Let’s set the scene: It’s 1940 and World War II is raging around the globe. The British Expeditionary Force launches the famously ineffective Dunkirk campaign and ends up retreating on the French beaches, leaving behind virtually all of its valuable transport in order to get its troops safely home.
In a rare instance of manufacturer collaboration, Ford and Chevrolet in Canada get together and make a Commonwealth contract to supply trucks for Allied forces (but not the USA). These vehicles would be right-hand drive, have engines unique to their badge (the Chevs got a straight-six, the Ford versions got a more powerful flathead 239 V8), offer a variety of wheelbases and drive-train combinations – yet have a common and interchangeable body (along with a lot of other bits and pieces).
Enter my 1945 Ford F60 (F for Ford, 60 for 60 hundredweight, or CWT) 4x4 truck, rated to carry three tonnes in the back, across difficult terrain, while fighting a war.
Running 43-inch tall tyres, it’s quite a step up into the cab. The rearwards facing windscreens eliminate sun-glare towards a potential Luftwaffe/Imperial Japanese Air Force threat and the loveable pugilist’s nose was designed to squash more trucks per square metre onto a ship or a landing craft.
The driving position is cramped for a big, solid vehicle – you sit on canvas seats (no seatbelts here, folks!) with a bare instrument panel to your front and the entire engine compartment cover separates you from your co-driver.
Driving is a true time warp: you start by twisting the key on the dash, and hitting a start button after setting the choke. The flathead V8 purrs into life with all the serenity of a presidential limousine.
However, the gearbox and suspension take some getting used to! A four-speed crash box connected to a two-speed transfer box and old-fashioned misplaced pedals (clutch, accelerator, brake) make you work for a living to get up to a top speed of 65 km/h. At this speed the gears whine, tyres roar, cab rattles and engine noise make a cacophony whilst the exhaust and engine heat try to roast you with their fierce heat.
With road-holding weight, the old Blitz leans through the corners while simultaneously trying to throw you out the half doors as you hit each minor blemish in the road. And that’s with some weight in the tray.
However, there’s just nothing like driving a piece of Australian history down the road. My Blitz served a long career in the Australian Army, followed by an equally conspicuous time in the Rural Fire Service before service on a farm and later in the hands of a few collectors who’ve both used and abused it for many years. Passers-by smile and remember Blitz trucks dotting the Australian landscape after the war when they became the true farmer’s friend.
As good as a new Hino? Probably not so much on the highway as an overnight goods freighter but off-road and in longevity, I have to rate this old soldier a true 10 out of 10. I take my hat off to any poor soul who drove one of these across the Western Desert or through the Borneo jungles. Lest we forget.