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.