Piston Slap: But which one is worthy of your bonus?

Piston Slap 1948 Ford Pickup Bonus Build advert art

Hal writes:

What is the best old Ford stepside pickup to restore or customize, from 1930s through 1940s (or early ’50s)? This would consider model availability, purchase price, original part availability and part upgrades like engine swaps and electronic upgrades.

Sajeev answers:

Given what I know about the aftermarket parts business for many Ford products, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this question. Just about any example of early (Model A) to late (second generation F-series) Ford truck in your date range is readily available. They are all affordable with significant aftermarket support. While the Model A and the 1948+ F-series are likely the best fits for your multi-pronged requirements, usually one particular model has a specific appeal to the buyer that deems all other concerns irrelevant. If you love the 1942–47 Ford’s look, you can’t get that anywhere else.

But if you truly love them all, let’s just consider the nebulous notion of classic truck pricing. It’s a safe bet that the universally-adored F-series (1948+) are the most expensive of the bunch on desirability alone, all things being equal. Except things are never equal when it comes to used vehicles, be it Certified Pre-Owned BMWs (with a dealer service history) or vintage Ford trucks (with decades of questionable repairs). This is a good time to remind everyone of the value of a pre-purchase inspection, because sellers with sketchy whips feel the heat when inspectors run a fine tooth comb over a vehicle.

Let’s say you get a great Ford truck for your budget, but it turns out that peach is wholly rotten under its shiny paint. Parts of the factory and aftermarket variety are easier to find and likely cheaper for the 1948+ F-series, as so many people gravitate to them for both factory correct and customized desires. Although to be fair, Model A parts are rather easy to procure compared to other trucks made in the late ’20s and early ’30s. The Ford trucks that sit between the “F” and “A” bookends have a smaller following, but again, the “you could be buying something much rarer” factor comes into play.

Regarding modifications, let’s narrow things down to the concept of the trickle down effect, as parts produced for new vehicles (LS/LT motors, six-speed manuals, Godzilla V-8s, 10-speed automatics, etc.) will bolt into an early F-series before any other Ford product. (OK, maybe first-generation Mustangs will get it first, but you catch my drift.) Everything from frame, suspension, wiring conversion, etc. kits will be readily available for the F-series if you go the restomod route. And if they aren’t available online as a kit yet, odds are a hot rod shop already did it and can do it again for you. Then again, with a little fabrication skills under your belt, how much harder is it to graft the same parts onto a 1943 model?

Things get even murkier if you restore to/retain a factory fresh standard. These rigs aren’t horribly complicated, so if you find one with good cosmetics, they all use about the same amount of consumables and Ford-branded wear items. But if you don’t find a cherry example, you’re better off getting an F-series and taking full advantage of the aftermarket support available. I bet there’s so many F-series vendors that you can pit them against each other for the best prices!  Of course, not all parts are created equal … and now I’m really making a mountain out of this molehill of a question.

Bottom line: Get a 1948+ F-series in the best condition you can afford. It will make your life much easier.

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