As a young kid growing up in Toronto, Ontario, Richard Mio used to walk by a rusty old pickup on his way home from school everyday. "When I was old enough to drive, I approached the owner to see if he would sell it to me, and he told me 'no'- that he was going to get around to fixing it up someday." Realizing that the rusted-out old truck would probably grow new sheetmetal and tires before the old coot got would ever get around to fixing the truck, Richard moved on. It was on his second attempt that Richard wandered into a tool rental yard and struck gold. The guy who owned the yard had taken in a '56 Ford small-window as payment for a delinquent tool rental bill, and all he wanted out of it was enough to square the total. It wasn't right away that Richard was able to buy the '56. In his words, he had to badger his dad a lot before the old man would consent to letting him drag the truck home. Once Richard finally got the '56 into his possession, he was able to get to work on making it driveable. He tuned up the 396-inch Chevy engine and Muncie 4-speed that came with it, and then shifted his attention to the cosmetics. The interior got a complete detailing, and he repainted the exterior gloss white. "I cleaned it up and painted it white, and then had fun in it until the kids were born. The truck sat for about 15 years, but I always had the intention of restoring it completely and putting a Ford engine back into it."
The turning point for Richard and his '56 came when it dawned on him that the F-100 Supernationals, held in Knoxville, Tennessee, for 2006 were going to honor the 50th birthday for the Deuce of trucks. That was the good news. The bad news was he had only six months to get his truck ready to go. In between hockey, swimming lessons, and gymnastics classes, the mad rush was on. Richard jockeyed his time in between carting the kids around, to stripping his '56 down to the bare frame and getting down to business. With the frame down to the empty rails, Richard gave Gary Heidt a call and ordered a matchedset of Heidt's front and rear independent suspensions. In between the Heidt's IFS and IRS, Richard boxed the original framerails and then invested many a late night with a body-grinder smoothing the welds and getting the frame ready for paint. The PPG Ford Lemon Yellow paint had barely cured before Richard started tacking the rolling chassis back together and dropping in the Ford engine he had been planning on for so long. His engine of choice was a '73 351-inch Cleveland backed with a '73 C6 Cruisomatic rebuilt and beefed by his cousin Luis. To justify a beefed tranny, Cousin Luis squeezed extra horsepower out of the Cleveland motor by installing an edelbrock Performer intake manifold equipped with a Holley 950 Commander TBI setup. Ford Racing valve covers reside above a pair of Sanderson headers that dump into ceramic-coated Flowmaster mufflers, and stainless-steel pipes. A redcapped Mallory Unilite distributor handles the ignition chores through a set of bright yellow silicone plug wires.
To help the Holley F.I. stand a chance of increasing the fuel-mileage and performance, a set of 3.73:1 gears were specified for the Heidt's rearend that sits directly in front of an 18-gallon stainless-steel tank that Richard custom fabricated. With the gas tank in place, it was time for Cousin Luis to hard line the plumbing in stainless. While we're on the subject of plumbing, it would probably be a good time to mention the truck's custom aluminum radiator, complete with internal tranny-cooler by Bill Kidd Radiators.
Originally Richard's '56 came from the factory with a small-window cab that had seen its share of Ontario winters. After searching for a replacement, Richard came across a big-window cab in New Jersey, complete with doors and a whole lot less rust for $800. The next score was a pretty good price on a big-window rear glass from Blue Oval Truck Parts. Fairly handy with metal fabrication and custom bodywork, Richard tore into the New Jersey transplant cab and didn't stop until the drip rails and doors were shaved and the door corners were rounded. From the cab, Richard worked rearwards-widening the rear fenders 3 inches at the leading edge, and 5 inches at the rear. Next up was a full Swiss Army knife conversion, with a dump bed and a tilt front end. With all of the customizing handled at home, the '56 was then shipped to Armando Cianfarani at Zenith Auto Body to get covered in Ford LemonYellow PPG paint.
With only six months to build his truck in, Richard stated that he was really fortunate to have the help of his family and friends, who oftentimes stayed late into the night until a task was accomplished. A retired carpenter by trade, Richard's father, Sante Mio, constructed the oak floor in the '56 from scratch, with Richard pitching in for the varnishing chores. It was Richard's brother-in-law, Dave Poldrugovac, who performed a lot of the work on the interior. Dave's wife, Lisa (that'd be Richard's sister), picked out the colors. Then Dave and Richard went to town installing a Dakota Digital dash, a Billet Specialties steering wheel, and ice-cold air-conditioning from Vintage Air.
With barely a week left before the '06 Supernationals took place, the '56 was on its way to Knoxville. Richard told us that the experience really brought his family together, but they probably were real glad when he left town for Tennessee.