3 January 2017

Our Trucks: Hey boss, forget the bonus … Can I buy your ’51 Ford F-1?

Jessica Ankney was born with a wrench in her hand. OK, so maybe that isn’t entirely true, but she did get her hands dirty at an early age. “My dad raced a 1978 Chevy Malibu, and I remember helping him work on it – and by ‘work on it’ I mean I handed him tools and played in the garage. He has always had a love for cars, and I’m truly a daddy’s girl at heart, so we’ve shared that love of cars forever.” Jessica’s love for trucks came later, but it is no less powerful. The northern Michigan native dreamed of owning a 1951 Ford F-1, and when her boyfriend (now husband), Rodney, popped the question she told him she’d happily take a truck over a diamond ring. As it turned out, Jessica got both. They didn’t arrive simultaneously, but that’s another story

Name: Jessica Ankney

Position at Hagerty: Underwriter

Years at Hagerty: 8

Vehicle: 1951 Ford F-1

A car story: When I was in high school I competed in a local pageant and won, and the part of my reign I remember the most was attending a local car show and getting to pick my favorite classic vehicle. I chose a bright yellow 1976 Corvette, and afterward I found out that my grandfather had owned the same car many years ago. The owner of the car was touched by the connection and took me for a cruise after the show.

Why a ’51 Ford F-1 pickup? There are so many neat things about the truck that makes it appealing. The grille was only available on 1951 and ’52 Ford pickups, and those were also the last years it was identified as an F-1 instead of F-100. It has a flathead V-8 and three-on-the-tree manual transmission (which makes it a little tough for me to handle).

My husband and I knew each other as young kids, but our lives went in different directions. We eventually reunited as adults and share a love for classic cars. He owns a 2004 Ford Mustang GT Anniversary Edition that he named “Black Betty.” (Her license plate is RAM JAM, which makes sense if you’re a music lover.) After years of dating, we decided that it was time to get married. When discussing engagement rings, I kept telling him that I would take a 1951 Ford F-1 pickup truck over a ring any day!

We found the perfect truck … it was red and absolutely beautiful. The ad said it was named “Bert the Big Red Truck.” Rodney called the owner to make an offer on Bert, but he was told someone had just purchased it. That person turned out to be my boss, [Hagerty CEO] McKeel Hagerty. Since the truck didn’t work out, we purchased a ring and got married in June 2014. A few months later, the same 1951 Ford F-1 pickup truck was displayed in the lobby at Hagerty, and every time I walked by I couldn’t help but think about what might have been.

One day, my husband and son, Shay (who was 5 at the time), were walking by the truck and my step-son said, “Dad! It has fangs! I want it!!” and Rodney responded, “So does Jess!” That moment prompted my husband to reach out to McKeel and tell him how much our family loved the truck. McKeel decided that the truck should really be with us, and he sold it to us right there! So on Halloween 2014 we took ownership of Bert, and we’ll love that truck the rest of our lives.

Repairs and Modifications (planned or completed): The engine and transmission have been completely rebuilt, and it’s been converted to a 12-volt system. We plan to replace some of the bed panels, do a few minor adjustments to the radiator/fan, fix the windshield wiper motor (again) and replace the speedometer wiring harness. Recently we also started converting the lights to L.E.D.s, so that we are more visible to others on the road.

Hobby activities: We’ve entered the truck in a few shows, brought it to the Hagerty employees’ Cars & Caffeine get-together on Friday mornings, driven it on cruises with other classic car friends and have used it for family photos and scenic drives in the fall. We even took a photo of our son standing with it and holding a sign that read “Truck for sale: Doesn’t seat four” to announce that I’m expecting another child in March/April 2017. But honestly, the truck isn’t for sale and will be in our family for generations to come.

Best and worst moments in your ’51 Ford F-1: On the day that we bought it, my husband was driving it and I was following behind. It was Halloween Night 2014 around 8 p.m., so it was pitch-black and several deer ran out in front of the truck. My heart stopped for a moment, but thankfully my husband didn’t hit the deer and none of the deer hit the truck. That would have been a nightmare. We also had trouble driving to the 2015 St. Ignace show and back. About three-quarters of the way there, the truck started making an awful grinding noise any time we drove it over 30 mph. That turned out to be a broken wiring plug to the speedometer, so we unplugged it. Then on the way home it started raining and the wiper motor quit. It was a long drive.

Our best moments have been spending time together as a family, enjoying the truck – without a working radio. The truck is a gas guzzler and time consumer, but it’s a wonderful part of our family. We love it so much.

