TEXACO WRECKER

BACK IN TIME Edition 52

1951 Ford COE

Article & photographs: Tony and Carmen Matthews

AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR LIFE DID YOU DEVELOP A PASSION FOR CARS?

I always liked cars from an early age as my dad was both a motor and motorbike mechanic. He always had nice cars, then did a stage of motorbikes up to the late ‘80s and afterwards returned to cars. He began with general cars and then moved onto late ‘90s American models. I was into Corvettes, from the ’54 to the ’59, ’62, ’63 split-screen and bits in-between. Amongst these were a ’41 Cadillac convertible and numerous show-winning trucks. This Ford COE is one of my latest projects. 

WHAT DREAMS AND EMOTIONS WERE YOU GOING THROUGH WHEN YOU TOOK ON THIS PROJECT?

Not a lot really. Nothing stops me once I get something in my mind, whether it is right or wrong I see it through to the end. I just fancied something different because I usually keep everything standard when it comes to cars and trucks, but not this time. 

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS BRAND AND MODEL OF TRUCK?

I just liked the look. It was pretty ugly but cute at the same time. I had normal trucks, but I love the front of this one and the snub nose. There are plenty of trucks here in the UK but very few COEs – which can be turned into almost anything. Everyone loves it so I must have done something right.  

WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION OR THE OVERALL LOOK OF THE TRUCK?

I bought the Ford with quite a bit done to it already, but it needed detail and character. I have seen a lot of finished COEs, but they tend to be haulers in the States which is something I might do to mine at a later stage. At the moment it has a completely different look. The Texaco-theme wrecker works for me. 

HOW DID YOU FOCUS ON THE FUNDING AND WHERE DID YOU FIND THE TIME TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT?

Well, as you sell one it funds the next and you work your way up from there over a number of years. I build in my spare time and get there eventually. It is still a work in progress, as one is never really finished but I have won four trophies this year, even though custom is a tough class – especially with a truck. 

ANY DIFFICULTIES EXPERIENCED WHILST BUILDING THE TRUCK? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

Not really. I had to do everything outside so the weather was a problem, especially winter. I already had all the parts and just waited until the weather picked up. Shows here start around April so it left me enough time to get things the way I wanted them. The spanners were sometimes so cold I could not even hold them. 

WHO HELPED YOU BUILD THE TRUCK? FRIENDS, FAMILY, GARAGES?

The COE was just about complete and running; it was just the finer things that needed doing. I finished off the truck myself, but credit must go to Owen in Ireland who initially started the project with a rusty shell. He has remained a good friend and has a wealth of knowledge about hot rods, which comes in very handy. I keep him updated about the truck and that keeps him happy. 

CAN YOU TALK ME THROUGH THE WORK DONE ON THE TRUCK – ENGINE, EXTERIOR ETC?

The engine is a rebuilt 239 flathead, coupled to a T5 five-speed TVR box, while the chassis is from a ’96 Silverado, with a 2005 Chevy 1500 rear axle. It has power steering with an Ididit steering column. Wilwood disc brakes set-up and VAVIR compressor and gauges. There are Firestone heavy duty bags all round, a No Limit Engineering one-off front clip, alloy radiator, No Limit Engineering trailing rear arms, 20” Torq Thrust cream-painted wheels with Corvette spinners, and a pair of stainless steel ten gallon petrol tanks (returning around 18-20 miles to the gallon on a run). This truck stops people dead in their tracks. 

I met the guy who owned the truck before the work started here in the UK. It was very complete original COE when he had it, rusty, but not rotten. He lives about 10 miles away and I saw him at a local show – he could not believe his eyes when he saw it. They bodywork was, in the main, very good from the word go. I took it all apart and put it together again, sprayed in Ford radiant red. COEs don’t share too many parts with other pickups (things like door handles interchange, but not much else), so it was important that everything was there to begin with. I am going to redo the trim this coming winter. I have been toying with the idea of converting it into a flatbed, but I am not getting any younger so I’ll see how I feel.