1940 FORD PICKUP
In the world of automotive magazines, misinformation is rife. Sometimes it takes the form of inflated power figures; other times it relates to a vehicle’s legal status on New Zealand roads; and, in a few cases, it concerns a person’s intentions with a vehicle. Whatever the matter, we can conclude that the average Kiwi car owner loves to spin a good yarn.
Dave Polwart is not the average Kiwi car guy, though. He’s a no-nonsense type of person, so, when he says he’s going to daily-drive the 1940 Ford pickup you’re seeing on these pages, you’d best believe it.
“I was looking around for a new daily, and wanted something different. I was looking at Ford Rangers and that sort of stuff, but I decided to go away from that and go for something completely different,” he explains. “I like the shape of the 1940 Ford — to me, it’s always been the most attractive pickup.”
Dave already knew that when it came time for the actual build, the truck would go straight to Ian Kenyon at Obsession Musclecars — a talented car builder, Ian has done plenty of work for Dave, and always to the standard that he expects. It was Ian who Dave credits with getting his amazing ’69 Ford Mustang — featured on the cover of our sister magazine NZV8 for Issue No. 28 — to where he wanted it to be. If you’ve had the privilege of seeing the Mustang in person, you’ll know just what a job that must have been.
“The real good thing about Ian is that he seems to have the same taste as me,” Dave says. “He knew what level I was on with this, and how far I wanted to go with it. Even with the Mustang build, he talked me out of a few things I wanted to do with it, just to give it a bit more subtlety. He’s really quite clever.”
With the builder decided, the next step was to find a suitable candidate. Rather than look for local offerings, Dave went online to find the best possible base to build on. As it turned out, there just happened to be the perfect project in Texas: a listing for a good-condition 1940 Ford pickup on a full Total Cost Involved ( TCI) chassis — a project that the owner had resigned himself to not being able to complete and the perfect foundation for a refined daily-driver.
“I researched it all before buying the truck,” Dave explains. “I asked Ian, who asked the engineers over here whether they had seen TCI [chassis] before, and they said it wouldn’t be a problem, which is why I went this way.”
With the decision made, Dave couldn’t close the deal fast enough, and the truck arrived in the country around March 2016.
“When I gave it to Ian, I said that I wasn’t going to go too far with it,” Dave admits, knowing full well that the end result is far nicer than either he or Ian ever planned for it to be.
When the pickup first rolled in, Ian was understandably happy with its condition. Despite it being more than 70 years old, the only major repair required was fixing some rust at the rear of the cab. Although the original tray was long gone, the man who had originally owned the truck had managed to source a brand-new replacement.
Out of control
So, with such a solid base to begin with, how did the build become so involved?
“I’d thought about going for a flathead to keep it all period correct, but it’s a daily-driver and has to be able to haul loads, so it made sense to go for a Ford Performance short block,” Dave recalls. “Then it sort of escalated from carburettor to EFI [electronic fuel injection]. Then it was the transmission — I wanted something that wouldn’t play up, so I went for the electronic one, and then I thought, ‘Well, it’s a small cab so it’s going to get stuffy and hot in here, so I want air con’ … and so on, and so on.”
Suddenly, Ian found himself briefed to bring the entire project up to a certain standard — which he was more than capable of doing. He found himself not only repairing the rust but also addressing all of the panels, bringing them to a mirror-like state. Considering the curves and contours on the body of any Ford from that era, you can’t fault the job that he’s done. Ian then handed the reins over to Adam, who sprayed the flawless panels in PPG ‘Root Beer’ brown paint — a remarkably subtle colour, almost black, that reveals a deep shade of metallic, bronze-tinged brown under certain light.
“I had the lights and everything I was going to use,” Dave mentions, “and I just ditched it all and got new items — even the grille; the grille that came with it was damaged, and I had thought Ian would be able to fix it. I managed to find a genuine old grille in good condition out of the States — very hard to find, but I got it off a guy who deals just in 1940 parts, and had it re-chromed.”
The motor that escalated the build to this level was built on a Ford Performance Boss short block locally by
As it turned out, there just happened to be the perfect project in Texas: a listing for a good-condition 1940 Ford pickup on a full TCI chassis
Gary Bogaart. As Dave wanted everything to look at home in the vintage engine bay, a four-barrel throttle body, as part of a Holley EFI kit sourced from overseas, was installed.
To ensure that Dave could also get his power steering and air conditioning, a full Vintage Air Front Runner accessory drive was fitted; it included the alternator, power-steering pump, air-con compressor, and complete mounting bracket and serpentine belt set-up.
“I asked Gary to build it as a mild street engine,” Dave says of the small block’s lopey idle. “I should have figured that a drag racer would have a different idea of ‘mild’ to myself! It drives beautifully, though.”
That is no doubt helped by the fact that the entire mechanical package has been specified to ensure that the pickup will be a smooth and reliable driver. The smooth-shifting Ford AODE automatic, rebuilt by Kaspa Transmissions, is one such component, and the full TCI chassis — which includes tubular A-arms, a four-link at the rear, and a full suite of Ridetech adjustable coilovers — ensures pleasant driving dynamics.
With that much modern technology squeezed into the vintage frame, there was no way that the interior would escape attention. The bare cab received a layer of Dynamat insulation, with the stock bench seat and custom door cards trimmed in a beautiful brown leather by Mike Rodger.
“I kept the interior really basic. Obviously, it’s all new, but I kept it basic — I didn’t want to go over the top,” Dave says, adding, “When you look at it, it looks quite
simple, but there’s a lot of stuff jammed in there.”
He’s not wrong about that. With Vintage Air air conditioning, a full audio installation masterfully hidden by Neil Dodds of Phoenix Audio, and a reversing camera with screen hidden above the sun visor — all wired in by Charlie Payze at Custom Auto Electrix — Dave has got all the mod cons that he wanted in the pickup without compromising its vintage character.
“I remember when I was building my VW Kombi,” Dave recalls, “and putting it through certification. It was taking forever, and I remember moaning to Ian — ‘I’ll never do another build again!’ Then I started looking at these and, what the hell, I’m doing it again!”
However, with this as the end result, we think that Dave is not quite as opposed to intensive rebuilds as he once was!