It’s the original and unrestored body that’ll make you look at Page Rad’s ’39 Ford pickup, but it’s the details that’ll keep you from turning away. Details like the 1950s sprint car gas cap that was massaged into the 76-year-old body, or the ’61 Gibson guitar rhythm-and-treble switch that’ll bypass the MagnaFlow exhaust with nothing more than a flick.
Rad’s ’39 breaks as many rules as it can. “I wanted the oldest, most original truck possible,” he says about why he shied away from more prevalent ’50s- and ’60s-era metal for the extraordinary. “1930s trucks aren’t supposed to last this long,” he says about why his finding one in this sort of condition never should’ve happened. “Most of them sat in fields for decades, where grass grew through their seats, and they eventually rusted to death.”
But not Rad’s. For everyone else, though, the ’39 was predominantly a workhorse. Smashed grilles, broken glass, and bent-up body panels were the price paid for a machine that typically lived out its life on a farm. Here, there was no farm, according to the previous owner, who bought the ’39 new and parked it for good in 1963. “This thing was in its original condition when I saw it; no rust,” Rad says about the first time he pressured the truck’s original owner into selling it. “He wouldn’t let it go, but after I kept asking, his wife finally made him do it.”
Once in Rad’s hands the Ford underwent a restoration that takes cues from nearly every decade. The original 85hp, flathead engine still sits underneath the hood, only today it lays down enough power to move a truckload of hay across a field in less than 10 seconds—or 330 hp. Vintage engine specialist H&H Flatheads rebuilt the long-block and fitted it with a blower before Hot Rod Service Company converted it all to a fuel-injection-based system using an unlikely combination of Accel’s DFI, Honda throttle bodies, and a series of Corvette Z06 fuel injectors. “It was tricky to get it tuned right, and cold starts were tough at first,” Rad says about the months’ worth of street tuning that’d take place before the ’39 made its 2014 SEMA debut under its own power.
Rad will tell you that the whole build went smooth enough, but press him and you’ll find that it wasn’t without complications. Breaking rules meant disc brakes replaced the factory-issue up front. Trouble was, the adapters the wheels now required pushed everything out too far and, were it not for all of this, the truck would’ve been nearly completed. Out came the engine and in went Hot Rod Service Company’s fabrication team, who notched and welded the frame, tucking everything back underneath the fenders where it belongs.
Seventy-six-year-old bodies don’t get much more honest than this. Exterior metal-work, paint, and clear-coats were all skipped in favor of preserving the ’39’s aged scars. “This thing has no mask,” Rad says about the body and all of its patina. “It shows its true colors.” True colors that are made evident by the transparent bed that reveals the truck’s original frame below that’s accompanied by AccuAir suspension all around. “The last thing I wanted to do was hide all of the work,” he says, “so back there, it’s all plexiglass.”
Details prevail at every corner, like artist Jeff Decker’s ornamental skulls that’ve been carefully placed on the hood and on shift-knob duty, and the custom interior that’s made up of metal-flaked hues reminiscent of an era halfway between 1939 and now. Out back, a 1930’s-era fooey-face taillight sits on the driver’s side that lights up, sticks its tongue out, and’ll give you a week’s worth of nightmares every time the brake pedal’s tapped.
This Ford wasn’t built to be stared at all day, though. Torque’s transferred onto the rebarreled rims with what Rad says are the “era-specific, milk-truck hubcaps it was meant to have,” by means of a Chevy S10 transmission and Ford nine-inch rear end. “The wheels,” he says, “let me keep it as old-school as possible,” but the transmission and rear end allow him to get up to 100 mph should he ever need to—one very important detail that Rad wasn’t about to overlook.