The Butcher’s Hot Rod: 1938 Ford 1/2 Ton Pickup

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Sadly, a lot of older cars for sale on the internet are the victims of well-intentioned butchers.  Yes, I said butchers.  Nothing about hot rodding a car is easy despite what you see on the TV and the internet.  It takes lots of tools and talent that are gained over a lifetime of working on cars.  Some folks will watch one of these TV shows or YouTube channels, run out and purchase an unlucky vehicle, and go at it with a Sawzall and a torch.  Gene Winfield, they are not.  Take for example this 1938 Ford pickup for sale here on eBay in Cavalier, North Dakota.  With 4 days to go on an auction with zero bids on a $2,500 minimum, is there anyone out there that will take a chance on this once proud Ford?

Here is what we know from the seller.  The truck was acquired in a deal with the previous owner.  The current owner speculates that the fellow he bought it from had run out of ability and motivation.  As far as 1938 Ford pickups go, the seller feels that this one was in pretty good shape.  On the good side, the doors both fit well and open and close nicely.  The tires are good, and the truck already has a Chassis Engineering mount added for a Turbo 350 transmission.  A Welders Series (?) front cross-member has been installed with an independent front suspension and disc brakes.  On the bad side, there is no rear suspension currently installed on the truck.  The rear end is said to be tacked in at ride height currently.

If you squint a bit, you can kind of see where the previous owner was headed.  The truck would look pretty good in its current patina with a few tweaks here and there for an updated look.  However, adding a new front and rear suspension, braking, and steering setup to an old car frame takes a lot of engineering on your own if you aren’t going with an aftermarket kit.  It has been done with just junkyard parts many times.  You just have to know what you are doing.  There is a reason why there are a number of companies that will sell you everything you need and tell you how to do it.  Steering, braking, and cornering are important things you want your truck to do well.

Inside, we can see that what the fellow started with wasn’t that bad.  Almost everything is there and in restorable condition.  It looks like the steering wheel and transmission are gone, and there is nothing in the ad stating that any of the original parts that were removed are being sold with the truck.

The picture above shows both how good this truck must have been and how bad some of the repairs are.  The cab corner is obviously in very good shape.  This section is the Achille’s heel of most trucks.   Often, the cab needs to be pulled to repair this area properly.  As for the repairs we see that have been completed, they don’t look that great.  It almost looks like a piece of sheet metal was welded on over the rusty area.  The stitching looks haphazard and you can see some of the original metal sticking out at the front of the bed.  It will take a decent amount of grounding and rewelding to get it right.

A hole has been torched out in the bodywork for the suspension to fit through.  A rough cut plate has been shoddily welded into the frame to strengthen the area where there might be some flexing.  As for the holes in the frame, I am clueless as to why they are there.  The cross-member that was built seems to be a bit questionable in construction.  For an area with so many important functions, I would try to make sure it was as good as I could get it.

There are other pictures on eBay to view when you get over the shock of seeing the front suspension and cross-member.  I would imagine you already have the idea, but props to the seller for providing so many detailed photos of the work so that you know what you are getting into with this one.  The good news is that all is not lost here.  With some determination, metalworking skills, and some know-how, this truck can still be made into a really neat hot rod.

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  1. HoA Howard AMember

    May I be the 1st to say, what a freakin’ mess. Before we get too critical, this is very typical of back yard mechanics. We’ve all done plenty of things that didn’t pan out well, due to lack of tools, money or time. This guy just happened to do it to one of the rarest Ford pickups made, only 2 years, I believe. I think this is a perfect candidate for modern chassis swap. I don’t think this frame could be saved. It’s still a ’38 Ford pickup, and well worth the asking price,,,for once.

    Like 15
    • whmracer99

      I’d think everything under the truck is going to be a throw-away but the body is probably worth the effort. Starting to see lots of this on the 60s and 70s F100 pickups where the fad is welding in mounts for the Crown Vic front ends. I can’t understand why amateur welders figure the best place to learn is on suspension parts. I’ve added a pic of one of the proud welder’s work. Arghh.

