Honey of a Half-Ton Revisited … Again

by Rob Fortier

Photography by Tim Sutton

Rod & Custom | February 2013 Issue


If you know much, if anything, about the Nicholas Lepesh 41 Ford pickup, you may know its one constant the fact that there was no constant when it came to the trucks signature exterior look. With that said, what many people recall the truck looking like is completely different than what others may remember. From its initial conception under Nicks tutelage til the day it was relinquished post-mortem to current caretaker Dave Pozzi, the 41 has gone through many a cosmetic makeover, each as notable as the next. Thus, when the time came to give what Car Craft dubbed Honey Of A Half-Ton back in 1964 yet another redo in 2010, the decisions on exactly which version should be used as the basis for restoration were not the easiest for the owner and its builder, Bill Ganahl, at South City Rod & Custom, to agree upon.

When Dave received the Ford back in 1983, its exterior guise was in stark contrast to all of its previous ones: faded metalflake gold complemented by magnesium five-spokes shod in bias blackwalls. Leading up to that version the truck was best known for its candy maroonish hues and chrome reverses, wrapped in either wide or narrow whitewalls. Even so, Daves first instincts were to have it redone in black, right down to the interior. Ganahl stepped in and made his feelings known: Dave originally envisioned a black-on-black with American five-spokes, but I strongly encouraged an exact restoration to the original version; compromise was somewhere between! Though I suggested going with an original-type maroon [original to Nicks], he picked candy red. His wife, Camille, convinced a very skeptical Dave to go with a white interior; I insisted on original chrome reverse wheels with painted centers and bias-ply whitewalls be retained. Finally, Dave wanted to keep the roll pan with Impala taillights in tribute to the trucks second version, Ganahl recalls.

While Dave was having the body and accompanying sheetmetal blasted, a custom tube chassis (to replace the rusted and fatigued original one) was being built at Roy Brizio Street Rods in South San Francisco. Once complete and in the hands of Ganahl et al at South City, it was outfitted with a Heidts IFS, which had its control arms narrowed in anticipation of the forthcoming reversed-center wheels, and a Chassis Engineering parallel leaf rear with a Currie 9-inch. Disc brakes, power rack-and-pinion, and so on, all followed suit. In place of the once predominant dual-quad-fed Olds mill, Dave instead chose to go with a small-block Chevy 350 donated for the cause by his brother-in-law, which South Citys Joe Compani assembled. Behind that now lies a 700-R4 automatic in lieu of the old Ford three-speed manual.

When it came time to finally enact the decisions made regarding body mods and whatnot, both unanimously agreed upon keeping the dual-quad headlights intactfor if nothing more than the simple fact they were still there and looked mighty good at that. And as mentioned, so too were the latter version taillights (63 Impala) retained in their roll pan environment. Further, as some of you may recall from issues past, Ganahl painstakingly re-made the unique dogbone-shaped running boards, not to mention fabbed up a set of stylish front nerf bars. Bodywork and paint ensued (by Joe Compani), chrome accents fresh from the vats of Sherms Custom Plating attached, and those mandatory OG chrome reverse wheels fitted with US Royal wide whites were finally mounted, all resulting in the modern-day external version of the Lepesh 41. But the redo wasnt over quite yet.

Last stop on the restoration train brought the pickup to Chris Plante (Plante Interiors) in nearby Santa Rosa. As Ganahl reflects, The existing white and gold upholstery was so ugly I couldnt recommend it. I had the idea of doing all 1-inch pleats and showed Dave pictures of examples from the early 60s. He finally agreed, and Plante implemented the ideas perfectly into the actual design. That design, as you can see from the images here, resulted in the utmost period- and vehicle-correct white tuck n roll with black piping/loop carpet and custom headliner fashioned with vertical insert, paying homage to the original, according to Ganahl. Finishing touches to the retained 40 DeLuxe dash include an ididit column (mounting the trucks notable 58 Impala wheel) and plenty of chrome accents.

Before we wrap up, lets revisit the pickups particular means of motivationor more to the point, why it was chosen. Well, Daves always intended on putting serious miles on the 41, something he simply couldnt do during the first 25-plus years he owned it. The trio of the early Olds V-8, antiquated Top Loader, and closed-drive banjo rearend may appeal to some, but for Dave, it only dictated shorter trips that he truly desired taking behind the wheel. So, on top of the fact the SBC was a gift, in combination with the overdrive trans and modern 9-inch rear, that gift really spelled out reliability aka, endless time in the driver seat, at least in Daves mind, and thats all that matters to us. Besides, wed have done exactly the same!

Dave Pozzi
South San Francisco, California
1941 Ford Pickup