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By Rob Brereton

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Our 1955 Ford Mainline Ute Restoration
By Henk & Margaret Mennen

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This is the vehicle they started with.

It all began on the 5th May 2009, we had seen an advert in our local paper for a 1955 Ford Mainline Ute. It was always a dream to have a 50’s Ford again as I had one when I was young. We jumped in the car and checked it out, thought about it for five minutes, then bought it. It looked reasonable but we knew it would need a paint job. When they cranked Henry up he ran rough but we hoped a good tune would fix that. We went home to pick up our car trailer to bring him home, well to everyone’s surprise he wouldn’t fit between the sides of the trailer, it was then off to hire a truck to bring him home.

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And this is what they created.

Now the expense really starts. We had a professional check out the motor and it was then we realized it was more than a tune up so we decided to send the motor, which is a 272-Y block and gearbox which is 3 speed manual, to Nankervis Performance in Strathfieldsaye as my time was very limited and Marg wanted Henry on the road yesterday.
We wanted to keep the ute as original as possible so we took paint samples to a panel shop to verify what type of paint had been used hoping to just rub it back and repaint. At this stage there was very little rust to see and it appeared it had all been repaired because it had been repainted in 90’s. The painters couldn’t identify the white on the top and on the tailgate which they thought could be house paint?

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Marg and I had a conference and decided more money was needed to be put aside, it was then we decided to do it properly and get it sandblasted.
So all the interior, dash, everything was removed to a bare shell. The sandblasters came out and sandblasted the whole car. People told me there would be rust, but WOW was there rust, heaps of it everywhere except inside the cab floor pan, bonnet and front guards which were free of rust. Rust was in the bottom of doors, door sills, inner and outer guards, back tail board and both corners at the rear of the ute. The sandblaster said, “oh boy what a lot of work ahead” (not that polite), and Marg said send it to the tip now before we go broke.

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All the rust had been tapped in and covered with gallons of bog. On the back guard it was about 25mm thick. The tailgate which looked great before blasting, as it turned out, all I was looking at was bog. The roof didn’t have rust but it had gallons of bog, as it was obviously used as a ladder to stand on.
Now the hours start, we had to make inner and outer guards from scratch and re-sheet all rust areas, tailboard, bottoms of doors, sills and the rear corners which I had to make up and shape to get the rounded areas. We purchased a new bonnet because the existing bonnet had blown up over roof at some stage and was torn at the sides and sitting up about 50mm on the hinge ends. When we fitted the new bonnet the gaps were too wide, so back to the original bonnet which we reinforced and reused.
After hundreds of hours of priming and sanding we then undercoated Henry, to my amazement, when the light shone on it, it looked like hail damage with imperfections. So off to the panel shop to try and find out how to fix it, and they were very helpful thank goodness. They told me to sand back hard with 40 grit and wreck all my work and then to start again with spray putty to the whole car and then to start sanding for hundreds of hours again.
Marg kept saying keep going we can’t stop now. We have now undercoated and sanded it back ready for Ross, our friend, to apply the top coat. All the items we removed are now top coated and are in the spare bedroom. We purchased a beautifully painted sun visor from our friend Mick Breheny which was off his black Cussie which was too good to rub back, oh well its blue now.

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Now we can start putting Henry back together. The motor and gear box have returned and have been installed back in Henry. We renewed the drum brakes but I was surprised to see the back brake linings were brand new, reason being the back wheel cylinders were rusted together and one cylinder had no bleeding nipple. Now with stainless steel liners in the brake cylinders and master cylinder, they will not rust again.
The Rubber Connection and Cusso Bill took all our money for the next 6 months and we had many trips to Nunawading to see Jeff and Heather who were very helpful. We replaced all the wiring from front to back, reconditioned the radiator, starter motor, alternator and everything that had a bearing.
Henry was now looking like a blue whale and he looked a bit plain so I thought it needed side trims. After many words with Marg, she just kept saying ORIGINAL ORIGINAL, don’t you get it. 1955 utes did not have side trim but a phone call to Alan McKenzie in Albury helped me out with some 1957 side trim which I was allowed to put on eventually. All the chroming was redone thanks to Harkrome in Braybrook, they were terrific. The front bumper bar looked like it had been used to push stumps out, but the platers made it look fantastic. Now off to the trimmers, Dantrim in Bendigo, who did a fantastic job of the interior and the torneau cover.
The only things that looked really good on the car were the front windscreen and the battery. Now the windscreen had been put safely away in storage but when we went back to get it to put back in the ute you wouldn’t believe it, it had a crack from top to bottom. So off to Windscreen City for a new one, they ordered three before getting the right one with the correct shape, as apparently they are slightly different. Now off to get a new exhaust and then off for a roadworthy.

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This is what they finished up with.

For 16 months I spent every spare minute in the shed with Henry and he was eventually registered on 2nd September 2010. So, now Henry is on the road and we love him, but we did have a few teething problems, which I was very emotional about. 
Now everything is good and I am confident in taking Henry anywhere, our journey has been and is amazing.

  Henk and Margaret Mennen.

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