How I came about to be looking for a truck is a long story, so I’ll skip it. I did find one in the States, left a deposit on it an everythin, only to discover while I was applyin for import certificate they’d changed the rules on historic vehicles, and the fuckin government wanted import duty on the truck, the shippin, and VAT on the whole fuckin lot – tax on a tax on a tax – which come to two and a half grand on top of truck an shippin. Bollocks. So I screwed that, lost me 500 bucks deposit, and started lookin in UK.
Found this F-1 on ebay (Yay!), a ’51 in grey primer with a blown (as in blown-up…) flathead 6-pot in it. Dude was askin telephone numbers for it, so it didn’t sell, so I got in touch after auction ended and tried to score it off him. The lump was only worth it’s weight as a boat anchor, so after a coupla weeks negotiation by text I did a deal on the rollin chassis, and borrowed a Merc van an hired a trailer and set off at midnight for it.
Found his place at 5.30am, a twee little village in the countryside around Exeter. Was dead funny, cos he lived in this proper ‘roses round the door’ little street, the other half dozen houses were all cottagey and lovely, and at the end was this guy’s place, with two more rusty trucks, and huge piles of rusty parts. It looked like Steptoe’s lair. On a bad day. I says to him, ‘Bloody hell, I bet your neighbours like you.’ But it was lost on him, dead straight-faced he goes, ‘No, they’re making me take me garage down.’ Since there wasn’t a garage in sight, I presumed he meant the lash-up lean-to propped against the side of the house made of pallets, plywood and plastic sheetin, where it turned out he kept his T-bucket. Cool. We loaded the F-1 and bombed it back to Preston, home by tea-time, a 17 hour round trip.
I stashed the truck in me mate’s unit, and hauled the engine and box out of me old scrap Trannie. Old diesels never die, they just knock harder. Fittin the motor wasn’t any great shakes, there was two holes in the original truck cross-member, and with only a tad of elongatin with a file the Trannie gearbox mount dropped straight into. Working forwards from there I made up some new engine mounts and the job was pretty much done.
The exhaust pipe dropped nicely from the manifold right between the engine mount and the steerin box, just a 90 degree bend and straight pipe to the silencer. I made up the usual stuff to connect the clutch cable to the original pedal, throttle linkages etc, and managed to fit in the original Trannie radiator and hoses, just by junkin the viscous fan and then using an electric one hooked to a thermostat.
I fabbed up a gear lever, but needed a knob, but in the next unit a dude makes wrought iron ornamental gates, so he give me one of the cast iron balls they decorate them with. Groovy.
I had it up and runnin by the Friday before Christmas, 2005, except the fuel tank was totally clogged, but I was determined to drive it, so I drilled a coupla holes in an old plastic 5 gallon can, shoved it behind the seat and stuck the fuel pipes down into it, and set off home. But by the time I’d done that it was 5pm, pitch black, an snowin…
The first bump I hit at any speed (about 35mph) the whole truck lurched about three feet to the right, just into the oncomin lane. I made a mental note to watch out for that, then the wipers stopped working, and me hands froze so much tryin to fix them I dropped the little nuts in the snow. So I just drove home anyway, 6 miles across town, in the traffic, in the snow, with dodgy steerin an no wipers. At least the lights worked. Turned out the wiper motor was the original 6-volt jobbie and 12 volts had fried it. On the good side the truck had a TCI dual-circuit master cylinder, front disc conversion, Mustang rear brake conversion and brake pipes throughout, all of it damn near brand new.
On the downside, there was play in both kingpin bushes, one kingpin was loose in the axle, the front spring mount cross-member was loose, one rear wheel bearing was movin in and out 35 thou and up and down 16 thou on the axle casing, one of the castor wedges was fitted back to front, and it had ¼ of an inch of toe-out! And about 7 inches of free play at the steering wheel rim… I fixed everything, even rebuilt the steering box by making new hardened steel shims, but it still steered like a twat. I fitted a steering damper, which took the horrendous shimmy out of it, but you still needed both hands and a lane and half on the motorway at speed. So eventually I fitted a steerin box off a Series III Landrover I got on ebay for a fiver. A good few hours engineerin to make it fit, but then ti steered better than a Trannie – one hand on the wheel, one arm out the window, cruising at 75.