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Vehicle : 1940 Ford C.O.E.

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I always liked the lines on these trucks, ever since I first saw pics. In fact I drew a business solicitation postcard of this design about 5 or 7 years before :

HOTRODS card.jpg

... I bought this one off eBay in 2003- guy was nice enough to stop a very busy auction for me (IIRC, it had about 15 bids). This was the lead pic on the auction :

99T-01 Tom-3:4.jpg

This is a 1940 Ford COE, or Cab Over Engine, Model 09W.

The COE was first built by Ford for the '38 model year. The few years before this, aftermarket builders custom-built Cab Overs, so some sort of demand was apparently there.


The purpose of the COE was to get greater cargo capacity in the same length chassis, for use in cities and those states with various length restrictions for trucks. This is then the first generation Ford COE, and was built '38-42 and '46-47 (there were no '43-45s), and about 55K were produced. They were offered in 3 wheelbases (101", 134" and 156") and 2 weight ratings, 1.5-ton and 2-ton. Mine is the 134" WB with the 2-ton chassis.

All were V8-powered, all were duallys. The only changes during the first gen were starting in '41; the '38-40s had dual round gauges ('41 & up got a single rectangular unit) and large oval grilles (the '41 & later got a 'waterfall' style). Oh, and the '38s had mechanical brakes; Ol' Henry didn't particularly trust 'juice' brakes and didn't approve them until the '39 model year.

As you can see in the auction pic, my truck (as is common with unrestored COEs) came without a grille... but that then gave me options...

Edited by balthazar
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I have limited past history on my truck. The doors are lettered thusly :


"Humble Oil & Refining Company"

Perhaps the rectangular block below that had the district or region name on it, like 'Harrisburg' or something, but there's no trace of that left.

Humble started in 1911, entered in a partnership with Standard Oil of NJ in 1919. I believe the truck was probably bought new by Humble, no idea where it was used.
It had a 1972 NJ municipal plate on it when I bought it, so I assume it served further use for a local municipality, perhaps on a road crew (tho without having re-lettered it, maybe they never used it after all. Maybe the plate is something some prior owner just threw on). I can tell you the bolts/nuts holding it on were on there a LO-OONG time.

The dash has a stenciled "Watch Body Clearance 9'6", but all the pics I've seen of oil tanker COEs of the period, ALL the tanks are lower than the cab roof (which is 90", or 7'5"), so perhaps the municipality had some other structure on the back. No physical evidence remains as to what, and there really aren't any 'later addition' holes in the frame either.

Pic also shows the Civil Defense symbols on the doors. From what I've been told, Fed Gov't paid monies to a truck owner, and the flip was these vehicles had to be made available in cases of emergency, even if that meant driving halfway across the country. Someone told me they heard NY State snowplows registered under the Civil Defense program were dispensed to Colorado in a big storm.

The factory speedo was replaced at some point with a unit from a Ford car. This is obvious because the car speedos read to 100 MPH, the COEs only read to 60. I did pick up a really nice COE speedo at a swap meet, for future installation (along with a nice gauge cluster). The downside is that I have no idea how many miles are on it. I can tell you the motor was replaced with a '46-48 unit at some point.

Sooo, it was used in the oil industry, maybe 20 or 30 years, then maybe used a few more years for a local town. About 1977 a private owner bought it, coincidentally an ex-executive of Standard Oil. Around 1990, the guy who owned it before me bought it. The brake hoses were dated 1989, so he did some work on it, but nothing obvious. So private owner #1 owned it 13 years, PO #2 had it for 13 years, I'm coming up on 11. Again from what I could tell, both previous owners didn't do much toward restoring/rejuvenating it. I also suspect it spent most of those 26 years outside. :(

The rims here are 20" Budd rims, and it's wearing Atlas Plycord 7.00 x 20 10-ply tires. Again co-incidentally, Atlas tires was a subsidiary of Standard Oil. They're tube tires, so I am gathering intel on whether new tubes & flaps in a carcass this old is reasonable or not. Truck isn't really compatible with modern highway use, and won't travel far.

Edited by balthazar
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B-59 is waiting patiently until this is done. I've been on a hot roll on this truck for a few months, made great progress. Work schedule is allowing me some spare time, and I have reshuffled some other things & my approach, so at this point I anticipate going right into the B-59 once this drives, which will be this year. 

