Automotive restyling was at its peak in the '50s and '60s since custom builders had some of the most iconic body designs to choose from, supported by an endless array of cool bits lurking in the parts bins at your local dealer. It was a time where if you could imagine it, you could create it and with names like Barris, Winfield, Starbird, and Valley Customs leading the way it was obvious there would be plenty of rolling sculptures to see.
Since the indoor car show circuit was a perfect platform to present your latest creation, countless builders stepped up on a regular basis to wow the crowds. This not only showcased their individual work, but also lured potential customers to their shops for future projects. But this circuit wasn't just for cars since plenty of restyled trucks were making the scene as well, lighting up show arenas from coast to coast.
Looking back, a number of famous custom trucks come to mind, including Rod & Custom Magazine's Dream Truck, the Ala Kart, Kopper Kart, and Starbird's Ultra Truck to name a few. Many of these even went on to influence young minds when they were offered as plastic model kits to build on your kitchen table at home. However, for every famous show truck, there were plenty of other lesser-known ones that never achieved fame and glory since they most likely didn't run the circuit, or quite possibly resided in small towns.
With nearly 50 to 60 years having passed by since they were initially designed, it's a wonder as to where many of them wound up. Sure there are a coveted few that were found, often in disrepair, and restored to better-than-new standards which live a pampered life in private collections, but what about the rest? The unlucky ones wound up gathering dust on used car lots when the custom craze died down and many served as daily drivers till they dropped. The worst scenario was for the ones left for dead rusting in fields, or even worse, junkyards.
It was obvious from a young age that Derrick Pesko of Meriden, Connecticut, would follow his father's traditional hot rod values since he spent most of his time in the family workshop starting at age 5. With a voracious appetite for customizing little books and kit models, he was able to put his taste for vintage steel to work as he grew older. Years spent learning customizing alongside his dad, he eventually opened Allstar Hotrods in Meriden and began to support a large customer base for everything from hot rods and customs to classic trucks and full restorations.
Regular readers of CLASSIC TRUCKS will remember a pair of killer '59 Fords he built that graced the magazine's cover back in August 2011. With the long, hard winters that usually blanket New England every year, there's plenty of time to focus on new projects when your spare time is moved indoors. It was during one such snowy winter evening that Derrick was burning the midnight oil while cruising the pages on eBay looking for a new shop truck when he came across an interesting listing for a derelict '56 Ford F-100. What stood out was that the remains were obviously those of an original late-'50s-era full custom, something you rarely ever see.
The years hadn't been kind to the hauler and what was left was basically a sun-faded rolling shell missing its driveline, interior, wiring, suspension, steering, and glass. However, the thought of owning an original survivor piqued Derrick's interest and he bid on the truck and won it. After dealing with a shipping company from hell to get the truck to the East Coast, once it landed at Allstar it was time to get busy and map out a plan for the its rebirth.
Immediately upon looking at the truck, it was obvious it had experienced a hard life once it left the show world, but the fact that it was virtually rust free made working with it a lot easier. First up Derrick focused on the chassis to dial in a stance and infuse comfort into the ride. Since the original spine was still in great shape, he retained it and got started out back by C-notching the 'rails and installing a '67 Ford 9-inch rear packed with 3.73:1 cogs. He then proceeded by boxing the rear 'rails for additional strength, followed by flipping the spring perches, adding custom shock mounts, and wrapped it up by bolting in a fresh set of stock leaf springs and KYB tube shocks.
To get the nose in the dirt and still retain a velvety ride, a Gibbons adjustable torsion bar IFS was installed along with a pair of Fatman Fabrications 2-inch drop spindles and KYB tube shocks. To bring everything safely to a halt, a Mopar power master cylinder pushes fluid through steel lines to Ford drums out back and Mopar discs up front. Nothing says sexy like a set of era-perfect rollers so a set of original Ford 15x7 steelies were dipped in rich gold gloss wrapped in Coker/Firestone bias-ply wide whites and crowned with classic Dodge Lancer hubcaps.
To bring just the right amount of power to the party, Derrick hopped up a '70 Chevrolet 350ci mill by first having A&M Machine of Meriden bore it .030 over, followed by filling it with dependable goods, including a stock crank, rods, and slugs. For plenty of thump, a stick from Summit Racing gets a workout from a set of warmed-over iron heads, while air gets sucked through a 650-cfm Edelbrock carb perched atop an Edelbrock Performer intake. Period-perfect bits, including finned aluminum Corvette valve covers with custom breathers, a Cal Custom 40-40 carb scoop, firewall-mounted gauges, a white pearl vinyl pleated firewall cover, and plenty of chrome dazzle brings the show-truck look full circle.