1951 Ford Deluxe Ute: Reader resto

1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute
1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute
1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute
1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute 1951 Ford Deluxe Ute

A chance discovery of a rare Aussie ute led to a painstaking 15-year restoration.


1951 Ford Deluxe Ute


Frank Beale spent most of his working life in the automotive parts industry, which came in handy when his dream car - described as "complete" by its former owner - arrived on his doorstep. As he awaited delivery, Beale knew the rare '51 Ford ute would need a full restoration and he expected to be patiently stripping the old car down to its bones. What he didn't expect was two trailer loads of parts to lob in his driveway. Complete, mind you.

As is so often the case, Beale happened on his '51 Ford by chance. At a car show he met a bloke named Alex Mann who was into '51 Fords and had a restored '51 sedan; he put Beale onto a wrecked sedan. Frank began to restore it, got half way through, was made an offer he couldn't refuse and sold it. Soon after Mann called to say he'd found a ute. "He said it's complete, it's a restorable jigger and it's pretty rare; you'll love it," Frank smiles.

The 1951 Ford sedan was made in the US but Ford Australia, having designed the first utility in 1934, built the ute version in Geelong. The front panels are based on the sedan and all others, including the wheel arches and side panels, were made in Australia. Beale couldn't resist. "He talked me into it, it cost nothing, but he brought the car around in two trailer loads of boxes of parts and rubbish," he says. "Nothing was assembled, it was totally stripped down to the last nut and bolt."


On the face of it, Mann had done Frank a favour; he didn't have to strip the car, but what Beale now had was a giant jigsaw. By the way, this is 1980… Manual labour After all his years in spare parts, Frank had an encyclopaedic memory of Ford part numbers and, you guessed it, he already had a parts list for the '51. "The model was well and truly out of date, no-one needed parts anymore, and they weren't available anyway, so I just commandeered a parts catalogue and virtually used it to rebuild the car. "It was more helpful than a workshop manual because everything was exploded and you could see where things went, what I had, what I didn't and what I had to make." On the face of it, Frank's '51, although in bits, appeared complete but it was far from it and there were thousands of small parts and specific nuts and bolts to source, which would have been impossible to do without the catalogue. And so began the restoration.

The body was taken to a panel shop and shoved into a corner. Frank began preparing the chassis, which was straight and because it was made from quarter inch-thick steel had survived the red devil quite well. But family tragedies intervened and the ute project remained dormant from 1985 until 1992 when Frank began work on it again. Working weekends, he started on the chassis again and laboriously cleaned, polished, sanded, wire brushed all the small body and interior parts. "A lot of people don't realise how many small jobs there are to be done," he says. "If you have a bent panel that needs straightening, you take it to a professional and they can do it in no time. But when you have parts missing, you don't know what the original looked like, what fits with what… they are really time consuming." Small parts that needed to be made from scratch included bushes, spacers, rods, links and Frank, with no formal training, learnt as he went along. Meanwhile, the body was slowly taking shape at the original panel shop but in 2003 he took it to Classic Mustang & Rod Shop to step up the restoration pace. Only the roof wasn't dented or damaged and the outer skin on the tailgate is reproduction.

Auto-Trade Body Works painted the car in 2-pack, which is as close as you can get to the original enamel finish. "The colour is a genuine '52 Ford colour for the car but I don't know what colour the car was originally," he says. Back from the dead The 239 cube side-valve V8 is an unusual engine, somewhat over-engineered with two water pumps, two thermostats, two top and two bottom radiator hoses, one per cylinder bank, but it was totally rusted. The heads were off the block, the pistons were jammed in the bores, the crank was shot and the sump was missing. It was so bad the block had to be left in dipping solution for two weeks to free up the moving parts! The pistons, though, were beyond redemption but 20 years ago Frank was lucky to get hold of a set of genuine 40 thou-over pistons, rings and gudgeon pins still wrapped in their original greaseproof paper from the US. Once all the parts were separated the engine was sent off to Major Engine Rebuilders to be reconditioned. "They seemed to know all about the old V8s, liked old engines and they did a beautiful job. We were fortunate that the engine was original, with standard sized bores, so we had it bored out 40 thou."


The crankshaft was ground and new main and big-end bearings fitted along with new camshaft bearings, some new valves plus new valve guides and lifters and gaskets. The radiator was rebuilt. The transmission is a classic 'three on the tree', with no synchro on first gear, and while the major components were fine, all the bearings, seals and circlips were replaced with modern or reproduction items.

The diff is an 8-inch hypoid model, bigger than the sedan's with a lower ratio for hauling more weight, and needed new side and axle bearings. There are drum brakes all 'round, of course, and the drums needed machining, wheels cylinders were overhauled, master cylinder re-sleeved, and new brake shoes fitted. There are no creature comforts like servo-assist on the brakes or power steering. "When the brakes are cold they grab quite well but when they warm up they don't fade but you really have to put the boot into them (to stop)," Frank says, adding that three-point turns are good for the shoulders.

