While attending a rod run in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, back in 1977, my wife-to-be, Peggy, pointed out a '56 Ford truck that was so low, its front bumper was almost touching the ground. We both fell in love at first sight-with the truck that is.
After returning home, I made a trade for a '56 and started the building process. With the cab and frontend done, it just needed a bed-so I made my own. After a couple years, the truck got in an accident, but not before a certain amount of interest had been generated from other people wanting me to build them a bed. So, I spent the next 20 years building all-new beds, along with a few trucks for others. Over the years, I'd gathered parts to someday build another truck for myself, and by 2002 had collected enough good sheetmetal to finally start a project.
I had traded parts to good friend Buster Henderson in order for him to build me a new chassis (tube chassis, Monte Carlo frontend, 9-inch rear). Then I had another good friend in Washington, Peter Lenn, locate a nice cab for me, which he delivered to me at the F-100 Supernationals in Pigeon Forge (where I also picked up a hood and grille out of an old fire truck). Then, while in Carlisle, I found a set of rust-free doors, which was all I had left to complete all the sheetmetal. Now the assembly process began.
When I mounted the cab, I decided to lower it an inch over the chassis. Doing the same with the frontend sheetmetal gives the appearance of an even lowered stance, but without giving up the ride. I followed by cutting 1 1/4 inches from the bottom of the front fender behind the wheel opening; raising the running board mounts to eliminate the sill; and trimming an inch off the forward-lower edge of the rear fender. Looking at the truck from the side, this helped line everything up.
Next, I built the bed 2 inches wider to have more tire clearance, plus I've always thought these trucks looked too narrow from behind. I rounded all the bed posts; tubbed it; built a wider, smoothed tailgate; and made a widened roll pan. For the bed floor, I went to the local GM dealer and purchased a full steel replacement floor for a '97 Chevy truck. My brother-in-law, Eric Curlee, whittled the taillight housings in the machine shop, which were fitted with Lambert LED lights. After Dennis Carpenter (no relation) made a set of smoothed bumpers, I installed them with sectioned brackets to tuck it closer to the truck.
Not wanting the gas tank inside the truck any longer, I had Doc's Kustoms make a tank to go between the 'rails behind the rearend. I'd already raised the new bed floor, so this gave me more rearend clearance, as well as a good place to put the gas filler. The tailgate latches are custom-made and use a key to release. With the bed finished, all that remained were the running boards themselves-Dennis Carpenter came through for me here as well.
With everything bolted together, I installed a 502 big-block Chevy crate engine with a Turbo 400 trans. I hired Jimmy Pedigrew to build the headers and exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. I finished the remainder up (Vintage Air, Classic Instruments gauges, Custom Autosound hidden stereo, Ron Francis harness) before taking everything back apart in order to begin the bodywork and paint process.
While everyone knows that a process like this takes a lot of time, I usually always fall short on that end. So, I sought help from Richard Windstad, Boruff's Body Shop, and Everette Little. This two-year process ended up with the '56 being covered in PPG Mercedes Silver. Then, with a TEA's Design bench seat installed, we dropped the truck off at C. Frederick's Automotive Interiors for the full leather treatment.
Now, after 25 years of building beds for a living and 28 years being married to a good wife, it just seems like life keeps getting better!
Dan had always built "small-window" trucks-one for himself and several for others. He a lot of ideas in his head about what he would like to build with this one, starting with a "big" back window. He had people on the lookout for a good cab, and his friend Peter finally found one in California. On his way to the F-100 Supernats from Washington State, he went south to pick it up and deliver it for Dan. If I had to give this truck a name, I would definitely label it "Clean and Subtle"; for this truck is of course clean and neat, not too busy, and has many very subtle changes. I also would like to add that this truck drives-and yes, I do drive it sometimes, when Dan doesn't have a choice because he's either pulling our vendor trailer or driving the other truck! It drives like a dream. Whether in town or on the interstate-it hits the road great.