Junkman’s Itch: 1952 Ford F-3 Pickup

By Jeff Bennett

In one of the funniest episodes of the sitcom Sanford and Son, Grady is taking care of Lamont while Fred is out of town (The real story was that Redd Foxx was “on strike” for a higher paycheck.).  While there, Grady’s cousin Emma visits from Chicago. She makes big promises to cook, clean, and make their lives better, but she ends up being nothing more than a lazy goldbricker.  Grady and Lamont desperately try to get rid of her, but nothing works.  Finally, they make up a disease called “junkman’s itch,” which is cured only by sitting in a hot bath and scrubbing yourself thoroughly with a Brillo pad.  This finally scared her off, but not before she stole Grady and Lamont’s lunch! While I have never contracted “junkman’s itch,” I have suffered from an overwhelming desire to build a replica of the famous Sanford and Son truck. While the original was a 1951 half ton model, this 1952 Ford F-3 medium duty pickup being sold here on eBay out of Cavalier, North Dakota, is close enough to the real thing for me.  Even the price is right for my inner junk man, as it is currently bid up to just $1,525.

Believe it or not, the original truck from the series still exists.  It belongs to the family that, fittingly, owns Dimmitt’s Auto Salvage in Argos, Indiana.  They occasionally drive the truck to shows, and it is the hit of the town’s annual Christmas parade.  Another fan of the series and the truck is NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, who proudly created a replica for his automobile collection.  When you think of early 1950s Ford trucks, it is hard not to think of the Sanford and Son truck.  It is just a part of Americana.

While this one closely resembles the Sanford and Son truck, there are obviously a few differences.  The first and most obvious is the size.  This is a medium duty truck, and it sits on a slightly larger and heavier chassis.  The bed seems to be longer, as this looks to be an eight foot bed and the Sanford and Son truck appears to be a six footer.  The wheels and tires are larger, and the stainless steel trim on the hood is more pronounced.  Also, the fenders on the TV truck are red instead of black.  Not huge differences, but enough for even a casual observer to notice.

It wouldn’t matter to me, as I would likely restore the truck to new and then add the Sanford and Son logo to the doors to satisfy my junkman’s itch.  For a restoration project, this truck would be a good one to start with.  The running boards and some spots of rust here and there would have to be addressed, but the rest of the truck is solid.  What is most impressive is the lack of rust in the cab corners, and the floors and sills seem to be solid as well.  I am a little concerned about the tailgate.  In a picture above, it looks to have a bit of a curve in it.  Perhaps this is an optical illusion in the picture, as the other photographs that give a glimpse of it show it as fairly straight.  Maybe asking the seller for a few more pictures with a straight edge held next to it would be in order.

What little stainless steel trim the truck has seems to be in useable condition.  The mirrors could probably be refurbished, and the fact that the front bumper would not have to be re-plated would save you a good chunk of change.  There is no back bumper, and if there was enough money left over after the purchase and restoration, it might be a little icing on the cake to add a set of reproduction chrome bumpers.  Purists would scoff, but I am one of those guys who like a little flair on a truck, just not 37 pieces of it.  The minimum fifteen pieces are fine in my book.

Inside, you see little flair, but what is there is useable.  The radio is missing, but the gauges look to be in great condition.  Cracks in the steering wheel would need to be repaired, and the aftermarket turn signal apparatus and flasher could probably be re-installed a bit more seamlessly.  The heater is still in the truck, but the door panels and the seat cover would need to be replaced.  The good news inside is that all of these improvements would cost a fraction of what they would if this were a car of the same vintage.

Under the hood is the standard Flathead Ford V-8.  The seller states that it is not running, but makes no mention of whether or not it is locked up.  Given the age and condition of the truck, a rebuild is most likely in the cards anyway.  At least it seems that the truck has all of the original equipment still resting under the hood.  If you were restoring the truck to original, this would save you a lot of money and time chasing down the factory correct parts for a judged restoration.  However, it looks like a full replacement of the wiring harness is in order.  The amount of electrical tape we can see in the photo above is a good indicator of the condition of the rest of the wiring.  The cost for a good harness should be under $500, and it is a good investment in both reliability and in not having to play amateur firefighter with a fire extinguisher in the middle of the night.