      Like 12
      • John M.


        Like 3
      • CanuckCarGuy

        We had a saying when I was a military engineer, that “if you can’t tie knots – tie lots”…seems that some folks have applied that approach to their welds.

        Like 7
      • Steve

        Booger welds at therir best! 🤪 🤪😜😬😱😱😱😱😱😘There is a “hot rod shop” a few towns south of me in That was selling chassis work and their stuff looked like this! My dad called them out on it ine time at a swap meet. For years i relied on my retired pipeline welder dad to do all of my welding for me. Unfortunately he passed away nov 30 and now i am on my own. He was 81 and still going. I would fab up stuff, tack it and he would “burn it in” for me. He taught me well enough that i believe i can do it on my own. I know enough to know ehat bad welds look like! LOL

        Like 5
  2. Coventrycat

    Sad. Really sad.

    Like 2
  3. Brent

    Needs to be a law that they have to do background checks before people can buy welders and torches. What someone did to this poor truck had to have been premeditated.

    Like 10
  4. John M.

    The person who butchered this poor truck has rocks in his head.

    Like 2
  5. glen

    There are laws against certain modifications ( I’m in Canada), this truck may not be certifiable with these mods. However wants to buy this truck will want to check with there State/ Province as to what’s legal.

    Like 1
    • glen

      That should have been; Whoever, sorry about that.

      Like 2
  6. lbpa18

    She was once a beauty. Kind of like when I see an attractive young lady with tattoos. Unrepairable. I just cant understand the desire to mess with a vehicle that was so nice to begin with.

    Like 26
    • Andre

      Usually means she makes bad decisions, not all is lost :)

      Like 5
  7. Comet

    Reminds me of a guy in the service I knew. Famous for saying, “I’ll weld it if I don’t have to fly in it.”

    Like 5
  8. Gaspumpchas

    I’m thinkin that maybe he didn’t do enough damage to completely destroy this truck?? Cut the ask in half and see If its salvageable. Geez if you cant do it right yourself, get somebody to Help you with it. Shame its been molested. Good luck to a savior of this beauty.



    Like 0
  9. Ron

    I agree with Howard A and also lbpa18 on both comments. It is a shame this was such seemingly a very nice piece to have gone any direction especially back to stock and being an old flathead Ford v/8 lover these are so seldom seen and to me the 35-39 the most attractive of all even more a shame. But as solid as the body and sheetmetal seem it is not a total loss, just somewhat more expensive to get to the end result, it can be done and for the determined and a little deeper pockets very possible. Not entirely outrageous arice, these are not found everyday and 2500 is abut the price of a lot of just running ueable daily driver trucks today and this would be special when running in any directon you take. Hope it finds a good home

    Like 2
  10. oldsquid

    Man, Stevie Wonder would have done a better bead than this hack.

    Like 1
    • glen

      Oh boy, walking a fine line there!

      Like 1
      • robert semrad

        Have we gotten that sensitive? You must be the PC police, Glen.

        Like 1
      • glen

        Well, I try not to offend. The good thing is, Mr Wonder won’t be reading it. That’s probably not politically correct, either!

        Like 8
  11. John C.

    I had this same year truck many years ago, my first project at 16yo. I’m 63 now. Had fun getting it running and learning how to do the brakes over, etc. mine didn’t have much rust on the body, it did have a weak spot at the rear of the frame, must have been a common problem with these. Yes I bought mine cheap and sold it cheap about 5 years later, moved on to a 40 Ford coupe.

    Like 3
  12. Dave

    No salt in Manitoba? B.S. I say.
    I live here. They pour tons of pure salt all
    winter long. Just sayin’.