18 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Bob Barnes DeLand, Florida January 4, 2017 at 16:31
    Owning a classic ya just know something is gonna break sooner or later but it's all worth it the second someone pulls up next to ya at a red light and gives you the "thumbs up"! Just love that feeling.....
  • 2
    Paul S. Barrie Ontario January 4, 2017 at 16:34
    Great write up. I'm in the midst of restoring a 51 Mercury P/U and this just adds confirmation that I made the right choice. These are rare gems only built for 2 years. Congratulations and best of luck to you and your growing family.
  • 3
    Randy Minnesota January 4, 2017 at 16:55
    Cool story! Got a 51 F-1 as well! Love it!!
  • 4
    Rex Rice Port Townsend, WA January 4, 2017 at 17:30
    I bought my '52 Ford F-1 Panel in Sturgis, SD and had a tough time driving it home with a flathead V-8 and 4 speed, non syncro transmission. A wonderful work horse, it never failed in the 7+ years I overloaded it.
  • 5
    Jack McGowan Middletown,DE 19709 January 4, 2017 at 17:32
    I have a 1951 F2. My son and I spent two years rebuilding it top to bottom. Replaced every nut and bolt w/SS. Would love to send you pictures. Jack
  • 6
    Jim Vore Stilwell, Kansas January 4, 2017 at 17:33
    I share your love for a 1951 Ford F-1. My dad bought a new one in 1951 when I was three years old, and he used it on our farm for 22 years. He gave it to me in 1998, and I had it rebuilt from the ground up. Whenever I now drive it, I am twelve years old again driving to town on a farm errand. Thanks for sharing your truck and your story.
  • 7
    Phil Grahek Manheim, PA January 4, 2017 at 18:35
    Nice truck! I've restored a Meadow green one myself which my brother and I have owned since 1971. Mine is a flat head 226 six cylinder. I noticed that this '51 has the six cylinder trim on the side of the hood rather than the eight cylinder double-trim. I believe that three-on-the-tree was the only thing offered in the F1 though. I've kept mine at six volts and have still incorporated LED lights. With a good battery, six volts is just fine. These trucks were quite state-of-the-art at the time, but were very difficult to steer. Some people don't know why the outside door lock is on the passenger side. It's there because, when parallel parked, you would slide across the seat and get out onto the sidewalk and then lock the truck - much safer than today's method.! The rear bumper was also an option on these trucks as were turn signals. They were also painted all one color, even the bed. They were meant to be work-horses, not show-pieces. I have several extra six volt electric windshield wipers, if you're interested. These are great pieces of Americana!
  • 8
    Lee Beam Charlotte, Michigan January 4, 2017 at 20:46
    Jessica, I wrote a long note to you earlier, but lost it before was finished. Don't know if you got it or not, so am trying again. I have a '51 Ford F1 very much like yours. It was a barn find with vertually no rust through.and one large dent in rear fender and smaller ones in grill. Our four sons, mom and myself restored it completely ourselves. We stripped it down to the frame and completly restored it to 100% original. It has all matching numbers, kept as 6 volt. Although we had,it running 15 minutes after purchase we rebuilt the engine and everything else it needed, including all wiring, body repairs, replaced ash bed, new glass, wipers, brakes, carburator, interior restored. Wife upholstered the seat and door panes plus helped with headliner etc. We painted it Ford Blue with gray grill and interior accents. has whitewalls, with chrome wheel rings. Runs, rides and quietly. Hagerty has it insured, maybe we'll cross paths some time. Regards, Lee Beam
  • 9
    Kurt Daniel Evergreen, CO January 5, 2017 at 15:49
    I own a 1950 F1 with a built 1949 Merc flathead. I do like the older model look better than the 51/52 but wouldn't turn down the later model if one came my way. I've also converted to 12V, other than the updated flathead have kept it stock. Best regard, Kurt.
  • 10
    Phil Grahek Manheim, PA January 5, 2017 at 16:52
    Nice truck! I've restored a Meadow green one myself which my brother and I have owned since 1971. Mine is a flat head 226 six cylinder. I noticed that this '51 has the six cylinder trim on the side of the hood rather than the eight cylinder double-trim. I believe that three-on-the-tree was the only thing offered in the F1 though. I've kept mine at six volts and have still incorporated LED lights. With a good battery, six volts is just fine. These trucks were quite state-of-the-art at the time, but were very difficult to steer. Some people don't know why the outside door lock is on the passenger side. It's there because, when parallel parked, you would slide across the seat and get out onto the sidewalk and then lock the truck - much safer than today's method.! The rear bumper was also an option on these trucks as were turn signals. They were also painted all one color, even the bed. They were meant to be work-horses, not show-pieces. I have several extra six volt electric windshield wipers, if you're interested. These are great pieces of Americana!
  • 11
    David Louisiana January 5, 2017 at 12:35
