It's not often that a substandard fencing job spawns the name of an imaginary farm for the name of a real truck. I was finishing up the restoration of this 1946 pick-up when I went to check on someone putting in a board fence for me, Ron Butler recalls. When I saw that it was not very straight, as fences should be, I thought: Now that's a crooked fence.
Raised in a tiny enclave outside Peterstown, W.V., Ron Butler developed a passion for all kinds of vehicles at a young age. When he married Stephanie nearly 40 years ago, they moved to a small farm in Narrows and raised three boys. As the kids got more independent, he considered finding a restoration project. I paid Ronnie Kitts $2,000 for this truck in Blacksburg in 2012, he relates. It was operational, and he was in the process of making it a rat rod, one vehicle assembled with parts from lots of others and left with a patina rust. Butler took it home and parked it in a shed for almost four years. When he decided to begin working on it, finding parts took another two years. His local buddies Paul Cook and Bob Tolbert stepped up to help him. The previous owner put the body on a Ford Ranger frame. I wanted a hot rod, so we installed a 302 Ford V-8 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor.â€ The headlights were on the outside edge of the fender, and Ron moved them in and added fenders which are about three inches lower than normal. It has an automatic transmission and a tilt steering wheel.
Making It Fit
The steering wheel and front seat have a lot to do with Butler's stature. He is about 6'2" and tips the scales around 300 pounds. He couldn't fit into the original seat, and this custom-made bomber seat rests right on the floor board. The seat was custom made for someone else at a North Carolina shop, and when the customer saw the cup holders in the center, he didn't want it. So Butler bought it. And he likes the cup holders just fine. Horne's Upholstery in Roanoke put in the genuine cow hide interior.
Finishing the Look
Butler wanted to leave the exterior in the patina rust common for this trucks vintage. His wife thought it should be painted. He did not want it shiny, so they agreed to this matte red, and Butler painted it himself. While it was still wet, he sprayed in some black paint where it might have had patina rust. Then Stephanie said itâ€™s a lady bug truck. The oak barrel in the truck bed covers the gas tank, battery and electrical components. I bought a Jack Daniels barrel and cut it in half for that purpose,â€ Butler explains. He also added a 5-trumpet train horn that gets attention and has plans for an American flag and the 2nd amendment to be painted on the open space on the tailgate.
Showing and More Restoring
The Crooked Fence Farm truck was finished in 2021 and has taken several awards for Best Truck, People's Choice and Club Choice. Butler loves going to car and truck shows around Virginia and West Virginia. Though still working full-time for Columbia Gas, Butler is enthusiastic about restoring another vehicle. Better make that vehicles in the plural. He is already working on another truck. And a station wagon. And a Chrysler. Maybe he'll intentionally drive around his farm with an eye to finding names for each of them. Text by Joanne M. Anderson Photos by Tom and Christy Wallace