Street Rod Life

A Young Man’s ’29 Pickup

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This pickup was built with parts, pieces, and sweat

Words: Louis Kimery   • Photos: Kenny Kroeker 

Once upon a time, it was almost a prerequisite for young North American males to learn the fine art of speed shifting and power tuning a Holley. It was a cultural rite of passage to know your way around an automobile, and if you didn’t make the grade, your status among other young gearheads dropped as well.

Possessing a driver’s license meant acquiring a newfound freedom of mobility, and being able to “cut a good light” at the local drag strip would only enhance your automotive cred among your peers. There was a slice of time when it seemed every young man was into cars, whether they were wrenching on them or not.

Alas, that was then, and this is now. Look around at any big automotive event, and you’ll see plenty of enthusiasts. But, finding one under 40 at a street rod-centric event can sometimes be like finding Waldo. So, how do you get the newest generation of automotive enthusiasts interested in cars their grandfathers drove, while their friends are driving the latest imported hot hatches?

The best way we can think of is by way of example, which is exactly how Ryan Hill came into hot rodding and fabrication. Ryan, of Hawkestone, Ontario, Canada, was introduced to the wonderful world of vintage tin through his father, Larry.

Larry provided a life-long environment of do-it-yourself automotive projects, which helped nurture Ryan’s idea of what makes for a cool car or truck in this case. Through his father, he grew an appreciation for old cars and the time-honored craft of building a hot rod from a pile of cast off parts. At the ripe old age of 20, Larry found a ’29 Ford pickup body at a local flea market, and it was game on for Ryan to create his version of a hot rod pickup.

While attending Wyotech, Ryan assembled a custom chassis for the truck and then spent the next five years gathering the parts and pieces. His goal was to build a ’50s-style hot rod flavored with the same sort of ethic that might have fueled a similar build six decades earlier.


Ryan dropped the body about 4 inches down over the chassis to produce a lower stance from the non-chopped cab.


Ryan kept the vintage Y-block fairly stock on the inside with a bit more cam, a trio of Holley 94s, and Geardrive headers. Note the Mercury valve covers, generator, and vintage Polamatic ignition driver.

The power plant, a ’50s-era 239c.i. Ford Y-Block, is nearly stock save for the vintage Fenton intake manifold and a trio of Holley 94 carburetors. A set of Geardrive headers were used, and the Mercury valve covers contrast nicely with the white engine block and firewall. Two of the newest pieces on the entire build are the T-5 trans from an S-10 pickup and the 9-inch Ford rear end.


A pair of vintage BLC Guide head lamps illuminate the roadway.

Almost everything else was as old and crusty as their mid-20th century origins would suggest. The front suspension consists of a drilled and dropped (4 inches) I-beam axle and a set of split wishbones, just like times past. A ’32 Ford grill shell greets onlookers with a recognizable hot rod visage, and keeps the bugs off the radiator.

The front suspension consists of a set of split wishbones, a 4-inch dropped axle, and a pair of ’40 Ford drums. Wheels are also of ’40 vintage wrapped in Firestone.

The front suspension consists of a set of split wishbones, a 4-inch dropped axle, and a pair of ’40 Ford drums. Wheels are also of ’40 vintage wrapped in Firestone.

The aft section of this truck features a shortened ’29 Ford bed finished with Mercury-stamped tailgate that Ryan fabricated. For those that live south of the border, a useful factoid to remember is that since 1946, Ford marketed many pickups throughout Canada as Mercury trucks. So, should you encounter a Mercury truck at an event and become confused (as has happened to me), thank your neighbors to the north.

When it came time to mate the truck body to the chassis, Ryan gave the hauler a 4-inch channeling job to keep everything on the low-down. He also added a filled steel visor, and left the top open with exposed wood bracing. There is no flooring in the bed, as it would have been a shame to cover up the detailed chassis and suspension work.

Stopping this vintage hot rod truck is left to the stock drums on the 9-inch rear, and a set of ’40 Ford backing plates fitted with finned aluminum Buick drums up front. Traditional all the way. The rolling stock consists of ’40 Ford 16-inch steel wheels at each corner, wearing 4.5-inchwide Firestone bias ply wide-whitewall rubber in front, and similar 7.5-inchwide skins out back.

Ryan enjoys the metalwork, mechanical, and fabricating parts of building, but when it came time for paint, he turned to the expertise of Rick and Paul Elder. They took care of the original steel and laid down the Washington Blue paint that came straight from the 1929 Ford paint chart.

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Five years on and Ryan Hill declared his slick ’50s era hot rod officially finished and promptly hit the road! The pickup chugs right down the road, and Ryan has had it at the cruises and shows supported by the Toronto area East London Timing Association, which lent support and inspiration throughout this project.

Ryan is quick to point out his father had been a driving force behind the build and provided endless hours of labor and support on the project. His mother, Pam, also pitched in encouragement and help in the garage.

So, there you have it. If you want to see younger hot rodders, pay it forward and lead by example. If you plant the seed, expect it to grow. We can’t wait to see what Ryan is planning for his sophomore build. SRL