Looking to the past for inspiration is nothing new in the realm of hot rodding. Heck, some would argue that the entire street rod industry is based on the premise. But the interest in rodding's roots has become more focused in recent years. Whether it's the yearning for a simpler time or the recognition of timeless style, traditional rods are re-emerging in force. Wide whitewalls are back in vogue. Flathead engines are again being fired to life. And rodders everywhere are scrambling to unearth vintage hot rods or clone famous ones.
The folks at SO-CAL Speed Shop know a little something about hot rodding's past because they helped create some of that history. This is a company with origins dating back to 1946, and its three facilities (in California, Arizona, and Colorado) now specialize in selling vintage-style components for traditional cars and trucks. The crew at the SO-CAL Arizona shop are the true truck experts of the bunch, as they've been in business for 26 years (originally as Vintage Ford & Chevrolet Parts of Arizona) peddling all manner of pickup parts. So when it came time for proprietors Frank and Mary Streff to build a truck of their own, it only made sense to borrow from SO-CAL's long history.
"We wanted to re-create the SO-CAL Speed Shop '53 Ford that Alex Xydias (SO-CAL's founder) used as his push truck at Bonneville, Pomona, and many other racing venues," Mary says. "He also used the truck as a platform to photograph and film motorsports events from Pikes Peak to Sebring. It was a truck that saw a lot of racing history."
Of course, the original truck was long gone, but Frank and Mary didn't have to look far for a replacement. Mike DeVriendt at SO-CAL Colorado just happened to have a very straight and solid '53 F-100 sitting in his fleet. Before long the old truck was on its way to Arizona, where a thorough revival was in the planning stages.
There's a fine line between looking to the past for inspiration and getting totally stuck there. And while the Streffs wanted to mimic the appearance of the original pickup, an identical copy wasn't what they had in mind. Their idea was to build the '53 with a traditional, nostalgic look (and all of the appropriate SO-CAL styling cues) while using contemporary mechanical components and a host of modern creature comforts. This approach would not only make the truck a fun, comfortable driver, but would also serve to showcase the parts that SO-CAL sells every day.
True to plan, the finished F-100 makes use of some of the best parts available in the street rod and classic truck aftermarket. Its foundation is a Walton Fabrication frame outfitted with a Heidt's Superide front suspension and Currie rearend. Power comes from a 460 Ford crate engine bolted to a B&M C-6 transmission. There's air conditioning from Vintage Air, tunes from Custom Autosound, and comfortable seating courtesy of Glide Engineering. Yet all of these contemporary components are balanced by a healthy dose of traditional style and old-school craftsmanship. Norm and William Cox at 10th Street Auto Body used time-honored metal finishing techniques on the body so there was little need for filler before paint. Tom Schmidt hand-lettered the signage on the doors. The crew at Lance Troupe Interiors stitched the upholstery in bare-bones, minimalist style, and covered the floor of the cab with a basic rubber floor mat. Modern touches like the air conditioning vents and stereo were hidden from view. Old-timey items like emblems, door handles, and tailgate chains were proudly replaced as a reminder of an era when trucks were clunky and utilitarian.
We could go on and on discussing cool details like the '51 Crestliner steering wheel or the SO-CAL deco-style dash knobs, but we'd prefer to let you soak in the images (you'll always have the build-up series for specific technical references). Needless to say, this neo-classic cruiser turned out awesome. With a look that's rooted in the past and engineering that has firm footing in the present, it represents the best aspects of where classic trucks have been and where they're going.
F A C T S & F I G U R E S
Frank & Mary Streff
1953 Ford F-100
Frame / Manufacturer aftermarket / Walton Fabrication
Rearend / Ratio Currie 9-inch / 3.25:1
Rear suspension leaf spring
Rear brakes drum
Front suspension Heidt's Superide IFS
Front brakes disc
Master cylinder dual-chamber power
Steering column Flaming River
Front wheel make, size Halibrand, 15x6
Rear wheel make, size Halibrand, 15x8
Front tire make, size Uniroyal, 205/70R15
Rear tire make, size Uniroyal, 235/75R15
Gas tank Rock Valley saddle tank
Other chassis items Inland Empire driveshaft
Year and make '01 Ford
Displacement 460 ci
Camshaft Ford Racing
Heads aluminum Cobra Jet
Valve covers Ford
Manifold / Induction Performer / Holley
Ignition / Wires Ford electronic / Ford
Exhaust / Mufflers 2.5-inch / Flowmaster
Year and make '01 B&M C-6
Shifter Lokar / SO-CAL
Body style / Material pickup / steel
Body manufacturer Ford
Body mods smooth firewall, custom-fit
Bed Mack Products
Bumpers Dennis Carpenter stainless
Bodywork 10th Street Auto Body, Phoenix, AZ
Painter 10th Street Auto Body
Paint type / Color PPG Global / white and red
Pinstriping Tom Schmidt, Gilbert, AZ
Headlights / Taillights stock / stock
Outside mirrors none
Gauges Mooneyes in engine-turned panel
Stereo / Speakers Custom Autosound Secret Audio
Air conditioning Vintage Air
Steering wheel '51 Crestliner by J.B. Donaldson
Seats Glide bench
Upholsterer Lance Troupe Interiors, Phoenix, AZ
Material / Color vinyl / gray and red
Carpet rubber mat