Thanks for all this info guys. What an education!
I have come to the conclusion that probably the best option is to leave the truck the way it is. It will never be my "dream truck" no matter what I do to it. There are a few easy things that I can do to it to make it more of a pleasure to drive. Here is what I'm thinking:
- The truck already has power brakes. I'm thinking about adding front discs.
- It needs power steering really bad. If I can find out more about what is involved in adding power steering to the straight axle front-end, I may do it. An IFS is out of the question now (too much investment).
- I hate the mag wheels that are on it now. I'll probably go ahead and put a set of smoothies on it.
- I think that I can build a set of running boards to mate the '51 front fenders to the '53 rear fenders that will look decent.
Then I'll just drive it while I continue to look for (and most likely build) my dream truck. Even after I find a suitable project truck, it will probably take me a year or more to do all the things that I want to do to it, so I now have an old truck to drive in the meantime.
The long bed trucks are beautiful in their own way, but I really have my heart set on a short bed (with a short wheelbase!).
You guys are awesome! I would have never expected the help that you have provided in sorting this thing out. We now know that there are several reasonable options (short of sectioning the frame) for someone to make the Express Bed pickup to look more like a short bed. Hopefully someone searching the forums in the future will be able to put this information to good use.
Thanks again to all of you.