I’ve long felt that the best daily driving old car platform was the 1939 to 1941 Ford. They ride, stop, and handle better than anything Ford had ever produced at the time… and would produce until 1957 or so. They are light, compact, simply engineered and if you opt for the sedan like I did – very, very practical.
There is an option, however, that is even more practical. The 1940/41 Ford pickup shares the same platform as the passenger cars and therefore the wonderful driving dynamics, but sacrifices a little interior room for a handy utility bed. As far as practicality is concerned, a modern man simply couldn’t ask for anything more out of a vehicle that doesn’t depreciate.
Given all that, I’ve long been enamored by Steve’s survivor ’41… I first heard of the little pickup when Steve (the owner/seller) dropped it off at Tardel’s shop for a fresh flathead build. Originally equipped with a banger, the truck now sports a built 8BA with with vintage Edelbrock 59A heads, a stroked Merc crank, 400Jr cam, dual Strombergs on a reproduction Offy intake, a Mallory electronic ignition, and Fenton headers. For daily driver reliability, both a Powermaster generator and starter were put into service.
The radiator is interesting. Steve has no idea where it came from, but it’s about 5″ taller than stock – requiring the splash apron to be extended a bit. He had the unit re-cored and no matter the temps in South Texas, the truck runs cool.
In any case and once the flathead was buttoned up, Tardel went ahead and rebuilt the ’40 pickup transmission. While this was all going down, Steve hauled the Columbia 2-speed rear over to another buddy’s shop – Ben Thomas. Ben took the rear apart for inspection and then buttoned it all back up with new seals after bullet-proofing. Steve then sent the Columbia vacuum switch off to be rebuilt and then reworked the speedo switching assembly himself. The final gear ratio is right at 4:11 and the truck cruises comfortably at 75mph.
Once on the road, the Tardel flathead was a little louder than Steve expected. “It sounded great… like a race car, but it was a little too loud for comfortable cruising.” So, he called on Ben Thomas again. This time, Ben got busy building a full exhaust system for the pickup. He used 303 stainless all the way through and stuck on some small stainless glass packs as well. The result is still loud, but it’s muffled adequately enough to hold a comfortable conversation while on the road.
Continuing with the daily driver theme, Steve moved on to the chassis. He added tube shocks all around and reverse-eye Posie’s springs. There’s also a Pete & Jakes sway bar out back. He has a matching bar for the front, but it doesn’t clear the extended radiator’s hose assembly and was left off. That being said, a drive would be hard-pressed to tell. The truck handles beautifully.
For Brakes, Steve chose safety first. Up front he has F100 discs with Chevy calipers and out back he has self adjusting Lincoln drums. This all runs through a dual-chamber master cylinder from an early Mustang along with a proportioning valve to keep things even. The brake lines are all new and the parking brake assembly is completely rebuilt with new cables and rubber pieces. It will hold the truck easily on a steep hill.
The stance is finalized with 15″ steel wheels shed in the appropriate Goodyear rubber – front and rear.
So, what we are looking at here is a very fresh 1941 pickup that was built mindfully for reliability and daily driving. Every technical detail attended too… Every ‘I’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed… But, where does the soul of this old truck come from? That’s where things get really interesting.
Steve bought the pickup out of Azusa, CA and was told it had long been a plumbing service vehicle. At some point along the way, it was converted from a banger motor to a V8 (as previously mentioned) and the Columbia rear was added. As far as we can tell, however, the body has never been off the frame. And if you take one look under this thing, you will know just how remarkable that is. Steve cleaned it up, obviously, but there isn’t an ounce of rust to be seen.
Same thing goes for the body. I’ve studied a lot of 1940/41 pickups through the years and this is the cleanest virgin I have ever seen. There are multiple shades of patina’ed red paint to admire, but zero rust to worry over. On top of that, it is razor straight – no dents, no bumps, no bruises. Steve couldn’t bring himself to a touch a thing here and I don’t blame him. It’s perfect as is.
Editor’s Note: The signage on the door would be easily removable.
The interior, however, was a different story. It was as nice as the rest of the pickup, but space was at a serious premium – especially given that Steve is fairly tall. He remedied that by replacing the seat with a Glide. This provides both increased head space and much needed leg space. An added perk is that the bottom flips up for further storage options. It’s upholstered in black and red houndstooth from the Chevrolet catalog that fits the aesthetic perfectly.
There’s also both a heater and a defroster with independent blowers. And I should mention that while Steve was attending to the interior details, he through a new wiring harness in. Of course, it utilizes cloth covered wires and looks factory for all intents and purposes.
Questions From The Jalopy Journal:
What’s the worst aspect of the ’41?
”There isn’t much… the windshield wipers are vacuum operated and work about as well as designed. So, Rain-X is necessary. And the speedo reads about 15% fast. Other than that, this truck really is what it is.”
What’s the best aspect of the ’41?
”I can drive it anytime and to anywhere. It has been to the ROC, Roundup, Showdown, etc… and I drive it almost every day. It doesn’t let me down and that’s pretty rare for an old car, right?”
Thoughts From The Jalopy Journal:
I think a lot of people sleep on how affordable a daily driver early Ford can be. Let’s say you are in the market for a mid-sized pickup. The best on the market is probably a Toyota Tacoma, but they run well over $40k when optioned out. And after five years, that truck will depreciate on average by 33%.
Now take similar or less money and put it towards something like this ’41. Your maintenance and running costs will increase, but suddenly you are driving something that is increasing in value year-by-year. After five years it is very conceivable that the truck is paying you back rather than running you dry.
And the thing is, this isn’t some old pickup thrown together to flex your taste for all things old. This truck was built and maintained by some of the foremost experts in the early Ford field. And it was built with the soul purpose of getting you down the road reliably…
I’m biased, but I know where I’d put my money…
Also, if you are on the H.A.M.B., Steve has kept a bit of a build thread. You can see that here.