Steve and Autumn Neiheisel's '53 Ford F-100 panel has seen a handful of guises since its purchase back in 1994 in Watertown, New York. Originally from California, Steve found the truck through an ad in Hemming's Motor News and scooted up the East Coast from his home in Columbiana, Ohio, to check out the truck. It turned out to be in excellent condition with the original Flathead and overdrive unit in perfect order. The first restoration was completed by spring of 1997, keeping many of the stock items as holdovers, with the exception of the wheels and tires and a few modifications to the interior. The Neiheisel's drove the panel in this state, including nine trips to the F-100 Supernationals, until 2005, when another remodel was begun.
After some thought, the Neiheisel's decided that if they were going to continue to drive the hauler long distances, a more in-depth remodel would be necessary. Steve started by contacting Total Cost Involved to sort out the suspension duties. A Mustang-II IFS kit replaced the old straight-axle up front bringing with it not only improved handling characteristics but also disc brakes and power steering. Out back, a Currie 9-inch rearend was located via a TCI four-link setup with Carrera coilover shocks to handle those bumps in the road.
The drivetrain Steve went with for his hauler is where things start getting interesting. The Flathead and original trans, as neat as they were, just weren't cut out for the thousands of worry-free miles Steve and his wife were planning on putting under the old Ford. Their solution was to slide a '99 Ford Mustang 4.6L crate engine from Ford Motorsports between the framerails. Coupled with a Tremec five-speed transmission, this pairing allows the panel to roll into any Ford Service Dept and plug into their diagnostics machine just like a new car if the need ever arises. Special thanks go out to Vince and Ray from McLaren Vehicle Development who helped out with the drivetrain swap.
With the mechanical incidentals sorted out, attention was then turned to the finer things in a truck's build: body, paint, and upholstery. The panel was rolled out to Leetonia, Ohio, site of Tim's Body Shop and Bob Darney, where the body seams were filled before being doused in a liberal amount of Sheridan Blue paint. From there, the panel was trucked off to Portage Trim in Ravenna, Ohio, where the tweed and leather upholstery was pulled over the passenger compartment. Of course there's a spare tire in the back of the cab, behind the rear Dodge Caravan bench seat, while a pair of bucket seats from a GMC Sierra Club Cab attend to the driver and passenger's needs. A 12-disc Sony changer provides some creature comforts for those long road trips, as does the Vintage Air A/C unit under the dash. To keep an eye on all things mechanical is a gauge cluster from Dakota Digital mounted behind a Lecarra Mark 10 steering wheel.
Since the truck was completed back in 2007, the Neiheisel's have put about 18,000 miles on the blue panel, which includes a of couple trips to truck events on the West Coast; a testament to the reliability that they built into their truck. As Steve puts it, "it's not so much the destination, it's the journey. To us, seeing the country, meeting new people, and getting together with family and old friends is our trophy; better than any you could ever win at a show." Well put Steve!