Eye Candy: 1935 Ford Panel Truck
After laying eyes on a 1936 panel truck while living in California in the early ‘80s, Robbie Robertson had to have one of that vintage
Robbie Robertson: Wheels Reader
Occupation: Heavy truck mechanic
The Vehicle: 1935 Ford panel truck
I love fat fenders on a hot rod.
Having moved from Pickering to Ventura, California, in 1980 I decided to look for an old car or truck to purchase. A newspaper ad yielded a 1936 Ford pickup. I bought it and a month later I’m driving around town when I spot a ‘36 Ford 1/2-ton panel truck. I’m toast. Being into custom vans and early panel trucks, I had to have one of that vintage.
A year later, I flat tow the pickup to my parent’s house in Pickering. I carried out a major two-year restoration of the pickup, all the while looking for a half-decent panel truck to restore, which took seven years to find.
Renowned eastern Ontario auto restorer, the late Noel Hamer, found my truck in the country north of Quebec City. It was in very poor condition with the bottom three inches of body steel missing. If it hadn’t been a fairly rare body style, it should have been sent to the scrap yard.
Noel arranged the sale of my pickup, and the purchase and delivery of the panel truck, which I planned to rebuild as a 50s-style hot rod.
It cost a ton of money to rebuild, but I got lucky finding a few good metal guys to do the work. Body and mechanical parts were sourced from all over North America, as far as Texas, California, Pennsylvania and British Columbia.
While the rear fenders and gas tank came from Nevada, I found the grille/rad shell closer to home at Minaker’s Auto Parts in Milford, Ont., before their junkyard was picked clean and closed around 2007.
There’s a lot of neat engineering in this vehicle that is hidden from view. It’s got a Chevrolet tilt steering column with a Lecarra banjo steering wheel, ‘86 Honda reclining bucket seats and a Sony AM/FM/CD stereo hidden in the glove box. The spare tire and side mount were modified to be fully functional. The original fabric insert roof was filled using the roof skin off a ‘70 Chev Suburban. The windshield frame is a chrome custom option. Mirrors and outside door handles are from ‘32 Ford sedans.
The ‘37 Ford sedan rear tail lights sit on custom-built mounts, providing rear signals and brake lights, and it’s got ‘30s and ‘40s era aftermarket arrow-style lamps mounted on the front bumper brackets, serving as turn signals.
Stainless steel dual exhaust and straight through mufflers give the truck’s modified 1950 Ford flathead V8 a great sound and lots of go. The 1935 year of manufacture original Ontario licence plates are a neat detail. The wiring harness was completely hand built by me from front to rear and I put in a thermostat controlled electric engine cooling fan.
The longest drive to date found me taking the truck on a three-day, 1,530-kilometre trip to the Albany area of upper New York state to attend a custom van show. This 82-year-old truck rides just like a new car and gives surprisingly good gas mileage.
I spent a lot of time in scrapyards and automotive flea markets rebuilding the truck on a budget and it took approximately 15 years to finish. I tell people who ask that it took two houses, a divorce and a little girl to complete.
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