By Alex Pasquariello
“It runs,” the voice on the other end of the phone said, “but it runs rough.”
That was the sales pitch for the 1946 GMC 300 truck made in the late 1990s by a Pueblo rancher to Barbara Weiske, who at the time was director of the Tivoli Student Union. The truck, the rancher told Weiske over the phone, originally belonged to Tivoli Brewery but had been on his father’s southern Colorado ranch since the late 1960s, when the brewery shuttered.
Weiske zipped out to Pueblo to check out the truck and, seeing the faded “Tivoli Brewing Co.” on its door, struck a deal with the rancher: $2,500 for the truck, but he had to deliver it to the Auraria Campus.
“It was crazy – crazy that this guy had a piece of Tivoli history on his ranch, and crazy that I went down there and bought it,” said Weiske, who last month retired after 40 years of service to the tri-institutional Auraria Campus. She had served as AHEC CEO since 2009 and before that was its vice president for operations, deputy executive vice president for administration and director of the Student and Auxiliary Services Division.
The truck sat for more than 20 years outside the Tivoli – most recently on its west end – but is now being restored by students in Metropolitan State University of Denver's Department of Industrial Design. And Weiske can’t wait to see the finished product.
“There are a number of historic Tivoli items that have been collected over the years,” she said, “and this truck will add to that celebration of the Tivoli’s history and the community that lived and worked in Auraria.”
The class, Tivoli Truck Restoration I, is being taught by Scott Mourer, an affiliate faculty member who restores classic American trucks and tractors in his spare time. He was able to trace the serial number to September 1946 and believes the GMC 300 truck was one of thousands produced by the company during the post-World War II boom.
“A lot of G.I.s were getting home and starting businesses, starting families, so there were a lot of these trucks on the road in the late 1940s,” he said. “The GMC 300 was a step up from the Chevys of the day – they had bigger engines, so they were more heavy-duty, and they came with all the bells and whistles.”
The class was able to get the truck to start on its first day, despite the fact that there were no keys – or even an ignition.
“We put in a new battery and hotwired it,” Mourer explained. “It didn’t have brakes, but the clutch worked, and we were able to drive it to the (Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building), where we’ll do the majority of the work on it.”
Over the next three or four semesters, students will get their hands dirty restoring every inch of the truck, starting with the engine before shifting to the body, interior and truck bed, which Mourer believes was all wood and perhaps built to transport kegs of beer or supplies. In the process, students will learn about the quality of American design and craftmanship, he said. Almost everything on the truck is original, and what isn’t students can fabricate or order.
“This was not an era of disposable design,” Mourer said of the 1946 GMC truck. “These things are meant for everyday driving and remain infinitely reparable.”
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