Cover story: Ford V8 military truck

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane

The restoration of a rare WWII military truck has been a long-term project for Hawke’s Bay man, Tony Box

The Ford, three-tonne, V8 ‘Monkey Face’ military truck was built in Canada in 1942 and in 1947, along with many other military vehicles left over after the war, was shipped to New Zealand. These rugged ‘survivors’ were soon put to work in the post-war development of our forestry and rural industries.

Having arrived by ship and reassembled to Class 1 standard, its new owner, farmer and contractor, Bob Gunson, drove it home from Auckland to Hawke’s Bay.

Bob knew the Ford would come in handy on his farm. Among other things, with the spreader bin on behind, it spread lime around the paddocks. Fortunately, Bob always took good care of the truck—it was stored undercover and he always kept it up to scratch mechanically. So, when Tony bought it from Bob in 1991, its condition was still sound.


The Ford V8

Since then, Tony has brought the Ford back to as close to its original condition. It’s been a project he’s had to fit around full-time employment, mainly working in metal crushing plants. Tony currently works for HES Earthmoving Ltd in Central Hawke’s Bay.

"When I bought the truck, it needed attention. The tipping hoist had created damage to the cab, so I stripped it down and took the cab and lights off; the only thing left was the front guards. I had the cab and chassis sandblasted and a door repaired. Then I spent two weeks getting the roof right and will eventually make up the side curtains too. I had a troop carrier deck in my workshop, which local engineering business Stevenson and Taylor used as a template to make a new deck. I did all the paintwork as well."

Fortunately, the Ford V8 has had regular servicing and was in good order.

"Because Bob kept it up to mark, I’ve never had to do anything to it. However, registration lapsed in 1984, and I’ve got to go through the drama of reinstating that—it’s a mission. The only thing the guy working on it now is concerned about is a join in the chassis. It has been like that since the day it arrived in New Zealand and was reassembled, and there are no cracks in it. I can only wait and see what happens."

The only feature Tony has majorly altered are the twin exhaust pipes.

"We went out on a rally one summer with the military club, and the exhausts caused a grass fire. It’s not original, but it’s safer with one exhaust pipe."

Sourcing parts

A well-thumbed army parts catalogue

Although sourcing parts was a challenge, fortunately, Tony was able to get hold of an illustrated army parts catalogue, which helped with many of the finer details of its restoration.

As well, he had had a few other bits and pieces in his workshop.

"When we were doing the rear brakes, I had all the hubs off and discovered the rear diff seals were shot, so I had to send over to the States for them. I also relined all the brake shoes, and it has a new driveshaft, universals plus bearings and seals."

The truck’s history

The distinctive front profile gave rise to the name Monkey Face

Tony is interested in the truck’s history, but as he’s recently discovered, although it was poised and ready, the Ford didn’t see active war service. It was due to be shipped to the Middle East but that never eventuated.

Tony’s father, who had served overseas, recalled similar trucks.

"As soon as Dad saw my truck, he knew what it was. He didn’t have to think twice; he was in Israel and Crete and was taken prisoner of war in 1942. He rode in a similar vehicle and recalled how they were driving along one day and heard fire and bullets hit the tarpaulin roof. They peeled out from the back and climbed under the truck for protection. They were built strongly, but they were only expected to last a week.

"Mine has the troop carrier deck on it, but they were also designed as tippers and gun tractors carrying four to six men and towing a gun tractor behind. There was also a workshop wagon with lathes and generators and all sorts on-board."

These would have acted as highly mobile units offering supply and replenishment of troops and goods or were paired with infantry on assignments working alongside tanks in the desert.

The military tyres were built with flat, rigid walls so if they got a bullet hole in them, they could still drive. They also had bolt together rims, so if they drove over a land mine, the tyre might go flat, but it stayed on the rim.

"I’ve set mine up as a troop carrier vehicle; it carried up to six soldiers either side in the back and had a driver and passenger in the cab. Some of them had a turret you could open and stand up in."

Military vehicle club

Tony Box

It was a WWII TD18 bulldozer that indirectly led Tony to the army truck.

"Having restored the bulldozer, I joined up with the Hawke’s Bay Military Vehicle Club. One guy said to me, ‘You need to get yourself a vehicle’ and I replied, ‘Ok, you find me a Monkey Face Ford V8, and I’ll buy it’. I didn’t think he’d be able to do it. Within a week, he found one. The truck is a rare model. I think there’s one in New Plymouth, and I don’t know of any others."

Tony is pleased his truck is nearing completion after so many years of work. As we take photos, he takes it for a run down the road. You can hear it coming, that’s for sure, and it was going at a good clip. He had it up to its top speed of 80kph; he must know what he’s doing with those gears; it doesn’t miss a beat.

The three-tonne truck is a right-hand drive. "It can be driven either in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with high or low ratio; crash gearbox and no synchromesh. You have to know what you’re doing," he says.

As for its future, Tony thinks he’ll put it on the market once restoration is complete.

Ford F60L 3-tonne 4X4 GS (Ford 60L) specifications

Engine Ford V8, 8-cylinder, V-L-W-F 239ci inches, 95bhp@3600rpm
Transmission 4F1RX2
Brakes Hydraulic (hydrovac)
Tyres 10.50–20
Wheelbase 158 1/4in
Overall 1xwxh: 244 ½ x88x120(89) in
Weight Approx. 8950lb
  Number 12 cab, early QWMG 12-foot steel body (Model 5C1)

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