If a national poll was taken for favorite vacation destinations within the United States, the great state of North Dakota would probably fall a little short. Let's face it, how many people can picture Jimmy Buffet singing about being whisked away to a magical weekend in Bismarck? In fact, most Americans' idea of the state probably starts with the movie, Fargo, and ends with a vision of that oh-so-creepy Steve Buscemi being fed through a wood chipper. But what North Dakota lacks in sandy beaches and over-tanned, orange citizens, it more than makes up for with good people and plenty of old trucks. For Randy Nelson, a native North Dakotan, he fits the criteria to a T.
One day after work Randy stopped in to get a drink with a couple buddies. What started out as a casual get-together quickly became a negotiation when a friend mentioned that his daughter was looking to sell her '49 Ford pickup. After an unsuccessful low-ball attempt, Randy went back for round two the following day and made her an offer she couldn't refuse. By day's end he was the new owner of a '49 F-1 Ford. Upon further review, Randy quickly realized that his new acquisition was a long way from perfect-and that it epitomized the term "fixer upper." He decided the only logical starting point was to strip her down to the bare metal and start from scratch.
The first step was to separate body from chassis. With the body detached, Randy could begin restoring the frame. The frame and body were stripped and sandblasted down to bare metal. Next, he replaced the floorboards and any pieces sporting signs of rust with new metal. He then sealed all exposed pieces with etching paint. Up front, the frame was cut to accommodate a one-piece bumper. The front axle and springs were turned around to make the front lowering job easy. Out back, the frame was notched and boxed, in order to bring the rear down as far as possible. The original flathead motor remains the Ford's powerplant-however, it has been completely warmed over back to stock. As for the transmission, Randy had to build a custom trans crossmember to accommodate a C4 tranny to back the flathead. For the finishing touch, the stock wheels were removed and Randy slapped on a set of 20-inch Center Lines. Once the frame was complete, the project steamrolled from there.
The next order of business was the body. Over the years the Ford's outer shell had received multiple battle scars and required extensive body work, therefore Randy wasted no time and had at them. Once the repairs were made the '49 was put in the expert hands of good friend Stan Saylor. Stan chopped 3 inches out of the cab and converted the stock doors into suicides. Once back from Stan, Randy installed a custom rear roll pan with built-in LED taillights. Randy also modified the hood by welding up the vents and replacing the existing hood latch with a Cadillac slow-release trunk latch. After sealing up the hood and molding in the rear roll pan, it was only fitting to shave the door handles to achieve the sleek appearance Randy was striving for. With the body intact, Randy needed a perfect paint scheme and a skilled painter to highlight both his body and frame modifications. He decided that there truly is a first time for everything and elected to spray the Ford himself. He decided to stay traditional and shot the frame with a traditional Ford Blue, and hit the body with PPG Black. To finish off the exterior, he installed a custom-built hickory wood bed from Creative Cabinet.
On the inside, Randy wanted a theme that could pass as both street and show. He replaced the stock seat with a pair of 3A Racing seats wrapped in black and white leather. He also installed a stainless Grant steering wheel with a black leather wrap. He then passed the Ford on to the boys at Billy's Custom Upholstery. They quickly added a custom headliner with raised Ford lettering, and finished upholstering the rest of the interior to match the seats.
After the interior was finished, the truck entered the final, and perhaps most tedious, stage: reassembly. For the final phase, Randy turned once again to a good friend, Keith Smith, to help piece together the classic Ford. When the F-1 was finally put back together, all that was left was to wait out the snowy winters of the Midwest and unleash the new-and-improved '49 on the North Dakota countryside, giving us all a new perspective on what our northern neighbors are all about.