As the story goes, in 1946, the commissioner of the New York state liquor authority, a fellow named Jimmy Olson who apparently had nothing to do with Superman, and a Chevrolet dealer in Brooklyn formed a company to sell delivery vehicles to laundries.
Olson knew an executive at Grumman Aircraft and because of that company’s experience building aluminum-bodied fighter aircraft during World War II, commissioned Grumman to construct the vans on Chevrolet chassis.
Those first Kargo King vehicles soon evolved into the Grumman-Olson Kurbside. After Olson and his partner died, Grumman expanded the fleet, in part through a deal to supply UPS with delivery vans.
Fast forward a few decades and a restaurant and bar owner is driving through northern New England and sees a for sale sign on an aluminum step van parked next to someone’s home. That van, a 1956 Chevrolet Grumman-Olson Kurbside now restored and modified into a camper, is the Pick of the Day on ClassicCars.com.
According to the Hebron, Connecticut, dealership advertising the van, it was in “rough shape” when the restaurant/bar owner bought it. “It had so much paint on it, you could hardly see the rivets,” the dealer notes.
However, “He saw the beauty though and started in on a restoration/freshening of this step van by stripping off all the old paint by hand, inside and out.”
The van was painted in metallic silver and black, with flexible RV roof paint on top, and with spray-on bed liner on the van’s interior floor. The truck was rewired and LED lighting was installed.
“The truck came already equipped with a fresh-water tank, full 110 hook ups and 110 plugs both inside and out,” the dealer reports. “He built the rear rack and installed an Arksen diamond plate tool box to hold the brand-new Honda generator, connectors and new propane hook ups. A propane-fueled refrigerator was replaced by a new electric Frigidaire unit. A new porta pottie was installed as well.”
Seats from a 2002 Volkswagen Beetle were installed and the dealer points out that “although this camper will sleep 4, there are only two seats, so this will appeal mostly to those couples looking to get away together in classic style.”
To propel the van, a 327cid Chevrolet V8 was installed and linked to a Muncie 4-speed manual transmission. The engine has been driven less than 40,000 miles, the dealer adds. Brakes, shocks and wheels were replaced, and various service items were done.
“There are some finishing touches that could be taken care of,” the dealer reports, adding that the van is for sale because “the owner needed to focus his energy on other life issues when Covid hit and he had to close his bar and restaurant. The replacement corner glass comes with the truck.
The camper conversion van is being offered for $42,000. To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.