Pick-ups are all the rage among hot rodders these days and the older they look, the cooler they are. The pick-up truck was never designed to be pretty as they are predominately workhorses and need to be tough to handle the daily grind of knocks and scrapes. Having said that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when modified, make great rods giving the builder many options as to how they want the finished vehicle to look.
The 34 Ford pick-up gracing these pages is owned by Brian Cuolahan and is a prime example of the simplicity yet cool look one can get from an early model workhorse. “I purchased the 34 in 2005 from American Hemi Speed Centre in SA” says Brian. “I had wanted a pickup for some time and a car I didn’t have to rebuild from the chassis up, I was doing a total rebuild at the time on a 59 Tbird that was taking a lot longer than I thought when I first started”
The bulk of the work on the rod was completed over in the United States before reaching our shores. From what information can be gathered, the cab and tray were matched up to a suitable rolling chassis keeping the period correct flat head engine and drive line in place. No guards, no bonnet, just the bare essentials that exemplifies the true meaning of “rodding” a vehicle. The headlights have been lowered and brought in closer to the radiator giving it a tighter look. With its flat black paint, quirky business name on the door and yellow powder coated rims with skinny pie crust tires, it was subsequently put on a boat and sent to our shores, ending up in SA as mentioned earlier.
Brian located the pick up through the classifieds and headed over to check his newly acquired ride. “When the car arrived the delivery guy said he wouldn’t be driving that anywhere, no brakes and the strangest looking shockers he’d ever seen….he wasn’t wrong about the brakes! We had quite a few adventures trying to pull the truck up when we first got it.” So first on the to-do list was to apply some suitable brakes. Brian utilised a master cylinder from a 39 Ford mated up to 40 Ford drums. The only machining required was to move the wheel cylinders in so as to clear the drums. With the stopping power sorted out it was time to look at the go side and up the power of the 221c.i. flatty.
There’s not a lot to these 85 hp motors so Brian had the block honed out, replaced the waterpump, and added electronic ignition for easier starts. During the rebuild, a ¾ Esky race cam was slipped in giving the classic donk better low end torque and a lumpier note. The whole electrical system was changed from its original 6 volt system to the more compliable 12 volt version using a 12 volt generator. With a new single exhaust system, this retro rod has a cool sound emanating from it to add to the overall coolness of the pick-up. Next came the original 3 speed box and, as they were a tough unit for their day with plenty still around, Brian and a friend simply reconditioned it utilising off the shelf parts from the States. The original diff is still out back held in place by the original suspension. The shockers were upgraded from the oil filled units to the more ride friendly friction type. Brian has plans of adding a pan hard bar to improve on the road handling.
Checking over the aging aesthetics of Henry’s design, Brian drew up a short list of wants and needs and set to work. He replaced the timber floor in the tray retaining the original appearance with hardwood. A set of aftermarket LED tail/indicators were added for legal reasons but can be easily flipped up out of sight when wanting to go true rod style. Up front was a sprint car style nerf bar that looked the part but after some deliberation, he replaced it with a more minimal stainless steel spreader. Another addition to the chassis rails is a custom stainless steel dress piece from Cut That in Colac to cover an unwanted steering shaft hole.
The interior was next on the list and keeping with the simplicity theme, Brian opted for the bare essentials. The Mexican blanket came already stitched in as part of the seat fabric so Brian left it alone. The dash was minus the necessary gauges so he did a garage crawl around his own shed and came up with a speedo out of an early sixties beetle and a couple of non-matching fuel, amp and oil dials. Throw in a light switch, ignition and original manual choke and that’s pretty much it for the dash. The only other addition is the truck’s mascot in the form of a bobbing skull on a handmade body looking out the back window courtesy of Dirty White Boyz in the US.
In 2010, Brian had a friend do a total strip back and respray the cabin to guarantee it lasts for many more years to come. Unfortunately, he had to lose the name on the door but plans are afoot for a new, closer to home, name. This old girl is not shrouded in moth balls as Brian likes “taking it up to Chopped where I can thrash it about a bit with friends and their cars.” If you don’t know Chopped, it’s mud drags!
Brian intends on keeping this little lugger in the family since it has already taken part in momentous family occasion. “The pickup featured in my daughter’s wedding as the grooms transport – we just piled all the boys in the back! My kids enjoy taking the pickup for a spin and I try to take it to as many car shows as possible throughout the year, we have found that hot rodding is a great social & family activity with our kids joining in now with their own cars. A lot of older people really enjoy the pick-up and often come up to me with stories of when they were younger and would pile into the back of a similar truck for a Sunday drive or a trip to town.” She’s definitely a keeper Brian!
MODEL: Tanaya HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Ellissa at Rockabilly Heads