’40 Ford pickup: A ‘sanitary’ street rod | TheUnion.com

’40 Ford pickup: A ‘sanitary’ street rod

Ron Cherry
Special to The Union

In 1939, Ford trucks had fender-mounted headlights and barrel-shaped grill; 1940 was the first year of this body style, moving the headlights into the fenders and giving it a sleek prow-front hood like on the Ford passenger cars.

The first thing that comes to mind when viewing Gary Hopper's '40 Ford pickup is, "That's one sanitary street rod." By sanitary, I mean clean lines and quality craftsmanship with no over-the-top changes.

It's not one of those rods with Frenched lights and shaved chrome. It's not loaded with gadgets like remote door openers and pulsing lights under the running boards.

Gary kept the body and look fairly stock, with only a few modifications that enhance rather than alter its original appearance. He has had a lot of experience building street rods at his business, Hopper's Hot Rod Garage, and he used it well with his pickup.

The Ford wasn't so clean when Gary bought it about four years ago at a swap meet in Pleasanton. It was original, with a body, frame and rear end, but lacked an engine, transmission and interior.

"It was junk," he said. "I never should have bought it."

But he had built a '40 Ford pickup back in 2000 and regretted selling it. So that bane of so many car lovers, seller's remorse, led him to take on a new and most challenging project.

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Once he got it home, he found himself doing far more than he had originally planned. He had hoped to use the frame, but found it was in rougher shape than he liked, so he replaced it with a modern TCI chassis with independent tubular front suspension.

He dropped it 3 inches for looks and handling, both of which are great. He had to replace the bed, but used an all-steel replacement. Since he's pretty much a Chevy guy, he opted to go GM for the drivetrain.

So many other street rodders follow that route, it's easy to find adaptors. Many of them use the venerable 350 CID Chevy small block, but he says they're "dinosaurs" and opted for an LS-1, which he calls "the engine of the future."

He did go with carburetion rather than fuel injection as a nod to old hot rodding traditions. One cool feature is ignition coil covers that make the engine appear to be a classic big block Chevy at first glance.

He says it has more than enough power for the light body, although he has never really put it to the test yet. For a transmission, he used a GM 700R overdrive automatic. The Ford 9-inch rear-end he used and the body the only things Ford about his Ford pickup.

For the look, Gary said, "I went with the theme of the truck."

Besides being lowered, the only obvious change going to a V-butt windshield, which eliminates the center bar. Even the artillery-type wheel are period-look, although he opted for 18-inch in the rear and 17-inch in the front to give the truck a rake.

Thanks to Mike Miller and Craig Wallace, the body work and paint look flawless, not easy with black. The only pinstriping is minimal on the tailgate, with an oak floor in the bed. The interior is soft, black vinyl with a Flaming River tilt steering column. For creature comfort, he's added power steering and brakes as well as air conditioning.

Although it was a lot of hard work, Gary is satisfied with how his '40 Ford came out. It looks, runs and handles great. In fact, he said it's a much nicer truck than the one he sold. Although he has not taken it on any long runs with fellow Roamin Angels yet, he did show it with the club at Autorama this year. It got a lot of admiring looks. That's no surprise. After all, it is one sanitary street rod.

For more about Ron Cherry and his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com. For more information about the Roamin Angels Car Club, go to http://www.roaminangels.com or call 432-8449.

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