48 Flatbed

Written by Ron Roberts  |  Category: Trucks
 |  Hits: 8472  | Wednesday, 12 February 2014 08:27

Rebuilding the 1948 Ford Flatbed Truck


48f501Why would I choose to rebuild a 1948 Ford Flatbed Truck?  And why would I even think about the F-5 heavy duty model instead of a smaller pickup?  I guess the best answer is, "Because I had one!"

At left is a brochure that Ford Dealers had in their showrooms back in 1948, and notice in the third line from the top it reads, "BUILT STRONGER TO LAST LONGER", and that must be true because 60 years later, I acquired mine and while it was covered in rust, some paint was still on it, the body was solid, and the chrome gleamed like new with just a few swipes of soap and water -- 60 years later!   I just wonder what that stuff they call chrome on current models will look like in 60 years.

48f502In the small photograph at right you see a photo taken of a 1948 stake bed, sitting next to Van's Garage in Leland, Michigan back in 1948.    I found this picture on the internet so I have no way of knowing, but this may be the very same truck that I have.   Probably it is not, but it might be.   Or it might 48f503be that my truck is the very one shown in the brochure at left, or the yellow Coke truck on the right.

Back in 1948 the F5 came in many different configurations from cattle trucks and flat beds to Fire Trucks, Semi-Tractors and so many others that my truck could be any of them except the Semi's, but most likely not.  

jdr48fb02Every once in awhile some of us come across great deals, like that fellow who paid $500 for "an old 1957 Chevrolet" that he saw advertised for sale in a local newspaper, only to find out the car was actually a well-kept Corvette with only about 1500 miles on it.   But most of us don't stumble into deals like that, we are forced to do it the hard way.  This truck, for instance, is shown in the next few photos right after I dragged it home from jdr48fb03a field across from my property where it had been for years.  There had been no attempt made to start it in the last 10 or 12 years and it didn't have a rear axle, suspension or wheels, nor even a drive shaft!   But you couldn't ask for a lower price.  Even though it didn't have a back axle or wheels, the front suspension was good and the motor was an original "Flat Head V-8".  

jdr48fb01Those motors were, arguably, one of the better motors of the day.   My dad, who by his own admission is "old as dirt", has a great deal of experience with the 48f506old Ford Flat Head V-8's.    His first car, bought for his 16th birthday, was a 4 year old 1952 Ford Sunliner Convertible with a flat head V-8.   It cost just a hair less than $700, but you have to remember that a brand new, showroom fresh, 1956 Ford only cost $2850 back then.    

Of course the old flatheads were first introduced in the 1930's and supplied the power for Ford vehicles through the mid to late 1950's.   Dad said the flathead was quite the motor.  It was a very simple design when flatheadcompared to motors today with our high-technology ideas, but during the '40's and '50's the Ford flathead was the top of the field for easily building power without breaking the bank.  By the late 1940's those motors were stoutly built, had good replaceable bearings, large valves and best of all, the intake manifold platform was flat!   If you removed the intake manifold from the motor,  you could drill a few holes into a flat piece of steel and bolt it right onto the platform.  It didn't take long to figure out it was relatively easy to build two-inch high intake manifolds (they looked like big cigar boxes) using 1/4 inch thick flat steel stock, for three (or four) 2 barrel carburators or 2 four-barrels using progressive linkages that were available.   Of course, along about then several manufacturers began to produce special intake manifolds for various carburetor setups, but Dad says, "Back when, we didn't worry too much about chambers, routing, plenums and all that stuff --  We just dumped a bunch of gas in the box and let it find its way to which ever cylinder wanted it the most!  The more you dumped, the faster you went."   A stock motor had about 6.8 to 1 compression ratio but you could remove the two head gaskets and use some Permatex instead of a gasket and get it over 7 to 1.  With some judicial mill-work on the heads (which were flat) you could get it up a bit more even using a head gasket.  With better carburation and a 7.5 to 1 compression ratio, you could easily produce 130 to 150 horsepower, and had not spent much money doing it.   I intend to use a newer V-8 that I have in this truck but after hearing my dad's experiences, you can bet I'm putting this motor aside for a better use later!   

