The trucker and the Trader – turning over a new leaf

Friday, October 5, 2018

The first time people see Jordan Richardson’s truck coming towards them they assume it’s a big truck that’s a long way away, so they often get a surprise when it gets closer and they realise it’s not quite as big as they first thought.

Up close the 1988 Ford Trader F409 and matching trailer is a pretty cool little combo. It’s a tribute to the months of hard work and attention to detail the 26-year-old has put into it.

When Jordan left school in 2009 he went to work in Watson’s Garden Centre, an Otaki business owned by his grandfather, Don Watson senior. He works as a forklift operator, a sower on the plant seedling production line, and a truck driver delivering plants and trees.

Jordan uses the Ford Trader to deliver fruit trees that were too big for customers’ cars. He says it was an old workhorse, mostly used onsite to move plants between different parts of the business. Left outside in all weathers, when he began driving the truck in 2012 it certainly wasn’t the immaculate vehicle it is today.

“ The restoration has been a gradual process. It had been sitting in the sun for years and the dash was crumbling,” he says. “I kept coating it in layer upon layer of polish and you wouldn’t recognise it now. The cab was painted in 2016 and there are still things to be done, like the upholstery.” The Trader had 85,000kms on the clock when he started driving it, and now it’s done about 220,000-odd. He has it regularly serviced by Rockeater Truck Services in Otaki to ensure it ’s kept in tip-top condition. Jordan is very much a do-it-yourself kind of guy, making the exhaust stacks and spending countless hours drilling holes in the covers. Unable to find a new stone guard, he bought a secondhand one from a Ford Trader camper van and cut it down the middle to make it fit. He even added an air horn on the truck.

“I bought a 200psi air horn and compressor from the States.

Left: The dash on the Trader gives the impression that back in the day, someone in the design department had a touch of the Jordan’s about trucks. Right: Yeah! It’s a must. It is 150db and I have a little chain hooked up to a motorbike brake switch to activate the solenoid and to make the horn work.”

Jordan had fitted LED whips to the truck, and when they stopped working after a couple of years he decided to make his own rather than buying new ones.

“I drilled out both ends to get the LEDs out, and I bought 5-metre amber and red lights that cost me $14 for both. I cut them to the right length and soldered the wires and then stuck them back-to-back with a red and an amber, and pushed them back into the whips.”

Not a fan of the standard truck mirrors, when someone borrowed the truck and one of the mirrors got knocked off, Jordan figured it was a good time to replace them with West Coast mirrors.

In 2015 Watson’s started a plant delivery service between Raumati and Levin, with a trip to Upper Hutt every second week. The size of the Trader’s deck began limiting the number of plants Jordan could carry, so last year he started thinking about a trailer.


Photo: The dash on the Trader gives the impression that back in the day, someone in the design department had a touch of the Jordan’s about trucks.


Photo: Yeah! It’s a must.

“I needed a bit more room for the Hutt deliveries, and I thought ‘why don’t we do something different?’ It may be a bit excessive, but I wanted it to be a mini truck, a tandem.” WITHOUT ANY PLANS, Jordan and his uncle, Don Watson junior, set about designing a trailer to suit his needs. “ We got the steel from Fletcher and had it cut out. Then we went about building the trailer, copying the truck tray that O’Leary Engineering in Palmerston North built when we bought the truck, and Don taught me how to arc weld it together.” Jordan worked on the trailer two nights a week and some weekends, and completed it in November last year. He did most of the work himself, including the electrical wiring. “I went to an auto electrician who said he was too old to do it but he taught me how to do the wiring.” The lighting on the truck and trailer was a huge task and one that involved many hours of wiring for the relays. Ericson Auto Electrical in Levin supplied the marker lights. “I had 12 to start with and now I’ve got about 70 to 80 on the truck,” says Jordan. “I haven’t counted how many are on the trailer but there has to be about $2500 worth of lights.” The trailer is seven metres long – five for the deck and two for the drawbar. It is rated for 2.5 tonne and the truck for 3, but Jordan says plants are light and the unit doesn’t get anywhere near the maximum.

“ We don’t need the depth either, it’s the width we need for carrying plants. I made the trailer 400 mm deep as the truck bed is a bit deep. I also made the trailer so you can split the side by dropping a pin, to allow easy access to the plants. I can jack-knife the trailer too.” The truck and trailer have a lot of personalised touches that make the unit stand out.

“Riverbank Engineering plasma-cut my name out of the metal backing plate on the dolly, and Rhino Guards in Rotorua made the eight mud guards out of propeller plate. Winiata and Anderson in Levin made the propeller plate bumper and drop visor to match the guards, and Canvasland made the truck and trailer covers.”

After getting sick of painting the fuel tank that continually sported stone chips, Jordan made a cover for it out of propeller plate.

To save having to climb under the trailer in the wet if he needs to change a tyre, Jordan bought two 4x4 spare truck tyre winches for $45 and fitted them underneath the deck of the trailer. It ’s that kind of attention to detail that make this Ford Trader such a cool little unit.


Photo: Jordan Richardson expressed his passion for all things trucking by restoring an old unloved Ford Trader and making it a fantastic advertisement for his employer.

Photo: No matter how you look at it, the trailer is a work of art.

Jordan says he has always loved trucks and enjoys building models of them, but he doesn’t have any plans to move up to a larger truck. [The Ford Trader is fitted with a 5-speed manual and the truck and trailer can be driven on a car licence.] “If I was to get my truck licence I would probably want to go and do some driving, but I’m happy where I am, I just love working here. Being out on the road doing deliveries is the best part of the day for me.”

Jordan has always waved at other truck drivers and says now the truck has its bling, he tends to gets a wave back. “It ’s funny, I get so many comments on the CB and I’ve got to know a lot of truck drivers. When it was just stock I used to wave and I’d keep waving even if they didn’t wave back. But now a lot of them wave back – they don’t have to give a big wave, just a flick of a finger off the wheel is fine.” Jordan says he’d like to thank both Don senior and Don junior for allowing him to do what he loves and customise the truck.

“I’m the only driver and I’m a bit precious about it. I love my truck; it’s my pride and joy. I’m always polishing and cleaning it and it’s a good advertisement for the business.”