Leonardo's bravado reminds us of young Chip Wolny, one of the co-owners of Southwest Florida Rod & Kustom in Naples, Florida. Chip isn't piloting a sinking ship of a business. Rather, he's a 22-year-old whose burgeoning street rod shop is going to the moon. The world is Chip's oyster. He and his talented crew have the creativity and ability to build any sort of street rod or hot rod that a client wishes.
One day while finishing a radical '40 Ford pickup, a technician at SFR&K had a brainstorm. Why not fabricate a fiberglass '40 with fit and finish superior to starting with a 64-year-old rusted carcass? Fast forward one year, SFR&K had the prototype winning an award at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, and '40 Ford pickup bodies rolling off the assembly line, the likes of which would impress Henry Ford.
Pro builders prefer building from the ground up. For the '40 Ford fiberglass prototype pickup, they started with Hot Rod Parts framerails and HRP's Mustang II IFS. SFR&K added Heidt's Hot Rod Shop 2-inch drop spindles and Wilwood Engineering ventilated disc brakes. A Flaming River rack-and-pinion steering system and Air Ride Technologies Shockwave airbags rounded out the front suspension. Adjustable coilover shocks, a Pro Street 4.56:1-geared Ford 9-inch differential, Wilwood ventilated discs, and a ladder bar rear clip, all from Art Morrison Enterprises, completed the solid-state chassis. Fitment of a RCI stainless steel 22-gallon fuel cell behind the differential formally finalized the Ford's fine foundation.
For powering the Ford, SFR&K built a balanced 351ci Windsor engine. Horsepower and torque were borne from the right mix of speed shop goodies. Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum heads, Keith Black pistons, a Chet Herbert camshaft, a Holley 850-cfm double pumper, and a Pete Jackson geardrive - simply seeing the names, you can almost hear those 600 horses gallop. Art Carr built the 2,800-stall converter-enhanced Ford AOD trans.
Aside from a 2-inch chop to the top, the SFR&K '40 Ford Fiberglass body has a factory fresh fit and finish. For the bedsides, Pro's Pick was selected. SFR&K fabricated a steel bed floor and went back to Pro's Pick for a steel tonneau. Expert painter Mike LeSace, also of SFR&K, applied a fresh and fruity custom mix, which includes PPG Papaya and Lemon Yellow, as well as other hues, topped by several coats of clear. The finished effect evokes the Florida tropics, perfect for creating a rolling business card from the Citrus State.
The mega vitamin C citrus theme carried over to the cockpit, with melon- and gray-dyed leather trimming much of the cockpit. Joe Ruelle, SFR&K's maestro upholsterer, sewed up the foam-filled Glide Engineering seat frame. Auto Meter gauges were chosen for fulfilling a performance-minded dashboard. With the same notion in mind, there's no radio to be found in the cab. According to Southwest Florida Rod & Kustom, listening to the high-revving small-block V-8 is the sort of music a hot rod is supposed to make. We have no argument with that line of reasoning. Hey, Chip. Let us drive your kustom '40. Everyone should feel like they're the king of the world, if only for a day.