jdr48fb04These next few photos pretty much speak for themselves.  I took them in the various stages as I disassembled the truck.   I will give you the background on this particular truck while you look at the photos.   By the way, pay attention to the condition of the chrome because this truck has been sitting in a field, exposed to the elements, for years, but the body is still pretty solid and the chrome is in excellent condition.   This particular truck started out as a Ford F5, which makes it a 2.5 ton truck that came equipped with the 255 cubic inch flathead V-8.  The V-8, though, only having a small two barrel carburetor produced a whopping 63 horsepower. 

jdr48fb05Accoring to the previous owner, an elderly neighbor named Jim, the truck came from Detroit configured as a 24 foot "Tilt and Roll" wrecker equipped with two rear axles with dual wheels on both ends of each axle.   Configured as it was, it was used for towing almost anything, including semi-trailer trucks when they broke down.   When Jim bought the truck he had in mind using it to pull a goose neck trailer that he kept heavily loaded, and for him to get what he wanted he would need to modify it.   jdr48fb06First, Jim removed the bed, then shortened the frame by removing the rear driven axle.   Then Jim tapered the frame to the rear and cut the remainder of the frame off just behind the front driven jdr48fb08axle.  Jim, then, slid the rear of the cut off portion of the frame forward until the back of it would fit just inside the forward frame and welded it in place.  By doing that, Jim had effectively shortened the chassis by about 5 feet and converted it into a single axle chassis, thereby converting the original F5 "Tilt and Roll Wrecker" into a 2 1/2 Ton, single axle truck, and Jim's work was excellently done!  

jdr48fb07By the time I got the truck, Jim had used it as a source of parts for other projects and this truck had no rear axle, jdr48fb09wheels or drive shaft!     As you can tell, I am just about to get the disassembly process completed.    Wonder why it doesn't go this fast in the real world!  All that's left is taking the motor and front end off the chassis, then I can get started putting it all back together.   I have moved all of the body parts out to it's storage area in my field.   I doubt another few months will damage it too much further.  

jdr48fb10The Interior work will consist of filling the old Radio hole cut out and building some new floor panels which will be fabricated from an old Pinto hood I have laying around!   There are several bullet holes in the door that will also need patching and filling.  I suspect someone was using the old truck for target practice as I can't imagine Jim getting into a "shootout" with law enforcement or, for that matter, anyone else.  On the right is the front emblem panel, which is badly dented, even though the chrome still looks pretty good.  jdr48fb12On the left I have removed the chrome and hammered out the dents.  You can see the original color that has been protected from fading and rust by the chrome.    The high points will be knocked down before primer is applied.   

jdr48fb13It is at this point that I realized I can't find the photos I took of the re-building process.  Perhaps I will find them, and if so will put them up and do some re-writing.  I'm sorry!  I do have a couple of photos during the process and I will show those as this narrative continues.  The photo on the right shows of the some work being done on the interior.  jdr48fb14You can see two of the new floor board panels cut from the Pinto hood are "tacked" in place.  

The inside passenger door is shown on the left and has been sanded and primed to show any imperfections.  jdr48fb15

You can see the bullet holes.  On the right you see the completed dash with the instruments installed.  These instruments are original, but from a later model car.  The old radio opening has been filled and switches and windshield have been installed.

jdr48fb16The interior is shown on the left and is complete except for the upholstry (the slip covers are temporary), carpet, heater, and a new, modern radio.

jdr48fb17And now for some exterior photos.  The Spiderweb headache rack is an origianl design of mine.  You can also see that I have built a new frame for the bed and installed treated flooring.   I will build new side boards then stain, or paint all the woodwork.  I installed the turn signals high to be seen.

jdr48fb18And the front view.   I know I have repeated this several times, but look at the chrome.   The only thing done to it was cleaning and polishing.  It was in almost perfect shape even after years of use and just sitting out in the field with no protection.   Why can't we get that kind of quality today?

jdr48fb19Here is the finished truck parked near the High School on one of its many errands.   My primary reason for building this truck was for my own pleasure, but secondary to that, I did need a big truck to haul stuff (after all, that is what trucks are for) that is too big or too long to carry in a car or pickup, but I want something special that would be different from other trucks you see.   One of the things I need to haul often is "strip steel" (angle, channel, etc.) in 20 foot long lengths becuase that's how it comes, but I wanted a way to carry a few pieces without having to hook up my trailer.   I thought you might like to see my answer to hauling long items and looking good while doing it, so the last two photos below illustrate that.  The brackets were welded onto the chassis early in the rebuilding process, and the "carriers" slip in and out easily.     I hope you have enjoyed this article. 



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