- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2000

There was a time, not so long ago, that when you saw a pickup truck you knew the driver was a man who did manly things.

Progress generally means civilization, which eventually sissified trucks with power-assisted this and that and carpeting underfoot and air conditioning overhead.

Long before urban cowboys began invading the highways and byways, Peyton Estle, a Dublin, Va., farmer, a man for whom working pickups were built, went to Pulaski Motors in nearby Pulaski and bought a 6,800-pound gross vehicle weight 1949 Ford F3 pickup. It just happened to be vermilion and, of course, it was outfitted like most working men wanted with nothing but an adjustable outside mirror.

Carrying a base price of $1,545. This was the second year of Ford's new at the time F-series truck program.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles dutifully mailed his title dated May 10, 1949. In the upper right corner of the envelope is a canceled 3-cent stamp.

The reason we know all this is because of the fourth owner, Bill Shields, a nuclear safety specialist government lawyer.

Back in 1997 Mr. Shields, an antique automobile enthusiast, concluded he needed a working truck. Instead of a new vehicle, he thought why not a bona fide antique. Then he would have the best of both worlds.

After a brief shopping period in which he rejected many hot-rodded trucks, as well as handyman fixer-uppers, he ran across an ad for an original 1949 F3 pickup that sounded too good to be true. Working with the theory that the one truck you don't check out is the one you should have, Mr. Shields called and made an appointment.

The truck was located 45 miles away in Stafford, Va. Since Mr. Shields had friends there, he could visit them after looking at the truck which probably would be a waste of time anyway.

When he first looked at the humble, but honest, 48-year-old truck with only 16,150 miles on the odometer which amounts to 336 miles a year he was almost too amazed to say, "I'll take it."

The seller showed him the key holder the original owner had been given by Pulaski Motors. It contained a compartment holding an uncirculated 1949 nickel to use at a pay telephone if the truck broke down. That's when Mr. Shields knew he was going to buy the truck.

The old Ford was purchased in March 1997 and Mr. Shields drove it 45 miles home to Vienna at 60 mph on Interstate 95 with no problems.

The 226-cubic-inch, 95-horse-power, six-cylinder engine under the hood was built to work but had not been abused. With a single-barrel downdraft carburetor under the heavy-duty oil bath air cleaner feeding fuel to the engine, Mr. Shields reports fuel economy of 17 mpg. The gas tank has a 20-gallon capacity. "It's incredibly easy to service," Mr. Shields said.

Upon a thorough inspection, Mr. Shields found the 18-quart cooling system "filthy." After a complete system flushing and the installation of a reconditioned radiator, the truck runs cooler as does Mr. Shields. "It's a really solid truck," he said.

Although a chrome grille was optional, the original owner skipped that accessory. Therefore, the truck to this day has a five-bar gray grille, the bottom bar having a hole in the center to accommodate a crank handle.

The Ford was in such excellent condition that Mr. Shields only needed to replace one oak cross member under the seven-slat oak bed. The 8x4-foot bed is designed to carry a 2,600-pound load.

The Warner four-speed transmission is also geared to handle such cargo as long as the driver double clutches between shifts. A set of 8-ply, 7.50x17-inch tires supports the load with a spare hung horizontally under the bed. Eight lug nuts secure each wheel.

Mr. Shields found in Pennsylvania a spare transmission and purchased it just in case.

Because this is a working truck, it came equipped with no rear shock absorbers the idea being that a heavy load would hold down the back.

Mr. Shields has located the optional brackets into which the optional shock absorbers fit. Now your teeth are only shaken slightly loose.

Accessories that could have been ordered on the truck that Mr. Shields has added include:

* Right windshield wiper.

* Right taillight.

* Lincoln radio.

* Fog lamps.

* Heater.

Besides the approved Ford accessories Mr. Shields added turn signal accessories, which required the optional taillight. He also installed seat belts strictly for safety.

An aftermarket accessory that was popular in 1949 and is still viable today is the vacuum-powered fan. It keeps you cool in the summer and defrosts the windshield in the winder.

Both the original owner and Mr. Shields passed on the opportunity to install a right-side sun visor.

Keeping life simple, the truck features a black painted gas cap and a three-spoke steering wheel through which can be seen the original 100 mph speedometer.

Cranking the steering wheel to the extremes means this vehicle can be turned in a 22-foot circle to the right or a 23-foot circle to the left.

Altogether, Mr. Shields said his truck fits all of its roles to perfection.

"Everything on it now works perfectly."

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