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.
John says the shop-truck idea went right out the window when Ford expressed an interest in having it on display at SEMA. "We decided to make it a unique show truck with all '03 Cobra running gear, including the six-speed transmission and independent rear suspension." John credits Graeme Bartils of North Georgia Fabrications in Dahlonega for the exceptional craftsmanship. He says it was a great challenge to make everything work. The frame was boxed for strength and constructed to accept the huge 5.0L DOHC engine and driveline. Not only does it look sharp-it performs. This is where dreams teamed up with execution and results.
That's Ford '06 Tungsten Gray, paint code T8, if you're thinking about using it yourself. Randy Powell of Powell's Auto Body in Dahlonega, Georgia, performed all of the bodywork and paint, which includes Dennis Carpenter reproduction sheetmetal produced with the original factory tooling. Note there's no fiberglass or off-shore tin in this F-100. It consists of real steel for real people who like their Ford iron original. One exception is the GE Lexan bed floor designed that way so you can see John's handiwork. He wants everyone to see the Mustang Cobra independent suspension and custom exhaust work underneath.
Underneath is indeed the Mustang Cobra's rear suspension and brake system. In front, John opted for another Mustang generation's underpinnings and brakes. That's a Heidt's Mustang II front suspension sporting huge 13-inch Cobra spec binders. In back are smaller SVT Cobra 11.6-inch discs. As you might expect, John has the Mustang II's rack-and-pinion system for precision steering and responsive handling. It sure beats the pants off of any worm and sector, king-pin-clad F-100 we've ever seen.
Tim's Upholstery in Gainesville, Georgia, did all of the custom work inside, including Porsche Lip Stick Red leather wrapped around custom fabricated seats. We like the SN-95 Cobra instrument panel dovetailed into the steel F-100 dashboard and fitted with Auto Meter instrumentation. It's a nice retro-tech modification that looks like it was born there. A Sony sound system based in the custom headliner complements everything John has done to the interior.
The sole objective with a restomod like this is blending modern, high-tech amenities into the classic lines of a fat-fendered F-100 truck. Here, you have all the creature comforts of a 21st century vehicle coupled with awesome styling that will be with us for a lifetime-exactly what John intended.
Ford Truck Facts
Did you know Ford built its first truck in 1905?
It followed that act with its first personal pickup truck in 1925:
'25-'27 - Model T trucks
'28-'31 - Model A trucks
The first B-Series trucks came in 1932 along with a V-8
The F-Series was first introduced as the F-1 in 1948
Ford introduced the F-100 in 1953
Ford's first 4x4 truck and the F-250 were introduced in 1959
Ford's first F-Series Crew Cab was in 1974
The F-150 was introduced in 1975
In 2008, the Ford F-Series line will celebrate its 60th anniversary
'55 Ford F-100
Owner: John Maffucci, Dawsonville, GA
5.0L DOHC FRPP crate V-8
94mm bore, 90mm stroke
Forged H-beam connecting rods
Aluminum block and heads
Lightning 90mm mass air meter
Metco blower pulley system
Accufab 100mm throttle body
'03 Cobra-based Eaton supercharger, ported and polished
Tremec T56 six-speed
Independent 8.8-inch from '03 Mustang Cobra
Borla 211/42-inch mufflers
Front: Heidt's Mustang II, rack-and-pinion steering, Pro shocks
Rear: '03 Cobra IRS, Pro shocks
Front: 13-inch disc from '03 Cobra
Rear: 11.6-inch disc from '03 Cobra'03 Cobra Hydraboost assist
Front: BBS RGR one-piece forged aluminum, 18x8-inch
Rear: BBS RGR one-piece forged aluminum, 18x8-inch
Front: BFGoodrich Comp T/A, P235/50ZR18
Rear: BFGoodrich Comp T/A, P245/55ZR18
Porsche Lipstick Red leather custom bucket seats, late-model SN-95 instrument panel with Auto Meter instruments, Sony sound system, and Valentine One radar detector in custom overhead console, Billet Specialties knobs and mirror, Flaming River steering wheel
'06 Ford GT Tungsten Gray applied by Randy Powell of Powell's Auto Body, Lexan bed floor for undercarriage visibility at shows