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A Ford Fantasy
Written By: Lorna Kohn
When Luke James was a young boy growing up in Lily, South Dakota, you could usually find him doing one of two things: farming or watching his neighbor drive his Ford F1 truck through town. Time passed but his appreciation for classic cars (especially that classic Ford pickup) did not. When he found one for sale at an auction in North Dakota, he couldn’t quiet the 12-year-old boy in him that told him to place a bid.
“I always remember seeing that truck. I loved it,” said Luke. “I dreamed of having my own and I’ve been looking for one pretty much ever since.”
Luke bought his 1952 Ford F3 pickup in 2011 and drove it for a few years just the way he found it. As most car projects go, Luke decided he should just put in a fuel injection engine and the restorations really went downhill from there. As they checked under the hood, they found the truck actually had a Mercury Flathead V8 engine, a rare find in a ‘50s Ford. He asked around but no one could determine if it was made that way or if the unique engine was added years later.
One of Luke’s trusted car experts happens to be Eric Caulfield, owner of The Body Shop in Bradley, South Dakota. They’ve been friends since they were 14 so Luke knew he could trust him with his childhood dream car. The two men determined a truck with this unique engine deserved a full restoration. For the next few years, that’s exactly what they did.
“I was excited to see my truck restored to its former glory,” said Luke. “But even more, it was an opportunity for me to spend a lot more time with my best friend.”
Spending his spring and fall season in the field, Luke used his farming offseason in Bradley working with the professionals at The Body Shop on the restoration of his pickup. It took two winters to get it back in shape, just in time to escort Luke’s fiancé to their wedding in August. It was just another memory to add to the car’s impressive resume. Luke says it’s also taught his 10-year-old son to drive a stick shift.
This isn’t the first restored car in the family garage, however. Luke and his dad also enlisted the help of The Body Shop when they restored his grandma’s 1982 Chevy Citation. They’ve also got a 1968 Mustang 2 in the shop waiting its turn.
In the meantime, Luke plans on driving his car around, at low speeds.
“We still haven’t fixed the rear,” says Luke. “It usually pops off at about 55 miles an hour so we don’t take it if we are in a hurry.”
It has made its way into a few local car shows but Luke usually likes to keep it for himself. He’ll get it out every now and then and take it for a stroll through the streets of town. Young boys will stare, they’ll wave, and they’ll wait their turn to invest in their very own ‘classic car’ – which to them will probably be a 2002 Ford Thunderbird.