Firsatsaatleri archive – May 22, 2008 issue
Restoring a long-lost 1941 Ford truck
Story and photos by Garry Gardner
Firsatsaatleri has been my only urgent reason to rush to the mailbox since I stared my subscription in 1972. I have spent years thoroughly enjoying the publication, especially the “Q&A” column and “When I Was a Child” department. I’m thrilled that I now have my own truck tale to share with my fellow motor heads.
It all began with my 1941 Ford pickup truck that I purchased for a whopping $100 in July 1960. This original-owner beauty was an old farm truck with 22,000 miles and came with a four-cylinder engine that threw a rod. At the time, that was not bad for a 20-year-old engine. The year 1941 also happened to be the only year that Ford offered three different engines: a four-, six- and eight-cylinder. Three hours after I purchased the truck, the cylinder count under the four-cylinder truck’s hood had been doubled, but not with any old V-8. I installed a “hot” flathead from another Ford I smashed up weeks earlier. After a few years of joy riding through my home town of Scituate, Mass., it was time for an update. Out came the flathead, and in went a 335-hp, 389-cid Pontiac V-8, a reworked 1955 Pontiac Hydra-Matic and a 3.64 rear end. Now my truck was really fast and could beat the factory hot rods of the day.
This truck was my only source of transportation for six years, so needless to say, I had some exciting adventures driving to work and on dates. I really put my truck to the test when I made two 6,000-plus-mile round trips to California. After being pulled over by the LAPD and reprimanded for not being registered in the state of California, I had no choice but to turn in my Massachusetts plates for a set of shiny black-and-gold California plates. Even though I am again residing in Scitaute, I still have my 1965 California registration.
Love lost and found
One spring morning of 1969, I was cruising down a street in Milton, Mass., and I spotted a 1932 Ford three-window coupe in pristine condition for sale on a lawn. I had to have it. Two days later, the car was in my driveway. Unfortunately, the 1941 Ford pickup had to be sold to finance the coupe.
Although I enjoyed my new coupe, my truck had history and I missed it. In 1986, for unfortunate reasons, the 1932 coupe was sold. I was now just dreaming about my next classic car purchase.
I never could have imagined what would happen 27 years later while I was married to my wonderful wife Gail with three grown children and my own business. In 1995, a longtime friend and hot rodding buddy named Skip said he knew the whereabouts of my old 1941 Ford pickup. I was so excited I couldn’t see straight. Numerous phone calls later and we were on our way to Dorchester, Mass., which was roughly 20 miles away. The truck was a sorry sight, sitting in a garage or what looked like a car graveyard with 10 other old cars. It was basically nothing but a body and a frame.
As it turned out, the owner was the same person that I sold the truck to more than 30 years ago. Needless to say, I purchased the truck back.
I actually saved the original engine that I had put in the truck 47 years earlier, and Skip and I rebuilt it with all the latest updates. I never could have done it without my good friends and fellow motor buddies Skip, who is from Hanson, Mass., and Richie from Malden, Mass. Together, we installed a five-speed transmission and a Ford 9-inch rear end, Posies front and rear springs, late-model Ford pickup drum brakes and a dual-braking system.
It took 13 years and countless manpower hours, but the first ride was priceless. Now I am enjoying this truck every day and take it to cruise nights and car meets. It is great to be back on the streets again in my old truck, cruising down the same Scituate streets that I rode down more than 30 years ago. Southeastern Massachusetts is known for old car enthusiasts, so I turn a few heads here and there. I am now 68 and enjoy it now more than ever, but it is still a work in progress.