8 December 2016

Our Trucks: Everyone – including Jay Leno – loves Tom Weston’s 1947 Ford cab-over custom pickup

Once upon a time, a young Tom Weston put his fascination “for anything motorized” to good use by rescuing a lawn mower from the trash and fixing it up so he could earn some cash doing yard work. Tom spent years working on cars and eventually honed his craft as an Army mechanic. After leaving the military, he repaired Volkswagens, Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes, but Tom soon realized there was more money in body work, so he spent countless hours teaching himself how to do it. He is now ASE Master and I-Car Platinum certified, and a valuable member of Hagerty’s fleet management team. While Tom has owned plenty of classics in his lifetime, his most recent project – a completely customized 1947 Ford COE farm truck – may be his crowning achievement.

Name: Tom Weston

Position at Hagerty: Restoration Specialist

Years at Hagerty: 3

Vehicle(s): 1947 Ford COE (Cab Over Engine) Model N and 1952 Pontiac Chieftain

Why a ’47 Ford cab-over? I have a bit of an artistic bent and this build satisfied that itch. I don’t want a “belly button car” (everyone has one), although that’s perfectly acceptable for those who so choose. The truck is really cool, and I don’t ever have to worry about going somewhere and seeing someone driving one like it.

Repairs, Modifications and Specs: The truck was originally bought new in Traverse City, Mich., and was used on a Leelanau County farm until the late 1960s. Later, it was used at a sawmill until the late ‘70s, but it was sitting in a swamp when I found it in 2012. I trash-canned everything except the cab – built my own frame and everything else you see.

The engine is a 500-cid V-8 from a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado. It has been bored .030 over, the block has been decked .050, the heads have way bigger intake and exhaust valves of 2.02 and 2.20 respectively, milled .030 and ported. It also has custom Aries high silicon hypereutectic pistons, forged rods, splayed bearing caps, stainless steel girdle, all ARP bolts, modified Edelbrock intake manifold, a custom-built Demon carb, two-inch primary long tube headers, Hughes custom built torque converter, built TH400 trans and an honest-to-God NASCAR Halibrand rear axle. Horsepower is rated at about 565 and torque is somewhere in the 785-ft.lb. range.

The hood was a bit of fun as the original was just sitting on two pins and held down with two clamps. I used a suicide-door hinge and a small linear motor to make the hood open by remote control. The entire truck was designed with dual purpose in mind – mostly street use and weekend drag strip floggings. I never really cared if it was show worthy, because I built it to use, not show. But I can’t go anywhere without being stopped and asked about it. The license plate folds up and ‘disappears’ under the bed by remote control, which was a bit of whimsy because the truck stands out and everyone knows who it belongs to.

It does OK on the track – doesn’t set the world on fire, but runs 8 seconds in the 1/8 mile. It suffers a bit from being front heavy, so traction is an issue, but once up on the pipe she moves along. So far, estimates range from mid-to-low 11s to high 10s in the quarter. It weighs about 3,725 pounds and has a 64-percent front bias.

Interesting Car Stories: Like (Hagerty historian) Glenn Arlt, I make a habit of visiting car museums whenever possible, and I’ve been to a lot of them in Europe, including the Porsche Museum, the actual Porsche factory (not the “tourist tour,” the factory), the Mercedes Museum, the Mercedes factory (again, the actual factory, which is miles long), the Audi Museum and many others while I lived in Germany.

Best and Worst Moments in the hobby: The best moments were having my Harley XLCR photographed for Easyriders Magazine in the ’80s, my lowrider Phantom dually photographed for Truckin’ Magazine in the ’90s, setting a world-class record in “S” street-prepared SCCA autocross in my 1973 S 911, and meeting Jay Leno last summer (at a Hagerty Cars and Caffeine event) and being complimented on my COE. The worst would definitely be crashing my XLCR in the mountains in Germany and spending three weeks in the hospital.

Favorite Drives: Nürburgring, Solitude-Rennstrecke and the Autobahn at full gallop, as well as Grattan Raceway in Belding, Mich.

Hobby activities: I’m a member of Road Pirates Car Club, but basically I’m a lone wolf. If I’m not in the shop or out driving, I’m fishing.

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    charles Fitzgerald mi December 9, 2016 at 16:54
    I've been friends with Tom for more than 50 year and he started his love for custom built on bikes in grade school . Other work he has done is great wish you could see it . I belive he dose as good as anyone else. Even the shows on TV .
  • 2
    Jerry Conroy Maple City, Michigan December 9, 2016 at 21:08
    Saw this COE at the Northport show this spring. Very nice!! Does Hagerty use volunteers in their fleet management operation?
  • 3
    steve mustaikis ludington, mi. December 14, 2016 at 19:09
    I sold my 47 COE last summer after 20 years of setting in storage, the guy I sold it to kept the flat head engine and sold it to a guy that was going to do a similar build
  • 4
    Glenn Arlt Traverse City, Michigan December 15, 2016 at 08:08
    Nice one! I watched this being built from scratch and yes, it did take tons of talent and time and of course, money too. Nice one, buddy.
  • 5
    Butch wilbert Empire mi December 16, 2016 at 19:55
    Well he did it again! Tom was a neighbor and friend of mine for many years, and I have always admired his natural talent for building things out of the box! Great truck buddy, wish I had half his talent .

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