So, I guess I can honestly say that this truck would satisfy my junkman’s itch.  The problem with this gig is that you end up wanting many of the vehicles you right about.  If I won the lottery for a few weeks in a row, and lived (in good health) to around 287 years of age, I may be able to satisfy my car lover’s itch.  Writing about these Ford trucks, and the Mercury versions that this seller keeps finding, really makes me want to restore a truck next.  While everyone seems to prefer a half ton truck, I think one of these bigger models, as long as they have a pickup bed on them, would be my choice.  You have more room in the bed, they are built tougher, and they have that brawny look that sets them off.  The ride is rougher, and they are harder to park, but I wouldn’t care.  Just cruising the blacktop, with one eye out for curbside prizes to toss into the bed, could be an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday morning.

Cousin Emma would have to find her own ride.  Nobody rides for free.  Even goldbrickers.

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  1. Ralph Terhune

    The tailgate is bent, no doubt about it.

  2. Howard A Member

    That was a very funny show, and Redd Fox was a LOT different in his live performances. I read, the family sold it to another gentleman, who restored it mechanically, but left the outside as is. Cool truck here, but to use it, a modern update would be in order.
    Thanks for the pickup truck theme today.

  3. boxdin

    Looks like a deluxe model w chrome trim around windshield and full door panels and two tone paint.

  4. Brad C

    Old work trucks, especially, can pull off this worn out look with style. I love how the red primer is starting to show on the fenders… while the red on the body is wearing away to a dark maroon. They’re Benjamin Buttoning right into perfection.

  5. Coventrycat

    For a second I thought it was another clear coated patina pickup. Nice, needs proper paint though

  6. Allan

    “and the floors and sills seem to be solid as well.”

    Looks like a pretty big hole in the center of the drivers side floor. But it’s too symmetrical to be rust. Looks like it was a hole cut into the floor, for something.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Allan, that hole in the floor was for access to the brake master cylinder. There should be a cover for it, but that’s where you added brake oil, and the battery was usually under the passenger side floor.

  7. Alan Brase

    Yes, pretty nice vehicle. I’d be tempted to drive it as is. A few weeks might cure me of that urge. I imagine 55mph would be the practical top end. A 3/4 or 1 ton will use bigger tires. 8 bolt 16.5 or maybe 17.5 on a 1 tome perhaps? I think more modern 8 bolt non split ring rims would fit. The stronger 3/4 ton full floating axles are an improvement. Some old trucks broke axles.
    WRT patina: I kinda like patina, but not rust holes or dents. So, a pretty thin path for me to take. Weld up the rust, try to match the paint and the fade. My paint mixer lady: “Can’t put fade in a can.” Well, I can try.

  8. geomechs

    I sure love those Ford Tonners! Chevy, International and Dodge are OK too. I really need to keep the blinders in place because I’m starting to look at it tonner for my next project, or three.

  9. Mountainwoodie

    Redd Foxx was hard core way before Sanford and Son. The seller finds lots of cool trucks up Canada way I think. I know its a Chevy but I couldnt help it……..too many 50 K butt warmer modern trucks around……………..

  10. angliagt

    All the references – & not one picture of the TV truck?


    Thanks for that:

    *now has Sanford & Son sitcom theme on endless loop in noggin*

    (produced by Quincy Jones)

    BTW: This truck would make a sick 500hp derelict restomod.

  12. Jim Vogel

    Blue Line Classics in Cleveland claims to own the original truck.

  13. Danny

    I was angry for years when my grandfather broke his promise to sell me his 1949 Ford 1& 1/2 ton stepside with original flathead v8 – running.. down to the stomp start on the floor board.. half a dozen shades of a kind of strange greenish turquoise something mixed with several other shades of primers.. but it was all there even the pipe threading machine, vice and then the very tall, very long pipe racks.. least they seem big and long.. to a youngen.. lol.. it’s long gone by now…


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