Cabover Project: 1946 Ford Truck

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After WWII, Ford was allowed to return to civilian production in time for model year 1946. Most manufacturers’ designs did not change much from their pre-war counterparts for a couple of years (anyone know what company was first to market with a completely new design?), and neither did Ford’s. It had initiated production of its own cabover-engine truck in 1938 – the industry’s first. This model was the first to receive Ford’s flathead V8, and after 1941, all Ford trucks were installed on purpose-built frames. But post-war, this flurry of innovation came to a halt: the ’46 picked up where the ’42s left off with virtually no changes. Here on eBay is a 1946 Ford COE project, currently bid to $6051, reserve not met. You’ll need a beefy trailer to pull her home from Great Bend, Kansas.

Nestled in the generous engine bay is Ford’s 239 cu. in. flathead V8, making about 100 hp – when in running condition. This one is complete, including its original air cleaner assembly, but the seller has not tried to start it. The gearbox is a four-speed manual. This truck has the optional two-speed rear axle. Both 1 1/2 ton and 2 ton models were available, in 101″, 134″ and 158″ wheelbases. These trucks were typically delivered with a cab and frame, and the buyer would order a custom bed specifically for its business. Ford’s COE has a shorter turning radius than a conventional truck – a feature the company highlighted to sell these models. Still, the COE is rare, as drivers preferred the more civilized ride of the conventional layout.

The interior is missing its seat springs and frames but is otherwise intact, including all access panels and the oil filler port. The cab corners are clean, but the lower outside edges of the doors are rusted and dents in the sheet metal will challenge your bodywork skills. Dual windshield wipers, crank-out front windows, side ventilators to bring air into the cabin, and a front bumper were standard. The gas tank holds 22 gallons.

The front grill is fairly straight but for a dent in its top center which damaged the “Ford” badge. Its latches are still intact. The entire grill lifts off for access to the radiator. The truck comes with a clear Kansas title. Asking prices for driver-quality Ford COEs hover in the mid $50k area, and restored versions can approach six figures. A modern drivetrain may be on the horizon for this old gal – what do you think?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. HoA HoAMember

    Tough to post anything after that SSP with an LS,,,but I’ll try. Thanks to Ms. Rand for shifting gears, however, a more likely candidate for an LS is right here.
    New truck styling for 1946, by golly, you have me there. I think the 1st major restyle for trucks was Chevy AD in ’47. I know many look at this as an archaic old horse, but after the war, cabovers gained a lot of steam. I’m a bit fuzzy on the regulations, but I think all trucks, even straight jobs, had maximum length laws, and cabovers allowed a bit bigger hauling capacity. That, and cabovers were just easier to get around city stops.
    This truck however, never saw a stoplight, as no question from KS. a farm truck. It’s condition is the key. What to do? Good heavens, a blank slate if I ever saw one, but one thing clear, it’s dirt eatin’ farm days are long gone. Great find.

    Like 11
  2. TomD

    I believe it was Crosley first to market with a new design.

    Like 5
    • TG

      You’re correct about the length restrictions which covered both tractor & trailer. Once only the trailer length was taken into consideration conventional cabbed units were gone to.

      The big drawback of COE design was an extremely stiff ride which was only addressed much later on with substitution of air suspension as a customization long after
      conventional rigs had put them out to pasture.

      Like 6
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      Crosley was the first American maker to create a sports car after the war. However, it was Kaiser and Studebaker that really win that contest, with each claiming the prize, Kaiser for its 1947 Kaiser-Frazer –'s%20market,as%20a%20can%2Ddo%20guy.

      and Studebaker “First by Far” with its wonderful Starlight coupe –

      Like 3
      • TG

        This is informatively wonderful since the Henry J’s & the Nash Metros of that era are a fascination, bordering on an obsession for me because because I was born in 52. It’s clear that rebuilding one, which was, just a day dream, needs a move to actively trying to find one.

        Like 0
  3. justpaul

    What an epic front end for a Design-It-Yourself RV this thing would make.

    Like 9
  4. Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

    If this were in my neighborhood, I’d give serious consideration to it as lawn art…not for anyone else but me. I love the look of this truck. I’d just want to admire it every day.

    Like 4
    • Howdy Doody

      I love this truck.
      And I need a project like I need a hole in the head.

      Somebody give this truck a good home and bring it back to drive-able condition without changing its classic looks.

      Like 1
  5. Troy

    Well if that engine is not locked up definitely keep it in there yes upgrade the suspension for a better ride, I was going to say flatbed it but I think justpaul is on the right track to find a older Airstream or similar style travel trailer and join the two for one awesome RV

    Like 9
    • justpaul

      Oh lord yes. I hadn’t even thought of that. A rounded, polished aluminum trailer body grafted onto it would be perfect.

      Like 7
  6. Phil Maniatty

    I think Studebaker was first with new post-war designs in 1947.

    Like 4
    • Peter Storen

      Right on , Phil…….

      Like 1
  7. geomechs geomechsMember

    You sure don’t find them like this anymore. This truck deserves a full restoration to original, and NOT sacrifice its cab to another Dodge-Cummins chassis. There just aren’t enough of these around and they look pretty good with some TLC…

    Like 24
    • Bruce Plantz

      I worked on a farm in West Nebrska in 70s that had a fleet of late 40s and early 50s Fords with flathead V8s. The coolest was a 48 cab over. Even then it got comments at the grain elevator.

      Like 1
  8. Bunky

    Very cool truck, deserving of restoration, or at least “recommissioning”- with original running gear.
    (BTW, you mean 239 cubic inches, right, Michelle?)

    Like 3
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      Yes! 239! Thanks for the correction, typo on my part.

      Like 2
  9. z1rider

    Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on cabovers which includes the history of the cabover.

    I really don’t think the 38 Ford should be considered the first as per the referenced Wiki article. The article does state for clarity that the Autocar of 1899 did not have an enclosed cab but it did position the operator directly above the engine. Remember that sitting that high would not have been unusual when you consider the position of the driver of a then contemporary horse drawn wagon, who would have been at the same or similar height in order to see past the team of horses.

    Also, the additional pictures in the Ebay listing shows the footwell of the drivers side, note that due to the width of the flathead V-8, as opposed to the inline engines used in virtually all other cabovers the accelerator pedal is mounted directly below the brake pedal rather than to the right.

    Like 2
    • The Truth

      Idk if the COE is “rare” consider I know where several Ford and GM COE’s from this time period are sitting. Now if it was the 4wd version, I know those are pretty rare.

      On a side not I’m 99% sure the auto wrecker selling the COE I’d tge same yard that was for sale several years ago.

      Like 1
  10. Michelle

    I would try to put her back to original as best I could.

    Like 4
  11. Johnmloghry johnmloghry

    It’s a cool old truck, and deserves a full restoration to original, but I would likely ditch the original wheels for polished aluminum wheels for safety and looks. That’s just personal.

    God Bless America

    Like 0
  12. Kevin

    I have one that is a dump truck that I picked up last year with intention of turning it into a car hauler. Sadly I must part ways with her. Anyone has interest, I am in Michigan. $6,500

    Like 1
  13. guggie13

    My first job was at a toy factory , they had a truck just like this a 1946, I remember think this truck is the same age as me , it always started in the coldest weather , mainly used to transport card board packaging from the warehouse to the factory , place went out of business dont know the fate of the truck.

    Like 1

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