There are a lot of different reasons truck owners might list when the question is put to them why they chose to build the truck they did. Whether it was a matter of finding the right truck at the right price, or one we have never heard before, at the top of the list there's always nostalgia.
In the case of Woody Hillis of McMinnville, Tennessee, it was definitely a case of nostalgia that brought him back to customizing the first style of truck he ever owned. By profession Woody is a nursery farmer working smack in the middle of what is known as the "nursery capital of the world." In the 48 years he has been a hot rodder, he's owned his share of hopped-up Chevys and Fords. Most of the vehicles Woody has customized have been pickup trucks-including a '36 Chevy, '50 Chevy, '58 Chevy, '34 Ford, and a '35 Ford. On the car side of things, Woody reworked a '57 T-Bird and an '86 Corvette.
Starting with the '54 Ford's chassis, Woody began at the front by grafting a '79 Volar torsion bar IFS by placing it 5 inches forward of the original Ford straight-axle. Utilizing the Volar meant power steering and power disc brakes were automatically added to the list of added options. At the tail hangs a 9-inch Ford rearend with drum brakes, and a set of "tall" 2.78:1 gears. For rolling stock on the nose, the '54 has a pair of 18x7 American Torq-Thrust II wheels shod with 255/55R-18 Hankook radial tires, and a pair of 20x10 American Torq-Thrust II wheels with 295/45R-20s on the rear.
Under the tilt front end that Woody custom fabricated, the '54 is powered by a Jimmy Jones-built 460-inch Ford engine backed with a beefed C6 Cruise-O-Matic. Additional horsepower is thanks to an Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor mounted on top of a Weiand Stealth aluminum intake manifold. A Lunati cam with 290 degrees of duration and 0.516/0.543 lift pops intake and exhaust valves to culminate the combustion process through a pair of Sanderson headers that dump into a pair of Flowmaster mufflers.
It doesn't take a nuclear proctologist to recognize the bodywork on Woody's '54 is radical to the bone. Of the 1,500 hours that Woody figures he has put into his truck, the heavily customized body surely accounts for the bulk of the hours. Working from the rear forward, the '54 Ford bed is channeled over the framerails 7 inches, and the rear fenders are lifted 3 1/2 inches. Inside the bed, Woody used white pine that was stained a light cherry wood color to serve as the bed floor. In place of a rear bumper he formed a roll pan and aligned it to match the bottom edge of the fenders. For taillights, a pair of '39 Ford (or '40 Standard) teardrops are flipped upside down and mounted on each side. Once the radical approach was established there was no turning back, and the '54 cab was to become the centerpiece of it all. Starting with a 10-inch channel over the framerails Woody dug-in deeper, and chopped the cab 4 inches along with sectioning 7 inches out of the doors. With the deep chop completed the next step for Woody was to install the window glass, and then move onto finishing the '54's extreme styling.
On '53-56 Ford F-100s, after the top has been chopped there's no way to make the hood not appear bulbous unless it has been pancaked. After Woody pancaked the hood, he really cleaned up the truck's lines by molding the hood into the front fenders, and making it a tilt front end. Because Woody prefers the appearance of a '56 Ford six-cylinder grille, he tossed out the '54 grille and took advantage of how easy it is to close up the "Effies" front bumper holes and form a roll pan. Between Woody and his neighbor Jimmy Jones there is quite a talent pool. Not only did Jimmy build the 460 motor, but he's the guy responsible for doing a great job shooting the '54 in PPG Torch Red with a clear topcoat.
One of the few things that wasn't done by Woody, or Jimmy, is the truck's leather interior, which was stitched by Cox Custom Upholstery. Cox covered the '57 T-Bird buckets in tan with red piping, and then laid the carpeting to match. On the '54 dash, a cluster of Dolphin gauges housed in billet rest in front of a billet-rimmed Grant Banjo-style steering wheel. The truck's totally concealed sound system is from Pioneer.
In discussing his '54 with us, Woody stated that he just had a few little things that he wanted to change about the truck. In doing so, we would have to say that Woody created one of the most radically customized pickups to grace the pages of CCT in a long time.