Rat Rod or Restore? 1951 Ford F3 Pickup

I suspect that loyalties are going to be split fairly evenly on this 1951 Ford F3 Pickup. We will have some readers who will look at it and would want to get it into their workshop to perform a full restoration. There will be a second group who will see it as a great basis for a rat rod project. There will also be a group of hardy individuals who would simply get it back to a roadworthy state, and then drive it exactly as it stands. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Ikey H for spotting a classic Pickup that will undoubtedly divide opinions, but for all of the right reasons. It is located in Murdock, Minnesota, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding on the F3 has reached $1,925, and with the reserve now met, the Pickup is destined to head to a new home.

There is no doubt that the Greenbrier Green F3 is simply dripping with character. This is a Pickup that has been used for its designed purpose. This is not a trailer queen by any stretch of the imagination. The body wears plenty of dings and dents, but these are all definitely repairable. Even the tailgate looks okay, although it has had a grain chute cut into it at some point. What it does seem to be short of is significant rust. We don’t get a look at the floors, and while there are a few spots of rust visible in the front fenders and the running boards, the vulnerable areas like the cab corners look to be nice and solid. There is plenty of surface corrosion to be seen across the entire vehicle, but addressing this (if the next owner chooses to) should be a piece of cake. It looks like all of the glass is present, and it appears to be free of obvious cracks or clouding.

Given how battered and bruised the exterior of the F3 is, the interior is something of a surprise. Yes, there is surface corrosion present, and there is also a hole in the seat that is a little more than just a torn cover, but it actually looks quite serviceable. There is an aftermarket radio mounted under the dash, but the inclusion of a heater is sure to make life far more pleasant on those colder days. What I do notice is that apart from the kick panels, none of the original trim or dash pieces appear to be missing, and all of those items appear to be in great condition. It is entirely possible that a bit of judicious use of padding and duct tape would address the hole in the seat, and with a blanket thrown over it, the Pickup could be used exactly as it stands today. Of course, a full restoration of the interior is also a possibility and this is where vehicles like this one come into their own as home restoration projects. Dismantling the entire interior of a Ford Pickup from this era is actually really easy, and due to the fact that there is no complex upholstery or electrical systems to tackle, any person who is competent with a set of hand-tools and a spray gun can have an interior presenting spotlessly with surprisingly little effort.

Potential F3 buyers in 1951 had a couple of different engines to choose from, but the pick of the bunch was undoubtedly the 239ci flathead V8. That’s what we find in the engine bay of this old Ford, and it’s backed by a 4-speed manual transmission. With an even 100hp on tap, the F3 was quite a reasonable performer, especially with nothing in the bed. The good news here is the fact that while this engine doesn’t currently run, it does turn freely. The last time that the 239 roared into life was approximately a year ago, which was when the owner treated it to a new starter. It isn’t clear why he hasn’t attempted to start it since, but given the robust nature of the flathead Ford V8s, coaxing it back to life shouldn’t be an issue. While it might not run, the Pickup does roll freely, and it also steers okay.

I floated three potential options for this 1951 F3 Pickup at the beginning of this article, and all would be viable options. If I had to choose, I would probably follow the path of a full restoration, because I think that the final result would look pretty spectacular. I can guarantee you that we will have plenty of readers who will be able to put forward good and sound reasons why this old Ford would make the great foundations for a rat rod project. Equally, there will be the group who will explain clearly and concisely why it should be preserved as an original survivor. And you know what? The reality is that you are all right. Because, with a vehicle like this, there simply isn’t a wrong answer when it comes to the question of which path to follow.


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  1. Howard A Member

    Another great “Minnesota” find. I swear, it’s so refreshing to see, the great folks of Minnesota aren’t corrupted by the turnover of classic trucks, like some areas of the country. Again, sky the limit here. It’s certainly solid enough to keep stock, the V8 is more than capable, with some rear axle mods, aw, who am I kidding, this is what will happen to it. The appeal for a restomod is just so much greater today. Fact is, it’s tough even finding a picture of a stock one.

