How an old Ford pick-up truck became one of the loves of Tasmanian Phil Dobson’s life

At a farm sale in Idaho, in the US, a 1948 Ford F1 pick-up truck sits half-buried under other rusting sale lots.

A Tasmanian man famed for his affinity with machines sees it and falls in love.

It was Phil Dobson’s wife, Judith, who insisted that he go back and “buy that old thing or forever regret it”.

He joked that his affections have been somewhat divided ever since.

Tight portrait of an aging man in bush hat looking past the camera.
Phil Dobson was given a welder for his 13th birthday. He had established his successful Dobmac Agricultural Machinery business before he was 25.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

“It’s in the family trust, never to be sold,” said the retired founder of Dobmac Agricultural Machinery, a company still innovating and exporting to several countries from Ulverstone.

“She knows I’m joking of course but yeah I am very, very fond of this old thing.”

A stylish, heavy-bodied vintage pick-up truck, tightly framed, original dark red paint.
Phil Dobson’s beloved ’48 Ford F1 pick-up has been a 14-year project of passion. There was virtually no rust in the exterior.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

Mr Dobson grew up on the rural north west coast, snaring rabbits and helping on the farm. His father Claude and his brother still sometimes used steam-driven farm machinery to work the South Road properties he grew up on.

Not many parents would give their son a welder for his 13th birthday but Mr Dobson’s parents did. He said it came with a few bits of protective gear and that it set his course for life.

Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, the teenager did welding repairs on pig troughs on farms behind Penguin and Ulverstone in Tasmania’s north-west.

He soon realized making pig troughs was better money – and smelled better too.

Old black and white of men threshing grain.  Man in foreground has very heavy bag on his shoulder.
A young Phil Dobson with his snares for trapping. At 13 he was given a welder and bought a block of land at 16 with money he earned from welding pig troughs.(Supplied: Dobson family )

Entering the property market

At 16, he purchased his first 10-acre block of land with the earnings from this welding work.

Through a series of accidents – both literal and metaphorical – Mr Dobson would establish his own agricultural machinery business, Dobmac, before he was 25.

A boilermaker welder by trade, he purchased the family farm at 21, only to soon after there was a tractor accident and lost the use of his right leg.

Close shot of a potato planter in action in north-west Tasmanian red volcanic soil.
A three-row Dobmac potato planter in action. The company has been exporting to several countries for over 30 years.(Supplied: Rick Eaves)

“We had to sell the farm and a gentleman named Michael Frost, who ran Gaffney Machinery, asked me to have a go at modifying an overseas potato harvester for our local soil conditions,” Mr Dobson said.

“I did another one and another one and then we threw our last $7,000 in with $7,000 he threw it in and we established Dobmac.

That was 1983. Over the next 28 years he would spend more time overseas each year than at home, doing business in the countries including the US, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Old black and white of men threshing grain.  Man in foreground has very heavy bag on his shoulder.
A photo from the Dobson family farms on South Road near Penguin from the late 1940s. (Supplied: Dobson family )

Worth picking up

In 2008, Mr Dobson was doing business in Idaho, USA, good potato country. His wife Judith was along because sometimes they would add a bit of quality time to the end of a trip.

“The old block having the farm sale was the one and only owner of this truck. No rust in it except for the floor of the cab from all the snow melting off their boots in winter,” Mr Dobson said, walking from his bush shack at Eugenana to his dream ride parked just outside.

“It’s a Ford F1, 1948, built in California in the Ford factory on the second month that they made the Ford F series trucks. And they still make them new today.

Brown colored vintage pickup truck driving on narrow gravel farm driveway.
A pickup truck in its natural environment. A farm drive in north west Tasmania.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

“There are a lot of old Chevy farm trucks about but not many like this old Ford.

“When my wife said I should buy it, it took about a nanosecond to decide. It won’t ever get any easier than that.”

Mr Dobson paid less than US$1,000 for the truck and set off to the nearby depot where Dobmac shipped its containers in and out.

The doors flew open a couple of times around corners and it blew enough smoke to attract plenty of attention.

A man at the wheel driving along a Tasmanian back road, trees and ferns visible through windows.
Phil Dobson says his 1948 Ford pick-up will never be sold. It is in the family trust.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

Soon after he got it home, Mr Dobson’s health took a turn for the worse. After surgery on his sinuses he developed a permanent headache and some heart issues that led to an early retirement in 2012.

His son Mark took over the business along with his wife, Amanda, and they still run it successfully today.

Mark is also rumored to be the only other human allowed to drive Mr Dobson’s little Ford pick-up.

The little truck has been a project of passion for nearly 14 years. It has been given a Mustang front end, strengthened chassis, a modern 360-hp V8 engine to replace the original 60-hp side-valve – even a GPS speedo.

“The paint’s basically original, touched up here and there but there was virtually no rust aside from the floor. It’s got one of the original tires mounted on the side, rubber’s perished of course,” Mr Dobson said.

A man at the wheel of an old red pickup truck, smiling out the driver side window.
Mr Dobson found his 1948 Ford F1 pickup truck at a farm sale in Idaho, USA. He shipped it back to Tasmania and restored it over 14 years.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

“I just wanted it to be a farm truck, not a hot rod. I don’t think twice about hitting the gravel or heading across the paddocks.”

Mr Dobson said they took it for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday drives.

“But showing her off and talking to people about her is half the fun. It’s rare that someone doesn’t jump out with a phone to take a photo.”

Red pick-up truck parked outside rustic bush shack, a man sits on the deck outside.
Phil spends some quality time with his second-best gal at his bush getaway on the north-west coast of Tasmania.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

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