This article was originally published in Street Machine's Hot Rod #19, 2018
AN ARMY truck that’s been rusting in a shed in Eugene, Oregon, for up to 40 years doesn’t sound like the ideal candidate for a hot rod, but Adam Guglielmi has made it happen.
Being a spray painter by trade, Adam painted the truck himself. “Leon still sends me cars to paint and help out on,” he says. “That’s all part of it, especially considering he pretty much let me build the whole truck in his shop”
“I’d had the idea for a while,” says the justifiably proud owner/builder of his ultra-low truck, “as I’d never seen a ’40 pick-up lying flat on the ground.”
After a couple of fruitless years searching locally for a suitable starter, Adam moved his search across the big pond to the US, where he came to hear of a bloke named Bill. “He’d got to that age where it was time for a clear-out,” Adam says. They spoke, and struck a deal. “It was a big gamble. You hear so many horror stories of people buying cars sight unseen.”
“A lot of people assume it’s just flat black,” says Adam. “Then it catches the light and you can see the metalflake and the grey”
When the Ford finally rocked up on the back of a tilt-tray, Adam took a deep breath and began checking out his acquisition.
“It was bloody good,” he says. “All original with virtually no rust. Also, Bill had filled it with boxes of spare parts. I pretty much thought I’d hit the jackpot.”
While Adam had fabrication skills, he was aware he’d be needing help with some of the more challenging aspects.
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As well as an e-Level system for the airbags, Adam’s engineer insisted the double A-arm IFS be made in Australia. Southern Chassis Works obliged with a complete rotor-to-rotor unit ready to weld in. “It drives unbelievably well,” says Adam. “I’m really surprised!”
“I knew I wanted it to sit on the ground,” says Adam, “but I’d never built a chassis like that before. I was also mindful that I wanted the finished project engineered for full rego as a 1940 Ford pick-up – everything had to be right.”
After dismantling the truck, he reached out to his very talented friend, Leon Davies at Big L’s Chop Shop for help with the chassis. “To know a guy a like Leon, you’d be crazy not to ask for his help. For nine straight months I’d leave work at 4pm and be there until 10 or 11 every night. He guided me a lot, as well as doing the more technical bits he didn’t want me to stuff up.”
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“I went for ironbark as I wanted something that was really tough,” says Adam of the tray floor. “Not a lot of places have it. It’s actually decking material that weighs an absolute tonne!”
Another advantage of working out of Big L’s is that engineer Michael Petrovski was regularly there inspecting other cars, and was up for offering advice. It was still a hell of a lot of work to lay FLAT 40 on the ground. They began by unpicking the original chassis, and retaining the outer rails and part of the X-member but not much else. The rear is now heavily kicked up and supports a RideTech parallel four-bar set-up. For the other end, Southern Chassis Works designed a double A-arm IFS around the low ride height. To strengthen the chassis, templates were made and one-piece boxing plates were laser-cut.
“The chassis is fully TIG-welded,” says Adam. “It’s one of the first things Leon taught me. TIG is slower but much nicer.”
The dizzy is a Bubba full-electronic unit. It’s from the US, where Bubba takes a small-block Chev dizzy, machines the housing to suit the flathead, then deletes the vacuum advance (which doesn’t work because of the twin Strombergs) and replaces the points with a Pertronix electronic unit
With the chassis done, the next job was recreating the original wooden body mounts in steel. “We put a lot of steel into this car,” says Adam. “It weighs 1400kg.” Finally, Adam and Leon were able to mock up the body.
As a spray painter by trade, Adam knows his way around a hammer and dolly, so he tackled the bodywork himself. Unlike most steel-bodied hot rods, every panel is original to the truck, but the body had to be steeled out, plus things like approved seatbelt mounts incorporated. The one body job he was really dreading was the door hinges. The mounts had flogged out and somebody had simply welded them in place – with a stick welder no less! “It was a total mess,” he says. “I had to drill out the weld then cut the whole pillar out. We fabricated new insert plates to give the hinges a small amount of adjustment.”