    Like 4
  13. 69gto

    Let me start by saying what a great looking truck. I personally like the direction that someone was going with this truck. Although the execution of the modifications may not have been done with professional-quality I don’t think that it is a death sentence for this vehicle. Everybody seems to be very critical of what has been done to this and yet I see posts about people restoring vehicles that are way way way worse than this one. As well as paying many many more times the amount that is being asked for this truck. We all have different tastes likes and dislikes I don’t think we should be that critical of what someone was doing with this vehicle. I personally don’t understand don’t get and don’t like what some call Patina. Me I’ve spent a lifetime making stuff like that look nice again shiny clean and appealing. In any case I sure hope that someone picks this thing up because at that price I think it’s well worth it as I stated before I’ve seen a lot less for a lot more. Good luck to whoever buys it I’m sure it will be a worthwhile project whatever Direction you decide to go.

    Like 1
  14. Healeymonster

    Years ago i built a 56 for a friend. Upon dissasembly the frame was found to be bent. He ordered a rolling chassis from TCI. What a nice set up that was. Beautiful welds. The only issue was the prefab motor mount points were welded for a 351W. The engine we had was a Cleveland. Nothing fit. More mods to oil pan and mounts cured it. Turned out nice. TCI is the route i would take on this poor old timer.

    Like 3
  15. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    Manitoba? Dry Climate? Nope. Even if this truck was not anywhere near Winnipeg where they salt the road, the wet spring, arctic winters and tropic humid summers would wear down any vehicle exposed to the elements.

    Like 1
    • Jay M

      I live east of Winnipeg and one of my neighbors has 3 1938 or 39 pickups on his property. Parked long ago and covered in surface rust, but still solid

      Like 2
  16. geomechs geomechsMember

    Whenever I come across a ‘38 pickup I always get a renewed pang of desire to have one. I used to stay with a family not far from home and the farmer had a ‘38 pickup for a farm truck. I used to go to the field with him back when I was 4 or 5. I have the old John Deere D that he had back then. I wish I could find the truck, or a reasonable facsimile.

    Like 3
  17. geomechs geomechsMember

    When a person decides to resto-mod one of these I often think that the best way is to buy a custom rolling chassis and mount the body on it. You get a 4-link rear suspension and and a good independent front suspension, dual braking system, modern steering, and you can order it to accommodate your choice of engine and transmission, even a flathead V-8. The installation is a lot easier than modifying, and in the long run, it’s a lot cheaper. And it would be a lot safer, not to mention legal in most states. For the purist (such as myself) I would check out the classified ads and look for an original rolling chassis that got discarded in favor of the aforementioned custom chassis. A lot of builders are looking to pedal the original chassis to get them out of the way…

    Like 4
  18. j liu

    “Me thinks he doth protest too much”… notice the seller says “I acquired this truck in deal from the man who started Working on it. I think his ability and motivation got the best of him.” and… ” I have not done any work to this truck.”

    Then he adds: “Welders series front cross member installed with ifs and disc brakes. No rear suspension but axle is tacked in at ride height.”..Convenient that would he know all this detail.

    Me thinks he’s the “welder”…way too funny.

    Like 1
  19. Dave

    Geez, why the freak-out. He knows he screwed up so he’s selling it, and it looks like it’ll go for cheap. IMO that chassis even if un-molested is worthless as is the driveline. The only reason I’d buy it, modified or not, is for the body, the rest was junk anyway.

    Like 1
  20. whmracer99

    1 bidder at $2500 with 2+days left.

    Like 0
  21. Dylan

    As far as patina goes, it’s a look that allows the long hard years of service the vehicle has survived shine through, a badge of honor so to speak (if its authentic). Shiny paint, fiberglass, chrome, etc is pretty but it’s all a facade, a shell. By the time you get rid of the rust and muck, you’ve got 30 sq ft of paper thin sheet metal sitting on a forty thousand dollar chassis hiding under twenty five thousand dollars worth of filler, glass, and paint.

    Like 0

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