Take a moment and think back to your first driving experience. I bet most of you wish that vehicle was still around. Well, in Merlin Koehn’s case he learned how to drive in a ’59 Ford pickup, the very pickup shown here as a matter of fact. Granted, this truck hasn’t always looked this way, but ever since 1962 when his dad bought it, young Merlin had plans for it.
Merlin’s dad purchased the truck not only for transportation back and forth from work, but to haul junk and yard debris to the local landfill. Some of the Merlin’s favorite pastimes in his dad’s truck were using it as a plow to smash through large snow drifts during the winter months and blasting through flooded roads during the springtime. As a youngster Merlin’s experiences with the pickup included spending quality time with his father as they maintained and sometimes repaired the Ford when needed. Soon it came time for Merlin to learn how to drive, and the 223ci straight-six and three-on-the-tree equipped pickup served the purpose. Once he turned 17 years old, Merlin purchased his dad’s truck and began his childhood dream of restoring/hot rodding it.
The first thing Merlin tackled was the removal of the small six-cylinder and three-speed swapping ’em out for a Chevy 327/TH350 combo (pirated from his brother in-law’s ’69 Bel Air). He then saved up enough money to have a local farmer (who painted John Deere tractors) give it a fresh coat of dark red enamel. The spruced-up old pickup stayed in that condition till after he married the love of his life Melissa. After settling down, both he and Melissa decided that Merlin’s truck truly needed restoration – and a touch of hot rod attitude as well.
The ’59’s rodstoration began in earnest with Merlin stripping the truck to its frame bare frame. With finances a bit tight in the beginning, the couple’s first order of business was to have the frame sandblasted followed by a nice coat of paint. The game plan was to buy the big-ticket items as the funds became available.
As the job market became weak, spare cash dwindled and the truck project had to take a back seat for a while and ended up getting parked in storage rental until things picked up and they moved into a home with a garage. Once they finally moved into their new digs Merlin and his pals John Nitcher and Jim McCoy decided that Thursday evenings would be garage night. After work, a hot meal, and a cold brew, the guys would wrench on the pickup into the evening. During that time they managed to reinstall the drivetrain, cutting out the rusted sections of the body and re-welding new pieces into place.
As work progressed Merlin took his good friend Jim McCoy to Anderson, Indiana, where they visited with John Spears (owner of Speartech) to check out the LT1/4L60 combos he assembles for car/truck projects. Merlin was so impressed with John’s work he ended up loading up a motor/transmission package into the back of Jim’s truck and taking it back home. Once they pulled the 327/TH350, they added a pair of Street & Performance headers to the new engine combo and installed it into the ’59’s chassis
Since plans for the rodstoration expanded, Merlin was in the market for someone to bring the truck all together with some top-notch craftsmanship. So Merlin set up a meeting with Tim Devlin (owner of Devlin Rod & Customs) to lay out his plan to finish up the truck and complete his childhood dream. Tim saw the vision and worked out all the fine details. Tim’s crew started on the truck, smoothing out the body, replacing the front bed panel, and tucking the bumpers in close to the body. Then they filled in the gas filler hole and installed an under-bed poly tank from Sacramento Vintage Ford. Ryan James wrapped up the exterior by laying on a beautiful coat of Indian Turquoise and Colonial White paint over the freshly smoothed body panels.
Tim then had the truck sent to Scott Downy (owner of Downey’s Auto Upholstery). That’s where Scott worked his magic on the interior, installing a white/turquoise vinyl and wool cloth bench seat, while having matching custom-fitted carpet installed over the newly finished floorpans. A set of VDO gauges replaced the factory pieces and an ididit tilt column with shifter connected to a Lecarra Mark 10 Classic steering wheel wrapped up the controls. To keep the cabin cool while on those hot cruises a Vintage Air system was installed as well.
When Merlin got his truck back, it was time for him to wrap up the finishing touches on the suspension and mechanical items to get the truck moving on its own. Merlin had chosen a Fatman Fabrication Mustang II-style front suspension with disc brakes and a set of RideTech ShockWaves to set the ride height to the perfect stance he envisioned. Out back, the Ford 9-inch rearend housed a set of 3.70 gears and hung by a set of custom dropped bent springs lowering the rear a total of 4 inches. A set of 15x8 Wheel Vintiques Smoothies wrapped in P275/60R15 BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires finished it off and got the pickup down on the blacktop.
Merlin could now step back with his wife Melissa by his side and take a look at his truck. He had finally realized his vision that he developed as a young boy riding alongside his dad on a long dusty country road. Looking back, there was nothing he would change. He developed memorable stories in the garage with close friends, while making new ones along the way and completing his childhood dream.
Rearend / Ratio: Ford 9-inch / 3.70
Rear suspension: Atlas springs with Monroe air shocks
Rear brakes: drums
Front suspension: Fatman Mustang II with RideTech Air ShockWaves
Front brakes: 11-inch disC
Steering box: power rack-and-pinion
Front wheels: Wheel Vintiques Smoothie (Bare) 15x8
Rear wheels: Wheel Vintiques Smoothie (Bare) 15x8
Front tires: BFGoodrich – Radial T/A - P275/60R-15
Rear tires: BFGoodrich – Radial T/A - P275/60R-15
Gas tank: under bed poly tank from Sacramento Vintage Ford
Engine: ’94 LT1
Valve covers: custom-painted stock valve covers
Manifold / Induction: stock
Headers: Street & Performance Type III LT1/LT4 Ceramic coated inside / outside
Exhaust / Mufflers: custom / MagnaFlow
Shifter: ididit column shifter
Modifications: filled-in fuel filler hole by driver door
Fenders front / rear: stock
Grille: chrome stock
Bed: aluminum tread plate floor with sprayed matching color Line-X bedliner
Bodywork and paint by: Devlin Rod & Customs, Wichita, KS
Paint type / Color: RM Diamont / Indian Turquoise Stock #1117 and Colonial White Stock #570
Headlights / Taillights: stock
Outside mirrors: stock
Bumpers: chrome stock
Gauges: VDO Cockpit Royal
Air conditioning: Vintage Air
Stereo: Sony CDX F7710
Steering wheel: Lecarra Mark 10 Classic
Steering column: ididit steel tilt column with shifter
Upholstery by: Downey’s Auto Upholstery, Wichita, KS
Material / Color: vinyl and wool fabric / off-white and turquoise
Carpet: wool short loop / turquoise