We like a survivor here at Car & Classic. Don’t get us wrong, we love a car that has been lovingly restored and brought back to ‘as new’ condition, and there are many restored cars we’d like to own. However, the fact remains that survivor cars are often so much more captivating. Think about the bullets they have dodged to make it through to today? In the case of this pre-war Ford, bullet dodging could well be literal – it survived World War 2 after all. Though as this truck harks from North Dakota, it wasn’t exactly on the front line. But still, to be here today in 2021, running and driving, having never been restored. That’s pretty special.
What makes it even more special is the fact it’s a truck. Commercial vehicles aren’t coveted like cars, instead they’re more often than not just treated as tools. And what do you do when a tool breaks? You throw it away and buy a new one. Somehow though, this 1937 Ford Type 77 has avoided such a fate. In fact, it was in use until 1961, at which point it was stashed away in a barn. For nearly sixty years, the big old Ford lay untouched. Now though, it has been awoken from its slumber, it has been shipped to UK soil and it is once again running and driving and ready for the next chapter.
What is it?
As we touched on above, it’s a 1937 Ford Type 77 1/2 ton truck. It’s an interesting vehicle as it was only available for one year, and only with two engines. There was a 60hp or 85hp V8 2,200cc flathead V8. This one has the former, making it the ‘light duty’ version. The engine is mated to a three on the floor manual transmission. Originally blue, the old Ford has been crudely painted green at some point in the distant past, but that’s okay. It adds to the story of this wonderful old truck. The body is a bit battered here and there, but it was a work truck, so what else would you expect? Plus, it’s patina, and that’s a hot commodity these days.
The current owner has shipped it to the UK and serviced it thoroughly, getting it running again in the process. It’s all completely original still, even down to the 6 volt electrics! The vendor also states that some work had to be done in order to get it running again. So a new fuel tank was fitted (got to be safe when it comes to fuel) and there is now an electric fuel pump, but this could be swapped back to mechanical without too much fuss.
Why is it a project?
While this handsome old Ford does indeed run and drive, it’s got a way to go before it hits the road again. The vendor states that there were some small patches that needed welding, which he has done. However, it still needs to be fully inspected, the electrical system should be given some love and attention just for safety. It might even be worth considering going to a more modern 12 volt system. The brakes might need some fettling, as they are all cable. Hydraulic brakes weren’t available until ’38. The interior is solid and all present, but is not exactly what you’d call inviting, so there is some work needed there. Then there is the exterior. You could go down the road of stripping it back and painting it. However, we think that would be criminal. Instead, we’d leave the body as is. It needs a new tailgate, and you might want to get some better wood to line the bed, but that’s all we’d do. It would be a shame to restore it and lose all that history.
Five things to look for:
The vendor states that there were some small patches that needed work, which have been done. However, this is still a vehicle from the ’30, so you still need to check everything thoroughly. Have there been any poor repairs in the past? Has it been damaged? Good to know now rather than later.
The chassis is the backbone of this old Ford, so look at it carefully. Body mounting points, look for any kinks or bends, make sure all the suspension mounts and crossmembers are in good condition.
The 6 volt system is charming and very original, but in reality, it’s going to have to go. It’s not modern, it’s not all that reliable and it’s not compatible with anything modern. As such, it’s going to be wise to look at a new wiring harness from the likes of Painless. Off the shelf, modify to suit, job done.
The artillery wheels on this old Ford are going to be hard to come by, so you need to make sure they’re all in good fettle or can at least be repaired and made good again if there are any issues.
The vendor states the truck runs, but it sounds like it’s only been given a light service. In reality, you’re going to need to give it a proper inspection. Happily, the flathead V8 is a tough old lump, so just check for obvious noises and leaks. Parts are readily available from the States should you need them.
What should you do with it?
You could go down the road of a full restoration, of which this ’37 Ford is very deserving. However, for us that would be something of a shame. We like the dings, the dents and the character this old workhorse has developed over the years. It would be a shame to ruin that. That said, there is no escaping the fact it’s going to be a bit of a difficult thing to drive on modern roads. So how about going down the mild custom route? Some upgrades to the original engine. Better exhaust, better carb and breathing, update the electrics too. Some modern brakes wouldn’t go amiss, and maybe drop the suspension a little and change the wheels to something with a more ‘hot rod’ flavour. Finally, get the cabin cleaned up and re-trimmed, fit some Vintage Air. Oh what a cool shop truck this could be.