    I currently own a 1976 Bicentennial Edition Bahama Blue LWB Ford F-150. I have done a lot of work on it. On my FB a 1952 F1 came up that has been in our recent floods. The owner said it was running and driving before water went over the starter. Thing is he would trade for my 76. I just don't know which one I would value the most. The 76 for the cool decal package and 1st year of F-150's or the cool fanged F1. He is asking $4,000 for F1.
  • 12
    Steve Struck MI - Michigan January 6, 2017 at 10:46
    Nice story. The truck's name "Bert" reminds me of one of our MG club members who recently passed away. His truck was named "BART" which was short for "Big A$$ Red Truck".
  • 13
    Marv Levy Southampton, PA January 6, 2017 at 23:20
    I have a '50 F-1. I have had it for 3 years, but I spent 5 years looking for the right one. It is also red and has been converted to 12 volt and has a flathead 8. I have taken it to a few shows and brought home a few trophies. Now that I have recovered from some surgeries I am looking forward to doing some little jobs on it once the PA winter weather breaks.
  • 14
    Bob Tharp Glendale, AZ. January 6, 2017 at 12:35
    Had 1951 F-1. Don't know why I chose that model, but at the time it made sense. Was sitting at a body shop for at least 10 yrs and I drove by it for at least 8 of those. Stopped one day to inquire if it was for sale. Th guy said possibly. Didn't give much for it because it didn't run. Took it home and completely dismantled it. It wound up with a 302 engine, C-4 trans. and a * in rear. Painted it Guards red and added custom wheels. Had the truck for about 10 yrs and one day at a Good Guys meet , a banker from Gallup, NM bought it. So I upgraded to a 1956 F-100. Always enjoyed that truck , went to many car shows and won many awards with it. Great truck.
  • 15
    Jim Vore Stilwell, Kansas January 8, 2017 at 15:58
    This is a message in response to Phil Grahek: my dad's '51 F-1 came from the factory with a three on the floor.
  • 16
    Greg Mason Poughkeepsie, NY. January 9, 2017 at 13:34
    About a month ago my good friend bought a 1951 F1 for a presant for his father. He had my son install a rebuilt stock 351 cleaveland and a C6 Automatic with ford duraspark ignition. Unfortunately my friend suddenly past away before he could finish it for his dad. His parents are not capable of finishing the truck so if anyone is interested in purchasing this truck call (914-737-0999 with your offer. Runs and moves.
  • 17
    Harold Redding, California January 9, 2017 at 16:09
    Jessica you are one lucky Girl. I lived in Kalkaska for a couple of years in the late 60s, it's beautiful country. I moved back to Redding, CA in 1969 and in about 1973 I traded a Honda CB250 for a 1951 Ford F-1. A previous owner had put in a 351 Ford engine and a C-6 transmission. After driving it for about 30 minutes the oil pressure went to zero. I pulled off a valve cover and there was so much crud in that the oil wasn't able to drain to the sump. I cleaned it out and replaced the rings and bearings and never had another problem with the engine. I did have electrical problems because the wiring was patched in a million places, so I ended up pulling out all the wiring and rewiring it from scratch. It didn't have turn signals when I bought it, so I added a switch and wired them in. I also put in a heater. Fortunately I was working as an apprentice in an auto repair ship, so I was able to get good used parts from vehicles we had done upgrades on. I wish I still had that truck, but I sold it to some kid. The next week his grandmother came to my house asking for some money back because her grandson had blown out the rear end on Saturday night. I said he must have been showing off and caused the damage, and she said: "Oh no, he was with his girlfriend and she's a good church-going girl. Needless to say, I didn't give her any money. Hagerty insured my 1968 XKE, which I sold last year, and insures my Model A Tudor, (want to trade?) which I've had since 2005. There's something very special about driving around town in a vintage vehicle that you love. Traverse City is a great place, I remember going to a restaurant there that served the best corned beef sandwiches I've ever had. It was in a two story building that was painted mustard yellow, and was full of old (even in 1967) stuff. I remember they had a Juke box that played 78 rpm records. When I lived in Kalkaska I had a 53 Chevy that you could see daylight through the floorboards and had so little compression you could turn the crankshaft pulley with your bare hands. When I drove from Kalkaska to Traverse City (all of 25 miles) I would have to put 2 quarts of oil in the beast, and another 2 quarts when I got home. Fortunately it didn't use that much just driving around town. My brother went back to Kalkaska when he got out of the service, and now lives in Hesperia. Thanks for the opportunity to share some memories. Harold
  • 18
    Barry Whiting Santa Fe, NM January 18, 2017 at 19:12
    Jess, my Dad bought a 50 F1 in 1961, which is two years before my birth and I was fortunate to obtain it before he passed away in 2010. I am in the midst of a ground up restoration and most folks would probably not approve of my upgrades but to each his own. Original frame (boxed), Coil Over Shocks (69 F100), Ford nine inch (69 F100), E4OD tranny, (92 F250), Supercharged 460 (75 Continental making 750HP), Power Steering (84 Toyota 4x4). I wish you well with your truck.

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