AUGUST 6, 2010 – I’ve always been a Ford truck girl, maybe because of my hillbilly blood. In college, I drove my daddy’s old ’69 Ford Stepside, later had a ’70 Ford F250 Sport Custom Camper Special, so when I got the itch to have an old truck again, the ’48 became the obvious choice since it was the first F-series truck. Considering my current daily driver is an ’01 Ford F150, why not have the truck that started it all?
Thus, my finding Mae (now known as Bondorella for reasons that will be explained).
Mae (or Bondorella if you prefer) is a ‘48 Ford F1 (F1 indicates the load capacity 1 being a 1/2 ton). Nicknamed the “Pig-Nosed Ford” and the “Bonus Built” truck, the ’48 was a massive redesign for Ford, the first since the beginning of WW II. At the time, Chevy led sales in light trucks, so Ford invested a significant amount of money to be competitive in the market again. When they released the F-Series in 1948, it was advertised as the “Million Dollar Cab”—the “million” reflecting the cost Ford spent researching, designing, and developing the truck’s new interior. It featured a taller, wider cab, upholstered coil spring seat (with room for a driver and two passengers), visors, an ashtray, single-paned windshield for a wide expanse view; they even changed the way the cab mounted to the frame to increase comfort, including rubber pads and bushings to reduce cab noise and soften the ride.
When I bought the truck in June of 2006, she was drive-able, but barely. She had a six-cylinder over-head-valve engine and a three-speed on the floor transmission (double-clutch to shift). Charles Franklin of Vintage V8 Restoration said it was the worst condition vehicle ever driven to his shop under its own power. The leaf springs were sheared on one side and resting on the frame. The steering box was cracked. The engine worn out, along with the tranny. In other words, everything needed to be redone. Since the OHV engine wasn’t original anyway, I went with a rebuilt flathead. The flat-eight was an original option on the truck, so it stays true to the truck’s history. It’s a Mercury block with a Mercury stroker crank, Offenhauser heads, and vintage rebuilt dual Stromberg carburetors—a really beautiful engine.
I wanted to stay with standard transmission to maintain “original” integrity, but everyone recommended a Ford Automatic Overdrive. Here’s why: The flattie doesn’t put out a lot of power, so to help with acceleration, a shorter rear-gearing is used, but that limits top speed. With an AOD, you essentially have another gear, which helps solve the speed issue at the top. Understanding that (and wanting to use the truck as a daily driver) it only made sense. Sometimes you’ve just got to trust those in the know.
Mechanically, everything’s been touched. Too much to even mention. Now it’s time for cosmetics. We’ve bead blasted the front and rear paint, including the entire undercarriage. When I bought the truck, she was an absolute mess underneath. Mud. Cobwebs. Years of grime and grease. The old wooden bed broken and jutting out from the bottom. Now it’s all clean. I painted the drive shaft, differential, frame, the underside of the fenders and the bed to keep the rust away. Thanks to the help of my fellow Gasoline Girls, all of the bondo is now off the truck. (She had loads of it, thus the nickname, “Bondorella”). She looks quite nekked now, and I like it! She’s staying bare metal for now, probably with loads of pinstripes. Maybe someday I’ll paint her, but this look fits into things I like: Airstream trailers, the aluminum tank of the V-Rod, toaster tank BMWs, my Chromester. I’ve always been an unrefined, industrial kind of girl. I like the raw look of materials. But hey! The option to paint will always be there, right?
Mostly the truck will look stock, with a few small custom things—like the Model A “Stop” glass taillights. For the exhaust, Charles came up with a fun idea, one I instantly fell in love with. He had some Buick porthole bezels and asked if I’d like to use them for the exhaust ports. I went nuts for the idea! In my novel MOTOR DOLLS, one of the characters drives a ’55 Buick Special (the other drives a ’48 Ford truck), so I love the idea of having a piece of a Special with the truck. The rolled pencil tips come through the bumper, through the bezels. It’s a subtle thing, but I love it.
The interior isn’t bad, but does need a headliner, kick-panels and visors. Eventually, I want to redo the bench seat in fabric because summer on vinyl is not pretty, plus, it’s not the original interior. So far, I haven’t been able to find any pictures of original F1 interiors, so I’m running blind. I’m thinking maybe mohair/vinyl combination tuck and roll. The headliner I’ll probably start with the kit as a base, then… undecided. Maybe cover it? Just not sure. My primary goal is to stay true to the original. I’m not a fan of modern interiors on old cars, so I need to find fabrics and styles true to the era and keep her looking like an old truck. There’s no emergency on the interior. It’s fine as it is, but long term, it’s something I want to redo.
As of September 10, 2010, Bondorella officially came back on the road!!! YAY!! Cosmetically, of course, she will continue to be a work-in-progress…
Later Gators and Gator-ettes! Be sure to wave when you see us on the road…
x Lori a.k.a DR. DESTROYER! Check my page for updates and latest projects.
Want to read more about Bondorella? She now has her own website!