Around 20 years ago, this old man came into my shop wanting to sell an old truck. So, I followed him back to his place to take a look. Out behind one of his aging buildings was this '56 Ford longbed. I immediately recognized the truck, as the owner had driven it for many years back and forth to work at a rock quarry, which just happened to be near my house. Although the truck was in pretty sad shape, the price was right ($500), so I bought it and drove her home. With its hard mud-grip tires and the trail of smoke it left behind, I'd initially just thought of it as a piece of junk-so it sat behind my barn for about a year, as I tried to forget about it.
One winter, I finally decided to get her running and see if I could use it to go hunting. After some fresh tires and a quick tune-up, the old truck came right back to life. So for the next couple of decades it took me on hunting trips, not to mention many trips to the landfill. Being it had always been a light blue in color, we just named her "Old Blue".
After several long-term projects-the last of which being the silver '56, which took five years to complete-I decided it was about time to really freshen up Old Blue. I had recently purchased a 312 Y-Block out of a Mercury, which had a recent rebuild. With the help of my brother, Gary, and brother-in-law, Eric Curlee, we proceeded to drop the engine in the truck.
I had noticed from recent issues of CLASSIC TRUCKS that old shop trucks seemed to be getting really popular. Immediately I began dreaming of red-oxide primer and steel wheels-but my wife, Peggy, who loves these old trucks, said I needed to lower it. At this point, my vision began to change: short 6-foot bed, pale yellow exterior, and red steel wheels. Then Peggy spoke up again saying it needed big whitewalls, too. It seems like every time my wife speaks up, my wallet gets lighter!
I didn't want this truck too shiny, so we used basecoat only, adding a little more hardener. We also built a 5-inch-wider bed, tubbed 4 inches, but using a tailgate off an 8-foot longbed (which is wider and taller); made a 1 3/4-inch dropped rear sill; raised the bumper brackets 3/4 inch; and then bought new fenders, running boards, and bumpers from Dennis Carpenter (no relation).
For the suspension, we contacted Hot Rod Classic Truck Parts and got a 3-inch dropped axle along with a set of 4-inch dropped mono-leaf springs. In the rear, we flipped springs and C-notched the frame. On top of raising the running boards and fenders up 3/4 inch, we achieved the stance we were looking for. Then came the engine-or better yet, the vintage-style parts chasing for it.
Peggy got on eBay and found a Fenton three-deuce intake for the old Y-Block. To help more with the looks of the 312, she ordered finned-aluminum valve covers and breathers from Mooneyes. Next came out the huge Speedway Motors catalog, and among other things, she acquired a pair of Smithy's steelpack mufflers.
Inside the truck, we lowered the seat 2 inches, dropped the steering column another 2 1/2 inches, and then called Vintage Glass (so we could see clearly for once!).
For the logo on the door, I decided to pay tribute to my dad, who was a certified welder by trade as well as a dirt track racer in his youth. His name was A.C. Carpenter, but he went by the nickname "Zeke". The car on the door reflects his last race car, a '37 Ford. Also, the number on the door really was our phone number-we used letters back in the day, and yes, it was definitely a party line, which might have to be explained to some of the younger readers. For the artwork, we hired Mark Peters in Asheville, North Carolina (he's done all of the art for my business over the years).
The truck's been a lot of fun, especially being able to build it with my brothers, who both live nearby. This year, as Peggy and I were cruising Myrtle Beach Boulevard, we just couldn't believe that we were actually riding in "Old Blue", our beloved trash truck!
We've had this truck since the '80s; it was a longbed and, basically, just the trash truck-and the one we drove over the river and through the woods to go fishing. It was blue, so naturally we called it "Old Blue". Maybe 8-10 years ago, Dan decided to spruce it up a little (it was looking pretty rough), so he put a brand-new greenish primer on it-that was it. My grandson, Jordan (young at the time), said it was still Old Blue because the inside of the truck was still blue, and that was the heart of the truck-so we continued calling it Old Blue. This past year, Dan decided to build a shop truck for fun. He built this truck in five months instead of five years-and he had a ball doing it. It's so much fun to drive (and yes, he lets me drive it-for the same reason as the silver truck) with the three-speed on the column and big-old steering wheel. The funniest thing of all-we went with not having a truck at all for 25 years to now having two! Ain't life grand?!