If you were 13, would you rather have a motocross bike or a '51 Mercury M-1? The smart alec answer and correct answer is both. What if you could only afford one? And what if the only way to acquire the Mercury was to use the motorcycle as barter, along with all the money you'd saved from mowing lawns?
It doesn't take a Nobel Prize winner to answer this question. Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada resident Jean-Francois Launier, better known as J.F., did what any custom classic truck lover would do. What's unusual about J.F. though, is his wisdom that often comes only with advanced age. Unlike many hobbyists, J.F. still owns his first truck.
In its fourth and latest incarnation, it's a Pro Street pickup with impressive credentials at the drag strip, from several truck shows, and on long group cruises with friends. Before giving you the details on the Launiers' vintage Merc, affectionately known as Ol' Reck or Ol' Girl, we should introduce J.F.'s wife, Kristin. Kristin made a pact with the Ol' Girl shortly after she and J.F. met, "They'll share J.F. equally, unless he asks one of 'em to leave, at which time, they're going together." J.F.'s not the only adult with great wisdom in this household.
J.F. constructed the Mercury's Pro Street chassis from custom 2x4-inch rectangular steel tubing. For the frontend, he welded on a '81 Camaro Z28 IFS, complete with Z28 ventilated disc brakes. Working the Camaro's rack-and-pinion steering system is a Cadillac tilt/telescopic column and steering shaft. Suspended with Alco coilover rear shocks, the narrowed Ford truck 9-inch differential with the stock truck drum brakes was sourced to put the Pro Street power to the pavement. He used stainless steel lines to plumb the brakes. For supplying the pickup with petrol, J.F. hand-made a 30-gallon fuel cell and located it behind the differential.
Since the Launier's pickup was going to be a true Pro Street performer, J.F. and good friend Fred Nelder built a potent small-block Chevy V-8. J.F. ported, relieved, and bench-flowed the once-stock Chevy heads and bored the block. Before stuffing the honed cylinders with pistons, Fred balanced the rotating assembly, which includes TRW pistons and Stroker connecting rods. A Crower hydraulic camshaft and Pete Jackson geardrive helped to button up the engine, as did the installation of a 671 GMC supercharger and dual 600-cfm Holley four-barrel carbs. Hedman tubular headers and a Flowmaster 3-inch exhaust and muffler system took complete control of the engine's spent gases. Equipped with a TCI Auto 4,000-stall converter and trans cooler, the rebuilt TH-350 was bolted to the mill and installed in the custom chassis.
Acquiring his first vintage truck at 13 instilled a great passion, one J.F. couldn't envision having for any other profession or lifestyle. He has a shop in Oliver, British Columbia, Canada, called Desert Auto Recycling, where much of Ol' Reck was re-created, including all of the extensive metalwork. He shortened the bed box, fabricated custom running boards, and shaved the door handles, driprails, and most of the emblems. He designed and built the tonneau from hand-laid fiberglass. After artfully applying the House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl and Lime Time Pearl paint with Tangelo flames creatively about the Merc's exterior, he installed a '58 Edsel station wagon rear windowpane. J.F. also eliminated the vent windows with the installation of new glass.
Within the cabin, J.F. went to work on a custom gauge pod with Auto Meter silver-faced instruments wired with a Painless Performance Products kit. Once he had acoustically equipped the interior with a Pioneer CD/stereo system, J.F. turned the truck over to Baxter's Custom Upholstery in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Completing the M-1, Baxter's molded flames into the custom headliner and door panels, and covered them with beige fabric and Soft Touch Ultraleather.