1949 Ford Pickup Rescue

Abandoned 1949 Ford pickup lives to fight another day.


| July 2014



1949 Ford Pickup

The derelict 1949 Ford pickup abandoned in the weeds behind a farmhouse.

Photo by Clell G. Ballard

There was a time in America when old vehicles were just that: old. When they reached that stage and were no longer drivable, they were often just parked. In dry areas like ours where nothing rusts away, they just sat and sat, usually out of sight. Such was the case of the 1949 Ford pickup in this story.

In 1974 I discovered an old red farm pickup in the weeds behind an unoccupied rural house. To a person who likes old vehicles, it looked pretty good. It took some investigation, but I tracked down the owner and purchased it for the princely sum of $50. My brothers helped me tow it home behind the World War II Dodge Army truck I was in the process of restoring.

A mechanical diagnosis indicated the probable reason for its abandonment: a badly burned exhaust valve. In addition, the flathead V-8 engine was cracked from water left in it during freezing weather. It looked like major expenses would be required to put the pickup back on the road.

A cracked engine block is almost always terminal damage. However, years of experience with Ford flathead V-8 engines taught me that they crack in, meaning the crack is internal and not visible. Experience also taught that some such cracks were semi-permanently repairable by using a block sealer, which is poured into the radiator water. The engine is started and whatever component is in the block sealer seeps into the crack and hardens so water can no longer contaminate the engine oil. I tried that repair and it worked.

Some engine disassembly was necessary to address the valve problem. It is amazingly easy to remove one of an old Ford V-8’s two heads (one on each side of the V) to expose the valves that are in the block. Removal of the intake manifold was also necessary but again such removal is not difficult. The valve seat was renewed and a new exhaust valve was installed. Things were “buttoned back up” with new gaskets and voila! The old pickup was “on the road again.”

New home for an old truck

My interest and repair efforts on behalf of the Ford pickup came more from a desire to save it from oblivion than a desire to use it. One of my brothers who’d originally helped salvage it later expressed interest in the Ford. He offered to pay my out-of-the-pocket repair costs, so ownership passed to him. (Remember that old vehicles in those days had little or no monetary value.)