One thing that makes old pickups perennially popular projects is their availability. Hardly anyone throws away an old truck-they just haul it out back and let it sit. Consequently, there are thousands of old commercial vehicles languishing in fields across the country just waiting to become hot rods.
Tom Carver's '32 Ford used to be one of those forlorn field trucks. The old Deuce saw decades of abuse before Tom spied it at a swap meet early one morning several years ago. According to Tom, the phrase "diamond in the rough" was too kind for this battered hulk; the old tin looked about as shiny and smooth as a lump of coal.
"It was a rusted out piece of junk, full of bullet holes," Tom says frankly. "The guy I bought it from said it had been sitting in a field for a long time and had been used as a goat pen for a while. A farmer had screwed sheetmetal over the windows and ripped an opening in the firewall for the goats. He ventilated the roof with a pick axe."
Tom's excitement about the old Ford was matched only by others' ridicule. "A friend of mine joked that the guy that sold me this heap ought to be brought up on charges," Tom says. "Everybody who saw it when I dragged it home thought it was hopeless. I knew it would take forever to patch it up, but I didn't care."
Tom had to reconstruct much of the lower edge of the cab, doors and firewall. "I spent tons of time with hammers and dollies, heat shrinking and making patch panels," he says. "Since it was a piece of junk to begin with, I didn't feel too guilty about chopping and channeling it." The custom metalwork included a gentle radius to better blend the visor into the A-pillars and notching the cowl for radius rod clearance. Tom also shortened and rebuilt the pickup bed, which at one time had been turned into a trailer.
When he wasn't hammering sheetmetal, Tom was busy crafting a new chassis. He boxed a set of American Stamping 'rails, added a Model A front crossmember and assembled a front suspension using a Posies spring, Chassis Engineering axle, SO-CAL hairpins and Vega steering. The rear of the frame was Z'd and set up with a 9-inch rearend and an air-spring four-link suspension that Tom designed and fabricated. A quartet of chrome wheels and Firestone whitewalls got the rig rolling.
Tom freshened up a spare small-block Chevy for the truck and topped it with an Offy intake. "I kind of wish I'd put a Nailhead or an Olds or Caddy in it," Tom says, "but this Chevy is a good, cheap, reliable engine and in my budget." The engine is backed by a TH400 and barks through Tom's homemade zoomie headers. "I like the stereo clatter they make," Tom says. "It sounds like you're in some old WWII fighter plane. Even with the motorcycle muffler inserts you still need ear plugs if you drive over 5mph!"
As the pickup's pieces slowly came together, Tom began searching for color. "I was going to paint it an obnoxious lime green candy," he says, "but my wife talked me in to candy tangerine. I'm glad she did!"
"This is only the third car I've ever painted," Tom continues. "The guy at the paint shop told me that doing a candy paint job was super hard, even for a pro, and that it would be a miracle if it came out nice. I took it as a challenge and was determined to prove him wrong."
The bright tangerine exterior is contrasted nicely with stark white vinyl upholstery and black paint and carpet inside the cab. The filled dash houses Classic Instruments dials, a Speedway Motors column and a swap meet wheel, while an orange pool ball tops the Gennie shifter.
Though many onlookers initially thought the Deuce was hopeless, Tom's persistence paid off after five years of work, virtually all of which he did himself. "I guess I like a good challenge," Tom says. He also enjoys cruising in the end result, which should encourage all of us to think twice the next time we pass an old pickup in a field.