October 4, 2005

The whole idea was a hoot from the start. And it took a guy like George Bickel to make it happen. We say "a guy like George Bickel" because doing something like this takes imagination, vision, and shear guts.

It was the desire to go where no one has gone before. Call it tough--"Ford Tough." We say that because "Ford Tough" isn't just a figure of speech; it's a very real matter of fact for anyone who's into Fords. Being a Ford enthusiast isn't easy. It involves taking pot shots from the bow-tie boys, and it means undying perseverance in our pursuit of excellence. This is what led George Bickel to go for his dream.

George's vision came during a trip home from the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals in 2002. A friend let him drive his new F-150 Lightning pickup truck to and from Carlisle, a long haul from his home in North Carolina. He was moved by the experience, the smoothness, and the power. He loved the way the truck drove and handled. He liked the creature comforts. He just didn't care for the truck's vanilla aerodynamic styling.

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George is no stranger to Ford power. His heart lay with the mid-'50s Fords: the Vickies and the Customs. He has built many of them over a lifetime. When he was headed home from Carlisle three years ago, his imagination went wild. He wondered how to blend creature comforts and modern power with classic styling. one morning, a light went on, and George went to work on his dream.

It began with a well-worn '66 F-100 pickup and continued with a '00 F-150 Lightning that had been rolled in an accident. George took a tape measure, checked out every possible dimension, and concluded a merger of old and new was doable. Of course, there were a lot of surprises, some not so pleasant, but thanks to George's extraordinary fabrication skills, none of them were insurmountable.

What was simple for George might not be so easy for you or me. For example, '66 F-100 cabs were notoriously short, so George stretched the cab. The rear window was small, not to George's liking, so he grafted in a cathedral rear window from a '61-'63 F-100. Especially challenging for George was the windshield-angle differences between the '00 F-150 and the old F-100. He discovered this while trying to lower the F-100 cab over the F-150 cowl. A lot of engineering and fabrication work was involved to achieve a smooth marriage.

Because George wanted each generation in his execution, he weaved a little bit of each into the visuals. Note the smooth '97-'03 F-150 exterior door handles. Inside, '00 F-150 Lightning door panels were sized to fit the F-100's 40-year-old doors. the '00 F-150 instrument panel is tied to the F-150 platform underneath, just like it was from the factory. None of this happened easily for George. It took untold hours of fab work to get it all to work together. The bed, for example, involved many hours of getting it to fit to the F-150 chassis. Those are '96 F-150 rearview mirrors fastened to the doors. Taillights and related parts, along with the fuel door, were borrowed from a '00 Ranger to make the '66 body as "Lightning" as possible.

Beneath the bonnet is Ford's powerful, high-winding 5.4 SOHC V-8 with an Eaton supercharger. Supercharging gives the tall boy Modular V-8 extra torque where it is needed most. The hood doesn't open in a conventional way either. It is attached to an '80s Buick forward-tilt hood hinge arrangement, which makes it easy to open the hood and gain access. What's more, it looks awesome when he rolls it open.

What you see here is a '66 F-100 body wrapped around a '00 F-150 Lightning platform. A phenomenal amount of fabrication work was involved to achieve George's '66 F-150 Lightning pickup. It's a terrific retro-effort yielding everything George dreamed of in a classic, yet contemporary, pickup.

We're Here to Help
In the middle of George's project, he just couldn't seem to come up with the right idea for the front of his new truck, but when he saw a drawing in the August 2004 issue of Mustang & Fords by Jarious Watson, he knew he had found the exact look for his truck. Using the drawing from that issue, he fabricated the grille and bumper (which took 80 of the 2,500-plus hours in total build time) and was able to finish off his project just in time to submit photos to the Carlisle staff for placement in Carlisle's Building T inside display. George's "2066 Lightning" was accepted, and when we arrived at the Carlisle fairgrounds, George was all setup in Building T with a big smile. George even thanked us for the idea and inspiration for the grille and details of his project on his signage. --Mark Houlahan

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The Details
1966 Ford F-150 "Lightning"
Owner: George Bickel, Apex, NC
Engine 5.4L Triton V-8
Forged Steel Crank
Forged I-Beam Connecting Rods
Forged Pistons
Aluminum Heads
Eaton Supercharger
Transmission Ford 4R100
(Four-Speed Automatic Overdrive)
RearEnd 9.75 inch
3.55 Gears
Exhaust Flowmaster Cat-Back System for F-150 Lightning
Suspension Front: Stock Lightning Short and Long Arm Style with coil springs, 31mm sway bar
Rear: Stock Lightning five-leaf solid axle, staggered shocks, 23mm sway bar
Brakes Front: Stock Lightning (12.1-inch vented disc, twin-piston caliper)
Rear: Stock Lightning (13.1-inch vented disc, single-piston caliper)
Factory Three-channel antilock brakes
Wheels Front: Lightning Five-Spoke, 18x9.5
Rear: Lightning Five-Spoke, 18x9.5
Tires Front: Goodyear Eagle F1-GS, P295/45ZR18
Rear: Goodyear Eagle F1-GS, P295/45ZR18
Interior Stock F-150 Lightning Interior
Custom headliner
Custom door panels with Lightning inserts
Custom work by Jerry Hobgood, Hobgood's Upholstery, Spring Hope, NC
Exterior Radiant Fire Red PPG basecoat/clearcoat
'66 Ford F-100 Outer Body
'97-'03 F-150 Door Handles and mirrors
GM CHMSL (Center High-Mount Stop Lamp)
Dodge Ram rear bumper
Ford Ranger taillights
Gaylord bedcover, sectioned to fit the bed width