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As stated above, this gen COEs all had V8s, the venerable Ford flathead. In '38-42, Ford had a smaller flathead eight, a 221 CI, while Merc (which debuted for '39) had the popular 239. Ford gained the 239 post-war. The 221 was rated at 85 HP, the 239 @ 95. A slight compression bump (from 6.3 to 6.6) raised the rating to 100 @ 3800 on the 239 in the '41 Merc. The '46-48 239 had another slight bump in CR, to 6.75:1, but the HP rating was unchanged. TRQ on this motor was 180 @ 2000.


My mill is a '46-48; it has that gen's 59AB heads, and there's no corresponding VIN stamp on the integral bell housing. As I am putting headers & true duals on the engine, I hope to add 5-7 HP to that; 10 is probably being overly optimistic. I know : woo-ee.


Trans is the spur-gear, non-synchro 4-spd, first gear is a stump-pulling 6.40:1 ratio. This truck trans was used '32-52. Ford added a synchro 4-spd in '48. To tell the truth, I do not know if my trans was swapped with the motor & I have synchs or not (odds are against it, of course).


These motors have been popular since introduced. In fact, I don't think there is another motor with the popularity longevity of the FoMoCo Flathead. And while there are a bunch of hop-up parts available, unless radical work is involved, Ford flatheads are really only good for about 175-200 HP before they run into issues. Aftermarket aluminum heads are numerous, but brand new heads are over $500, and even tho they have 8:1 CR, they only bump HP a tiny amount, a poor ROI IMO. If it was like 30-40 HP, I'd pull the trigger. As it is, duals is all the engine mods my truck is going to see.

Edited by balthazar
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To be clear here on the objective at hand, this is NOT a restoration in the usual sense RE vintage iron. This is, I guess, a "repair", for my approach is to make it reliable & road-worthy, and drive it as is otherwise. I am already waist deep in a rest-mod project, and I don't want to wade that far out with this one (which will only delay the other). In the interest of not making this project go years-long, I have also self-dictated that I will not obsess on this truck, but to place expedition above perfection.

- - - - - -

Ford was still putting wooden (plywood) flooring in these trucks (I am fairly certain it was the advent of the F-Series for '48 that likely included a switch to steel floors). The COE has pretty small floor area because the interior has a van-esque 'doghouse'; rendering this vehicle a true, literal 2-seater. The floor boards consist of 4 parts; 2 'floorboards' and 2 'toe boards' (that angle upward). The driver's toe board is actually seamed and is in 2 pieces to fit around the pedals and steering column.

When I got the truck, there actually were carpenter ants in one of the original boards (guess that shouldn't really be a surprise). The floor boards were in such poor condition there was no question I would have to replace them all. I sourced oak-veneered plywood and make heavy paper templates. With typical practicality, Ford made them mirror images, so I only had to template once, then flip them.

Took quite a bit of fitting & sanding to get them in there snugly, then there were old bolts to extract (not all worked out), holes to tap, holes to drill in the new boards, and refinishing. I didn't want them to stand out as 'NEW!!', so I cast an eye toward aging them, or at least making them 'disappear' as best I could :




Edited by balthazar
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Hopefully, they will show; they're all hosted the same.

- - - - -

One of the first things done is the chop the rear of the frame. The frame was doubled at the factory, but there were these single-thickness extensions about 14" sticking out the back. Something about them, and the diagonal flat stock steel welded there, that looked cobbled together. Besides, shortening it made it easier to walk around in the shop. I cut 14" off and moved the tow hooks forward.


The little bracket [to the left of the jack stand in the above pic] was to hang an apparatus to carry the spare tire. I don't have that apparatus, so not going with a spare.

Legally, mud flaps are not are required in NJ for truck registered at a GVW of under 6001 lbs. I will be registering the COE at 5000 (it weighs about 3950 without driver). However, I probably could fabricate something to hang off those little brackets for that purpose if desired.
- - - - -

Truck had no sign of tail lights at all- perhaps they were mounted in whatever body it used to have.

Again, under the guise of making things functional, I took some on-hand galvanized flat stock, cut & drilled it, and mounted it to the outside of the rails. They are repro Ford lamps, but I scored some used bezels that are scratched up/aged to match the rest better :


Edited by balthazar
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^ Me too.
- - - - -

Slowed down this week- work blew up. I had been working on fab'bing the exhaust, have to get back on that; 90% of the pipes are cut, about 30% are tack welded.

However, I did mount my CLMSL (center low-mounted stop lamp). I debated putting this in the lower third of the cab back panel, but it seemed somehow 'wrong' to put it so far from the tails. This location also simplifies wiring a bit. The 3rd light I got off of fleaBay, I think it was around $25- don't recall offhand. If I decide it's too 'sore thumb'-esque, I can always move it. Some of these choices will either be confirmed or rejected once a daylight walk-around happens.


