We love a hot rod with history, especially when it’s been in the same hands for several decades. Gene Fernandez bought this ’34 Ford pickup back in 1960 from a neighbor who had a pair of similar trucks. Little by little he improved it, taking it with him as he moved around the country. Towed down to Texas from Washington, it was ready to be driven two years later when Gene’s job took him to California. He and his family even set out on that road trip using it to pull a trailer containing all their belongings ... until they reached the first hill—“what must be the only hill in Texas,” according to Gene! The little truck was too small and light for the heavy trailer, which broke away after fishtailing down the hill. With nothing broken, they hitched the trailer to the family station wagon that the kids were traveling in, and continued on their way!
By now the pickup had a later 59AB Flathead and ’39 trans, twin taillights from a ’40s Buick, steel wheels (reversed in the rear), and lots of cool aircraft parts, such as lightened aircraft-grade fasteners and white, wax-covered wiring. Maybe Gene’s job at Boeing had something to do with this? With a side-mount spare wheel, and finished in gray primer with a red firewall, Gene enjoyed the pickup, but after a further two years he and his family returned to Washington where the truck was pushed into the garage with a mystery drivetrain failure. And there it sat for some 40 years.
That could so easily have been the end of the story, and let’s face it, it’s not an uncommon one, but a couple of years ago Gene realized he was never going to do anything to the truck himself, so he made a call to Rocket’s Hot Rod Garage, in Sunnyside, Washington, to discuss having the pickup rebuilt. When the guys opened the garage door for the first time in almost four decades, they were amazed at how complete the truck was, and what great shape it was in. They were keen to get it back on the road in this “as-found” condition, but Gene had always wanted a finished truck. A few weeks later it was in the shop being torn down for the rebuild. The reason for the truck’s extended slumber became apparent soon after—all the teeth on the pinion were missing!
As Riley Morris of Rocket’s Hot Rod Garage told us, “We tried to talk him into just making it mechanically sound and driving it, but he always envisioned having a nice, painted pickup. The theme was to build an old, simple-looking farm truck with a hot rod vibe. Gene is a sheep farmer for a living so that’s where the idea came from. It’s not 100 percent traditional (there’s a T5 trans behind the Flatty, and those are 17- and 18-inch aluminum artillery wheels from Wheelsmith, for instance), but the traditional element was emphasized throughout the build.” Faux-riveted crossmembers and numerous period-appearing details abound throughout the truck.
Barely finished when we called Gene for this feature, the truck was receiving some last-minute fettling at the end of its two-year rebuild. He’d driven it “about a hundred miles” since it had been finished, and couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel. After so long in storage, we bet the pickup can’t wait either!