitewalls, wraparound windshields and rear windows, carpeting, a radio and more – was an instant success with more than 5,000 sold.

By 1956, however, the novelty was starting to thin with just 1,460 sold. Chevrolet added more colors and options for 1957, boosted the engine to a 283 c.i. V8 and saw an uptick in sales, as well as competition from Ford and Dodge. But in 1958 only 1,405 Cameos were built, due to be replaced by the El Camino the following year. That means Schneiderman’s year is the rarest, with his probably the only one sold in North Dakota.

DSC_0193After his brother bought the truck for him, Schneiderman flew north, spent around $500 to get the truck running to drive back to Bellevue, and then ran into a blizzard crossing North Dakota.

“I woke up the next morning from my stay in Jamestown and found the engine packed with snow,” he said. “I was already getting about 80 miles to the quart of oil and didn’t have any heat in the truck.”

DSC_0245Schneiderman didn’t have to do much to it and used it as his daily driver for many years until its overhaul in 2008 and a repainting in the original colors. He made a painting error himself along the way. While getting the bumper re-chromed, he got the painted headlight wells chromed at the same time. “I’d never seen a truck with them painted and figured the first owner had it done, so I had them chromed too – and then found out the Cameos DID have them painted, unlike the regular Chevy trucks.”

He continues to enjoy and show the truck, and has taken it to shows across the area and as far north as Canada, winning more than fifty trophies and plaques. He plans to keep showing the Cameo and has no plans to ever sell it. “I’m giving it to my grandson,” says Schneiderman. “He manages a body shop in New Mexico, so it’ll be in the family for a long time.”

DSC_0273

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s