As this a slow, non-agile machine, the 'STOP" lamp is much more a warning to other motorists, who will have a very much so rougher time impacting a truck with straight, nearly 6-inch tall rails, capped in the rear by 5/8-in thick steel crossmember and cast iron tow hooks... than I will receive.



Also did a bit of work on one of the 'doghouse' panels; there's 3 pieces that cover the engine, just like a modern box van. The edges of these were bent up, and they're designed with various interlocking channels, so it was a bit of hammer & dolly work, but it again fits pretty well. Two more panels here to work the edges/fitment of. Whatever the end few years of service on this truck entailed, rough handling was a frequent component.


In the above pic, you also get a peek at the 3 'man' levers. :rolleyes: The push-buttoned one is the parking brake. The longer lever is the 4-spd gearbox, the shorter is to switch the 2-spd rear from high to low. Properly/ ratio-chronologically operated, it would go :

1st / low range

1st / high range 

2nd / low range

2nd / high range 

3rd / low range

3rd / high range 

4th / low range

4th / high range 


That's right, you chronic manual trans maniacs, this is an 8-speed manual.

Go ahead and throw yourselves off the garage roof in jealousy.

Edited by balthazar
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Yeah, our old F-600 and 700 farm trucks had a 2-speed rear, with a red button controller mounted on the main gearshift.  I believe they were '70 and '71 F-600 in different shades of green, and the red '75 F-700, that was the one I rolled.

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Exhaust work sucks; trying to cut slices of curves, tack it and get two exposed dual pipes to align both in height & spacing side to side isn't necessarily the snappiest job on a vehicle. The one pipe goes thru a hole in the rear cab crossmember, so it has to be there, but the other side never intended for a pipe to run in the space where the linkage rod for the rear runs, in addition to being right near the master cylinder.


Years back I had bought (6) 180-degree U-bends- I have just about the entire dual system cut (needs a lot more tweaking), and I only used 3, so I have plenty on hand to try again. I may start nearly over on both sides. A lift would be a tremendous help. 


EDIT :: "The way to do it" is to start at the headers and thread your way backward. With a cab/chassis truck, the mufflers are visible in/under the frame; I'd like them to align & the exposed pipes to look like (flipped) copies. Going to look at hanging the mufflers and working forward. The headers have different contours, meaning the pipes off of them orient differently, and I don't care what the contours are under the cab. This is now feeling like the 'way to go HERE'.  

Edited by balthazar
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18 year old puffed up driver.  Half a load of soybeans.  Narrow bridge on a curve.  Overcorrection in an attempt to keep it in one lane in case of oncoming traffic.  Load shifted.  Spilled said load, ended up on roof.  Windshield gone, grass flew in and sharp, triangular blades of the combine soybean harvesting head we kept in the cab flew about my ears and eyes in a blur.  Soybeans a foot deep on the road.  First two vehicles on the scene were a motorcycle (that could have been bad) and a Chevette.  Chevette spun its way through.  Soybeans are like ball bearings.  Don't try to walk.


It was repaired with an entire cab, front clip and wooden bed.  I was in trouble for a long time.

Edited by ocnblu
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I followed my updated exhaust theory and started at one muffler and worked forward. Cut & hung a piece of angle iron, used some universal strap hangers I know I've had on hand for 20 years, and ran the exhaust tubing forward. This (passenger) side was much easier, as the factory pipe ran thru the crossmember on this side and it all lined up behind it neatly.





Not much 'slicing' under neath on this side. It's good, going to weld it up this week, then hang the other muffler and work the other side. 


-- -- --

Truck also had zero in the way of mirrors, so I bought a period Ford rear view off eBay for $20 and mounted it up. It's tiny, but looks pretty good up there:



Those are vacuum-powered wipers. Not sure if they're operational; for sure the rubber hoses need replacing. Truck has a laughable TWO fuses in it's fuse block- with no dome light, no radio, no heat & vacuum wipers, there's nothing besides gauges to power inside the cab.


These trucks had long-stemmed side views that arched off the upper door hinges. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to put them on; with no rear vision obstructions, I'm leaning toward 'no'.


-- -- --

One last thing to note in the last pic : I had to add another panel & replace the tracks to the shop garage door to get the COE inside - you can see the next bay's standard height door. The sacrifices we make for love.... ;)

Edited by balthazar
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