We've been over the almost knee-jerk reaction we all have for old shop trucks of all stages of distress and freshness. Pretty much any shop truck is a welcome sight even if it isn't an employee of the shop whose logo is on the doors (see last month for a logo how-to), but Jim Malone of Wild West Street Rods in Farmington, New Mexico, wanted/needed a shop truck for several legit reasons. Not only did Jim need a parts hauler, but he also wanted a truck of his own that would get attention and showcase the work he does at the shop, and what happens when you make a shop truck out of a timeless '40 Ford. That's what's called the best of both worlds.
It all started after Jim fell in love with a '40 Ford pickup he had worked on for a customer. He made a call to a good friend in Hemet, California, to keep an eye out for one and a few months later Jim got a call. There was a project, and we use the term loosely, that was basically a rough and rusty cab, even rougher rear fenders and running boards, OK front fenders, a grille, and no bed, bumpers, or hood. Even after assessing the damage and missing parts, Jim agreed to the asking price of five Ben Franklins and had his beautiful mess hauled to New Mexico.
After getting the old tin in the shop Jim thought the cab was fixable but wouldn't turn down a better one to start with, in the meantime he found a decent bed locally and a few other items at the swap meet. Just like any shop-owned project, the '40 had to wait its turn between customer work, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because three years later Jim found a very nice cab and beautiful doors while at the Goodguys show in Colorado. When Jim removed the stock seat from the new cab there was a tag from FoMoCo saying the truck had been rebuilt in Richmond, California, which, as luck would have it, is where Jim lived for more than two decades and even graduated from Richmond High School-a match made in heaven.
The year was now 2007 and Jim had collected enough parts to start really digging into the Ford for the next two years. He installed a Mustang II IFS from Street Rod Engineering along with disc brakes and a power rack-and-pinion to give the truck a nice ride since it was going to be driven quite a bit. Of course, a Ford 9-inch is now hung out back using a set of parallel leaves and hangers from Street Rod Engineering. Jim chose a set of low-key, timeless steel wheels from Wheel Vintiques and BFGoodrich whitewalls from Coker Tire.
Jim banged every panel on the truck until it was straight enough to consider laying color on. Jim settled on PPG's Hot Red, because you just can't beat a black or a red '40 Ford, and since the truck was going to get used he went with red. After the paint was dry, Jim had an old sign painter in Farmington hand letter the Wild West Street Rods logo on the doors, and if get the chance to walk around the truck you'd be hard-pressed to tell that the revolver isn't following you as you walk-for real.
Jim put together a Turbo 350 trans while Ernie Riner at Motor Medic machined, blueprinted, balanced, and rebuilt the early small-journal 327 Chevy mill. The engine is filled with plenty of go-fast and reliable goodies like a Chet Herbert cam, a forged crank, TRW 10:1 pistons, and topped with a Holley Air-Gap intake and 650-cfm carb.
The stock bench seat was covered in red leather by Lupe Sandoval in Highland, California, who also stitched up the door and kick panels. Jim installed a Vintage Air system for those hot Southwest summers, but he can also turn on the heat during those chilly, high-altitude, snowy winters.
Jim has done a good job of attracting customers and awards with the '40 since he got it done last year. He's even done some out of state cruising in it and has plans for more; it's a good thing he has his right-hand man Lorenzo Blackie back at the shop working because Jim might just keep driving!