Gateway Classic Mustang's F100
DO IT WITH A BED
Regular readers of Mustang Monthly and the viewers of this site most likely know Gateway Classic Mustang (GatewayClassicMustang.com, GCM) as the builders of bitchin' Mustangs for street and track use, as well as the purveyor of trick performance suspension parts for Mustangs and more. If you've been to any Ford event that has some sort of action, GCM was most likely tearing up the pavement in their familiar yellow 1968 Mustang hardtop.
GCM is made up of Jason and Lonnie Childress, who came from the Monster Truck world (Lonnie drove the famous Big Foot monster truck for eight years and Jason drove Grave Digger and debuted the Batman truck). They opened GCM in 1999 in St. Louis, MO (hence the company name) with the motto of "bringing performance to classic and modern Fords" and started building world-renowned cars, including Mustangs for Sammy Hagar and a Bullitt clone for Chad McQueen. So yeah, they're known for cool and fast Mustangs, but behind the scenes they were working on Lonnie's next big passion, the 1967 to 1972 Ford F100 "bumpside" pickups. Lonnie said, "I have loved that body style forever. I bought one in the '90s but didn't know anything about it, I just loved the way it looked."
After a chance sighting during a family holiday, Lonnie saw this '69 F100 sitting with a "for sale" sign in the window a short walk from his parents' house, and he bought it for a mere $400 saying, "It was rough. I wanted to do a 'patina' truck but they had already stripped it, so I went ahead and built it nice."
He worked on the truck here and there for about four years but not with any kind of urgency until he saw Gas Monkey Garage on TV where they slipped a Crown Vic chassis under an F100, and the spark was lit. "Trucks are super-hot right now, and I give 100 percent of the credit to Aaron and the guys at Gas Monkey. I saw the Crown Vic idea and that's what started the fire under my ass to do a truck again."
He's referring to the truck's chassis that is comprised of a stock frame with a late-model Crown Vic front suspension grafted on with GCM's coil-over kit designed for the Crown Vic using JRi parts, which GCM offers now in either non-, 1-, or 2-way adjustable configuration. The 3-link rear suspension is a bolt-on to the stock frame, with Lonnie saying, "You just have to knock the factory brackets off and drill a few holes, but it's very easy to install. There's only one measurement to take to set the front torque arm crossmember." The torque arm plants a 9-Inch Factory rear.
He went on to say, "The torque arm works phenomenal in the truck because there's no weight over the rear, with the bed there. We're picking the truck up under cab on acceleration, applying the force to the rear tires. It's the opposite under braking because it pulls the middle of the truck down and stops better. It works the same way in a car but it's more noticeable in the truck."
The powerplant is a 5.2 Ford Performance Aluminator, which GCM offers as a swap kit, backed by a Tremec T-56 with some Modern Driveline parts to adapt it to the mod motor and add a hydraulic clutch. The exhaust is all Magnaflow and the brakes have 15-inch rotors and 6-piston calipers all around from Baer Brakes, and Lonnie said, "This thing stops on a dime." The wheels are one-offs from Mike Curtis of Curtis Speed, sized 20x9 front, 20x11 rear with Michelin Pilot Sport tires.
Inside the cab are Recaro seats, planting the driver behind a stock dash with custom Classic Instruments gauges. "The stock gauges are 'sweepers' with no information, but I wanted to know what was going on, so we had Classic add that to the stock gauge bezel, including a 140mp speedometer," Lonnie said, adding, "I like the fact that it looks factory at first glance but isn't." There's also a Vintage Air system in the truck, a Lecarra wheel on an ididit tilt column, a trick shift boot from Finch Performance, Kicker sound system, and the complete truck was re-wired with an American Autowire kit.
The body was in pretty rough shape, even for a $400 truck, especially the bed floor so it needed lots of bodywork. They first had Redi-Kleen chemical strip everything then began the process of fixing all the rust and nastiness. They found an NOS hood at Carlisle, "which was nice since you can't find them," said Lonnie, and added new fenders. The bed floor probably consumed the most time since nobody makes a repro floor for this generation truck, so they had to get a '73-'79 floor and make it fit. Lonnie said, "We have hours and hours and hours of bodywork just in the bed floor." The final statement is an eye-catching coat of Axalta Hot Hues Firecracker Red paint and a color-matched spray-in bedliner.
How does it perform? I mean, it's a pickup truck so it can't be that impressive can it? "It's been on the track at Hallett (Oklahoma) and Gingerman (Michigan) and it runs really good. We sent Mike and Nate Stacy [semi-pro racers—Nate currently runs the highly competitive Continental Sports Car Series] out in the truck and said 'be honest with us, tell us where we need to make improvements' and they were both tickled with the truck. Nate even passed a Ford GT with it! He only had one complaint, saying, 'it needs a Bud Light cooler in the bed. '" Then they sent us their own truck chassis to build.
The next time to see an F100 pickup truck with a mean-looking stance, we suggest you don't challenge it unless you're packing some serious heat. Because it might have just been touched by Gateway Classic Mustang.
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Photography by Kevin DiOssi