“I just love old cars,” Mike Ruble told me, “…and trucks. I have my whole life since I was a kid. My grandpa used to flip old trucks. I guess I got the bug from that.”
But Mike’s not looking to flip his really sharp ‘32 Ford Pickup. He likes driving it.
Mike and I talked at the Hoover, Alabama stop on this year’s Hot Rod Power Tour. For Mike and his buddy Gary (who owns an awesome 60s Cadillac convertible) it was their third stop, after Memphis and Nashville. For GHR it was our first. In fact, Mike’s was the first hot rod I walked up to that day.
Mike’s owned the Ford for a little over three years now. The man who built it, sadly, got sick and passed away. He left the truck for his grandchildren, and they just let the ‘32 sit. “When I bought it, it was kind of a basket case,” Mike said. “It had been sitting for a long time.”
But he knew it was worth saving. The pickup sits on a custom-made chassis, has four wheel power disc brakes, power rack and pinion steering, and a healthy 302 cubic inch small block Ford mated to an overdrive automatic transmission.
Still, it needed a lot of work. “All the fuel system, all the brake system, all the cooling system was junk,” Mike told me. “It wouldn’t run.” Check out these photos the people Mike bought the truck from gave him that show the kind of shape the car was in.
So he set out to rebuild everything that wasn’t working. “We’ve rebuilt the brakes, fuel, carb, radiator and got it up and running.”
It wasn’t easy. Mike said the power steering pump was “nasty”. The brake calipers were frozen and all the bleeder valves had been broken off, so he had to replace the calipers on all four wheels.
The entire fuel system had to be cleaned and the fuel sending unit in the tank needed to be replaced. Mike also rebuilt the carburetor. But other than that, he hasn’t had to do much to the 302, which still has the headers and dual exhaust that were on it when Mike got it. He was concerned about the transmission, since it sat for so long, but it checked out OK and Mike reports it runs and drives great.
The suspension is all Ford too, although it’s not from 1932. It’s got a Mustang II front end and steering. Out back there’s a Ford 9” rear on leaf springs. A full set of Torq Thrust wheels give the pickup a classic hot rod look.
That suspension is working well. Mike reports that “it’s a fun little truck. The steering is tight and it handles smoothly. It drives like a go cart.”
And that small block must be making good horsepower. Mike said that he and Gary have been cruising from site to site on the Power Tour at about 70 mph, and “it hangs right in there. You can probably go about as fast as you want to go with it.” All that while still getting about 18 mpg.
Although he hasn’t made many changes to the truck so far, the extent of the mechanical work he’s had to do has led to some interesting occurrences. Last August, Mike was trying to get the Ford ready for the Frog Follies show in Indiana. After driving it for about 100 miles, he felt that everything on the pickup seemed to be working well.
“I stopped and filled it up with gas so it’d be ready to go in the morning,” he told me. “While it was sitting there at the gas station, the power brake booster locked up. It wouldn’t move from in front of the gas pumps.”
I figured the gas station people weren’t too happy about that, but Mike told me that wasn’t the case. “They got out and started taking pictures,” he said. “They were loving it because it was getting some attention for their gas station. Eventually it sat there long enough for the brakes to release and I drove it home.”
As you can see in the pictures, the paint is in really good shape. (The first picture shows the truck when it first came out of the paint booth.) And I love Mike’s attitude about it. “It’s got some nicks and chips on it,” he said, “but if you’re going to drive them, they’re going to get that.”
He likes the chrome bumpers and the big chrome headlights and the chrome grill on the truck. That grill is actually from a 1931 Ford. Mike’s got a ‘32 grill, but it has to be painted, so for right now, he’s sticking with the chrome ‘31.
The bucket seats are out of a Mustang II, and the dash board has a full complement of custom gauges. Mike was quick to point out that the air conditioning was not currently working. For the record, this year’s Power Tour was a bad time to have your A/C not working. It. Was. Hot.
The truck bed has a custom wood floor, which Mike plans to sand and re-varnish sometime soon because he says, “it’s starting to show some age. But the truck’s 90 years old. So maybe it should show a little age.”
As far as future plans for the pickup go, Mike’s got one, and it’s not trivial. “I’m 6′ 4″ tall,” he said. “I don’t fit in this truck very well. If I’m serious about keeping it, I’m going to make an extended cab out of it and lengthen the frame. That’ll be a big project.”
He’s also going to redo the front fenders to get them fitted correctly. Having owned his own body shop, Mike Ruble Autobody, for 15 years, I’m sure he’ll get those fenders looking just about perfect.
The Power Tour was the first real road trip for the Ford, but it’s not going to be the last. Mike’s planning to go to the National Street Rod Association show in Knoxville, and this year’s Frog Follies show in Indiana. Assuming the brakes don’t lock up at a gas station. (I had not heard of Frog Follies, but Mike says it’s a great show. He said it draws about 5,000 pre-1948 only cars and trucks and about 500 venders in the show’s swap meet.)
No doubt there will be other improvements in the future. As Mike said, “These old cars and projects, I guess you never really get them done. You just get to the point where you want to enjoy them and have some fun with them.”
And Mike’s already at that point now with his pickup. “I’m tickled,” he told me. “I’m just enjoying driving it. I’m having a good time with it.”
And that’s what hot rodding is all about.
Photos by GHR and courtesy of Mike Ruble
Click here to see the photos of the ’32