Some fellas seem to know what lights their fire at an early age. And when it comes to customs, it's not just a matter of whether it's in the poor soul's blood or not-shoot, it's down to their DNA. Molecular. Words like heritage and tradition come to mind, but only skim the surface of something much deeper. Such is the case when it comes to Rusty Baldwin of Jefferson City, Missouri, and his family, for it's become family tradition to hand down vehicles from father to son. And not just any old wreck you'd expect from ma and pa-heck no, we're talkin' customized classic Ford trucks here.

If you let Rusty pull on your ear for a minute, he'll be the first one to tell you it was his father's '56 Ford F-100 big-window pickup that first pervaded his senses with the feelings that cruisin' in a vintage Ford truck provided. It must have had a pretty strong effect, because at the age of 15 Rusty bought a '53 F-100, and with his father's help he had his first custom under his belt. But the still-wet-behind-the-ears Rusty didn't know that a legacy had begun.

Rusty's dad, Robert, guided his apprentice son through all the steps of that '53's rebuild, creating a bond that served to strengthen the values their family holds dear. But he always had a dream vehicle on his mind. You see, while the pair was attending the F-100 Nationals in Gatlinburg one year, a wild '56 panel truck caught young Rusty's eye. That sweet ol' panel laid its charm on him, and that was all she wrote.

From then on Rusty planned to customize a panel of his own some day, but none of the examples he found were up to snuff, being either too rusted or banged up. But he spent the time it took to find this particular truck building up his customizing chops on various rods, mostly Fords, but with the occasional Anglia thrown in to keep things amusing.

Then life changed in '99 when Rusty got wind of a truck that just might fit his needs. It seems a friend who knew of his unfulfilled desire saw an ad in the paper of a small town in Kansas, and that set the stage for a road trip. What Rusty found was a truck that had been stored for many years and had been kept clean by the original owner until the day came for it to change hands. This baby had been well kept and was very much stock, free of damage or what anyone else's idea of a custom might have been-basically the holy grail of panel trucks in Rusty's opinion: an original-owner vehicle.