    Like 6
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    Another super cherry tonner! This one is a restoration/driver as far as I’m concerned. Still going to have the Warner T9 crashbox which can whine all it wants if this was in my collection. I would sure frown on anyone doing anything but keep it original. I sometimes envision this as a truck that will sacrifice its cab and front sheet metal to become a street rod/rat rod. Do it up the way it was originally intended. I WILL give you permission to substitute that Stromberg 97 for the 94B that should be on it though…

    Like 11
  3. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Absolutely keep it stock, with the period-correct mods Howard A and geomechs brought up. Restore it while you drive it and take your bike or newer truck/car if you need to go somewhere in a hurry or on a fast road trip-this one’s for moving loads of all kinds at a more sedate pace without trying to impress anyone..
    I’ll bet that it sells for a ton of cash but hopefully it’ll be bought by someone with class and restraint who’ll treat it right!

    Like 5
  4. angryjonny

    Son of a…this is right down the road from me.

    Like 5
  5. LandYacht

    Absolutely get it safe and road worthy, leave it be and drive it, I wanna pull into home depot with it.

    Like 7
  6. JTHapp

    Looking @ the eBay ad… from…

    Murdock, Minnesota … it has two heaters in the cab!!

    One for each person!! Good indication that it’s a ‘Lifer’ from that area…
    Would be needed for those brisk winters….Burrrr!!

    Like 4
  7. glen

    why would anyone ratrod this?

    Like 6
  8. Mike

    This should be a driver as it was near the end of Ford building quality trucks. I was involved with the building of the 1.2 billion gallons per day sewerage treatment plant and the Fords lasted about 2 years at the best while GM products lasted over 5 years or longer. The salt air and sea water were contributing factors for the failures.

  9. James Simpson

    I own one of the F1 versions 1953 . Wish I could post photos here. This F3 has the DELUXE cab, having arm rests on the doors, and also, the rare triple stainless steel and Die-Cast arrow hood vent spears. Hard to tell from the photo–but, likely also has the optional windshield stainless steel surround molding.
    I changed mine to “Three-on-the-tree” to make more room in the small cab. Although, MAYBE? the F3 is a bigger cab version than the F1?? I do not know.
    I kept mine stock looking with a 351W , all syncro Mustang transmission, and tip-up front end. So, until I surprise someone with my tip up– it looks stock! NOT FOR sale- I have owned it and drive it daily since 1971. The F3 is likely a 390 rear end, so not really free-way-able as is. It should be a keeper!

    Like 2
    • Brian

      I like your description of the deluxe cab having the arm rests. That’s how trucks were back then.

      Three on the tree is fine for a 1/2 ton, but this is a one ton. That four speed is bomber strong and is really more of a three speed plus granny low. I owned a 1951 F3 back in the 1970s (with a heater!) and it would haul a full, honest cord of oak firewood which comes out to right around a ton. But you do need that low gear to get it rolling.

      It’s funny how terminology changes. I’ve read this transmission referred to as a “crash box”. In mid-20th century trucks, this was called a “transmission” because they were the normal thing. One with synchromesh would have been called a “synchronized transmission” or something similar because it would have been new and exciting (and thus more marketable.)

      Even in the 1970s, double clutching was becoming a lost art in pickups and smaller vehicles. When I owned my F3 I didn’t actually know it was supposed to be non-synchronized. I just assumed that the synchros were broken. I got to where I could double clutch as smoothly as if I had them except that you really had to stop to get it into granny low. You learn some speeds and what the revved engine needs to sound like to match them and clunk/rev/clunk down she goes. Going up is even easier and not really much different than driving a synchronized transmission as long as you know the right speed to shift at. Pop it into neutral as you take your foot off the gas and the torque neutralizes. Then when the engine slows down, push it into the next gear.

  10. Brian

    If i were buying it (and I’m here because I think about getting another F3 from time to time) I think I would do a cross between the options you mentioned. Not hot rod it (what is a rat rod?) not restore it, and not drive it as-is. I would want to tear it down completely, cherry out the body and frame, replace every nut and bolt with a quality plated one, paint it all with durable modern paints, replace or rebuild every wear part, rewire it, rebuild the engine, and do all feasible upgrades to make it safe and reliable. That means a new, more modern braking system and probably some suspension mods to the front end.

    I’d think about replacing the steering box (my ’51 F3 had about 180 degrees of free play in the wheel.) I’d put in a well-insulated headliner and heat/AC. (I am old and like my comfort.) I would not change that extraordinarily comfortable seat, just re-pad and re-cover it. Though my brother can attest that it can be a bit springy if you hit a bump too hard. Like seeing how fast you can drive across a plowed field. Without seatbelts or a steering wheel to hang onto, you will learn just how hard the roof of the truck is. He’s never been quite right since then…

    Oh, and I’d do something about that horn wire down the middle of the steering column. Armor it or something.

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