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1958 FC-150 Forward Control With a Swedish Flair

Posted in Features on March 10, 2017
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The Swedes have long been Jeep nuts. Aside from the World War II jeep, which was the foundation stone for much of the European continent’s fascination with Jeeps, Swedish truck maker, Scania-Vabis, made a deal with Willys-Overland in 1946 and began importing Jeeps of all types and continued into the mid-1960s.

One of the Jeep designs that got a lot of attention in Europe was the Forward Control (FC) truck. They were very much inspired by European forward controls, which were and still are very popular. The FC trucks were an innovative addition to the American truck and 4x4 realm, and inspired a number of later clones, such as the ’61-’67 Ford Econoline pickup, ’61-’64 Chevy Rampside pickup (based on the Corvair) and the ’64-’70 A-Series pickups. All of these were cab-over, forward control designs but only the Jeep came standard with four-wheel drive.

The short wheelbase (81 inches, same as the CJ) Jeep FC-150 was introduced in December 1956, after approximately two years of development. It was nominally a 1/2-ton, with a standard GVWR of 5,000 pounds (6,100-pound optional in later models) and a payload of 1,700 pounds (2,700 pound optional). It had a 74-inch bed, which was roughly equivalent to a standard shortbed stepside pickup of the era, but it’s unusual shape left it a little short of volumetric capacity versus the standard pickup. Besides standard four-wheel drive, the big bonus in the FC was maneuverability and fuel economy.

Looks like it could have been Toledo built! Toledo probably would have used a metal floor, though, where the Swedes used plywood. No locking hubs were installed. This one also has Euro-style turn signal markers just back from the door. An anomaly on this truck is the FC-170 badges. They’ve been there at least since it was painted last (looks like one paint job since new), but given the coachwork and the likely presence of other trucks in the shop undergoing conversion at the same time, you wonder if a mistake wasn’t made.

A larger FC-170 debuted in May of ’57 with a 103 1/2-inch wheelbase and a standard 7,000-pound GVWR. Where the FC-150 was largely based on the CJ platform, the FC-170 was built upon the Jeep truck. It shared that platform’s somewhat-overrated “1-ton” capacity and six-cylinder Super Hurricane engine. A DRW version of this chassis debuted in November 1958 with 8,000- or 9,000-pound GVWRs (the difference being a three-speed or four-speed transmission).

Early in 1958, an ordinary FC-150 Forward Control pickup rolled off the line in Toledo, Ohio—one of 2,701 built that year. Being an early production ’58, it still had the narrow track axles. When introduced, the FC-150s used the same wheel track and wheelbase of the CJ and nearly the same Spicer 25 front axle as the CJ. Negative feedback from owners about the predictably squirrelly handling was, shall we say, predictable. Starting in July 1958 (serial number 18206), the front axle was a much stouter Spicer 44 unit, and the springs were mounted outboard the chassis rails rather than directly under. This configuration allowed a 6,100-pound GVWR upgrade to be added to the options list.

Well, it can waddle up the hills just fine, but the narrow track and low stance makes it look like a struggle. The roof rack has been on there a long while and looks a lot like something you’d see on a VW Combi.

When the FC-150 arrived in Sweden, it was shipped off to a coachbuilder for conversion into a carryall. We have very little information on this part of the story, but the results are obvious. The carryall body followed the basic lines of the FC and was mostly metal. The floor and certain parts of the structure were made of wood or marine plywood. It was given fold-up seating for eight in the back, plus the driver and a passenger up front. The powertrain was stock, with a four-cylinder F-134, T-90 3-speed, Spicer 18 transfer case, and 5.38:1 gearing in a front Dana 25 and rear tapered-axle Spicer 44.

Somewhere along the way, this particular FC-150 acquired a rear PTO. It was the standard Willys style, but also had the PTO with a four-sheave pulley at the transfer case such as typically used on center-mounted-drive welders or generators. It’s unclear if this hardware was installed at the time the FC was built in Toledo or later.

