Car culture traditionalists might not like to admit to it, but true inspiration for new customizing ideas oftentimes doesn't come from within their ranks. An excellent example to illustrate our contention is Doug Pederson's Downs-bodied '37 Ford pickup manufactured by Lawton, Michigan's Downs Manufacturing.
Inspired by the Australian '37 Ford Ute, the Downs '37 Ford pickup made its debut at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1999. Although a car-based utility vehicle already existed in the lineup of U.S.-made Fords, in 1934 the Australians were first to design a Ute that didn't look like a car with a wheelbarrow stuck in its butt. In addition to their all-fiberglass rendition of the streamlined '37 Ford Ute, Downs offers a stepside bed constructed of steel as an alternative. The steel-bedded version smokes Ford's original Model 74/78 Standard Coupe With Pickup Body in the looks department.
Well, that's enough Ute history. Well-known street rod builder Jerry Beard of Springfield, Illinois completed the Downs '37 Ford pickup featured here in 2001. Doug told us that during the time Jerry was building the '37, he was in contact with Jerry and he planned on buying it. As fate would have it, when Jerry and Doug met at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals, Doug and his wife decided to buy a Downs three-window coupe Jerry had built instead. The Downs '37 went on to take top honors for PPG's Outstanding Use of Color award.
Ultimately the '37 ended up in the hands of Scott and Jeanie Perry of Frankfort, Kentucky. Doug hadn't even returned to his Texas home before remorse settled in-the truck Jerry had built was beginning to haunt him. Doug ended up buying and building another Downs '37 Ford pickup, but he couldn't get the PPG Wheatland Yellow new-age Ute out of his mind. The first time out for the '37 Downs pickup Doug built, it took Pro's Pick at the Oklahoma NSRA Nats. A guy at the Nats asked Doug how much he would take for it, and before he could decide it was a bad idea, the truck was sold. In Doug's words, "I was without my dream truck again." For about a year, Doug was without a Downs '37, but not completely sans pickup. He still had his '48 Chevy 1/2-ton...but there was just something about a Downs that reached Doug's very soul.
While speaking with Jerry Beard, Doug learned the Wheatland Yellow '37 Downs pickup might be coming up for sale. Scott Perry had traded the truck off and the guy who had it might sell. Doug called the truck's second owner and made an offer without even seeing it. The two struck a deal and the Wheatland Yellow '37 was on its way to Texas. Doug really loved the way the '37 looked when it first left Jerry's Illinois shop, but now it was time to "make it his."
A centered '95 Impala dash...
A centered '95 Impala dash cluster evokes the feel of vehicles designed to adapt to either left- or right-hand drive... It makes one wonder how many Downs '37 Ford Utes have been shipped to Australia. Air conditioning from Vintage Air of San Antonio, TX, provides cab comfort, while a Howell wiring harness interfaces the Impala gauges to its computerized LT1 drivetrain.
From this angle, the Air Ride...
From this angle, the Air Ride Technologies bagged suspension really sets the stance. Note how the front wheels tuck.
Ray Mitchell at All Pro Trim...
Ray Mitchell at All Pro Trim upholstered Doug's interior in almond and sand-colored Ultraleather. The bucket seats are from a '99 Toyota, separated by a '99 Pontiac Sunfire console.