By on December 21, 2011

It’s always good to have friends with way crazier more ambitious vehicular projects than one’s own not-making-much-forward-progress Hell Projects. Rich, captain of the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-VW-engined Renault 4CV, has a snake pit cornucopia of such projects at his place, not far from Chez Murilee in Denver. Rich, last seen by TTAC readers helping me Nader-ize the brakes on my van, has big racing plans for 2012… and for that he needs a flatbed truck that can haul a race car and tow a camping trailer. Oh, and it also has to be a beautiful vintage machine, yet capable of prodigious load capacity. The original plan was to use the ’47 Ford pickup he bought at the amazing Seven Sons Auto Wrecking auction last winter, but then this fine vehicle danced into his field of vision.
I don’t know the first thing about non-light-duty Ford trucks, but I have a vague recollection that this is a ’46. Early postwar, at any rate. For power, it has a 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado 455 front-drive setup. The engine and suspension are installed, sort of, but the steering system hasn’t been worked out yet.
This setup worked just fine on the front-wheel-drive GMC motorhomes of the 1970s, and it should work fine here.
Another part of the project that needs some work is the rear suspension. Right now, there isn’t one. I keep suggesting a pair of early Eldorado rear axles, for that cool six-wheeler look. That’s because I don’t have to do the work.
The steering setup is going to be a total nightmare, because there’s not much room for anything up front with the Olds running gear. Rich will have to fabricate something with a lot of strange bends and joints, or else ditch the super-cool front-drive setup and convert the truck back to its original rear-wheel-drive setup. You do what you have to do.
Whatever happens, the truck will look great in the paddock with this vintage “canned ham” trailer. Rich drove the length of the Great Plains to pick it up this summer.
Then, of course, there’s the engineless Autobianchi Bianchina Hell Project and more 40s Ford truck parts in the back yard.
Not to mention the sawed-up 4CV parts donor.
And the garage full of weird VW parts, including the long-idled GTI with every possible performance upgrade and a floor full of junkyard turbocharging gear for the 4CV.
On top of that, Rich has his 289-powered ’47 Ford coupe (which we used as a Judgemobile at the ’10 B.F.E. GP 24 Hours of LeMons) and a newly-acquired ’49 Ford sedan for his wife, who is a very, very understanding spouse to allow her back yard to fill up with all those rusty old car parts. Now I feel like a total loser for not getting much work done on my Civic engine swap or A100 Hell Project this year.

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14 Comments on “When You Need a Sensible Tow Vehicle: Cab-Over Ford With Nowhere-Near-Finished Toronado FWD Drivetrain Swap...”

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    For steering a good starting point might be the parts from a forward control Jeep.

  • avatar

    That first picture reminded me vaguely of the menacing truck from “Jeepers Creepers”. I know they’re probably not the same, but it was my first thought nonetheless.

  • avatar

    You can do some cool stuff with a WWII era cab over truck; take a look at Paul Niedermeyer’s Curbside Classic from August 1; the restored Chevy is pretty awesome.

    I would suggest going back to RWD if you are going to haul any weight or tow a trailer; there is a reason very few trucks are front wheel drive. If you are committed to keeping the Tornado drive train the steering assembly from a Isuzu NPR or similar cab forward truck might do the trick.

    Good luck!

  • avatar

    How hard can the steering be? 20 minutes with the McMaster-Carr catalogue, some chain and sprockets, you’re all set. Just make sure to use some snap couplers to keep those chains tight.

  • avatar

    What about a set of trailer axles? Probably work as they only need brakes on them.

  • avatar

    Here is a story about a very cool 1941 Dodge cabover resto-mod that took a trip across Canada. The owner was incredibly innovative.

  • avatar

    Thank you for posting this. It will be invaluable, in a “see it could be worse” way, in my never ending negotiations with the spousal unit.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha! Like the demotivational poster with the legend – Perhaps your purpose on earth is to serve as a warning to others…..

      Re: the steering. I’m thinking antique farm tractor style – a big steering wheel mounted like a ships wheel and a stout rod in a couple of pillow blocks out over the hood to a right angle gear – worm gear for max homage to tractors – scooting down to a rack and pinion. Uh, maybe a break-away coupling in that stout rod – you know, for safety.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    The Cadillac 501 series engine coupled with the TH425 transmission have provided decades of yeoman service pushing around tens of thousands of motor home chassis for the past four decades: for that tow rig the Olds 455/425 combination should work well.

  • avatar

    Garma-grhrma harma! (mind expolosion of wonderment.)

  • avatar

    I have a soft spot for COEs. I didn’t even know the big truck makers had stopped production of class-8 COEs, until I saw a UPS Freightliner a few months ago and looked it up – it was in perfect condition, and the panels were unusually nice. I think a nice engine for that truck would the Ford 534CID super duty big block, or the 1,100 CID Ford GAA.

  • avatar

    The jury is out on the Toro drivetrain. I have found a handy OEM part necessary for zig-zag steering systems though. 98-02 Isuzu Rodeos have an angled reverser-box-thingy: (note, inside there are two bevel gears, so it reverses rotation too)

  • avatar
    Andy D

    My mentor, Charlie Lach had a 46 Ford COE dunp truck . He worked it until he retired in 1978. No comment on the Toronado refresh

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