Cornbinders! Now that’s what you’ve most likely been expecting from me. So just why is the lead picture of an old Ford pickup? Let me explain…
It all started off innocently enough. I was in college at the time, and one of the ways I paid rent and tuition was buying and selling vehicles. So one day after selling my previous profitable project, I picked up an Autotrader. It didn’t take long until I came across a listing for a “1950 Ford F1 4×4”, with an asking price of $500. Now I knew that Ford didn’t build ’em that way so it had to be a conversion of some sort. The listing didn’t go into much detail, but I also knew that any running and driving 4×4 could easily be sold for at least $1000 at the time. So I made the call.
I reached the owner’s wife, who told me that her husband would be home shortly. About all she knew was that it was an abandoned father/son project, that the old family Travelall was somehow involved, and that it had been driven since the conversion.
The Ford 4×4 pickup was sitting in the corner of the seller’s shop, sharing the space with a 1965 or 1966 Mustang. He then started telling the story of how he had a rusty but great running old Travelall that he had used for towing a travel trailer, and the F1, which had a dead engine at the time. It was unclear whether it was father or son who decided it would be a good idea to merge the two. In any event, the decision was made to put the F1 body on the 4×4 Travelall chassis. The goal was to have it done in time to drive it to a show held by a local club, Henry’s Haulers, so they went to work. Because of their self imposed deadline they only did the minimum to get the body mounted and legally drivable. That meant that they didn’t bother to figure out how to connect the alternator or hook up any more than head, tail and brake lights.
Then came the big revelation: his son had “changed” the oil in the transplanted IH 392, forgotten to fill it, and then ran it for awhile. Of course this would have been a good time to… run! However he fired it up, and it did show a little bit of oil pressure on the aftermarket gauge hanging under the dash, and there was no lifter noise.
So the deal was struck and we started our 100 mile journey home in the IH-powered Ford. It was quickly getting dark, I was going to have to use the lights, and it didn’t have a functioning charging system. So I just drove it until the lights started getting dim, and then we pulled off the freeway, found a parking lot, and hooked up the jumper cables. We repeated that several more times until we made it home without any other serious issues.
The next morning I went out to survey my new purchase. The first order of business was to get the charging system working. Although I had never touched an IH before, I quickly realized that it had a GM 10si (internally regulated) alternator. I got out my manuals and found a wiring diagram for it. The diagram showed the idiot light in the circuit, and not wanting to take a chance, I replicated that portion of the circuit by using the brake warning lamp in the IH speedo that was hung under the dash (I found out decades later that the portion of the IH harness that was attached to the engine contained a resistor wire that IH used, as the current limiting device, instead of an idiot light).
I got it all wired and fired it up, and lo and behold my multimeter showed that it was charging: Success! I celebrated by transferring the title, getting tags and driving the F1 to work at the service station. It didn’t take long before someone came in and inquired if the truck parked on the side of the building was for sale. I declined even, though I could have pocketed a quick $500, or more, for driving to Seattle and splicing a couple of wires. At least it reinforced in my mind that I made a good purchase.
Over the next few weeks I went to work making it a more useable truck. That included hooking up the under-dash heater, dragging out the add-on turn signal switch and Ford fuel gauge from the box of parts I got with the truck, and hooking them up too. I also figured out the transmission was the venerable Torqueflight 727, so I found another diagram and used that to hook up a clear fog light as a backup light off of the factory switch.
One thing I noticed on the way home was that it seemed to be running pretty lean, as evidenced by the fact that occasionally while driving down the freeway it would back fire. So I set out to rebuild its Holley 4bbl carb, and found a big mess. The previous owners had rebuilt the carb with a generic kit that used the “improved” style needle and seat. On a standard Holley modular carb needle and seat, a nut is used to adjust the seat with a screw to lock it in position and create the seal. The “improved” style uses a slot in the seat to adjust it and a nut to lock it down. Apparently someone was feeling strong that day and cranked down the nut as tight as it would go, plus a 1/4 turn for good measure.
What that did was strip out the top portion of the threads in the fuel bowl. To fix it they just adjusted the fuel level down until they found a couple of useable threads and called it good. That explained the lean running. Since I had another project car sitting around, a 1968 429 powered T-bird I borrowed the Autolite/Motorcraft 4bbl carb from it. Sure enough it ran a whole lot better. I did some asking around and found a core Holley for free, did some mixing and matching of parts and soon had a properly working carb.
I continued to drive the Ford, but once the weather started warming up I found out that the radiator didn’t have the capacity to keep the 392 cool at speed. I got out the tape measure and just for kicks opened up the hood of the T-bird again. “Hey; that radiator looks like it will actually fit, and it’s a three-row unit instead of a one-row in the truck”. So the T-bird was taken off the road yet again, and lo and behold: the truck didn’t overheat anymore. I eventually headed to the old, old school junk yard out in the county with my trusty tape measure. I didn’t come across a similar T-bird but I did find a big block powered Mercury that had a three-row, cross-flow radiator that would fit between the fenders and had the outlets in the correct locations and sizes. With that radiator in there I was good to go, at least for a while….
At the time, in addition to working at the service station I did some work as a merchandiser. For that job I’d travel around to stores setting up displays, including indoor and outdoor signage. So when I had something large to transport I took the truck. Well one day on my way back home from a job she started to knock. A check of the oil showed it was full so I figured I would try and make it home. Unfortunately a couple of miles from home a rod decided it needed a change of scenery and attempted to exit the engine. With the help of a friend and a tow strap I got it home; quite the fun ride without the power assist for the brakes and steering.
Calling the local wrecking yards didn’t turn up much; the highest priced yard in the area had a 345, for something like $700. A call to the old school yard located a 345 they thought was good for half the price, but of course I would have to pull it myself. The next weekend I took a couple of buddies out there; we got it fired up and it seemed to run well enough. A few hours later we had it out and were on our way back home. Once installed, tuned up right, and with the 392’s 4bbl carb and intake replacing the 2bbl 345 stuff, it had at least as much power as the 392 – at least since I acquired the truck.
I decided it was a keeper and drove it for quite a few more years. It earned its keep towing home projects (including the 1984 626 seen in my last installment), hauling things from time to time, as well as providing fun and getting us around in the snow using its 4wd. After getting married and buying a house I found it spending more and more time just sitting.
Years later we had inherited my wife’s grandparent’s small travel trailer, so we needed something for pulling it and that the wife would ride in willingly. So after finding a good deal on a more modern, easier to live with pickup that the wife would also drive, it came time to sell the F1-all. I stuck a For Sale sign in it and parked it in the corner of the yard. One day when I was outside the Metro Bus stopped at the stop across the street, the driver jumped out ran over and said “I want your truck, what is your phone number?” and ran back to his bus full of passengers. When he called later he said he had been eyeballing it for months as he drove by it every day on his route, and when he saw the for sale sign he knew he had to have it. The following Saturday he showed up with $2500 in his hand, and off it went.
So while it was only IH under the skin it did
indoctrinate me into the cult of the SV, infect me with IH addiction, even if it would lay dormant, with an occasional mild flare up, for a few years before I finally succumbed to the disease.