One of the best ways to describe synergy is where it takes one man one week to paint one house, but two men can paint two houses in just 10 days. The teamwork creates a higher level of motivation and energy, producing a better product than either man could accomplish alone.
Synergy was certainly a factor in the creation of this custom F-100, built by owner Nick Johnson with the help of several good friends. Nick is in construction and lives in Mason, Michigan. When the kids got a little older and left the nest, he began looking for a simple daily driver, something that would be fun to take to the ice cream store and be a project that he and his good friend Bob Christensen could work on together. This was Nick's first truck, and with no previous experience, he describes the build as an intense learning process from start to finish.
Nick obtained the '55 Ford F-100 as payment for roofing a friend's home. The truck was in rough shape, but he began to map out a general plan. Although the details weren't all complete, one thing was certain - the old Ford would be quick! "I knew I was going to put a big motor in it, so lots of reinforcing was accomplished up front," Nick told us.
One of the first steps was to box the frame, arching it in the rear for clearance and proper stance. Updates to the suspension began with a Mustang II frontend, rack-and-pinion power steering, GM disc brakes, and 2-inch drop spindles. In the rear, a TCI four-link and Panhard bar held the narrowed Ford 9-inch with a Detroit Locker, 31-spline axles, and 3.50 gears. TCI coilovers stabilized all four Centerline Telstar rims, 15 inches in diameter with 7-inch-wide versions up front and 10-inch-wide versions in the rear. Mickey Thompson Sport Radials, 26x10/R15LT up front handle steering and stopping while the fat 29x15/R15LT meats in the rear get the power to the ground.
Once the chassis was ready for power, Bob Christensen took over the engine-building chores. The perfect man for the job, Bob grew up around the Ford showroom that his father owned, and in later years, he occasionally "borrowed" a vehicle or two from the showroom floor, took it to the local dragstrip, and found out what it could do. Dad wasn't too pleased, but Bob learned a lot about mechanics as well as the business, becoming a dyed-in-the-wool Ford fan in the process.
The engine began as a 460 big-block punched out to 521ci. It sports 14:1 compression and was designed to use 111 octane, ($7.50 per gallon!) racing fuel. Starting from the top, the sequence begins with an 830-cfm Quick Fuel four-barrel carb, atomizing that liquid gold into an Edelbrock Performer manifold and custom machined Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads. A Lunati hydraulic camshaft directs the fuel/air mix to Keith Black pistons that spin the Eagle rods and crank.
Once the MSD ignition lights the fire, Sanderson Blockhugger headers funnel spent gases through a 3-inch exhaust to a pair of Flowmaster 44 Series mufflers. A custom-built Be-Cool aluminum radiator keeps the high-performance engine in the green. Bob strengthened the C6 automatic transmission with high-performance internals to handle the estimated 600-plus horsepower, machining a custom driveshaft in the process.
While the powertrain issues were underway, Nick was busy on the body, shaving the driprails and welding the cowl and side vents. New steel fenders and a tilt-forward hood were added up front along with 3-inch wider rear fenders, connected with tapered fiberglass running boards. After several unsuccessful attempts at rejuvenating the original bed, Nick went to the local sheetmetal supplier, had them bend the sides, and then, having never welded in his life, learned how to finish the job!
In addition to the highly polished walnut planks and custom wheel tubs, the bed holds a 19-gallon fuel cell, battery, and kill switch. The unique roll pan has LED-equipped taillights similar to a '63 Impala. The interior received its share of upgrades with Nick smoothing the dash and creating a custom panel for the Dolphin instrument package. Happy to receive some much-needed help, Nick's friend, Mike Barry, stepped in to assist with the bodywork, spending about four months working out the dents and dings in the vintage sheetmetal.
Taking a break from the construction, Nick and his wife, Kelly went to last year's F-100 Supernationals in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They were looking for ideas and saw the work of Mike and Betsy Carr of Carr Interiors in nearby Homer, Michigan. Their slogan is "Quit your bitchin. We'll do the stitchin!" They liked what they saw and waited six months for an opening. Kelly chose the bright green color, a close match to the green hue of the Dolphin gauges. Mike and Betsy recovered the 2005 Mustang bucket seats and center console with Meadow Green leather, then added a black wool carpet.
As the build neared completion, more friends heard about the project, this time it was the owners of Andrews Chevrolet, the local Chevy dealer in Mason. Bob and Eric Harter volunteered to accomplish the Platinum Pearl paintjob, and naturally, Nick was thrilled. The painter, John Vickers, did an amazing job. How is the completed truck to live with? What started out as a simple, errand-running daily driver is now, two and a half years later, a snarling 600-plus-hp beast, equally capable of winning drag races and trophies.
Nick smiles when he says "I have 2,800 miles on it, but it runs on a 111 octane fuel so I'm somewhat limited!" We understand those economics, but something this cool is worth every dime put into the tank. It's also cool to thank those responsible for the synergy, beginning with Bob Christensen, Jeff Klont, Mike Barry, Bion Dickerson Jr., James Wilkins, Russell Jolly Jr., Russell McCalla, Mike Smith, Davis Auto, and John Vickers. Of course, special thanks go to Nick's wife Kelly for her unending support.
"Their slogan is "Quit your bitchin. We'll do the stitchin!" Kelly chose the bright green color, a close match to the green hue ...
Frame: original rails
Modifications: boxed and C-notched in the rear for clearance
Rearend/ratio: 9-inch Ford narrowed 6 inches with 3.50 gears and 31-spline Moser axles
Brakes: GM discs up front and Torino 13-inch drums in the rear
Rear Suspension: Zig's four-link
Front Suspension: Mustang II
Steering: power rack-and-pinion
Front Wheels: Centerline Telstars, 15x7
Rear Wheels: Centerline Telstars, 15x10
Front Tires: Mickey Thompson 26x10/R15LT
Rear Tires: Mickey Thompson 29x15/R15LT
Gas Tank: 19-gallon tank mounted between the rear framerails
Engine: Ford 460 V-8 bored out to 521ci, 14:1 compression, Lunati cam, March pulleys
Heads: Edelbrock Performer aluminum
Valve covers: Ford Racing
Manifold/Induction: Edelbrock Performer intake / 830-cfm Quick Fuel carb
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Exhaust/Mufflers: Flowmasters 44 Series
Transmission: C6 automatic with shift kit
Modifications: cowl and side vents welded shut, driprails shaved, tapered fiberglass running boards connect to new wider rear fenders, custom rear pan with inset license plate and custom taillights
Fenders: shaved fenders up front and 3-inch wider versions in the rear
Grille: stock, painted
Bed: hand formed by the owner with walnut planks, stainless steel strips, inner fender tubs, 19-gallon fuel cell, battery box, and kill switch
Bodywork and Paint By: owner, Mike Barry, John Vickers
Paint Type/Color: PPG / Platinum Pearl
Headlights/Taillights: aftermarket headlights and LED-equipped, Impala-style taillights
Outside Mirrors: aftermarket
Bumpers: eliminated front and rear
Dashboard: reworked by the owner
Gauges: Dolphin (green)
Air-conditioning: windows down
Stereo: the big V-8 under the hood
Steering Wheel: aftermarket
Steering Column: ididit
Seats: 2005 Mustang
Upholstery By: Mike and Betsy Carr, Carr Interiors, Homer, MI
Material/Color: Leather / Meadow Green
Carpet: black wool