I’ve always thought that vintage panel trucks were just the coolest things on wheels. They had a great look on the outside and could be extensively customized on the inside to meet a variety of needs and tastes. A few years back I decided to stop dreaming about them and actually buy one for myself.
The panel trucks were not as abundant as regular vintage trucks so my search took a lot longer than expected. I liked the Ford body style the most. I also decided that if it was a Ford body, the entire truck needed to be Ford. What I found was that most of the old Fords had Chevy engines in them. There’s nothing wrong with that but I wanted my truck to be just one species.
I finally found the right truck sitting in Lutz Florida. We determined that this was one of only 18,000 built that year.
It didn’t make a great first impression. It was old and crusty and been home to feral cats. On the plus side it had all the original steel body parts and could make it around the block with some coaxing. As a bonus, a previous owner had swapped in the drivetrain from a 1973 Mustang. That gave it a legendary 351 Cleveland engine along with the indestructible C-6 transmission and 9″ rear end. After receiving the truck we photographed everything , pressure washed it inside and out to remove the cat smells then started dissecting it.
We found some amazing things like the instrument cluster still had the original bulbs in it and the engine was still being started by the factory 6V relay. Our initial plan was to just do a quick rat-rod type restoration on it. After discovering how original the truck was, we decided it deserved better treatment.
That meant every single part of the truck had to be restored……..
We did a complete rebuild and upgrade on the engine returning it to the glory years of Cleveland performance.
The transmission and rear end were rebuilt and we rewired the entire truck.
That was the easy part….
The body with all it’s original steel panels looked like it had been through a war. We stripped the truck down to bare metal to see what we had to work with. We were hoping to find an old business logo hidden under layers of paint but struck out.
The next phase involved steel repair and an insane amount of body work.
We chose a 1950 Ford truck color called Glen Mist Green and it was perfect for this body style.
Here’s the interior after our resto work. The original gauges work but we wanted a little more accuracy to monitor the Cleveland motor. We made a plate to hold new gauges and the stereo without having to cut the original dash. We kept the original steering wheel and column even though we installed power rack and pinion steering.
The trim and emblems are all restored originals. We used two different silver paints on the grill to highlight the unique design. Check out the real 1951 Florida truck license plate !
We decided to leave the back of the truck mostly original. All of the wood framing and steel panels are original to the truck. We even reused the original screws. We started to repair the inner fender dents then decided they were part of the truck’s history.
We used the truck for a few years to promote the shop but ended up driving it less each year. Like many classic vehicles, it was spending more time in the garage than on the road. We decided to let someone else enjoy this incredible truck and put it up for sale.
After cruising American roads for seven decades, the panel truck now resides in a very unlikely place; Sweden. Vintage American vehicles are very popular there, with clubs and dedicated shows to support the collectors. The panel truck is a big hit at the local shows and still sports the “Bill’s Auto Restoration” magnetic signs. We had a lot of fun with this truck and hope to see it again in our travels.