RESCUED FROM RESTORATION
THE ULTIMATE FARM TRUCK
Chances are that, at some point in your life, you’ve driven through outlying rural areas and admired the big sheds scattered throughout the properties. If you’re anything like us, you’ll have wondered what gems lay within them — could the sheds have been home to that elusive barn find you’ve always dreamed of, or could they've been full of someone’s already-impressive car collection? Or maybe — well, more likely — they were just there for the farming essentials. Unless you go door knocking or late-night prying, you'll probably never find out what such buildings contain. Brigham MacDonald is one such farmer with one such large farm shed. It’s the type of shed that townies can only ever dream about owning, but the reality is that it’s there as an essential business tool to keep the farm running — however, it’s also large enough to have things pushed into its corners and forgotten about. A few years ago, Brigham’s five sons thought it was about time the old boy got a hobby, and, since he was, like all farmers, practical with his hands, playing around with an old car seemed like just the thing for him to get into. As his entire life has been on the farm and spent raising the boys, Brigham had never acted on his interest in cars, never sparing the time or having the motivation to build anything interesting or buy anything that wasn’t a practical workhorse. With the boys talking him into splashing out, Brigham’s thoughts turned to the old ’46 Chev pickup sitting in one corner of the
to get the height right, it would be easier to drop the body onto a different chassis
shed. It was the car that some of the boys had learnt to drive in, and it had been used as a farm hack for many years, until the bonnet flew off one day and it got parked up, all but forgotten about. Looking at the truck with fond memories, Brigham decided that restoring it to original would be a good interest outside the farm work. Of course, his five boys thought otherwise. After all, what would a group of young guys want with a grandpa-spec restored pickup? It was hardly the type of thing they’d want to be seen in, let alone score the keys to for heading off for a cruise in. As if being outvoted five-to-one on his own project wasn’t enough to make Brigham realize the pickup was never going back to original, the lads called in the dad of one of their good mates to take a look at it. Well, that good mate’s dad just happened to be Les Beaumont of Marlborough Classic and Custom Restorations (MCCR). Les ran through the various options with the family. When discussing modifying the truck, Les suggested that, to get it sitting at the height the boys wanted it, it would be easier to drop the body onto a different chassis and that finding something suitable might not be an easy task. Oh, how wrong he was, as, also taking up space in the shed was an old Mitsubishi L200 ute, from which the motor had been removed long ago. With Les announcing that there couldn’t be any better chassis for the job than that, the truck’s fate was sealed — and a stock restoration was not going to be a part of it.
“The ’46 was pulled out of the shed and delivered to MCCR, and the boys and I volunteered to strip the L200. We pulled off the body and all the bits we thought we didn’t need. Les told us not to throw anything away till the project [was] … finished — so we dumped everything apart from the rolling chassis and delivered that to him! The first thing Les asked was where the steering column was. Whoops!” recalls Brigham, laughing now about a situation that wasn’t so funny at the time. With both the chassis and pickup at MCCR, Brigham would pop in from time to time to check up on progress. These chats evolved into talk about all sorts of other things, with the two growing from strangers into great mates as the build progressed. Despite the MCCR team looking after the build, Brigham wasn’t totally hands off — after all, it was meant to be a project for him to do, not just to pay the bills. He got involved when he could, from stripping paint to running parts and everything else that was achievable without Les’ years of specialist knowledge and experience. “My wife and I had a trip to Christchurch on a buying spree for shiny things,” recounts Brigham. “Les suggested we see Fast Eddie at American Auto Parts, who was really helpful. I got the steering wheel, shifter, wiper motor, rocker covers, air cleaner, etc. It was fun, and, without the boys there, the choice of parts was mine but so was the bill!” he laughs.
Meanwhile, Les and the team at MCCR were busy rectifying the damage sustained by the pickup’s body over the 60-plus years since it had rolled off the production line. With the wellside tray beyond repair, a replacement was built from scratch under Brigham’s specific instructions that it must have rolled top edges rather than square folded ones. A pair of fibreglass guards was attached to the new wellside and modified to suit the running boards. Now that the boys were having their say on the direction of the build, the pickup’s original motor was never going to have the power or noise they were after. When searching for something more suitable, Les came across just the thing — a CF Bedford van that had been fitted with a 350ci small block Chev, TH350 transmission, and Ford nine-inch diff. While the van’s engine was complete and running, for peace of mind, it was sent off to Graeme at RPM on 8 for a teardown and rebuild. There, it was fitted with new internals, including a decent cam. With a 600cfm carb already fitted, along with a set of aftermarket headers, the combo, while untested on any dyno, provides more than enough power for the truck. The TH350 transmission was also swapped across to the L200 chassis but not with the nine-inch; it is running a Falcon diff, which was mounted to the stock leaf springs. While the diff provided disc brakes for the rear, more Mitsi parts were sourced for the front end in the form of L300 discs to match the L200 calipers. The whole lot is controlled by an underfloor-mounted master cylinder and custom pedal assembly. Over the years, time had taken its toll on various parts of the truck, and some bits either just weren’t good enough to be refitted or had simply vanished over time. Thankfully, Graeme the engine builder was also building a ’46 and had a spareparts truck, which came in handy on more than one occasion. With the body beaten back to perfection, the task of choosing an appropriate colour was undertaken. This was one area of the build in which Brigham knew exactly what he was after — however, what he wanted didn’t exist on any colour charts. After plenty of custom mixing and spray-outs, the perfect colour was arrived upon, and aptly named ‘Brigham blue’. The cab was the first item to be fitted, and, when Brigham saw it sitting there — no doors, no tray, no front end — he couldn’t help but take it down the road for a test drive. While Les was concerned that Brigham had forgotten he was in suburbia rather than out on the farm, the result of the drive was one super-happy owner who now couldn’t wait to get the pickup completed. After spending plenty of time in the truck’s uncomfortable cabin back in days gone by, Brigham was determined to make it a comfortable place going forward. To help with this, the MCCR team called on Marlborough Motor Trimmers to stitch up a full custom interior for it, to which a set of Auto Meter gauges and an aftermarket heater system were added. With the interior and engine bay sorted, the finishing touch to the exterior was required, and there was no better wood for the job than macrocarpa grown on the family farm. The goal was to have the truck completed by Christmas 2012, and, as the deadline approached, it was all hands on deck to ensure the target was met — and it was. By midday on Christmas Eve, the truck was all legal and delivered home for the first time. Since then, much as expected, it hasn’t been just Brigham who’s enjoyed it, but his boys, too. Its debut outing to the Nelson Motor Show, with eldest son Dion behind the wheel, saw it take home Best Pre-’49, while another son drove it up for Repco Beach Hop 15. It’s not the awards that are important to Brigham, though; it’s the experience as much as anything — sharing not only time but also a passion with the boys. The truck was an important part of their past, and now it’s set to remain an important part of their future — and it’s never likely to be pushed into a corner of the shed again.
the perfect colour was arrived upon, Aptly named “Brigham blue”