What is it about an old fat-fendered Ford pickup that gets our juices flowing for what used to be? When Editor Mark Houlahan handed me this assignment, I found myself gazing at the truck, longing for the era in which it was conceived. It stirred a lot of memories of a different time in our country.
In those days, it was the perceived Soviet nuclear threat, the red scare, communism, and "duck and cover" that troubled us most. In the end, we had nothing to worry about. The U.S. and Russian superpowers weren't foolish enough to push buttons. So times were better than we thought they were. The future showed promise. We were headed for the moon. Economic times were stable. The living was good.
When I was a kid growing up in the early '60s, Ford F-100s like this one were all over the place in various states of condition. There were pickups, panel deliveries, flatbeds, and more in a wide variety of occupations. They were hardware-store delivery trucks, plumber and electrician service trucks,and abundant in private hands from coast-to-coast. Most of them, it seems, had flathead and overhead valve in-line sixes. A few had V-8s. When they came up the street to a neighbor's home to deliver goods and services, I always knew what they were by the sound of their in-line sixes.
At first glance, we were convinced this '55 F-100 wasn't powered by anything Ford put in its cars and trucks during the '50s. When John Maffucci fires the engine, it doesn't sound like a flathead or early overhead valve Ford mill, either. There's the soft, throaty pulsing of Ford's modular overhead cam V-8 first introduced in 1991 in the Lincoln Town Car.
At that time, we didn't know anything about the engine. Carline by carline, it found its way into more and more vehicles-the '92 Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis, then the '94 Thunderbird and Cougar, and after that, the '96 Mustang GT and Cobra, and the Ford F-Series trucks and E-Series vans during the late '90s.
The mod motor-as we like to call it-has become mainstream when most of us old die-hards never dreamed it would. Pushrod V-8s have given way to late-model, overhead cam technology in many classic Fords.
John's F-100 is a case in point. He could have taken the easy path and opted for a small-block Ford or a big retro FE-series Ford big-block. But, the more he thought about his truck project, the more he considered something radically different underhood. He chose Ford Racing Performance Parts' 5.0L DOHC modular crate engine sporting an Eaton supercharger from an '03 Cobra and a host of aftermarket goodies, all expertly assembled by Tim Matherly of MV Performance in Statham, Georgia.
It isn't your grandfather's ol' flat head or Y-block pick 'em up anymore. "We found this truck in a chicken coop in Clemont, Georgia," John says. "My intention was to build a shop truck, a kind of rat rod, using parts left over from the '03 Mustang Cobra we ran at Bonneville in 2003. This 5.0L Cammer engine is the same powerplant we ran in our Bonneville land-speed car, setting a record at 178 mph.