Monday, May 20, 2024


Pick-ups are all the rage among hot rodders these days and the older they look, the cooler they are. The pick up truck was never designed to be pretty as they are predominately workhorses and need to be tough to handle the daily grind. Having said that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when modified, make great rods giving the builder many options as to how they want the finished vehicle to look.


The ‘34 Ford pick up gracing these pages is owned by Brian Cuolahan and is a prime example of the cool look one can get from an early model workhorse. “I purchased the ‘34 in 2005 from American Hemi Speed Centre in South Australia,” says Brian. “I had wanted a pickup for some time and a project that I didn’t have to rebuild from the chassis up. I was doing a total rebuild at the time on a 1959 T-bird that was taking a lot longer than I thought when I first started” 

The bulk of the work on the rod was completed in the USA before reaching our shores. No guards, no bonnet, just the bare essentials that exemplifies the true meaning of “rodding” a vehicle. The headlights have been lowered and brought in closer to the radiator giving it a tighter look. With its flat black paint, white firewall with nostalgia decals and powder coated rims, it was subsequently put on a boat and sent to our shores. 


“When the car arrived at my home the delivery guy said he wouldn’t be driving that anywhere, no brakes and the strangest looking shockers he’d ever seen. He wasn’t wrong about the brakes! We had quite a few adventures trying to pull the truck up when we first got it.”

So first on the to-do list was to apply some suitable brakes. Limiting himself to early Ford components only, Brian upgraded to a ‘39 Ford master cylinder and ‘40 Ford drums. The only machining required was to move the wheel cylinders in so as to clear the drums.

With the stopping power sorted Brian turned to the 221 cubic inch Flathead V8. There’s not a lot to these 85 hp motors so Brian had the block honed out, replaced the water pumps and added electronic ignition for easier starts. During the rebuild, a ¾ Isky race cam was slipped in giving the classic motor better low end torque and a lumpier note. The whole electrical system was changed from its original 6 volt system to the more compliable 12 volt version using a 12 volt generator. With a new single exhaust system , this retro rod plays a neat tune.  


The original 3 speed box was simply reconditioned using off the shelf parts from the USA. The original diff and suspension is in tact but the shockers were upgraded from the oil filled units to the more ride friendly friction type. Brian has plans of adding a panhard bar to improve on the road handling.

Checking over the ageing aesthetics of Henry’s design, Brian drew up a short list of wants and needs and set to work. He replaced the timber floor in the tray retaining the original appearance with hardwood. A set of aftermarket LED tail/indicators were added for legal reasons but can be easily flipped up out of sight. Up front was a sprint car style nerf bar that looked the part but after some deliberation, he replaced it with a more minimal stainless steel spreader. Another addition to the chassis rails is a custom stainless steel dress piece from Cut That in Colac to cover an unwanted steering shaft hole.  

Brian opted for the bare essentials when it came to indoors. The Mexican blanket came already stitched in as part of the seat fabric so Brian left it alone. The dash was minus the necessary gauges so he did a garage crawl around his own shed and came up with a speedo out of an early sixties beetle and a couple of non-matching fuel, amp and oil dials. Throw in a light switch, ignition and original manual choke and that’s pretty much it for the dash. The only other addition is the truck’s mascot in the form of a bobbing skull on a handmade body looking out the back window courtesy of Dirty White Boyz in the US. 

In 2010, Brian had a friend do a total strip back and respray the cabin to guarantee it lasts for many more years to come. Unfortunately, he had to lose some neat signwriting on the door but plans are for something new and a little closer to home. 

Brian intends on keeping this little lugger in the family since it has already taken part in a momentous family occasion.


“The pickup featured in my daughter’s wedding as the groom’s transport. We just piled all the boys in the back! My kids enjoy taking the pickup for a spin and I try to take it to as many car shows as possible throughout the year, we have found that hot rodding is a great social and family activity with our kids joining in now with their own cars. A lot of older people really enjoy the pick-up and often come up to me with stories of when they were younger and would pile into the back of a similar truck for a Sunday drive or a trip to town.”

She’s definitely a keeper!


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