1940 Ford Pickup, The Long Haul
Many years ago Randy Harris bought the perfect 1940 Ford pickup. It was on trend with billet wheels and a Chevy small block and it stole his heart. Unfortunately, it had also stolen the heart of the guy he bought it from, who came down with a serious case of seller’s remorse.
Now, Randy is a car guy who understands. He was able to buy back his first car, a rare 1969 Mustang GT coupe, after selling it for a down payment on a house. He agreed to return the truck, but only if the guy could tell him who’d built it. Randy was introduced to Frank Zuehl and asked Frank if he would be interested in building another.
Frank happened to be in the aviation industry and in the middle of a little down time. He told Randy he would love to build a truck for him, but he usually built things in his home garage, if that was okay. “That’s fine, what do I need to do to get started?” Randy said. Frank told him the first step would be to find a ’40 Ford truck, which he did, plucking one from Connecticut. Upon inspecting the purchase Frank said it was simply “too nice to hot rod,” and suggested they sell it to somebody who would appreciate it, make some money, and find another. Bye-bye truck number two.
Randy finally located a suitable base in Kansas. The bed and cab were deemed worthy of modification and they began transforming it into Randy’s dream truck. The suspension was set up with an independent front, leaf springs out back and a plan for billet wheels. Time passed and the truck was put on the back burner for a year or three. Randy joked that it would have to be called “Has Been” by the time they got it finished, but like a single malt scotch, a little distance on the clock can allow things to mature.
It should be noted that Randy and his wife, Kellye, are true hot rodders who love the thrill of a good swap meet. They enjoy collecting parts and stumbling across treasures that change their builds. This was the case with the rare McCullough supercharger. “I found it at the Pate swap meet 12 or 13 years ago,” Randy said. “I knew since I hadn’t seen one before it was way up there on the cool factor and I had to make it work.”
His research showed they were made from 1938 to 1940 and originally intended for one-ton trucks. They were offered as a kit and advertised to boost output by 30-percent. They bolt right on to a two-barrel intake and feature an intercooler on the back that connects to the radiator hoses. Since few people changed their oil in the late ’30s, (or even filtered it, for that matter) the supercharger bearings were known to burn up and they didn’t reach their full potential for popularity.
Randy’s supercharger was complete except for the idler pulley, which he found at a swap meet in California. He knew of a flathead Bob McCall had built for a project and after many attempts, he became the proud new owner. It had been set up to run with a C4 transmission with a Flex-A-Matic adapter. He skipped the tedious polishing of the Offenhauser heads by swapping them for a new set of Navarro’s and away he went with the burble of a set of Fenton headers and Smitty mufflers.
With the new power plant locked down, the chassis was revisited. “It never sat right with the leaf springs, even with blocks,” Randy said. “I told Frank, ‘let’s pull it all off and do a four-bar with coil overs,’ so we could dial it in perfectly.” He also told Frank to put the front in the weeds. Frank did just that by mixing a 4-inch dropped Super Bell axle , a reversed-eye spring from Posies and some 5.60 Firestones from Coker. A pair of taller white walls were used out back with Wheel Vintiques wheels and Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners.
The steel cab was chopped 3-inches and the body line was removed. The running boards were smoothed and trimmed with stainless spears and modified for side exhaust. A set of 1938 Yankee taillights from a swap meet were mounted in a custom rolled pan in the bed and paired with a custom wood floor with brass strips and a gas cap by Crafty B. The grey-green paint was finally decided upon after many different sample sprays and is accented with a modest amount of red pinstriping to tie in with the interior.
Randy admits he was worried that Frank’s plan for a red and white interior would turn it into a candy cane, but Frank knew his idea would do the truck justice. Red makes up the majority of the cabin, highlighted by pleated white inserts for the door panels and Glide seat. The cab was inverted to make the trick, one-off fiberglass headliner and the switches were moved under the dash. A ’40 Ford wheel tops a sleek Limeworks column and Stewart Warner gauges were mounted in a finned gauge panel from another swap meet adventure. A Lokar shifter keeps the C4 in the right gear with style.
Randy credits setting a deadline to make the Grand National Roadster Show for the truck’s final push to completion and has been pleased with it ever since. It runs and drives beautifully and he and Kellye have been enjoying the show season and picking up awards. He says looking back, even though with the changes he probably has enough leftover parts to create another truck, he feels it was worth the effort in the long run. “I look back at the first truck and it’s a bit dated now,” he says. “I know, whatever happens, in 20 years this one will still have that ‘cool factor’ and never be out of style.”
Randy also says the build cultivated a great relationship with Frank and he’s become a regular customer with a ’29 roadster and a ’61 Ford unibody in the works. Randy and Kellye enjoy the process of hunting through swap meets at daybreak and finding those pivotal trinkets, like the supercharger, that move their puzzles closer to completion. Kellye definitely has the fever and passion. “Recently she called to inform me that she had just bought a ’59 Willys wagon. She said it’s done, don’t worry or ask any questions, just go and pick it up,” Randy said. “Now that’s a cool wife! I’m a lucky man.”