In 1958, Rocco Pantano's brother, Dan, went into Bob Jones Skyline Ford in Denver, Colorado, and bought a new F-100. But as fate would have it, Dan would only drive the truck for two years before passing away, leaving it in Rocco's care. The Ford was then used mostly around the Pantano's farm and to haul the Model A race car the brothers built and campaigned together to and from Lakeside Speedway in Denver. Luckily for Rocco, there was room enough in the bed to cart home the numerous trophies the coupe would win over the years along with the other cars Rocco would be successful with.
Fast-forward to the early 1990s: Rocco had raised a family, lived a good life, and was planning on building another hot rod, but this time with his grandson Danny Schwab. Unfortunately, Rocco passed away in 1993-and his daughter Rona and her husband, Jerry Schwab, thought there would be no better tribute to her dad than to restore his old '58 Ford.
As you can see from the old photos of the truck sent to us by Rona, in its glory days the F-100 was outfitted with a white scallop paintjob, spotlights, a hood scoop, bedrails, four-bar wheel covers, and even vertical chrome side pipes at one point in its long history. A very fine machine indeed, and as the Schwabs were deciding exactly how to go about the restoration-which was their first-they knew they would keep the original truck's charm while updating a few items. The Schwabs soon left the truck with a longtime friend of Rocco's, Donald Gaccetta, who had worked alongside him in the garage for many years. He would know exactly what Rocco would want done to the truck and still make it safe for the Schwabs on today's roads.
Donald started in 2003 by ditching the stock I-beam axle frontend and grafting a Heidts Superide IFS into the stock frame along with boxing the appropriate amounts of 'rail. With its new suspension, the truck was destined to handle like never before, so it would be imperative that it stop as such-luckily, the clip was ordered with 11-inch power disc brakes. Out back, a Currie 9-inch was home to their big drum brakes and is held in place with the help of Chassis Engineering's leaf springs, hangers, and shackles. As far as wheels go, American Racing Torq-Thrust Ds are a timeless and modern choice and would suit the Ford's original feel-they were ordered in 15- and 16-inch sizes and wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber.
With a nice rolling chassis together, Donald went through an '83 Ford 351 Windsor motor and C6 trans for the truck. The motor was left somewhat stock, but was beefed up with a Sig Erson RV cam, MSD ignition, and an Edelbrock intake and carb combo. BBK headers breathe pure Blue Oval power into a custom-built 3-inch stainless exhaust system. The engine bay was gussied up with a set of Ford Racing valve covers and a plethora of Billet Specialties pieces. Donald also built a new gas tank to mount under the bed.
For body and paintwork, the '58 was taken to D&T Autographics in the Schwab's hometown of Arvada, Colorado. Since the truck was well taken care of over the years, there wasn't as much damage and rust to repair as anticipated. D&T applied new coats of red and white paint to the now arrow-straight tin. Danny Schwab was fortunate enough to lay out the scallop pattern on his grandpa's truck, which was a big deal. Afterward, new glass was installed all the way around, and even Rocco's "Built By Dagos" lettering was redone, because he was very proud of his heritage.
The stock bench seat was reworked by Juan Arce in Aurora, Colorado, before he recovered it in red and white vinyl to match the exterior. He also made custom door panels and a carpet kit, which blend well with the Billet Specialties steering wheel and ididit column. There is a simple aluminum dash panel that holds a set of VDO gauges that's a nod to the truck's racing heritage. Donald also installed a Vintage Air unit and an Alpine stereo for the Schwabs to enjoy.
After completing the truck, the Schwabs brought it to the Goodguys show in Loveland, Colorado, for its debut, which is where we met up with them and picked the truck for one of our Finest Five awards. The family is still in shock over having the truck turn out so nice, but they know Rocco wouldn't have it any other way.