Old truck picks up after total restoration

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressAl Devigne totally restored his 1949 Mercury M-47 half-ton pickup. The vehicle is on display at the World of Wheels show this weekend at the RBC Convention Centre.

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Al Devigne totally restored his 1949 Mercury M-47 half-ton pickup. The vehicle is on display at the World of Wheels show this weekend at the RBC Convention Centre.

Ford of Canada’s postwar restructuring strategy included trucks. Long recognized as a vital part of the economy, Ford introduced the Mercury truck line.

Ford/Monarch dealers sold Ford trucks while Mercury/Lincoln/Meteor dealers sold a full range of Mercury trucks. While most small towns didn’t have both dealers, it still allowed them access to the vehicles they needed. For 1946 and ’47, Ford continued to market the prewar ’42 design with some upgrades, but visually unchanged. The Mercury line followed suit, but added different badging and chrome trim.

But 1948 brought a totally new postwar-designed truck to market. Marketed as the “Million Dollar Cab,” the truck line took on a more civilized look, with added style, comfort, size and visibility. With most of these vehicles destined for sale to the handyman and family farm, durability and value for the money was the purchaser’s major concern, and they delivered.

For Al Devigne of Lockport, his 1949 Mercury M-47 pickup has that family farm history.

“In the mid-’60s, I learned to drive on the farm in St. Joseph, Man., in a Mercury truck,” Devigne says.

While his present truck wasn’t the one he initially drove on the farm, it was the one his father Noel purchased in 1970 for use on the farm.

“It’s the same cab and drivetrain, so the memories are still there,” Devigne says.

Noel gave the truck to his son in the early 1990s, and Al had always planned to restore it.

Devigne started by dismantling the truck. Removing the body, box, powertrain and suspension, he was left with the bare 114-inch wheelbase chassis. Cleaned to bare metal and any corrosion issues repaired, it was refinished and sealed with POR-15 rust-preventative paint. Devigne completely rebuilt the rear leaf springs, differential, transmission, engine, front suspension and 11-inch drum-braking system.

For the body, any panel that had corrosion was cut out and new metal welded in. The box was finished with new oak planks and polished stainless-steel bed strips. The running boards were finished with spray-on boxliner for durability. The front factory bumper was retained, and Devigne fabricated a rear bumper and custom hitch, all painted gloss black.

For upholstery, Devigne and his wife, Debbie, rebuilt and recovered the seat using a kit purchased from MAC’s Antique Auto Parts. The new headliner was supplied by Dennis Carpenter. While Devigne spent several years working on the truck, he felt he needed some help with the paint and assembly, so he called on Ravi Ramoutar and his team at Head Turnerz Restorations in Selkirk.

The truck was soda blasted, prepared and painted in a basecoat-clearcoat graphite grey metallic, with a rich, bronze headlamp filler panel and Mercury tailgate logo. Over the next six weeks, the crew at Head Turnerz, Devigne and his friend Gary Hammond began assembling the truck. All new glass, window and door seals were installed and the body panels fitted, along with the chrome and stainless-steel trim. Devigne also built oak sideboards.

The Mercury pickup is powered by a 239-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine, backed by a heavy-duty Borg-Warner three-speed manual transmission, leading to a 3.73:1 geared rear axle. It rides on Yokohama wide whitewall radial tires, finished off with stainless beauty rings and Mercury hubcaps. Factory equipment includes dual sun visors, interior lamp, cigar lighter and a Magic-Air heater with two-speed blower.

The original six-volt electrical system was upgraded to 12-volt, allowing Devigne to add several additional features.

There are turn signals, a JVC stereo with three speakers, an under-hood lamp, dual taillights, backup lamps and alarm, trailer brake, windshield washers, and two-speed electric windshield wipers.

The result is a great looking and driving truck, with just the right addition of modern features without detracting from its original look.

“I’m just so happy with the way it turned out and the job Ravi and the guys at Head Turnerz did,” Devigne says.

For an up-close look at Devigne’s ’49 Mercury M-47 pickup, and six other vehicles from the Head Turnerz Restoration shop, stop by the 45th annual Piston Ring World of Wheels, on this weekend at the RBC Convention Centre.

57ford@mymts.net