1948 Federal undergoes decade-long restoration

A lot can change in a decade. 

From the 80’s to the 90’s, we went from long mullets and shoulder pads to band tees and baggy jeans. 

From the 90’s to the 2000’s, we went from Walkman’s to mp3 players. 

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For Peter Morrow, a decade saw his 1948 Federal D65 MA go from a rusted-out chassis to a work of art.

After restoring a 1937 Diamond T back in the 80’s, Peter was itching to get his hands on another passion project.

“I was looking for another truck to restore, but I wanted something a bit bigger. I fancied a World War Two model Diamond T or Federal but struggled to find one in Australia,” Peter says.

As many restorers do, Peter took to the internet and began scouring the web for potential trucks, eventually coming across the photo sharing website Flickr. 

“I discovered this photo of a Federal for sale in Petaluma, California,” he says. 

“It wasn’t exactly what I was after but it was a civilian version of the army truck.”

The truck as Peter found it on the internet in 2012

What ensued next was nothing short of a treasure hunt.

“I traced the photographer who was only interested in photography, and he was able to tell me where he found the truck. And consequently, I found the owner, and I bought it off him.”

The truck was originally brought new in 1949 by Tony Lara for $11,250 from a Federal dealership in Sunnyvale, California.

Bought by Tony to tow bulk cement trailers, the truck would load up at a cement plant and drive 142 miles north to a concrete batching plant. He would then unload and drive another 102 miles home. 

“A day’s work for Tony was a round trip of 296 miles, which Tony did for 21 years, allowing for time off. 

Annually, this truck and driver covered approximately 1.5 million miles (approximately 2.4 million kms) over the time of his ownership.

Tony Lara retired in 1971 and proceeded to sell the truck to Bob Alexander from Hollister, California. 

To be prepared for shipment overseas, all liquids and the wooden floor were removed

Bob worked the truck for 20 years on general freight carting in the nearby area accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles.

Once Bob had his fun, he passed the Federal off to someone with intentions of restoring it…which never happened. 

It passed hands once more to another potential restorer who also never got around to it.

It was at this time that our persistent and willing Peter locked eyes on the Federal and had it shipped to Australia.  

“I purchased it from the second potential restorer and brought the truck into Australia in late 2012,” Peter says.

Peter says that he did not even know that this Federal model was ever made. 

“I’ve seen the tank transporter models which are out here in Australia, which I would have liked to have purchased but none are really available. 

“But then I discovered this, which was based on that truck and appearance and I had to have it.”

Arriving in Melbourne

The restoration took 10 years, with Peter saying it wasn’t in the best of shape when he received it. 

“The Federal had deteriorated somewhat over the years.” 

Peter, with help from Mitchell from Bunyip and JC Diesel, started the resto journey by pulling the truck completely apart.

When the truck was originally made, there was a choice of two different Cummins diesel engines available for this model. 

The engine prior to removal

This particular truck was fitted with the NHB 200 horsepower engine, and then replaced by an identical engine in the 1960s.

“We had to completely rebuild it; it needed a lot of work.”

“The gearboxes were okay, and the differential was okay. We needed a new radiator and numerous other little bits and pieces.”

The mess resulting from a window left open for years

The cabin was overcome with rust and irreparable damage.

“I decided rather than try and repair it, I would replace it,” he says. 

“I was able to locate another one in Oregon and I brought that out and fitted that.”

Peter had the brilliant idea to convert the cab into a sleeper after being inspired by a Marmon-Herrington truck. 

He ended up cutting the back off and extending it by two feet. 

“So, we made it into a sleeper, not a very wide one but nevertheless a sleeper.”

Front axle assembly refitted

The Federal received a beautiful coat of paint as well, sporting a stunning Ford Mustang metallic blue and red colourway. 

“We painted lots of things that you wouldn’t see, hand painted parts of the truck underneath that nobody would see. That took a long time.”

Peter even had a crack at doing the interior on his own.

They hand painted parts of the truck underneath that nobody would see

One of Peter’s main goals was to replicate what a truck would have looked like in the 50’s.

“In other words, I’ve got all the accessories like lights, and anything else that was fitted onto the truck from that era, which I imported also from America.”

The Federal was finally completed in 2022. 

“I knew it would take a long time. Financial constraints plus time, and I had to take it up to Bunyip, but I live in Melbourne.

“I tried to work on it at least one day a week.”

Peter had a crack
of doing the interior dash himself

While no longer working in the industry, Peter says his love for trucks goes back years. 

“I used to be a truck driver until I was in my early 30s, I think. 

“I’ve always loved trucks. I’m 77 now, but ever since I was a child, I’ve always loved trucks and loved driving.”

Peter has joined the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club of Australia and now loves showing off his impeccable rig at the truck shows. 

“I’ve made it up to Yarra Valley twice, and one in Frankston.

“I occasionally drive it around the street just to keep the engine moving and the brakes operating.

The final product after a decade of waiting

People can’t help but stop and stare when they see it cruising around. 

“There’s a lot of interest whenever I park it or drive along the street because it’s quite a vibrant blue colour,” he says. 

“As far as I know, it’s the only one in the country. There are other Federals here but not this model.

Do you have a restoration we should feature in the magazine? Send us an email at tiarna.condren@primecreative.com.au


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