NZV8 magazine are always on the lookout for cool daily drivers. If you're passionate about it, and you drive it to work every day, we can showcase it. We recently caught up with Pete and his immaculately restored F100.
NZV8: Nice-looking truck, Pete — could you tell us a bit about it?
Pete: When I was a young fella, I used to work the school holidays at Craigieburn Station, and there was an old bloke there, Fenton Westenra, who had an F100 he used to drive around the station. He was pretty well known for driving around the place with 14 bales of hay on the back and eight dogs in the front with him. Anyway, I used to see that truck a quite bit, and, as a result, I fancied owning one myself one day.
Not many New Zealand–new F100s around, Pete; how did you manage to get hold of this one?
Now that’s a bit of a story in itself. I heard through the grapevine that there was one for sale at the local International dealer in Christchurch, and it was well used but didn’t have too many miles on it. Being a builder, I thought it would make a good work truck, and, while it was certainly no show pony, I thought it would clean up OK. The previous owner had traded it in on a new International and got the princely sum of $1K for it, so I went in and made an offer for not much more and drove it home. That was back in 1983.
So, we imagine that after 20-odd years as a work truck, it needed a bit of work?
Actually, it wasn’t too bad — it had been well cared for considering it was a work truck. I had always loved the look of the F100, and this one was in pretty good shape, really. Sure, the body had a few little bumps and bangs, as you would expect, but, once knocked out, it wasn’t too bad, so I just rubbed it back to the original paint, which was still sound, and then we prepped and painted it. It still holds a shine quite well, but it is starting to look a little old now. When I think about it, that paint’s been on there over 30 years, so it’s not doing too badly.
So, the body was fine, but what about underneath?
Mechanically, it was well used, but, as I said, the mileage was still quite low, and, once I got the ownership papers, I found out why. The F100 turned out to be Fenton’s old truck, which I’d ridden in as a kid. It had been … used around the station for most of its life, hence the low mileage, but it had been resprayed by another owner, which is why I didn’t recognize it. It’s quite ironic that I ended up owning the actual truck that I’d always wanted. The original 272 still ran OK, but, as I was going to use it for a work truck, I pulled the engine and gearbox out and gave the engine a freshen-up. The gearbox still shifted fine, but I stripped it down anyway, and found it to be mint, so put it back together with new seals and gaskets, and it’s been there ever since.
I see you have a power-steering pump — surely, that’s not original?
No, it’s not. Power steering was an option on these, but this one came with the Armstrong version [manual steering]. I looked at buying a power-steering kit in from the States, but that was going to cost US$599, which was a lot of money back then, so I figured [that] I would make my own. Originally, I started out with a ram off a Massey Ferguson, but it’s a Mustang ram on there now. It was an interesting learning experience, but, once I learned it needed a sensor valve in there, things became a lot easier. Initially, I would start the truck and the steering wheel would whip around to full left lock, but it’s all well and truly sorted out now, and [it] has transformed the way it drives. I have since seen the aftermarket kit fitted to one, and what I have built is exactly the same — it just cost me time rather than dollars.
So, basically, it’s restored back to original — you weren’t tempted to hot it up?
No, it was still essentially a good old truck, so I just rebuilt what needed rebuilding and kept it stock. Anyone who has driven the old Y-blocks knows how well they go; they have a ton of torque, plenty to get the old F100 moving, even when it is loaded up. The engine is nicely detailed and probably looks as good as, if not better than, when it was new. I’ve fitted a Claxton, too — that came off my grandfather’s 1928 Pontiac, which is still 6V, so you don’t hold the horn on too long. I found a pair of 15-inch Mercury wheels that had been widened and reversed back in the ’70s, which I thought would give it a better look but searched for a couple of years for another pair.
Then, at a swap meet in the late ’80s, my wife, Paula, spotted a pair of rims on a trailer that I had just walked past and asked me if they were what I had been looking for. Expecting to see some Falcon or Holden wheels, I was stunned when I saw a pair of widened and reversed Mercury rims. The guy said he wanted 10 bucks for the pair — I couldn’t get the cash out quick enough! I love the way they look; they just set the truck off perfectly.
Anyway, once it was all done, I realized it was too good to be used as a builder’s hack. It does get used, though, and it’s pulled plenty of trailers and has carried a lot in the back over the years. Not long after I finished it, I looked up old Fenton, and it turned out [that] he was living not too far away, so took him for a spin in his old truck — that really made both his day and mine!
Well, the F100 certainly looks good, Pete; any future plans for it?
Not really, it’s a good old truck as it is, and, despite having a few other cars to use, it does get driven quite a bit. I have a couple of early Mustangs and a late-model Shelby, but the F100 is still a favourite, and, after 30-odd years, it’s definitely a keeper. It’s such a smooth and easy truck to drive — great for cruising — and it’s got history. I was out in it a while ago and bumped into Bernie, another old high-country farmer, who started telling me stories about a 'Fenton Westenra' who used to own a truck like this. Bernie couldn’t believe [that] it was Fenton’s old truck, and that’s part of it for me — this old truck has plenty of history, and my only plans are to keep driving it.
Nice truck with a great story, Pete. Thanks for your time.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue on NZV8 (Issue No. 132). Grab your print or digital copy of the mag now: