AUGUSTA — When Jeff Carroll found his ’49 Ford F1 pickup, it was a far cry from the dream vehicle he envisioned it could be.
"I bought it out of a fence row … actually, I bought two trucks. The other one was in a field … I gave 50 bucks for the two of them," he said.
At the time, back in 2008, the half-ton truck was serving as a home to all kinds of critters. "I found a small skull inside it. All I could see of the engine was the top of the air cleaner," he said.
Pack rats had filled the engine bay with sticks and other debris. Mice had got inside the seat and shredded the stuffing, which they used to build nests in the headliner tray above the windshield, causing a huge rust hole in that piece of metal.
"But I found the owners manual under the seat. I don’t know how it survived all that, Carroll said. "The last time it was tagged was in 1974."
The body was bent and rusted in all the places an old farm truck would be.
"It looked like it had marked every tree and fence post on the farm," Carroll mused. "But the truck was complete. Only the tail gate was missing. All four of the hub caps were still on it."
He had always wanted to build a vintage truck and with his buddy, Dale Metsker, offering both the use of his shop and his expertise, the two set to work disassembling the F1 half-ton.
"He was a lot of help. He knew more about building a truck than I did," Carroll said. They stripped the body and bed off the chassis, which got a Mustang II front suspension, complete with power rack and pinion steering and disc brakes, welded in place of the old straight beam axle.
The old flathead V-8 engine and transmission were pulled and would be traded later for installation of a new dual exhaust system. Carroll wanted to keep his truck as close to all-Ford as possible.
"A lot of people say you can’t put a Ford in a Ford, but Dale and I didn’t know that, so we did it anyway," he said. They located a 302 cubic inch Ford small-block V-8 and rebuilt it, installing a new camshaft, exhaust valves, main and rod bearings. It was topped off with an Edelbrock intake manifold and 4-barrel carburetor.
Chance Transmissions rebuilt the C4 automatic transmission that came with the salvage-yard 302 and a highway-geared 9-inch Ford rear end was slipped under the back end of the truck.
While the F1 was disassembled, Carroll had his nephew, Rob Carroll of Arkansas City, sandblast the frame, cab and bed and spray it with heavy-duty primer.
There was a lot of body work to be done and some pieces were just too far gone to be saved. So in addition to the new aftermarket tail gate, the truck sports new running boards and a new front panel for the cargo box.
Carroll and Metsker used the other truck, a 3/4-ton, as a reference when they began reassembling the project truck. A friend planed beautiful oak to the correct thickness for the bed floor, which is set off by a matching hand-built cargo box designed to carry cleaning supplies and other car show/cruise necessities.
Once all the metal work was done, Carroll got to try his hand at painting the truck — his first such effort. The bright red paint job is accented by a set of chromed steel wheels and dog dish-style hubcaps. Cooper blackwall tires, beefy 235x70x15s in the rear and 205x70x15s up front, complete the rolling stock.
The rear tail light panel had to be modified to handle the thicker LED tail light assemblies and Carroll used an extra set of grille bar lights from the other truck, fitted with amber lenses, to serve as turn signals. Fresh new bumpers round out the look.
Inside, the cozy cab is awash in beautiful beige leather applied by Rick Fisher of Rick Fisher Upholstery in Augusta. Carroll can’t say for sure what kind of bucket seats were used, as he got them out of the trunk of a parts car … but he’s pretty sure they’re of GM manufacture and he’s certain they are comfortable.
They sit atop an upholstered platform that has doors on each side, providing access to a storage area. Dean Metsker handled the carpeting duties.
A Pontiac Fiero tilt column and steering wheel were used, with a tall, double-bend Lokar shifter handling gear changes. A set of white-faced Dolphin gauges fill the polished billet aluminum dash insert, with a big Dolphin tachometer mounted atop the dashboard.
Below the dash rests a Vintage Air panel. "One thing it had to have was air conditioning," said Carroll, who attends upwards of 20 car shows a year, most of them in the heat of the summer months.
"I’ve always been a truck guy," he says. And now he can say that he has built one himself, with a little help from his friends.