Whether the original hot rodders realized it or not, they were functionalists. Their goal was to build a car from used parts that was lightweight, went fast, and looked cool. As a testament to how well they fared, consider the custom classic car and truck hobby today. Hot rodding's forefathers were pretty smart.
When pro builder Mike Yoder, owner of Kansas Kustoms (KK) in Hutchison, Kansas, contemplated building a hot rod hauler, he did considerable planning. The truck had to: 1) have traditional hot rod features, 2) be a highboy, and 3) be a 100-percent design and fabrication project to represent the capabilities of his shop. By way of his form-follows-function '35 Ford highboy hauler, we met Mike at the eighth Goodguys Colorado Springs Nationals back in September 2005. After about five seconds of consideration, we knew we were looking at a CCT Top Ten Truck award-winner. The pickup is raked low, has elegantly simple and purposeful styling, is ultra-lightweight, shows perfect fit and finish, and screams raw-bones speed in repose. It's the sort of elemental machine first built by hot rodders in the '40s, but with components from the '30s through to the present day.
Adhering to his guideline that the pickup be a 100-percent KK design and construction project, KK fabricated the one-off frame from 10-gauge sheet steel after designing it in AutoCAD. Grain Belt of Salina, Kansas, laser-cut the cross-members and the 112-inch-wheelbase framerails, which KK welded together to form a frame. A drilled Magnum drop axle with split and drilled wishbones and '41 Ford pickup spindles was suspended by a Posies leaf super drop and generic tube shocks. With a '36 Ford leaf spring and Chevy shocks suspending it, the 4.11:1-geared restored '36 Ford differential was fitted with '46 Ford drum brakes. KK crafted a 16-gallon fuel tank, which it located beneath the bed after KK disassembled the custom chassis and had Pro Coaters of Augusta, Kansas, powdercoat all appropriate components.
In true hot rod tradition, Mike rescued a 20,000-mile Olds Quad 4 salvage-yard take-out engine, which he cosmetically renewed. To back the near-weightless 180hp mill, he found a '92 Chevy S-10 T-5 manual trans, which installed easily.
As with the full-custom chassis, creating the cab came after developing blueprints of how it should look. Mike and his crew followed the exterior blueprints precisely. Similar to a homebuilder renovating a residence around an existing fireplace or load-bearing wall, the single stock exterior body component was the '35 Ford cowl vent. Surrounding exterior panels were lovingly and painstakingly customized or fabricated from new sheetmetal. Mark Smith, owner of Maverick Custom in Waterloo, Wisconsin, performed the exterior's paint prep before covering the truck with a custom mix of Valspar grayish green.
Another artisan, Jack Perry of 2 Moons Rod Shop in Benton, Kansas, used dark green leather hides to upholster the truck's bucket seats. He covered the floor with beige wool carpet. KK fabricated the custom dash panel and utilized a '91 Grand Am instrument cluster to fill the openings.
From the blueprint phase to driving away from the upholstery shop, the Kansas Kustoms-crafted '35 Ford highboy hauler took a mere 18 months to complete. When Mike and crew debuted the pickup at the 2005 Goodguys Colorado Springs Nationals, the entire team wondered if spectators and Goodguys judges would appreciate the truck. Throughout the show, the highboy hauler drew an awestruck crowd. At Sunday's awards ceremony, Kansas Kustoms earned both a Goodguys Fab Five pick and the CCT Top Ten Trucks prize. At the next Goodguys event KK showed the '35, the Lone Star Nationals in Texas, it won a Boyd's Pick. All we can say is if a paper clip is a work of art, Mike Yoder's '35 Ford highboy hauler is a work of rumblin' art. Form follows function.