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.
Spent gasses get dumped through a set of white coated Hedman headers and Cherry Bomb mufflers exiting through a 2-inch chrome-plated belly burner-style exhaust. For smooth shifts a rebuilt Chevrolet TH350 trans moves the power rearward through a custom driveshaft. When it came time to evaluating the body, one thing for sure was that the original patina needed to be preserved. The time and effort put forth into the body's restyling had withstood the test of time, although everything had dulled to the point where the original color was barely recognizable.
Derrick got started by first wet-sanding the body and followed by buffing what was left of the red candy vibe back to life. Sure there were plenty of nicks and chips, but they tell the story of the old Ford's journey. The numerous body updates included the striking addition of canted quad headlights starting with a pair of '59 Chevy headlight bezels. In order to accomplish this feat, the entire frontend sheetmetal was reworked including the grille opening, molding the hood, extending it, and rolling its front edges, tucking the fenders and rolling the edges, and a custom front roll pan.
As with all customs, they continue to evolve and this was apparent with Derrick crafting up a new chrome tube grille, and adding Buick portholes to the hood sides. Working our way rearward, a set of classic Appleton spotlights were still in good shape as were the detail spears along the running boards. The roof paint was burned from years of the sun's rays, so Derrick dusted the area in white gloss and patina'd it to match the rest of the truck's aura. Around the back is a custom roll pan which ties in the bottoms of the rear fenders featuring quad '59 Cadillac taillights as well as a sunken license plate area and smooth tailgate. The final icing came with a set of Pesko-added pleated white pearl inner wheelwell liners...cool!
The inside of the truck was pretty much gutted and left for dead. First stop was to have good friend Dennis Dagliere rewire everything and get the truck running again. From there, Derrick prepped all interior sheetmetal for a fresh coating of white glimmer, followed by the installation of a set of vintage Stewart Warner dials in a custom aluminum insert. A modified Chrysler tilt steering unit with a column shifter was capped with a '62 Chevy Impala steering wheel for plenty of style, while resin teardrop dash knobs complete the look. A hidden Sony head unit supplies the tunes through a set of nifty old chrome marine speaker covers.
To complete the interior, the stock seat was cut down and treated to yards of pleated white pearl vinyl by CZ's Upholstery of Southington, Connecticut, who also covered the Pesko-built custom door panels. A '62 Ford Falcon console looks right at home bolted in place. The look of a vintage shop truck needed one last detail so Derrick had One Arm Bandit, Charlie Decker of Windsor, Connecticut, letter the doors and add just enough of his masterful lines wherever needed. The completed build took Derrick only three short months (of course there was some help from a few of his fellow car club members, The Others) to allow him to debut the hauler at the wicked cool basement show at the Detroit Autorama where it dazzled the crowds. Even his girlfriend Katie has taken a shine to the truck, logging plenty of road time with it. All we can say is well done as the Scarlet Hauler's latest caretaker has brought it back to life to cruise the streets once again!
1956 Ford F-100
Modifications: C-notched, boxed rails
Rearend / Ratio: '67 Ford 9-inch / 3.73:1
Rear suspension: leaf spring with flipped perches, KYB shocks
Rear brakes: Ford drum
Front suspension: Gibbons torsion bar IFS, Fatman drop spindles, KYB shocks
Front brakes: Mopar disc
Steering box: Mopar with GM pump
Front wheels: Ford 15x7 steelie
Rear wheels: Ford 15x7 steelie
Front tires: Coker / Firestone G78-15
Rear tires: Coker / Firestone L78-15
Gas tank: stock
Engine: '70 Chevy 350ci V-8
Heads: stock iron
Valve covers: early Corvette finned aluminum
Manifold / Induction: Edelbrock Performer / Edelbrock 650-cfm four-barrel
Exhaust / Mufflers: Custom 2-inch chrome belly burners / Cherry Bombs
Transmission: GM TH350
Shifter: Chrysler column shift
Modifications: tucked front fenders, front roll pan, canted quad headlights, molded hood, rear roll pan with molded taillights and license plate
Fenders front / rear: modified stock front / stock
Hood: stock modified with rolled and extended front edge and Buick portholes
Grille: custom, chrome tube
Bed: stock with tonneau
Bodywork and paint by: original unknown / touchup by Allstar Hotrods, Meriden, CT
Paint type / Color: unknown mfg / candy red
Headlights / Taillights: '59 Chevrolet bezels / '59 Cadillac
Outside mirrors: stock
Gauges: vintage Stewart Warner with custom aluminum insert
Air conditioning: cowl vent
Stereo: Sony head unit with matching amps and speakers
Steering wheel: '62 Chevy Impala
Steering column: modified Chrysler tilt
Seats: lowered stock bench
Upholstery by: CZ's Upholstery, Southington, CT
Material / Color: vinyl / white pearl
Carpet: none yet