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!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1934 Ford Pickup
Starting with the stock frame that’s always lived under this truck, the crew at Rocket’s Hot Rod Garage boxed the front ’rails, modified the center crossmember to clear the transmission, while retaining the stock wishbone, flattened the rear crossmember to lower the pickup 4 inches, and added a custom ladder bar crossmember. A 4-inch dropped Super Bell I-beam is hung on a Posies reversed-eye spring and Bilstein shocks, with 12-inch Speedway discs hidden behind custom backing plate covers. Vega cross steering and a Pete & Jake’s pedal assembly were employed, while all plumbing is in stainless steel, with stainless A/N fittings by Race at Rocket’s.
Peek under the pickup bed and you’ll see a rebuilt (by Rick Bootsma) ’34 banjo, with a Hot Rod Works 9-inch axle and open-drive conversion, located on Rocket’s-built ladder bars and a Posies buggy spring. Hot Rod Works Lincoln drum brakes mount at each end of the rearend. Moving up the Driveline Services–built driveshaft, there’s a T5 trans assembled by Race, with a 10-inch hydraulic clutch and Speedway flywheel hooking it to the 59AB Flathead, which now displaces 386 ci. Machined and assembled by Rich Eims at Joe’s Grinding in Yakima, the Flatty uses a 4 1/8-inch stoke Scat crank, Scat H-beam rods, and an Isky Max1 cam. Edelbrock block letter heads flank the Offy dual-intake manifold, which has had its logos removed. A Max Wedge Hot Rod Company air cleaner covers the twin Edelbrock 94 carbs. Rocket’s own Race was also responsible for the headers and 2-inch mandrel-bent exhaust system, with Stainless Specialties mufflers. The entire engine was powdercoated black and detailed at Rocket’s.
Those neat wheels are aluminum artilleries from Wheelsmith, measuring 17x4.5 and 18x7 front and rear, respectively, wrapped in Excelsior rubber from Coker Tire.
After Metal Works in Eugene, WA, acid dipped the cab, bed, hood, doors, and grille, the rust-free status of the ’33 was confirmed, with just a few old repairs to be put right, specifically the firewall and wired fender edges. A custom gravel pan was fabbed for the front, and a roll pan for the rear, with modified ’32 bumpers used as bumperettes. The hood top is now Rootlieb, with the stock side panels, and a dropped headlight bar was fashioned from a ’34 commercial item. Tim Ueltschi sprayed the PPG Dark Beachwood Metallic, complemented by bronze tinted windows from Sunnyside Glass.
There’s a lot that’s not stock about this stock-looking interior! Rocket’s fabricated a lower gauge panel to house the New Vintage instruments. A super-neat trick is the custom turn signal switch built into the old ignition lock on the stock column, which is now topped by a ’35 wheel. Riley Morris at Rocket’s fabbed the trans tunnel, from which a Lokar shifter now sprouts. The stock seat was covered in leather by Jamie’s Upholstery, and the wiring harness is now all brown cloth covered, by Race, with the fuse panel mounted under the seat while ’36 knobs and handles replace the originals and the neat floor treatment uses recessed rubber mats in custom Zebra wood panels. These panels, as well as the bed floor and custom gun racks, were designed by artist Tavis Highlander, and produced by Bed Wood & Parts in Hopkinsville, KY.