A customized '54 Ford F-100 pickup doesn't seem like it would be a Navy lifer's first choice for a daily driver, but that's exactly what Don Lepley chose back in '93 while he was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia. When Don found the '54, it was being used by a carpenter as a work truck. All in all, it was in pretty good shape, with the exception of the brakes and a 350-inch small-block Chevy someone had cobbled in somewhere along the line. Don and a Navy buddy decided that the best way to give the 350 a major tune-up was to pull it out and start from there.
Don threw on a new carb, a pair of chrome valve covers, new spark plugs, wires, and a new coat of Chevy Orange engine enamel. While the engine was stored in his buddy's garage, Don towed the '54 to his place and commenced on a major clean-up under the hood. When Don returned to his good buddy's house, he discovered his freshly prepped 350-inch Chevy motor had mysteriously disappeared from the locked garage. After hearing a lame story from his buddy that he thought Don had slipped by and grabbed the motor, Don resisted choking the guy's lights out and split before he changed his mind.
Don called his dad, Rich Lepley, and told him about his dilemma. Through Don's uncle Barry Stroup, Rich located a 400-inch small-block Chevy motor, and with the help of Don's uncle George Wagner, the cobbled motor mounts were cut out and an aftermarket setup was welded in. Along with dropping in the 400-inch motor, Rich and George went through the '54's brakes. On a roll with good luck utilizing his family connections, Don enlisted the help of his father-in-law, Jim Eckley, to give his dad a hand with whittling out an oak bed floor for the '54. This configuration served Don well while he finished out his three-year tour in Virginia.