It takes a real gearhead to understand the true meanings behind all the classic automobiles that share the roads with the modern bellybutton transports. Some not in the know just scratch their heads, pondering the thought of why anyone would own such a dinosaur of a thing, let alone submit it to the rigors of today's traffic. Others, well, they're probably so caught up in their own tangled lives that they more than likely don't even acknowledge us to begin with. (You know, the types who severely tailgate anything--a Bugatti for that matter--with no regard for said vehicle's value.) For these people, there's just no explaining. It takes a car guy (or gal) to truly understand. John and Mike Frederixon know exactly what it's all about. Here's father John's recap of how--and just as importantly, why--this '54 F-100 came to be.
"During my preteen years, I was fascinated with older cars. A friend's dad had a small repair shop near our house, where I spent most of my extra time trying to help out and learn. Later, in high school, I bought a '26 Model T and a '35 Ford coupe to make my first hot rod. Before it was completed, my parents moved into the city and I had to get rid of my prized collection. After high school, I joined the service, got married, started a family, and went to college. Even after college, my work never allowed me the time to start another project. My son Mike eventually grew up and became the car technician that I always wished to be. During his high school years, he was always working on his cars or motorcycles, and did an excellent job. Together, we bought some collector cars, which he always worked on.
"Not too long ago, a friend had asked me to store his cherished '54 F-100 he had found in Oklahoma. After having it sit for a few years, he decided to sell it, so I bought it, but it remained in its stored state for a few years more. Though Mike eventually fixed a few things for me, it just wasn't the truck I'd dreamed of back in high school.
"One day, we decided to make a '50s-style hot rod truck for me to take to my 50th high school class reunion (Class of '54, coinciding with the truck's golden anniversary, as well). Mike had previously restored several musclecars, and had even built a Cobra replica in his garage, so I knew he was up to the task. Problem was, we only had a year to complete it for the reunion.
"I live three hours from my son, but despite that, we had planned to spend every single weekend for 12 months working on the truck there in anticipation of meeting our goal. At times, it felt like we were on an episode of American Chopper! Once we had a plan laid out, we got started, having no doubts in our minds what we needed to achieve.
"First order of business was to get rid of the Olds engine and return to Ford power. We considered several options, but in the end, the torque of a big-block was just too tempting. On eBay, we found a running 460 with a C6 transmission that had been used in a Street Stock circle track car. The owner had dominated his class, but a cubic-inch rules restriction forced him to retire the combination. The engine purchase started a snowball effect of modifications required for a proper installation. We ended up stripping the truck, leaving just the cab on the frame, so we could fit the engine and new Heidt's independent front suspension. We ended up having to cut the firewall and floor in order to accommodate the engine, which just led to installing a whole new firewall and cab floor section. This is the beginning of the time delays that threatened the completion date of the project.
"We continued to clean and strip the truck to prepare it for paint. We had tried several methods to achieve that flat-black primer look we were after (with a sealed finish, though). After several failed test panels were sprayed, Mike talked with the local PPG rep. Upon hearing his recommendations, we decided to use PPG's Flexed "N" Flat clear (developed for use on plastic-type bumpers and body panels--Ed.) over the black epoxy primer. "By the time the fabrication, bodywork, and paint were completed, we'd already burned up half of the scheduled time. We persisted, forging through the reassembly process. But with each new part came a new challenge. There were times we had to reorder another item to help finish a particular installation. Time started to run out, and it looked like I wouldn't be making the reunion in the manner I'd planned--but we kept at it every weekend. Mike ran the wiring, the plumbing, and stayed focused on the details. Finally, it was time for upholstery.
"Auto Interiors in Lansing, Michigan, stepped up and made everything we needed to stick with the old-style hot rod theme. From there, Mike took the truck to his work, where Mike Kukala (the dealership painter) laid out the silver flames with red striping. Unfortunately, my 50th class reunion would come and go before the truck was finished.
"The '54 was completed in 18 months, just weeks shy of the '05 F-100 SuperNationals. At the truck's debut, we were met with a very good response from fellow enthusiasts young and old. The encouraging words made the entire process worthwhile. Best of all, I now get to drive the hot rod I wanted to build 50 years ago. Just goes to show that you're never too old to fulfill your dreams."