Butch Sprague's sixth sense for fast cars was developed in the 1960s while growing up in Long Island, New York, drag racing. He parlayed this passion into opening his own body and paint shop over 38 years ago, which became quite successful in the Long Island area. The business grew to 25 employees and had upwards of 60 vehicles under its roof, and Butch was able to structure it such that he didn't have to deal with customers, phone calls, or any of the day-to-day distractions that go along with running your own business. He stayed in the shop and worked, which is exactly where he wanted to be. As the years went by, he separated himself from the insurance and collision-work side of things and built a reputation for his top-notch custom and restoration work that gave life to many of the nice vintage cars and trucks cruising New York and the surrounding states.
Butch finally retired a few years back and still enjoys his '55 Crown Victoria, '49 Ford sedan, and '40 Ford convertible street rod, but he decided it was time to build a truck. So, in 2004 he found a needy '48 Ford F-1 for the princely sum of $600 that became the basis for a project that would span the next year and a half.
As you might have guessed, Butch would be handling the body and paint chores, but this wasn't going to be an easy job based on the ideas in mind. He began fixing all the rust and brought the body back to new before chopping the top 3 inches, laying the front windshield back 18 degrees, and lowering the roof skin 1 3/4 inches. This was no ordinary chop, but Butch felt it was necessary to calm down the truck's otherwise stock, bulbous profile. Afterward, he continued on with the rest of the body by shaving the door handles and cowl vent, frenching the antenna, adapting '54 Ford running boards, installing a No Limit firewall, radiusing the front wheelwells, welding up many of the factory seams, and making the cowl-induction-style hoodscoop that blends into the stock lines of the hood. Once completed, Butch would cover all his handiwork in two tones of PPG Ford Oval Blue. The spec color on the body and above the beltline on the doors would be two shades lighter of the same mix for a very subtle change, which would be divided thanks to pinstriping by Mark Peters.
For the chassis, Butch grafted a front clip from an '80 Oldsmobile Cutlass complete with its steering and disc brakes, but he swapped out the stock coils for Chevelle big-block springs and added dropped spindles. The frame was also fully boxed, and out back he added a Ford 9-inch from a '67 Fairlane that was changed from 3.55 to a 3.00:1 ring-and-pinion set complete with a posi unit. The rearend is held in place with stock-style parallel leaf springs, but also uses a pair of 36-inch ladder bars made by Butch. Wanting to keep an old-time feel to the truck, steel wheels from Early Wheel Company were bought and shod in BFGoodrich rubber.
The crowning piece of the F-1 may be is its '65 Ford 427 FE motor that grunts out over 500 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. The engine was built by Tony Carey at High Performance Ford in Long Island and utilizes 11:1 TRW pistons, an Isky solid lifter cam, Edelbrock big-valve aluminum heads, a custom 9-quart oil pan, and a repop medium-rise dual-quad intake topped with a pair of Holley 600-cfm carbs. Tony also built a '68 Ford C6 transmission to withstand the brutality the FE would be dishing out to the drag radials via Butch's suspiciously heavy right shoe.
Echoing the slight two-tone paint scheme, inside the '48, Ralph Collins of Pops Top Shop in Easley, North Carolina, covered the Valiant bench and door panels in two shades of blue vinyl tuck 'n' roll. The dash was filled and customized by Butch to hold a plethora of VDO gauges so he could keep necessary tabs on the 427 at all times, while keeping his eyes on the road and hands on the '87 Ford van wheel and column combo. After the top chop, Butch had all-new glass cut by Forest City Glass near his home in Tryon, North Carolina.
The F-1 has been on the road now for about two years, and if you are at a Goodguys, NSRA, or just about any event in the South and hear a rumble coming your way, don't be surprised if you turn around and see a blue streak!