Big Barn Find: 1954 Ford COE Well Drilling Truck

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This 1954 Ford COE truck really is a barn find and is currently in Ashland, Missouri. It’s listed for sale here on craigslist and is priced at $5,250. Barn Finds reader Roger was kind enough to drill down enough to alert us to this find — okay, that was reaching a little!

It looks like the truck has been protected for some time from the elements in this barn. The seller tells us that the bed is 18′ long and characterizes the wooden sides as a grain/stock type. Obviously the truck was used for a well drilling outfit at some point although I was unable to find any drillers in New Franklin with the name of A____ton & Son, so apparently they aren’t in business anymore.

The rust on this one really does appear to be relatively minor compared to some other COE finds we have highlighted. By the way, I’ve been using the term COE like everyone knows it — the term means Cab Over Engine. Some of our more knowledgeable commenters will be able to tell you more (right, Howard?)

Can you imagine having to keep up with this huge lineup of trucks if you were a salesperson for Ford back then? Ford called these trucks Forward Control and touted the “triple economy” of their entire lineup for 1954.

I’m sure some folks have spent a lot of time aboard one of these vehicles. I think it would make a neat looking vintage car transporter, but I’m pretty leery of leaving the drive train alone considering what others have said. The seller gives us no idea of the mechanical condition but the truck certainly looks like it’s been stationary for a long, long time. What do you think readers? Should the purchaser leave the truck alone and just get it running, restore it to its glory, or restomod it to have the capability of keeping up with traffic today?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. geomechs geomechsMember

    My father-in-law once told a story about HIS father, who was a building contractor, and a trip to the friendly Ford dealer to buy a couple of new gravel trucks. The salesman was really blowing smoke and trying to impress the GFIL. “You’ve got a larger, roomier cab and the ash tray holds more than double what the old ones did.”
    “I’m buying the truck to haul gravel, not see how many butts you can carry in the ashtray!” the GFIL shot back. Anyways, the salesman must have still convinced him to buy new Fords, because he bought (3) new trucks, one of which was a COE like this one.
    Anyways, this truck: Looks too nice to strip off the cab and leave another chassis out in the elements. A warmed-over Y-Block would make this truck get out and dangle. A tip deck would make it a classy hauler. Too many of these sliding down that slippery slope to ultimate destruction…

    Like 6
    • Mike

      I agree with you for the most part. If by tilt deck, you’re refering to a roll back, I’d go a different route. I wouldn’t put the cab on a modern chassis since the wheelbase is perfect for a wedge bed. I would swap drivetrains though. I’m thinking either a 460 gas, or even better, a 7.3 diesel. Put a 5 or 6 speed manual trans behind it and since it likely now has a 2 speed rear with a 5 something gear, a late model rear axle with a highway friendly rear axle ratio. Then on goes the wedge bed (with a winch of course) and there’s a car hauler.

      Like 13
      • local_sheriff

        Agree with both of you guys, that long WB frame makes it ideal for a car hauler,wedge or tilt deck. There’s a similar Ford COE sitting in my area as roadside decoration only. The road sees heavy traffic but the COE appearantly gets washed now and then however I’ve never seen it move. As it’s a former de-icer airport vehicle it’s a short wheebase so it’d be useless for a car hauler.
        I did a quick google search back shortly, there seems to be surprisingly many 50s/60s/70s grain trucks in similar condition sitting around in barns

        Like 8
  2. ccrvtt

    My next door neighbor just bought a 1980 Ford COE fire truck. He’s planning to use it to tailgate at football games. He’s like a kid with a brand new toy. I have to admit I’m a bit envious because these old work trucks are nothing but 3 kinds of cool. Hope this gets repurposed and used for all to see.

    Like 4
  3. HoA Howard AMember

    Thanks, Jamie, yep, it’s a cabover, alright. GM used the term “cab forward” a little later, and I thought “Forward Control” was for Jeeps, but for the other makes, these were just cabovers, even though, Ford’s 1st true cabover was the C series in 1957. The “V8” on the grill indicates this truck has the new for ’54 239 OHV V8, a vast improvement over the old flatheads. This is one case where I don’t believe the mileage stated,,the other way. Trucks like this never got a lot of mileage, they carried the long pipes for drilling, and usually just sat at a job site. It doesn’t have a hoist, so that limits it as is, and a bit pricey for something like this that needs a complete makeover to make it usable, but a really cool find. If you’ve never driven trucks like this, you are in for a rude awakening,,,

    Like 8
    • xrotaryguy

      Chevy used the term “forward cab” (FC) for the Corvair trucks and vans as well.

      Like 2
    • Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

      Just right for a band to take to outdoor concerts. I’ve seen bands set up on 18 wheeler flat beds but one of these. How cool would that be. You name your music and play.
      God bless America

      Like 2
  4. TimM

    A true work horse!! Would love to have a 7.3 diesel under the hood and a flat bed to pick up old rides!!!

    Like 2
  5. BR

    Cab Over Engine (COE) and Tilt Cab (TC) are generic terms, and are not interchangeable. Forward Control (FC), Cab Forward (CF), Low Cab Forward (LCF) are proprietary terms.
    @Howard – Fords first true COE was back in the early ’30’s. You’re thinking of Ford’s first C-series tilt cab.

    Like 2
  6. Rod

    Nice old truck.

    Like 1
    • C180bill

      ~Mid-50s as a new teenager on old Cajon Pass. Drop out cab of the 10 wheeler Ford just past the scale. Hitched up to old Summit Inn and bought a six pack of colas. Walked back down grade and swung aboard the truck still crawling up.

      Early in day but hot. Squirting water on the radiator.

      Ah those days to remember.

      Like 0
  7. Del

    These things were junk from new.

    The only reason it has survuved was that after two years it was to hard to start.

    Garbage. Nice museum garbage tho

    Like 1
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Hmm, no need to be so glum, Del, remember, in 1954, this was as good as it got. Made for a different time, when 40 mph in this was really flying. America was built with trucks like this, hardly garbage,,,

      Like 4
      • geomechs geomechsMember

        I had a customer who continuously complained that his KW/400 Cummins/15spd was underpowered. Like it wouldn’t pull UP the Monida Pass running 79,000 lbs. in top gear at a constant 75mph. I got so fed up that I told him he should be running an early 50s KW with the super new NH195 and a Spicer 4+4 compound. “Run that for a year,” I told him, “then go back to your 400 with AC, Cruise, Satellite Radio and ATR.” They don’t build them the way they used to; they also don’t build roads the way they used to. But they ALL did the best they could…

        Like 3
    • BR

      Speak for yourself Del. Just one man’s unfounded opinion.

      Like 2
  8. BR

    @Geomechs: I remember seeing old KW’s crawling up to Ryegrass Summit from Eastern Washington pulling a train of hay back in the day with a propane powered Hall-Scott 590 and Fuller 5&4’s. Driver’s would be on the hand throttle, and the door propped wide open with their legs crossed. One time I saw a driver eating a sandwich. Those days are long gone too.

    Like 1
    • geomechs geomechsMember

      I remember back in the 60s a lot of big trucks still ran on propane. International R and V line trucks, and some Whites and REOs. I can remember following them through the Marias Pass, the smell of propane exhaust hanging heavy in their wake…

      Like 1
  9. alonelonely

    have you herd of car masters rust to riches? they may be interested in your truck. perhaps you can contact them. just a suggestion.

    Like 0

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