Rugged Good Looks: 1940 Ford Pickup

By Jeff Bennett

If you read my write-ups, then you know I really like prewar Fords, both the cars and the trucks.  Given the choice, my first instinct is to keep them as original as possible.  Safety modifications, such as 12 volt conversions and hydraulic brakes instead of the 6 volt systems and mechanical brakes that Henry insisted on, are fine.  I just hate to see a salvageable early Ford get cut up to make a street rod.  The survival rate of cars that have gone under the torch are low.  A lot of people can run a torch or a Sawzall, but few people actually can build a nice street rod.  This 1940 Ford 1/2 ton pickup, found here on craigslist in London, Kentucky, is a good halfway meeting point.  While the $13,900 asking price may be pushing the market a little, this Chevy 283 powered hauler looks like it could be fun to own.

The front end design for Ford in 1940 was just one of those perfect examples of mechanical art.  Like a Model A, a 1957 Chevrolet, and a 1965 Mustang, everything just came together.  This particular pickup seems to have been a mildly rough example that was sprayed down in satin black, fitted with late model rims and tires, repowered with a Chevrolet engine, and put back on the road.  The owner states that it was a drive around the farm and drive to work truck that was fixed and modified along the way as needed.

Inside the bed, we see that a piece of sheet steel has replaced the boards and metal slats that are usually in these trucks.  The battery has been relocated to this box in the passenger front corner, and it appears that an access hole has been drilled and covered in the bed.  This may be for a generic replacement gas tank, as the seller states that an auxiliary electric fuel pump has been installed.  Considering that the truck is 77 years old, the bed is still in useable condition.

Inside, the floor pans have a few holes, but it seems that what’s there is still safe and useable.  There is rust in the area where the bottom of the cab meets the doors, and it will have to be addressed in the future.  However, if you keep in mind that the goal for this truck was to stay on the road, the areas aren’t terrible.  I would work them over with POR-15 though to stop the rust from spreading.

Under the hood is a Chevrolet 283 cubic inch V-8 from a 1957 model car.  Sporting a four barrel carburetor, it looks to be fairly stock and unmodified.  The only thing that really stands out is the huge late model alternator.  The truck has been converted to twelve volts, so I am sure that this whopper of an alternator provides way more power than you will ever use on a truck like this.  There is an electric fan installed to cool the fairly new looking aluminum radiator, so I guess the whopper alternator does deal with an extra load occasionally.  Given that the truck is equipped with the original three speed transmission and 3.78 rear end, the fairly low output of the early Chevrolet small block is a good choice.  Stout as they were, these transmissions and rear ends cannot handle huge amounts of horsepower.

While I am partial to Flathead engines, I don’t see this swap as a huge negative.  Other than the aluminum radiator and Sputnik sized alternator, this is a good representation of a common modification in the late 1950s and early 1960s to keep trucks like this on the road.  The seller states that the original color of the truck was Lyon Blue, and I’d love to see it returned to that color.  If it were mine, I would put a mild drop axle on the front, repair the rust and return the bed to the original wood, and otherwise build the truck up as a mild late 1950s custom.  The satin black would have to go.

What would you do with this former Flathead equipped hauler?

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  1. steve

    Nice relatively unmolested truck. Want.

  2. geomechs

    You’ve got to admit that the SBC is adaptable. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s just plain wrong to run one in a Ford. If this truck came my way it would be sporting a flattie in a very short time. The flathead was made for it and you can make one take that truck as fast as you want to go….

  3. Snag

    I’d drive it, I’d drive almost anything!!!

    • Houndawg

      Hey Snag, you from New Oxford?

  4. Bob

    I love the style of those trucks. It would probably be great as a driver, and would be a good place to start as a restoration or a 1950s style street rod. I would hope the price is negotiable, but the fact that it is a driver and the body is pretty straight, will make it a lot easier to restore it or build a modern machine.
    The engine doesn’t bother me, but I would want a modern transmission, such as a 3 spd with overdrive, a T5, T10, or even a TH 350.
    I would want to keep the rear end, and to be satisfied with running narrower tires so as not to blow it out.

  5. Joe Haska

    I have to comment on a few of your statements that are incorrect. One is I don’t know what 12 volts has to do with safety, 6 volts will run all the electric that truck has all day long, with the small block it might be 12 volt because it makes the swap easier. Next 40 Fords all ready have hydraulic brakes, first year for Ford. Next the running gear will take all the horse power you want, you just can’t drive like a newer car, don’t rev it up and drop the clutch, let the clutch out get hooked up and then stab it, otherwise you shatter clutches and break axle keys. I have had many (7or 8) vintage fords with small blocks and stock running gear, and driven them everywhere, no big deal, you just have to understand the limitations. Sorry to contradict you, but I am 75 years old and I have been there and done that, and you are just repeating what someone has told you, and you believed it. Jeff you say you have a real interest in the pre-war Fords, that’s great ,I obviously do to, but you need to do your homework, and know what your talking about, just not what you have heard, and except it as fact, ask the guys who grew up with them and still drive them. I happen to know one of those guys fairly well!

  6. Metoo

    Keep the engine. 9 out of 10 people will only be interested in how the truck looks and runs. The 1 person left will be a purist who will be screeching, “You got rid of the flathead and changed it from 6 volt to 12? Sacrilege!”

  7. Kevin W

    I am so sick of this sbc crap. First and foremost, I would yank that orange crate, and set it aside for my next yard sale. Then build a “spirited” Flathead, plenty of parts on the market. Aside from that and an interior, think I would leave it pretty much as is.

  8. Lee Yusten

    Get rid of the that bowtie, flattie would be OK. My choice would be a 289/302….but keep it Blue Oval.

  9. Bellinghamfred

    The grille on this truck is a ’39 Deluxe car, not a ’40 truck. They are interchangable no big deal.
    Those of you who want to put a flathead back in this truck should be thankful that it has the 283, and not a sbf. The Chevy is mounted to the original mounts with a bolt on adapter. Had there been a 289 or 302 the firewall would have been cut, and the mounts would have been welded to the frame.

  10. Alexander

    Bellinghamfred, wasn’t the 1939 deluxe grille identical to the 1940 truck grille except that the truck would be unplated? This vehicle looks like one of the models built on the box for the Monogram 1940 Ford Pickup kit from the early 60’s.


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