In a communication age filled with pagers, PDAs, and e-mail, isn't it ironic how little we actually speak to one another? I mean, when was the last time you just shot the breeze over the fence with your neighbor? Heck, when was the last time you talked to any of your neighbors? Do you even know them?
For the longest time John Erickson didn't know one of the neighbors across the street from his home, either. It took 16 years for the Vancouver, Washington, residents to meet. But boy did things turn out well for John when they finally did.
"I was looking for another project," John explains. "I wanted a twin to my '40 Ford coupe in truck form. A friend told me about an old truck that was across the street from my house. (The neighbor worked nights with my friend (I work days), and I had never met him. I called and asked to see the truck, and after 16 years we finally met.")
Turns out the truck was a '41, not a '40. But everything else was so right that John just couldn't ignore it. "It was an old rod, built in the '60s," John says. "He [the neighbor] bought the truck in 1973 and drove it for one summer. He then parked it in his barn, and it had been there ever since."
After thorough inspection (well, as thorough as you can get with a flashlight in a dark barn), John bought the old Ford. He even talked his newfound neighbor into helping him drag it home. "Having sit so long, the front brakes were rusted to the drums," John says. "So I put a floor jack under the front axle, he hooked up the tractor, and down the road we went-me steering with the floor jack and him pulling with the tractor."
Despite deterioration from years of hibernation, the old truck was very solid. In fact, John decided to just rebuild the chassis and running gear initially, leaving the decades-old paint and upholstery in place during the truck's season-long "shakedown session." To that end he boxed the stock frame, installed a TCI independent front suspension, hung an 8-inch rearend on Posies leaf springs, and dropped a healthy small-block Chevy and Turbo 350 automatic in place. The chassis was appropriately detailed with black paint and stainless lines before being reunited with the body and proving its road-worthiness with a year of cruising duties.
When it finally came time to finish the project John's initial plans went right out the window. Instead of becoming a true twin to his coupe (which has red paint, a stock body, and a gray interior), the pickup evolved into a more stylized rod combining just the right amount of nostalgic touches and contemporary appointments. This included the addition of '98 Mercedes headlights, a handmade rear pan, and custom taillights, along with the elimination of factory seams and stake pocket holes. All of this work was expertly handled by bodyman Kevin Bischoff, who also sprayed the yellow paint with purple flames and custom built the front nerf bar. Chrome smoothie wheels, custom Chevy-style caps (with Ford logos), and wide whitewalls complete the "traditional-with-a-twist" theme.
Inside the cabin you'll find a similar mix of vintage style and modern comfort. Buttery cream-colored leather covers the custom seat and flame-pattern door panels, while the dash is home to Classic Instruments gauges, a GM tilt column, and a banjo wheel. Dave's Upholstery gets credit for the stitching, while Kevin's Restorations installed the Kenwood stereo system.
Built in a little more than three years with the help of friends like Norm Leetch, Bob Bowyer, and Ole Westrom (and plenty of support from his wife, Pat), John's '41 offers several lessons for truck builders. First is the fact that you can successfully mix traditional and contemporary styles if you're careful and show some restraint. The second lesson is more universal: Get to know your neighbors. You never know what treasures they might have tucked away in their garage.