We've all seen it, we've all done it. No, not that! I'm talking about people who buy a vehicle with one plan in mind that turns into something else. That's exactly what happened to the simple shop truck build by Ryno Built of Southwest Missouri.
Early in the build, Ryno (Ryan Lieberman) said "Once again I got myself into a project that I really didn't want or need." He'd been thinking about doing a simple shop truck – something fine for heading down to the parts store or to get lunch while still dirty from building a custom car, hot rod, or whatever else is in the shop. That plan started to come to fruition while surfing some forums and coming across a 1961 Unibody Ford pickup that his buddy by the screen name of "Chadillac" had for sale after saving it from the crusher.
The next step for Ryno was doing a little online research to see how difficult it would be to make the truck sit the way he wanted. Although it wasn't as easy as he'd hoped, somewhere in the process his mind was made up. After five hours of pressure-washing the inside and underside of the truck it became apparent that rust was going to make this project more difficult than originally planned. The floors needed attention, as well as the toeboards, cab braces, and more.
The first step was getting the suspension down to a reasonable height and to improve handling and drivability. The tried-and-true JW Rod Garage Mustang II with a power rack and 2,600-pound airbags were sourced and installed with a 3-inch Z in the front. In the rear an 8-inch C-notch was constructed, the bags were installed, and a custom two-link with panhard bar was fabbed up. The Mustang II and the rearend were both moved to make the wheels center up in the wheelwells better.
To make room for the notch and to keep the bed flat for hauling stuff, (remember this is a shop truck) the bed floor was raised. Under the raised bed is where a '65 Mustang gas tank resides now that the original filler neck was shaved off the body. The rest of the frame was boxed and new X-members were made along with driveshaft hoops. The cab floor was relieved for a new driveshaft's clearance when the truck is laid out.
At the front of the bed is an enclosure for the battery, air compressor, and tank. After that was all fabbed and in place, LINE-X in Springfield, Missouri, applied a bright red liner to add protection and durability to the inside of the bed. The raised section of the bed floor is accented by four brushed-aluminum strips to break up the floor from being too smooth, add a little flair, and give the stainless steel bolts that hold the top panel on a place to reside.
The truck's drivetrain and a few other components had already been figured out as Ryno Built was mid-build on a 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350 that had suffered some damage in the devastating tornado that ravaged nearby Joplin earlier that year. The Shelby was pretty hammered so the owner decided to go all out, turning it into a road race monster with a wide body kit and tires. The Unibody pickup benefitted by gaining the Shelby's hot 289 and transmission, along with seats and the previously mentioned gas tank.
The Hi-Po 289 is built .30 over, balanced, fitted with the proper Cobra valve covers, rare headers, and intake. The exhaust duties are handled by a pair of glasspacks and the shifting duties are handled by the GT350's Cruise-O-Matic transmission. Stopping power for the Unibody is handled by a 1-inch bore Corvette-style generic master cylinder with a single 7-inch booster followed by a Wilwood proportioning valve. A Rebel Wire 9+3 panel and harness were meticulously installed to replace the aged and worn-out wiring.
The majority of the build to this point was done in about three weeks. Then for a shakedown drive with no hood, no side glass, and a without a few other refinements, the truck was driven about 1,000 miles round trip to the Hunnert Car Pileup in Decatur, Illinois. Other than tossing a center cap from one of the Cragars that were on the truck at the time, the trip went without a hitch and the truck averaged 12 mpg at interstate speed thanks to a 3.25:1 rear gear.
At this point the truck was primed and had a flaked roof. A pinstripe artist named Cheddar had also stopped into the shop to pull some lines in the interior and under the hood. The truck was driven like this for a while while Ryno focused on customer cars at the shop until it was time to finish the truck.
The Cragars were ditched and a new set of True Spoke Supremes were mounted up 14x6 with 185 rubber in the front, 14x7 with 195s out back, and thin whitewalls all around give the truck just the right look. The truck's emblems were shaved and the body was worked until smooth in preparation for paint. Picking December to do the wet-sanding may not have been his favorite idea of the project, but it had to be done to get the paint smooth. Ryno and B-Street Paint Works in Joplin, Missouri, worked together on the custom panel paint.
Panel paint was added over three different sizes of flake with a nod to the wild lowrider paintjobs of the 1970s. Endless lines, a ribbon running from the front of the hood over the dash and roof, lace work, scales, shells, fades, and bandana styles were all used to make the truck explode in color and old school cool. GM Silver Sheen is the base color, while House of Kolor Pearls and Candies make up the panels. Ryno would like to thank Jason and Ramon at B-Street Paint Works for all of their help laying out the intense paintjob.
The interior of the truck now sports the seats from the Shelby, along with an ididit column topped by a flaked Mooneyes steering wheel. The Kustom paint makes its way onto the dash and custom-built center console. The factory dash has been updated with some new Auto Meter gauges and the console houses the air switches, some cup holders that Ford forgot in 1961, and a Kenwood DVD unit. Custom fiberglass kick panels hold the front speakers, while a custom subwoofer enclosure hides out behind the seats. More candied and flaked paint is now on the removable door panels on the inside as well.
When asked what happened to the simple shop truck idea Ryno simply responded, "It evolved." That it did. From experience I can attest that this truck is a driver, a shop truck, and is still used to haul supplies for the shop, and go grab a bite to eat. The function of shop truck was not lost when the build became a full-on custom. "If I'm going to have a shop truck, it's going to look cool," says Ryno, and to that end, it's a job well done.
1961 Ford Unibody
South West, Missouri
Frame: modified stock, 3-inch Z in front, 8-inch C-notch in rear
Rearend / Ratio: 9-inch / 3.25
Rear suspension: owner-fabricated two-link
Rear brakes: stock drum
Front suspension: Mustang II-style IFS
Front brakes: disc
Steering box: rack-and-pinion
Front wheels: 14x6 Supreme
Rear wheels: 14x7 Supreme
Front tires: 185/75R14
Rear tires: 195/75R14
Gas tank: 1960s Mustang
Engine: factory GT Hi-Po 289
Heads: factory GT Hi-Po
Valve covers: aluminum Cobra
Manifold / Induction: factory GT Hi-Po / four-barrel
Ignition: MSD electronic
Headers: factory GT Hi-Po iron manifolds
Exhaust / Mufflers: aluminized / glasspacks
Shifter: stock mustang
Style: Unibody F-100
Modifications: raised bed floor, shaved fuel filler
Fenders front / rear: stock
Bodywork and paint by: Ryno Built and B-Street Paint Works
Paint type / Color: House of Kolor / assorted
Headlights / Taillights: stock
Outside mirrors: nope
Gauges: Auto Meter and stock
Air conditioning: nope
Steering wheel: Mooneyes
Steering column: ididit
Upholstery by: Ryno
Material / Color: Vinyl / Ryno Red