With the ever-growing popularity of electronics and the new wave of technological advancements, some vehicles practically drive themselves. You can read from a computer screen instead of a book, and text someone who's sitting in the same room instead of speaking to them. It's all possible with technology, but it seems to be raising some questions while also providing some answers. Are we getting smarter from this technology or are we dependent on it? The old four-barrel carburetor may need rebuilding from time to time and your rusty non-power windows still require super arm strength. So why not marry both old and new? That's what Bill Clabaugh has done.
When Bill was 16 he bought a '55 Ford F-100 with a 394 Oldsmobile and a four-speed hydro. Shortly after Bill was run off the road, and the truck was totaled. It was now 1970, and he found a '54 F-100 with a 426 Hemi for $50. The Hemi had a cracked block that he yanked out and sold for $50. So in a roundabout way the truck shell was free. Bill held onto the old '55 parts from the totaled chassis, and the only logical thing to do was make the '54 a runner. He finished his build right about time he graduated high school and had the itch to travel. With $300 in hand he set off to explore the highway. Eventually he sold the truck to buy a van, but he always missed that old Ford. After 34 years, he was fortunate enough to come across a good deal on a '56 F-100.
The '56 had been restored in the '80s and some parts were removed for fresh chrome and never reinstalled, but other than that Bill's new toy was in good shape. Wanting to push the limits of his skills and not wanting to have a run-of-the-mill small-block in his '56, Bill formulated a plan. He heard that a neighbor kid had totaled his '01 F-150 and was looking to get rid of the remains. "I wondered if the '01 F-150 would fit under the '56 body?" he says. Bill asked some friends if they thought it could be done. Everyone answered no, or suggested putting in a crate motor. Bill thought about how he could marry the two trucks, but he was not sure if it was possible.
A few months went by and Bill finally stopped by the kid's house and measured the battered F-150. The F-150's frame was closer in size to the '56's frame than he thought. He offered the kid a deal for $2,500, and he took it. Getting the truck home was a breeze since it was right around the corner. Bill decided to keep not only the running gear on the F-150 but the complete chassis as well; some modifications were in order. The next step was to chop 24 inches off the F-150 frame and install a four-link rear suspension with Firestone airbags. With most of the suspension issues out of the way, Bill hung the '56 body from his 20-foot-tall steel shed and slowly lowered the '56 cab on the F-150 chassis. There was an issue of the front wheel placement. The frontend was 4 inches farther forward than the fender wheel openings. So, instead of moving the frontend back, he sectioned the fenders moving the openings forward. "I always thought there was too much truck hanging over the front wheels anyway," Bill says.
The most challenging part about the buildup, Bill says, was fitting the '56 to the '01 floorpan and the firewall to the dash. "The bodywork and painting was a challenge, since I am not a body guy," he says. "I just told myself not to stop until it was completed properly." The good thing about all of Bill's hard work is that everything worked from the '01 F-150. "I have built a '56 Big-Window with cruise control, fuel injection, interior lighting, alarm with remote door locks, and four-wheel disc brakes," he says. "Also it has a big 5.4-liter with better economy than a carbureted motor, and you can't complain about the power."