I have a complete 1939 1/2 ton that I am going to restore. I want a driver so I will need to upgrade suspension and drivetrain. My question is if there are sucessful converstions out there for the original Flat 8 engine, transmission and rearend? Or should I look to go to something more modern to make it a little more road worthy?
Jesse, spend some time reading all the posts in the flathead forum, the 48-60 forum, the engine swap forum, etc, etc.
Yes there are conversions out there and some are quite successful. You need to decide exactly what you want to end up with. You mentioned 'restore' but you'll find most guys mean "keep it bone stock" when they talk about restoring. I've started calling what I do, 'rebuilding' my truck. My '48 daily driver is basically stock except for rear end, new wheels and radial LT tires. It doesn't drive too bad as is. Yeah, the springs are solid, but the stock seat is better than anything on the market today and makes up for the springs. Future upgrades will include OD manual tranny and performance add-ons in the flathead engine.
RIDE QUALITY: Do you want original stance or hotrod low?
Some guys would take the body off the 38 and simply install it on a late model chassis. Ranger or S10 are popular.
Others have used the original frame and replaced the front clip with a variety of IFS implants.
Still others have removed spring leafs, used new monoleaf springs, put axles on top of springs and 'C' sectioned the frames in the rear, etc, etc.
Power plant: There are upgrades for flathead drive trains. C4 conversion for auto trannies, S10 T5 conversions for manuals. Both are detailed in the archives and tech articles on the right side.
There are many aftermarket upgrades for flathead engines. You name it - it's available. Check out fordbarn.com and msn groups 32-53 forums for more specific info and check out the links on those sites.
Rear end: The simple solution is a more modern third member. Half-tons from '57 thru '72 were fitted with 9" rears in a variety of ratios. Lots of other swaps but they're all in the archives as well. Happy hunting.
Your flathead can be dependable and give you many trouble free miles. Convert it to 12 volts and make sure a professional rebuilds it.
Your drivetain can easily be changed over to the highway traveling by using a lowered front axle (very good handling) and a 40's style ford car transmission and rear end. Most of these are a simple bolt in on your ford. This will give you the highway gears you need. My opinion, these components will make it more consistant to the year the ford is and still be reliable.