What's a retired commercial pilot to do once he's hung up his wings for good? Well, for starters, how about having a custom pickup constructed for he and his wife to travel the country with? Instead of continuing his high-flying routine by restoring vintage aircraft, ex cargo freight pilot Jim Duffle set his sights a bit lower, as it were, opting for the land-based scenario described above-and needless to say, his decision to stay "grounded" with his retirement plan received an obvious thumbs up from his wife, Rocio.

Before wrapping up his flying career, Jim had spotted what appeared to be a fairly decent '40 Ford pickup for sale in Harlingen, Texas. After a couple months of rather intense scrutiny (in other words, additional trips to Texas), the purchase was made and the old hauler driven back to Tennessee-1,450 miles under its own power, not missing a single beat the entire way. That said, rather than squeezing every last ounce out of the old truck's powertrain, Jim consulted with, and subsequently enlisted the expertise of Steve Legens and his talented crew at Legens Hot Rod Shop in Martin, Tennessee. Now, while Jim reports he just wanted the '40 fixed up a bit, visibility's not limited when it comes to the fact that this old driver is now nothing less than a stunning work of art.

The Legens team really did do a number on the Ford-inside and out. The chassis, which still utilizes the original FoMoCo framerails, now features a Heidt's Superide IFS in place of the old beam axle, while the torque-tube rear has been replaced with a 9-inch Ford unit. For power, a GM Performance Parts crate small-block and a Turbo 350 automatic were thrown in the mix, and the 350 received a bonus wardrobe in the form of custom-made induction and valve cover shrouding.

While the Duffles were trying to come up with an appropriate color scheme for their truck, Legens marched on with the bodywork and subtle modifications to the exterior. Among other style enhancements such as a V-butted windshield and one-piece side windows, the roof was carefully cut and brought down an inch and a half, giving the pickup a nice, sleek profile. As it turned out, Steve Legens ended up unknowingly providing the solution for the color choice dilemma-he simply wore a pair of orange and gray sunglasses while attending Shades of the Past...a pair that caught Rocio's eye and ultimately became the deciding factor. With modified18- and 20-inch Billet Specialties five-spokes and a polished centerpiece from Grille Art, it's hard to image this old workhorse ever looked any different.

Finally, Legens literally wrapped the Duffle's project up in-house-they're a complete one-stop shop, from fabrication to interior. After putting together a sleek dash that includes recessed and hidden switch compartments that conceal radio and window controls, among other things, and constructing center and overhead consoles, the crew put leather, paint, chrome, and polished aluminum in all the right places. It may not remind Jim of the countless hours he spent in the cockpits of the jets he once flew, rather, the updated confines of his '40 now offer the ultimate in comfort, convenience, and style.

While Jim is sticking to his story about simply making a few changes to his pickup, we're also sticking to ours-you don't come across many early Ford pickups as nice and well executed as this...period.