The interior is totally original, although the tilt 'bench seat was missing but Frank found one in a wreck in a paddock near Eaglehawk. Because the original door trims were in place he knew what colour to have the seat retrimmed in. "We matched the leather, pattern and beading to the door trim and I'm very satisfied by the work Australian Motor Trimmers did. They also did the canvas tonneau and matched it exactly to the original one I had, right down to the seams."

The beautiful wooden tonneau frame is original but the curved section had to be remade in a steam press. The metal dashboard, with a woodgrain transfer (also used on the door frames), was in "pretty bad" nick and it had to be stripped, base-coated and then the woodgrain was hand painted by specialist painter John Nichols. All the instruments were repaired and recalibrated and the glass is new reproduction except for the complex curved rear windscreen, which Frank managed to pick up around the traps. The radio is a restored original as is the wind-up clock, and a unique 'night safety visor'. The mirrors are reproduction. Lights go on Back in 1951, taillights weren't the rage (imagine all the rear-enders!) and all that was fitted was a combination tail, stop and number plate light; Frank added indicators to make it roadworthy but hates having to run them. All the brightwork is original and repaired by Auto Plating in Oakleigh, Vic.with the exception of the chrome wheel trims and the lights are straight from 1951. The fog lights are a story in themselves. "I was sitting in my office at Rare Spares one day when an elderly gentleman asked if we'd be interested in buying a set of fog lights, brand new in a box. I bought them for $25 but I didn't realise 'til I fitted them that they were genuine '50s Ford fog lights."


The original 16-inch steel wheels were re-rolled and repaired and run 16 x 6-inch American MRF nylon tyres from Antique Tyre Suppliers, which are diabolical in the wet, Frank says. Suspension is leaf spring and tubular shocks at the rear and double-wishbones, tubular shocks and a sway bar up front. The car has been registered since 2005. "It came out of the workshop in October 2005 and went straight to my home where we started getting all the mechanicals ready. Then it went to the trimmers and after that it was a case of bolting it all together and getting everything to work and that took about five weeks." Driving it for the first time was a magic moment for Frank, after 15 years of waiting. "I felt pretty fantastic, particularly when people started waving to me and staring. I knew roughly what it was going to drive like; it's fun but it's hard to drive. "On the highway I generally sit on 90km/h. It's not great in a cross wind or in the rain because it slips and slides and if you touch the brakes it locks up all four wheels. It's drives totally different to a modern car."

Frank has entered his '51 in six car shows and won first prizes at five of them, including Best Classic & Vintage at the 2006 Brocky's Big Day Out as well as a second prize in the Customline/Victoria/Mainline class at the 2008 All Ford Day in Geelong. Frank admits his ute is "pretty unique", adding that he has only seen two others on the road and in not as good nick as his, and that makes his labours all the more worthwhile. It took almost two decades but Frank's '51 is literally a part of Australian motoring history.


Ford fanatic Frank Beale was born in Melbourne in 1940 but moved to the Otway Ranges in the late-'40s where he started working in a saw mill at 14. Three years later an accident forced him to return to the big smoke in 1958 and he quickly found work as a drive-way attendant greasing cars at Broon's Motors, a Ford dealership in Geelong Road, Brooklyn.

Two days after getting his licence he was asked to drive for the spare parts division, using a Fordson 10 van. He soon moved into sales and worked in spare parts at various Ford dealerships (including a stint at Rare Spares) for the next 41 years, before a six-year stint at a Suzuki dealer prior to retiring in 2005. As a 13-year-old in the then remote Otways, Beale started collecting car brochures, writing away to dealers in Melbourne and he lusted after American cars - Fords, Buicks and Chevrolets.

His father had a succession of old cars and didn't get his first new car until 1950 when he took young Frank to his first Melbourne Motor Show where he ordered a Jowett Javelin. He kept that until 1956 then traded it in on an FJ Holden. Since then Beale has been to every Melbourne Motor Show. "Back then I got attached to just about every car, if it was unusual," he recalls. "My first car was a 1955 Hillman Minx, traded that in 18 months later on a new Ford Anglia then two years later I bought a new XK Deluxe Ford Falcon.

I had that car until 1964 and from then on I drove company (Ford) cars for the rest of my life." The Ford die had been cast early, though. "I'd always liked Fords, right from the start," he says. "When I saw the 1949 'single-spinner' Ford, the forerunner of my car, it was so stylish and far ahead of just about anything else; it was just a beautiful and luxurious car. I was hooked on Fords from that day on."



Body: two-door utility

Engine: 239ci (3.9-litre) side-valve V8, single Stromberg carby

Power/torque: 74kW/248Nm

Transmission: Three-speed manual

Brakes: Drums

Suspension: Double wishbones/tubular shocks/sway bar (f), leaf springs/tubular shocks (r)


Unique Cars magazine Value Guides

Sell your car for free right here


Get your monthly fix of news, reviews and stories on the greatest cars and minds in the automotive world.