It's hard for visitors at Meca Dragway in Malm, Sweden, not to notice a really well-built, orange '53 Ford F-100. The truck's owner is Thomas Cronemark, and he is in charge of the paddock. His word is the law at a race, or on any Wednesday evening during the season.
Thomas is also a member of SRIF, a local club for drag racers, and just like the rest of the club, he is mighty proud of Meca Dragway. The NHRA standard eighth-mile dragstrip in Malm's harbor is the result of a collaboration between the city and a local club for drag racers to stop illegal street racing. "The track is the only one of its kind in Europe. Naturally, we would have preferred a full quarter-mile track, but the ocean is the limiting factor."
During the day, you can find Thomas behind the wheel of a much larger truck than the '53, a Volvo semi truck with a high-dollar mobile crane. He has been a pro truck driver for over 18 years now. His interest in smaller trucks started when an employee at his dad's trucking company pulled in with a '72 El Camino and parked right in front of a then 17-year-old Thomas.
Through another member he heard about a 1950s Ford pickup that had been parked in a garage for a few years. "He knew that I dreamed about a cool pickup to cruise with...so we went and checked it out."
The truck had been imported from the U.S. in 1996, and had received a new interior and a Harley-Davidson Orange paint job in Sweden. The motor was a not-too-sweet-sounding Ford 460 backed up by a C6 tranny. It was love at first sight!
"I really enjoyed driving around town with the truck, but I did not like the road handling, the motor gave me bad vibes, and I wanted more power," Thomas recalls.
Thomas was not all that surprised when a valve gave up and busted a head. The 460 was scrapped and Malm Motor Reoveringar (MMR) was commissioned to build a new, more potent powerplant based on a Ford 427. The owner of the shop is of course a fellow SRIF member. The heads were ported by Sweden's leading expert, Erland Cox (who also supplied a better engine block), in nearby Lund.
Another of Thomas' buddies, Joakim Ljungberg, the owner of Vallkra Motorsport, promised to fix up the chassis and install a Heidts Mustang II frontend. "He found a few cracks in the chassis, so I asked him to box the framerails between the front and rear suspension. Joakim also replaced all four fenders, made the headers, 2-inch exhaust, and the 'straight-pipe' mufflers."
Thomas never considered having any custom bodywork done. Why do surgery on perfect body lines? He just settled for a new grille, shiny bumpers, and painted mirrors, plus aftermarket brake lights. The pickup bed was covered with stained-black marine plywood, stainless trim, and a black vinyl cover.
"The Ford came with steelies, which make it look a little bit too vintage for my taste. So I sold them, and instead got a set of 17-inch Boyd billet wheels. But that was too much in the opposite direction." He finally knew what wheels to use when he saw a Bullitt Mustang and ordered a set of 17-inch wheels from the U.S. the same day.
For Thomas, the most time-consuming part of this project was assembling all the pieces back together. Even though he enjoys watching the local hockey team, the Red Hawks, wintertime means plenty of garage time. The Swedish winters are dark, cold, and long. Car guys in Sweden refer to this time of the year as "garage season." With some help from talented friends, it took a couple of winter months to get the Effie ready. "They got paid with beer!"
Just for fun, Thomas tested the truck at Meca Raceway. While 10-second eighth-mile runs are nothing to brag about, one person was particularly impressed by the '53's results-the previous owner. "He told me that he might stop by my garage one day and smack a fat envelope on the Ford's hood!"