It's not uncommon to find crossover automotive themes applied to trucks. Take the Dodge Ram Rumble Bee, Ford SVT Lightning, or Chevy SSR for contemporary examples of passenger car themes applied to the truck market. While they are all cool in their own right, we're not a magazine that talks much about the late-model stuff. But it should come as no surprise that the classic truck world has had its share of themed builds as well, and Steve Brattin's Shelby Eleanor Mustang-inspired panel is one of the nicest executions we've ever seen.
The original idea goes back a few years when Steve owned and showed a Shelby GT500 Eleanor Mustang. He had heard about a '57 Ford panel that was for sale locally and thought that it would make a perfect towing vehicle for the Eleanor and hence, Haulenore was born.
Steve and his wife, Sandy, took their newly acquired Ford to Vintage Fabrication where the team quickly tore into the panel wholeheartedly. The first item on the to-do list was to sort out the stock chassis. The crew used an Art Morrison front clip equipped with tubular control arms, Ride Tech air springs, and Wilwood disc brakes before utilizing similar components to hang the Ford Explorer rearend. The rack-and-pinion was mated to an ididit shorty steering column topped with a Grant '60's-style wood steering wheel. A Wilwood underdash pedal setup mates to the four-wheel disc brakes. American Racing polished five-spokes round out the chassis appointments, taking a bit of artistic freedom from the aforementioned Eleanor theme by using a more classic '60's wheel.
Using the Eleanor car as inspiration as opposed to duplication allowed Steve and the Vintage Fabrication team the freedom to make a few changes where they deemed necessary. One aspect of the build where they decided to stretch their artistic freedom is under the hauler's hood.
While a vintage Ford 428 Cobra Jet engine would have been cool, it's hard to argue with the reliability, power, and ease of operation that comes with using a modern drivetrain. And since the Brattins had originally designed the '57 as a tow vehicle, it only makes sense that they chose an engine and transmission combination straight out of a vehicle already designed for such work: an '03 Lincoln Navigator. The DOHC 5.4L V-8 with its extra-wide, custom machined valve covers actually looks more like one of the cammer motors of that era than what the Eleanor cars had under the hood, but there's that inspiration versus duplication thing again. Steve had a Sullivan Performance fuel injection setup added to the cammer motor for even more stump-pulling power. Behind the V-8 sits a 4R70W transmission out of the same Lincoln, prepped by Jack Schorr.
With the heart of the Haulenore truck sorted, it was time for the Vintage Fabrication team to start making the exterior of the truck slightly more reminiscent of the original Shelby Mustangs. The entire roof section was removed from the top of the windshield to the very edge of the rear barn doors before being chopped, 21/2-inches up front and 31/2-inches out back. The rear doors were also laid forward 2 inches for a more aggressive back end. The front fascia was also heavily modified to reflect those iconic elements of the Eleanor cars with twin, centrally located foglamps, an extended front air dam, and horizontal aluminum grille bars. Side-exiting exhaust and flush mount windows round out the exterior modifications before the whole truck was treated to a custom mix of DuPont Haulenore silver and black.
Inside the cab of the truck, the muscle car theme continues with the aforementioned wood Grant steering wheel mounted in front of a set of Auto Meter gauges. Vintage Fabrication knocked out a pair of bucket seats flanking a custom center console that houses a Pioneer stereo, air suspension gauges and controls, electric window switches, and floor shifter up front while a bench seat was made to fit between the rear wheelwells. Black Ultraleather was then pulled over the seats and custom interior panels, offset by the Daytona Weave black carpet. At the very back of the truck sit two Pioneer amplifiers as well as a pair of Pioneer 6-inch speakers providing ample audio ability to fill the big truck with tunes.
As many things in life go, as the panel went through its transformation, things around the Brattin household changed as well. One major change that occurred was that Steve decided to sell the Eleanor Mustang while the iron was hot. This left building a matching hauler a moot point, and the '57 Ford soon became a focus all its own. With Haulenore now their main classic mode of transportation, the Brattins are enjoying what many of us truck guys have known for years; the fact that a workhorse of a truck can be so much more.