The 239-cube, 1951-vintage flathead was in the car when it arrived. Getting it rebuilt and warmed over was a task Adam left to the professionals. A number of Eagles Hot Rod Club members had advised him that the best place for a reliable motor was Jim Eastwood Racing Engines, and he couldn’t be happier with his choice. The block required eight sleeves, one-off pistons and a custom-ground bumpstick from Clive Cams. Being a flathead, it’s no powerhouse, but with the new Offenhauser heads and intake, as well as twin Stromberg carbs combined with the lumpy cam, the truck gets along plenty well.
While the as-purchased engine remains, the super-rare, 1940 factory four-speed did not (it's being saved for another project). It was swapped out for a thoroughly modern C4 three-speed auto by DTM Automatic Transmissions, which bolts straight up to the early Ford V8 thanks to a Flatattack bellhousing.
Another modern update is the late-model BW Falcon diff. After being unable to find anything the right width, Matty from Geelong Diffs suggested cutting down a BW. Beefed up with 31-spline axles and LSD centre, they’re strong and available in every ratio imaginable. Plus, the standard drums pair nicely with the Falcon/Commodore disc brakes up front.
Given Adam owns Bodyshop Paint Supplies in Geelong, you’d think choosing the colour would have been easy. Nope. “I tell my customers: ‘Don’t paint your car your favourite colour. Paint it the colour that best suits the car’,” he says. “My original plan was HOK Root Beer over gold metalflake – same as the dash. As the car came together, I started seeing it another colour. In the end, I followed my own advice and settled on DeBeer satin grey metallic. I literally made up the colour 15 minutes before I started painting.”
Rodney Bowd beautifully restored the original gauges and dash panel, converting it to 12 volts and neatly integrating tell-tales like turn signals, high beam, etc. The reproduction ’40 steering wheel sits atop a painted RHD Ididit collapsible column
Inside, the original bench seat was resprung, repadded and reupholstered by Blackmans Leather in Geelong – who took care of all the sewing and carpeting duties. Despite much lobbying by Blackmans, the doors remain trim-free. “It’s a truck and I wanted to retain much of that character,” says Adam.
Needing a rego-friendly collapsible column, he initially tried an XY Falcon unit, but it didn’t look the part. The solution was a RHD Ididit column, complete with breakaway top mount.
For Adam’s cruising pleasure, FLAT 40’s interior was completely lined with Dynamat – floor, firewall, roof, back of the cab, everywhere. “It makes a huge difference,” he says. It also makes it easier to hear the truck’s audio system. It includes a hidden Clarion Buetooth head unit that connects to his phone, all pumping through Hertz splits mounted in custom kick panels crafted by installer Travis Maddicks.
Three things not used from the original truck were the wiring (redone by Aaron Harris), fluid lines (by Maltech) and the glass. FLAT 40 is fitted with laminated glass all ’round – complete with the correct Australian markings. The whole project was finished just in time for Meguiar’s MotorEx Melbourne 2016.
“We worked on it that morning, barely getting the motor running to drive it out of Big L’s,” says Adam. “I was still screwing headlights into it during set-up. It was all worth it, as it was surprisingly well received, with crowds around it all weekend taking photos.”
Since then, FLAT 40 has served Adam well, racking up well over 3000 cruisy miles. If you’re thinking he’d be all ’40ed out, you’d be wrong. With so many parts left over, he’s decided to build another, except this one will be a coupe with an old-school moonshine-runner theme.
1940 FORD PICK-UP
Paint: Satin Grey Metallic
Brand: 239ci Flathead Ford V8
Heads: Offenhauser 24-stud
Inlet manifold: Offenhauser 2x2
Carbies: Two Stromberg 97s
Camshaft: Clive Cams
Lifters: Johnson adjustable
Pistons: Custom JP
Cooling: Aussie Desert Cooler
Fuel pump: Holley electric
Exhaust: 1.5in custom
Ignition: Bubba electronic
Gearbox: C4 three-speed
Bellhousing: Flatattack Racing
Diff: Ford BorgWarner, LSD, 31-spline, custom axles, 3.23:1
Tailshaft: Custom one-piece
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Southern Chassis Works IFS
Rear: RideTech parallel four-bar
Springs/Shocks: Slam Specialties ’bags
Brakes: Falcon discs and Commodore calipers (f), Falcon drums (r)
Master cylinder: HQ
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Steelies; 15x5 (f), 15x7 (r)
Rubber: Coker whitewalls; 185/65R15 (f), 215/75R15 (r)