Paul Valera, an auto parts distributor from Jacksonville, Florida, has been enjoying his favorite Ford for almost 25 years. Originally used as a tow vehicle for a drag racer, the F-100 was in rough shape when Paul bought it back in 1984. The bed was rotten, the door sheetmetal was ventilated with rust, and a piece of linoleum covered the holes in the floorboards. Over the years, the truck has gone through three major phases, with each one better than the last.
Since big horsepower was always part of the plan, Paul planned the rebuild carefully, starting at the bottom and working his way up. Chassis mods began by grafting on a '78 Camaro front clip equipped with heavy-duty '72 Grand Prix coil springs and a '95 Firebird rear with Posi-traction, antisway bar, and 3.23 gears. Capitalizing on the new disc brakes, Paul upgraded them with Wilwood calipers. Fumes inside were eliminated when the original gas tank was removed from the cab and replaced by an aluminum 22-gallon fuel cell located between the rear framerails. Since a lowered profile was equally important, Air Ride Technologies air struts were added to the Camaro upper and lower A-arms and incorporated into the new four-link rear. The suspension is activated by a Viair 450 compressor, air tank, and battery inside the bed-mounted, wooden storage box. Boyd Coddington 18-inch Codzilla wheels wrapped in Nitto 40 and 45 series rubber got the truck rolling.
Once the chassis and suspension details were accomplished, Paul turned his attention to creating a showpiece under the hood. Last year's 454 was replaced with the current Merlin big-block 540-cid, all-aluminum V-8. Built by Ohio Crank and installed by Tony Gonyon from HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida, the awesome engine is capable of more than 1,200 hp with 12 to 14 pounds of boost. The high-strength internals begin with a forged crank, H-beam rods, and JE Pistons with a 4.50 bore and 4.25 stroke. Edelbrock heads expedite the airflow from the twin Holley 750 carbs on the polished 6-71 Weiand blower. Currently propelled by a street-smart 7.85 pounds of boost, the pressurized air/fuel mix is ignited by the MSD Blaster 2 ignition, creating a thoroughly satisfying 780 hp. Custom-built headers negotiate the tight confines of the engine compartment, channeling spent gasses to the atmosphere through the pair of Flowmaster mufflers. Mods to accommodate the big-block included trimming the huge Moroso oil pan in order to clear the front crossmember and upgrading the old radiator with a special double-capacity aluminum version, now equipped with twin electric fans to ensure adequate cooling. Initial problems with vapor lock were quickly cured by relocating the electric fuel pump from under the hood to the rear of the truck. Custom pulleys, billet aluminum accessories, and smooth inner fender panels help to showcase the polished powerplant. Getting the power to the ground is a beefed-up Turbo 400 automatic with B&M shift kit, set at a stall speed of 3,500 rpm and turning a Strange rearend with 3.23 gears. While the mega-motor requires a sensitive touch on the accelerator to keep from sending the tires up in smoke, Ed loves the look of the motor, the whine of the blower, and the attention the high-horsepower package attracts.
Body mods on the 50-year-old sheetmetal began by repairing the ravages of the New England winters that took their toll on the doors. Patch panels brought them back to like-new condition, while the rounded corners added a custom touch. Re-manufactured front fenders and 3-inch wider rear fenders give the truck its aggressive stance. Details include an inset radio antenna, chrome trim around the windshield, and modern HID headlights that light the way to nighttime shows. LED lights in the bedrails and LED taillights replace the originals. Hidden stainless steel hinges modernize the tailgate and the relocated gas filler in the passenger-side rear fender keeps the lines smooth, while the Ford step plates on the running boards continue the Blue Oval theme. Inside the pickup bed there's a new Dennis Carpenter oak floor with stainless steel strips, as well as the custom-made wooden storage box detailed with the Ford logo.
Paint was next. Paul chose PPG Laser Red enhanced with a tinted clearcoat and gold micro sequins for sparkle. Several friends assisted in the painting project, beginning with David Zipple, a graphic artist who helped to lay out the flames on the hood. Paul and Russ Thompson in Folkston, Georgia, teamed up to shoot the Gold Chrome Illusion paint. Bill Lockhart built the custom front-tilt hood, now trimmed for the blower, employing it as the perfect canvas to display the new flame paint job.
The interior changes began with the bench seat from Rod Doors, which was upholstered in Camel and Butterscotch tuck 'n' roll Ultra Leather on the seats, door panels, sunvisors, and headliner. Stitched by Ocala Custom Upholstery, even the Grant steering wheel is wrapped in matching leather. A Vintage Air A/C unit was added to the dash along with an ididit stainless steel tilt column and a set of Dolphin gauges. The Lokar shifter activates the three-speed Turbo 400 automatic with shift kit. Making road trips even more fun, the Kenwood stereo fills the cab with music, using speakers mounted in the kick panels and behind the seats.
What does the future hold for this 25-year member of the family? Plans call for a new paint job in a year or so-but, mechanically, Paul couldn't be happier and plans to enjoy his quarter-century hobby more every day.