When the F-1 Ford was introduced in 1948, it was the first built on a dedicated truck platform that carried on until 1952, setting itself apart from the competition. This stronger foundation would make the truck more capable for what its intended buyers would use it. To keep up with the demand Ford had the trucks assembled at 16 different factories, of which two were in Michigan (Dearborn and Highland Park) where Bill Whetstone would eventually find his 1949 F-1 Ford. While most truck enthusiasts either choose this style or the tremendously changed 1953-1956 F-100, Bill loved both but was missing a solid F-1 from his stable of pedigree of four-wheeled hot rods.
This first-generation F-1 truck was the most common model, best known then as the “Bonus-Built,” only have a 6 1/2-foot bed compared to the 8-foot as used on Ford’s other models. Being a 1/2-ton truck, Ford provided two flathead motor options (a 226ci six-cylinder and a 239ci V-8) with a three- or four-speed manual transmission. The most notable change for the 1949 F-1 was simply the deletion of the red stripes on the front grille and color matching the wheels to the body while keeping the integrated headlights into the fenders. The passenger taillight also become a standard piece of equipment versus being optional.
The previous owner, Mike Digiovanni, ran across the 1949 F-1 in fairly good shape, being partially restored but was still rough in some areas, while attending the Street Rod Nationals held in Kalamzoo, Michigan. The truck had good bones and was already in a decent spot of restoration. In order to attend the show, a rebuilt 350 SBC had been shoved in to make it a running, driving project. This would have to be addressed later as the motor was not quite right. The front suspension had a solid Heidts Mustang II–style front suspension already, which was a plus. The interior, however, was in worse shape, being just the seat springs with a cover over it with no foam or anything. This didn’t bother Mike as he is a known top-notch upholster who would have changed it anyway.
The interior was completely overhauled in a refined classic modern style that Mike is best known for; he also put a matching bed cover on. The motor was pulled out to rebuild and added Vortec heads with Roller rockers plus a 4-bbl Holley 650 tuning the motor to 355 ci. Mike’s son Joe at Joey D’s Racecar Fabrication, whipped up a cold-air intake and exhaust, including a few other odds and ends. Joe is very detail-oriented, providing a “wow” factor that was functional also within the engine compartment. Once the rebuilt transmission with 2500 Stahl converter was placed between the framerails the truck had a mean hot rod sound that is music to any builder when the key was turned. Joe set the stance by installing drop spindles.
Eventually Mike decided to sell the truck and informed his brother Anthony who just so happened to be a mechanic and close family friend of Bill Whetstone. Anthony immediately told Bill, who he knew was passionate over all steel trucks, about this flawless restoration with impeccable details right down to the upholstery. Bill reached out and they set up a time so he could look the F-1 over.
Once home Bill and his grandson, Chris, starting looking into taking the truck to another level that fit their style, which meant taking the rest of the “farm” away. The blackwall tires were swapped out for body-painted rims wrapped in whitewalls with nice chrome dog dishes. The truck still had black bumpers, grille, and running boards, which needed to be addressed. They bought new chrome bumpers and a horizontal bar grille to swap out. The running boards and inner grille were then painted body color. To break up the red in the interior they had some of the panels and trim painted to match the color of the camel upholstery. At this point the truck looked more finished and certainly hot rod. It didn’t even look like the same F-1!
With the truck sitting just right, Bill fell more in love with it; it helped that everything was now mechanically refreshed and super reliable so he could just jump in and drive. Bill goes to Arizona for three months ever year to escape the harsh Michigan winter. When he does it’s always with something in tow behind him to enjoy driving. He took the Ford to the Goodguys Scottsdale show where it took Best Ford out of 50-75 trucks. Bill then put another 2,000 miles on it as his daily during the visit. Out of many of the trucks to roll through Bill’s hot rod collection he has yet to find one that might send a hint of the 1949 going to the sellers block! CT
Facts & Figures
Rearend / Ratio: 8-inch Ford / 3.50
Rear Suspension: Parallel leaves
Rear Brakes: Drum
Front Suspension: Heidts Mustang II with drop spindles
Front Brakes: Disc
Steering Box: Rack-and-pinion
Front Wheels: Vintique Steel 15 inch
Rear Wheels: Vintique Steel 15 inch
Front Tires: 195/75R15 Diamond Back WW
Rear Tires: 235/75R15 Diamond Back WW
Gas Tank: Stock
Engine: 355ci Chevy
Heads: Vortec with Roller Rockers
Valve Covers: Stock Chrome
Manifold / Induction: Aluminum 4-bbl / Holley 650
Exhaust / Mufflers: Custom stainless fabricated by Joey D’s Racecar Fabrication
Transmission: TH350 2500 Stall Converter
Fenders Front / Rear: Stock
Grille: Stock Chrome
Bodywork and Paint by: Unknown
Paint type / Color: PPG Radiant Red
Headlights / Taillights: Stock
Outside Mirrors: SO-CAL Swan Neck
Bumpers: Stock chrome
Air Conditioning: None
Stereo: AM/FM CD
Steering Wheel: Billet Specialties Wheel
Steering Column: GM
Upholstery by: Mike Digiovanni
Material / Color: Camel Naugahyde
Carpet: German square-weave