One of the elements that define a true custom truck is completeness. When talented builders follow a carefully thought-out plan that incorporates unique touches in every area of the truck, it becomes a rolling work of art. That's the approach Art Walters used to create his latest example of Blue Oval artistry.
A staunch F-100 fan living in Bumpass, Virginia, Art says the motivation began back in 1992 when he attended his first F-100 Supernationals. It fired his imagination then and it's still going strong since this is his third and best vintage Ford (so far). He found this 1953 F-100 in Rochester, New York, and learned it was originally scheduled to be a dragstrip truck with the undercarriage reinforced to accept a very strong powerplant. Art and a friend drove up and brought the truck back on the same day. It was in fairly good condition, already equipped with a boxed frame, TCI stainless-steel front suspension, and stainless TCI four-link. It also had a stout 460 Cobra Jet crate engine under the hood.
As a retired mechanical engineer, Art had the skills to design his latest truck himself and was fortunate to meet a very talented builder, Eric "Smiley" Smith from Coachworks in Louisa, Virginia. Art made a list of the upgrades on his soon-to-be show truck and, working side by side with Eric, the four-year build process began. A few mechanical corrections were made to the existing suspension, moving the front elements rearward slightly and plumbing the four-link before adding a C-notch to the frame. Driveshaft loops were welded in for safety along with an X-member, custom transmission crossmember, rear sway bar, and 20-gallon tank. The axle is a Ford 9-inch, with 3.25 gears, Truetrac limited-slip differential and 31-spline axles, assembled by Trans Product in Kentucky.
The Ford 460 Cobra Jet crate motor from the team at Ford Motorsports in Clinton, Michigan, was the perfect choice, combining lots of power with long-term reliability. Deep breathing begins with a 770-cfm Holley carburetor on an Edelbrock intake, with MSD 6AL ignition providing the spark, and 21/2-inch ceramic-coated Sanderson headers feeding a pair of Flowmaster 40-series mufflers. The potent package sends more than 500 hp to the Art Carr-modified C6 trans, boasting a 2,400-rpm stall speed and B&M shifter. Brightwork was added to the motor in the form of a Concept One pulley system along with the stainless-steel shroud on the aluminum crossflow radiator that holds the pair of 13-inch SPAL fans.
Once the powertrain was complete, several rusted areas on the cab were repaired with new rocker panels and cab corners, then the smoothing process began by eliminating the driprails and grinding all the factory welds. Subtle touches were next like the pancaked hood losing 21/2 inches and the all-metal rear fenders gaining 3 inches to keep the inner bedwalls smooth. Those fatter rear fenders meant new running boards to ensure a smooth transition between front and rear.
Door handles were shaved, single-pane glass added, a third brake light was cut into the cab, and one-of-a-kind LED taillights that Walters designed were mounted to the new Dan Carpenter bed. A Pro's Pick tonneau cover, raised and lowered by linear actuators, protects the highly polished wood floor. Front and rear bumpers were snugged closer and painted to match the body. Art got the truck rolling with a combination of Coys rims, 17x8s up front and 18x10s in the rear wrapped in 235/55-ZR17 Hankook rubber (front) and 255/55-ZR18 (rear).
Once the body was finally in primer, the agonizing decisions over paint began. With thousands of aftermarket choices to choose from and much of the truck's acceptance based on that initial first impression, Art describes the color choice as one of the toughest decisions of the build. After several weeks of deliberation, you can see that he made the right pick and Eric got the go-ahead to spray the eye-catching combination of PPG Sunset Orange and Wineberry. Sterling silver and black lines separate the two shades, then Cobra and F-100 logos were added to the front, back, and sides by Ed Webster. The interior, bed, and engine room were also painted to match.
The amount of time, money, sacrifices, and effort involved to build this truck was more and tougher than I expected.
The final step was the interior and lots of changes occurred inside, beginning with LizardSkin acoustical and thermal insulation, transforming the hollow-sounding cab into library quiet. Eric created a lower panel for the two-tone dash to hold the A/C vents, starter switch, and headlight knob. The custom-designed three-gauge cluster was filled with Classic Instruments, adding a fourth housing for the centrally mounted clock.
Keeping Art in control are the Lokar pedals and Billet Specialties Stiletto wheel on a painted ididit column. Comfortable seating for Art and his wife Ann was assured, thanks to the camel-colored leather seats from a Camry that flank the new center console. It holds the B&M shifter, A/C controls, and Kenwood stereo. Montrose Upholstery in Richmond, Virginia, did the stitchwork.
How does Art like the truck now that it's complete? "The amount of time, money, sacrifices, and effort involved to build this truck was more and tougher than I expected," he told us, but there is a bright side. The truck was completed just in time to debut at the 2012 F-100 Supernationals in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where we photographed it for this article.
With 725 vehicles at the show, Art's amazing F-100 Cobra took home the Best in Show award on its very first outing! We'd say that's a good omen and we predict lots more trophies during the year or so that Art plans to keep it on the show circuit. After that, he says, it will become a wonderful weekend driver. Special thanks to Sy Miller and Diane of Mid Fifty's Parts, Charlie Roark and Ed Carter from Montrose Upholstery, Ed Webster, and especially Eric Smith for the talent and assistance in creating this rolling work of Art.