There are some early-model trucks that have definitely engraved themselves into the historical archives. One such truck is the 1940 Ford ½-ton pickup. For the first time since 1929, the Ford pickup trucks adopted the partial appearance of a car. The pickup and car shared a pointed hood, V-shaped vertical grille, and front fender with molded headlights. These pickups saw many years of light work as agriculture and industrial haulers. As the years passed, these pickups also became known as a cool hot-rod truck.
Jim Downs, owner of Downs Industries, took these fat-fendered ’40 Ford pickups to the next level by designing a modified street rod version. The Downs fiberglass bodies feature a four-inch chopped cab that was also stretched six inches creating wider doors for easier entry/exit and more interior room. Custom Downs production boxed frames were designed and sold with different suspension and braking configurations. We have seen these cool redesigned Downs ’40 Ford pickups at numerous shows across the county.
Drawn to these wild custom Downs ’40 Ford pickups, Darrell Chambers and his wife Sandy, from Redding, California, had been building hot rods, customs, muscle cars, and trucks since 1957. He decided to purchase this beautiful Downs ’40 Ford pickup from Downs Manufacturing, in Lawton, Michigan. This Downs Ford pickup served as the Downs factory promotional show truck for a couple of seasons before Darrell bought it.
An electronic activated hatch in the bed floor allows for easy access to the Heidts Pro-G
Underneath the modified Downs body is a Downs boxed frame that features a Heidts independent front suspension (IFS) with two-inch drop spindles, coilover shocks, a power steering rack, a pair of Wilwood dual-piston clippers, and 10.5-inch rotors. For a stylish rolling stock, a pair of Boyd Coddington Impulse 17x7-inch polished billet aluminum wheels are consumed in 215/50R17 Goodyear Eagle tires. The rear suspension also features a high-performance Heidts Pro G independent rear suspension (IRS) and this unique IRS system was designed around a Heidts 9-inch aluminum housing with a cast-iron third member that was stuffed with 3.70 gears and a posi-unit. A front pinion support maintains the correct pinion angle and helps stabilize the third member. The horsepower is planted into the asphalt by a pair of 255/55R18 Goodyear Eagle tires, mounted on Boyd Coddington Impulse 18x8-inch billet wheels.
Peeking through the hood is a Blower Drive Service (BDS) bug catcher that was mounted atop a pair of Edlebrock Q-Jet carburetors. Opening the hood exposes the BDS 6-71 supercharger that force-feeds the mighty Chevy 355ci powerplant producing 600 horsepower. The ceramic-coated Hedman headers collect and flow into a 3-inch exhaust system that merges into a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. A Griffin aluminum radiator maintains cool running temperatures during summertime cruises. To make more room in the compact engine compartment, the Optima battery was located under the cab. A GM 4L60E automatic transmission was bolted up behind the engine with a LoKar shifter for easy gear selection.
After block-sanding the fiberglass body smooth and straight in preparation for the custom two-tone paint scheme, Downs used House of Kolor Metallic Midnight Blue for the top half with wispy Cobalt Blue ghost flames. The lower portion received HOK Metallic Silver. Both colors were separated with a HOK Orange graphic line surrounded with HOK Red pinstripes. Four coats of HOK clear were sprayed, burying the custom colors and giving it endless depth. Chevron-style taillights were installed in the rear fenders and up front, a modified ’40 Ford horizontal grille was flanked by a pair of ’40 Ford fenders and headlights. The bed is accessed by an electronically activated tonneau cover that tilts forward. Inside the bed, the beautiful white oak planks were coated with a deep urethane finish and are separated with polished stainless stringers. A flip of a switch on the dash activates the motorized bed floor hatch that allows access to the Heidts Pro G independent rear suspension.
To follow through with the smooth, clean look, Downs had Shawn Krist at Krist Kustoms, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, install a soft-white pearl Ultra leather interior headliner, door panels, padded dash, with a pair of their Sreamline low-back bucket seats that were separated with a waterfall center console. Before laying the gray pile carpet, Dynamat was installed to help deaden the engine and road noise and also dissipate the engine heat. The engine’s vital signs are displayed on the dash in a Dakota Digital gauge panel. Vintage Air air conditioning was installed to keep the cab’s interior comfortable year round. A Sony audio head unit with flip screen display conducts the tunes through a Sony amp and four 6x7 speakers mounted in the doors and rear cab corners.
This “timeless” Downs ’40 Ford pickup has been a true showstopper wherever Darrell and Sandy cruise or show their pride and joy.