Every now and then, a project appears that is such a natural, it makes you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Keith Confer’s phantom 1940 roadster pickup is just such a vehicle. Confer’s truck is causing a sensation wherever it appears, and since the design looks so “right,” some people may not appreciate just how much planning and hard work it took to get that result. Let’s take a look at the long, arduous process Confer went through to make this truck such a hit.
Confer’s drawing shows some...
Confer’s drawing shows some of the major modifications needed to change the stock ’40 truck into a roadster pickup.
Every project starts with an idea. Ford stopped making roadster pickups in 1934, but Confer had long wanted to bring the styling cues used in the early ’30s roadster pickups to the ’40 truck, which is much more curvaceous. Confer has a knack for drawing and rendering, and this helped a great deal while he was in the planning stages; it’s always best to work extensive projects out on paper before any metal is cut. While the basic idea of whacking the roof off of a ’40 pickup and adding a roadster-style cowl and windshield may seem straightforward, “the devil is in the details” and Confer put a huge amount of time and effort into getting the details just right.
Here you can see the specific...
Here you can see the specific areas of the truck cab that will be cut, and where the replacement panels will go.
The ’40 pickup body has a distinctive beltline, and one of the keys to making this truck so visually smooth was making sure this line flowed in an unbroken manner from one end of the truck to the other. This is perhaps the key element that makes the design seem so unified.
Not only is the cab of the truck modified, the bed, hood, running boards, and fenders were all seriously tweaked too, and getting all the proportions to be harmonious from end to end was a major undertaking. It’s easy to move shapes and lines around, and to change proportions, but it’s much more difficult to make the end result look better than the original, and Confer took on the additional challenge of making it look like a design that Henry Ford himself would have approved.
Here’s the plan for the whole...
Here’s the plan for the whole truck. Note the beautiful, unbroken flow of lines from one end to the other.
With the design worked out on paper, the modifications to the cab were the first priority. Confer removed the roof and cowl top, and scratch-built a roadster-style cowl. He chose the DuVall-style windshield for a ‘36 roadster, and in this case, the cowl was built to match the curve of the windshield. The dashboard is completely fabricated from scratch, and picks up some styling cues from a ’32 Ford roadster.
New door tops were fabricated to continue the sweep of the front cowl opening, and to seal off the doors where the deleted side windows were. The ’40 truck has a single bodyline on the hood sides, but at the cowl, it splits into a double line, and while Confer had the doors apart, he made new doorskins that continued the single belt line in the hood through the door area. Confer made the doors thinner, too, more in the style of a true roadster door. Confer stretched the body behind the doors about 5-1/4 inches to sweeten the design, as well as generating some always-appreciated interior room for the driver and passenger.
Here is Keith Confer making...
Here is Keith Confer making the first of hundreds of cuts. You’ve got to have courage at this point.
A new back panel was made with a straight bodyline to replace the arched bodyline on the original. Now, the rear bodyline matches the flat front end of the bed. Inside the body, new metal was shaped to make sculptured upper panels to cap the areas that would be finished with upholstery. Confer used the hammerforming process to make many of these panels.
The cab was channeled over the frame 1 inch, and completely new floors were built. Planning ahead (which is always a good idea with a roadster), Confer arched the floor panels slightly so that if rainwater ever got inside the cab, it would run off to the side rather than puddle in the middle. In the end, only about 25 percent of the original sheetmetal from the cab was used.