For every old truck that makes it onto the pages of CUSTOM CLASSIC TRUCKS, there have to be at least another 10 that are almost ready to shoot. How long it will take each owner to finish his project (if he ever does) is always an unknown. And for whatever reasons, sometimes a truck never quite makes it.
For Eric Brown of Lynchburg, Tennessee, getting his '51 Ford F-1 pickup magazine-ready took more than 15 years. Part of the Ford's early evolution included Eric's apprenticeship as bodyman and painter at Johnny Messer's lead-sled shop in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee: "I got a lot of inspiration from him, as well as a helping hand once in a while after my dad passed away." This was when Eric was 16 years old. By the time he had turned 17, he had moved to the Lynchburg area, where he drifted from shop to shop until he met Gerald Blumenstock, also known as "Doctor Detroit," owner of Tullahoma Body Shop. Eric's first job was to restore a '65 Vette that had been hit hard in the rear. The job after that was to make some fill panels for Doc's '51 Ford pickup. The first time Eric saw the '51, it was over at Grumpy Jenkin's rod shop having a custom frame made and its top chopped. By the time Eric started at Doc's, it was back home at Tullahoma Auto Body. After Eric finished the fill panels, his next project was to fabricate a set of suicide door hinges for the truck and install pop-locks from Ball's. Throughout the years, Doc and Eric brainstormed on what trick features they could do on the truck next.
The engine and trans powering the '51 when Eric arrived was a little 273-inch Mopar with a Torqueflite transmission that did a good job, but they wanted the '51 to be just plain nasty. They didn't have to look any further than the Pontiac dealership next to Tullahoma Autobody. Don Call, United Pontiac's service manager, and Terry Bush, the shop's master mechanic, hooked them up with a ZZ4 motor. Eric said Don and Terry went way out of their way to help on the '51's drivetrain. For the first few years, induction on the ZZ4 was a TPI unit from Street Rods By Michael. These days an Edelbrock AFB and intake manifold handle the 350's carburetion. Eric and Doc looked to the fine folks at Street & Performance in Mena, Arkansas, for the air-cleaner and valve covers on the ZZ4. Eric says they figure the engine is putting out around 355 hp into the Lokar-shifted '94 Z-28 700-R4 automatic overdrive transmission. Putting the power to the pavement is a narrowed Dana rearend tied in with a four-link setup and coilover shocks. Wide VR-rated 295/90/15 Goodyear tires mounted on 15-inch Ultra wheels fill up the stepside's rear fenders. Up front a Fatman Fabrications Mustang II power disc-brake frontend with rack-and-pinion power steering directs Goodyear Gators on 15-inch Ultra wheels. All said and done, Eric's truck sits 4 inches lower both in the front and the rear.