By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
When the average person spots Vern Wakefield’s restored pickup truck driving down the highway they know it is a rare restoration and often do a double take to check out the truck’s curves and unique paint job. A truck enthusiast might know that it is a metallic Medium Willow Green 47 Ford that appears dark purple in the shade. But to proud owner Vern, the truck’s sentimental value is what truly makes the truck special because it hasn’t always been in showroom condition.
The truck itself has always been in the Wakefield family. It was purchased new in 1947 by Vern’s uncle and a short while later it was traded to Vern’s father for six steer calves.
When the family moved from Coronation to Magrath in 1947 the truck came with and continued to carry the family of five around. It was also taken on many trips to Lethbridge hauling pigs or cows to market.
“It was the only vehicle we had at the time,” explained Vern. “I remember riding in it when I was about three years old, standing up looking over the dash.” That was 67 years ago.
At 16, Vern rolled the family truck and remembers having to buy another cheaper truck with his own money. Then having to remove both of the truck’s cabs and replace them to get the 47 Ford up and running again without any help.
Fifteen years ago, after sitting in the coulees rusting on the family farm in Coronation, Vern brought the truck home to his farm outside of Magrath where it sat and continued to erode.
Recently, his youngest son, Jamie, offered to fully restore the truck to its original condition.
“When we decided to do it my dad was diagnosed with cancer, so it was more or less to take his mind off of that and give him something else to think about,” explained Jamie who recalls picking out paint colours and interior materials from the hospital, beside his father, when he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
“My whole life I always remember him wanting to restore it. Even as a kid when I was five-years-old, I remember tinkering on that truck.”
In 2010 Jamie dug the rusted and beaten truck out of a snowdrift with a backhoe, loaded it on a trailer and took it to a garage in Taber where the truck spent the majority of the next two-and-a-half years.
During the excavation, Vern’s youngest grandson Kaede, who was four at the time, proudly observed that the old rusting truck looked just like Mater from the Disney Cars movie. To personalize the truck a custom “M8R” license plate was ordered.
The family frequently visited the Fuel Toyz garage to check on the progress.
“It kept him going,” said Vern’s wife Jill about how restoring the truck was a positive distraction from his battle with cancer.
“It was definitely a family thing. The kids came down to Taber every time we went to check on it. It was really fun,” she added.
Every single inch of the truck was rebuilt, sanded, shaped and built up. The bodywork took many long hours. As did all the finishing painting and sealing. One of the biggest challenges was tracking down and finding original parts, pointed out Vern.
“We restored it to look as original as possible but it has some modern upgrades,” said Vern.
The modern upgrades make for an enjoyable and smooth ride. It features power windows, brakes, steering and air conditioning.
“The day we picked it up, I was just as excited as heck to drive it out of there,” remembers Vern with a big smile.
The original motor and transmission were hard shifting and it would top out at 80 km/h, shared Vern, pointing out that the restored truck now features a 90s Mustang motor and drives much faster.
Since getting the truck back in the fall of 2013, Vern and Jill agree that the most rewarding moment was seeing Vern’s 95-year-old mother’s face light up with excitement when she got to ride in the truck again after all those years.
Just how special the truck is to Vern and his family is evident from the moment you walk into the family home. There is a large picture of his six grandchildren smiling from the box of the truck. It is a truckload of love.
Vern is looking forward to making new memories in the truck, starting off with a long road trip to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary at the end of July.
“I hope the truck stays in the family forever.”
This article originally ran in the Power of Wheels.
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