The narrow 48-inch track is painfully obvious and makes it look like Marilyn is wearing bloomers. The FC’s narrow track made for some spooky handling, and it stands to reason this was uncovered during tests but not addressed until much later. One of the quick fixes was a 265-pound cast-iron weight placed behind the rear bumper. Then just 1,120 units past this one, the FCs began rolling off the line with a Dana 44 front axle, outboard-mounted springs, and a 57-inch wheel track.

Again, the actual history of this vehicle is currently limited to third-hand reports but “the story” on this rig is that it was used to carry forestry personnel to and from their work in the woods. It had three owners in Europe, and Craig Brockhaus makes the first American owner. Craig is a well-known collector and historian of FCs, and the Swedish van adds new depth to his extensive collection. A full restoration is coming soon, and Brockhaus’ high skill level makes him the ideal man for the job.

In the era of the minivan, he FC van seems like such a perfect idea, but it didn’t get much traction in the USA. There were a couple of other conversions done in Europe, and one was brought to the U.S. for study. Independently, Kaiser Jeep developed a passenger van at the same time the FC was being developed. It reached prototype stage, but for whatever reason, it was not pursued. Indirectly, it developed into the M-Series FC trucks built in 1963 for the Navy and Marines, but that is another story.

It doesn’t appear as if the coachbuilders included a rear bumper. The pintle hitch has been there a while. Behind the hitch, that little door hides a rear PTO, but is it’s not accessible until the hitch is unbolted.

The Jeep forward control was an innovative design, but innovation alone isn’t a guarantee of success. In Europe, where it fit into an established market of similar vehicles, its high cost compared to domestic products worked very much against it. Jeep’s haphazard distribution network in Europe didn’t help. In North America, the FC was unique in the market but maybe a bit ahead of what people thought they needed or wanted. As a result, the FC was not a breakout success anywhere it was presented. Production ended late in 1964 and the remaining stock was sold into 1965.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: ’58 FC-150 Swedish Forestry Van
Engine: 134.2 ci, 4-cyl F-head, Jeep F4-134
Transmission: 3-speed Warner T-90
Transfer case: 2-speed Spicer Model 18
Axles: (front) Spicer 25, (rear) Spicer 44; both 5.38 gears
Tires: 7.00-15

The Jeep Hurricane F-head four-banger runs like a top, and it’s showing 25,000 kilometers (about 15,000 miles). Has that been turned over? Given the evidence, Brockhaus believes those are the total miles. There were a number of variations of the Jeep F-head engine. In this era, it was commonly seen with a 6.9:1 compression ratio and rated at 75 hp. That was a little optimistic, since period dyno charts show only 72 hp for the low compression engine. The dyno charts showed an optional 7.4:1 high-altitude-head engine developed 75 hp at sea level.
Only the truly tough would call this remotely comfortable. Some of the seat bottoms are now missing or dismounted, but there was originally seating for eight back there. The seats folded up so the area could be used for cargo. It appears the plywood bulkhead is non-original to the conversion, but that has yet to be 100 percent proven. The floor is marine plywood.
Tattered originality. With the exception of some Swedish instructional plaques, this is pretty much the same as when it rolled off the line in Ohio. The metric instruments were an option for Jeeps.
The early FC chassis was very much like a CJ-5, with a 48.4-inch wheel track and springs mounted directly under the chassis. The wide track axles (D44 front) placed the spring packs in brackets outside the frame rails, and the track width was about nine inches wider. Note the four-sheave pulley on the PTO of the Model 18 transfer case.
Can you read this? We can’t either, but a rough translation from someone who can says this came from a Swedish “gentleman’s” magazine of the ’50s and announces a long-wheelbase FC. Apparently, the FC-150 van had been called “Marilyn” for its curves, and the FC-170 pictured was called her “big sister.” Some of the Jeep FC-150s converted also had rear side doors, as shown in that illustration.

Sources

The FC Connection
http://www.thefcconnection.com

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