There are lots of ways to enjoy our hobby and we've heard them all. One theme that recurs fairly often, is when an owner acquires a project truck with the intent of keeping it as a daily driver but somewhere along the personalizing path, things get marvelously out of hand and the rusty, dusty daily driver morphs into a full-blown show truck that eventually needs an enclosed trailer to complete its option list! While the family trophy case is soon overflowing, the enjoyment level of the truck sinks to a new low since every trip adds another dreaded chip!
Mike Jones of Jacksonville, Florida, chose a slightly different approach. At age 62, he has been involved with cool custom vehicles almost all his life. His first car was a '53 Ford back in high school that he still remembers clearly, thanks to the many levels of fun it provided. Since then he's enjoyed a variety of different brands throughout the years thanks to the 50-plus vehicles he's owned over that span. This F-1 is the latest addition to the Jones' stable.
Shortly after retiring from a 25-year career with Anheuser-Busch, Mike and his wife, Susan, went to a car show in Moultrie, Georgia. Although they saw lots of cool vehicles, when Mike came upon this classic F-1 he told us "I couldn't walk away from it!" Susan saw his reaction, and the wonderful woman that she is, suggested that it would make the perfect retirement present. Susan didn't have to say it twice and a very short time later, Mike and Susan were driving their new F-1 home.
The unplanned purchase meant there was no trailer involved but the road trip back to Jacksonville was a delightful experience ... except for maybe the next morning! Mike discovered what passing through a construction zone could do to an otherwise very nice paintjob. Before long, all four fiberglass fenders were pulled, heavily undercoated, and repainted to remove the rock chips encountered on the way home. Here's where the story gets interesting. Mike knew the vintage Ford was not a ten when he bought it but he was up front about never intending to make it so perfect that he couldn't enjoy driving it. For the last five years, he has upgraded and personalized the truck on a regular basis but has also kept his original premise: to drive the vintage Ford everywhere.
His classic '51 F-1 passed through several owners over the years and much of the original builder's info is lost. But Mike knows lots of the details that went into its construction. Underneath, the truck has a complete Nova drivetrain with a new front clip, coil springs, power disc brakes, and power steering. Nova leaf springs and drum brakes complement the 10-bolt Nova rear, fitted with 3.73 gears. When Mike bought the truck, the Chevy 350 under the hood wasn't performing up to his expectations and he was soon looking for an upgrade. The problem was solved, thanks to a friend who was swapping out his late-model Chevelle 350 V-8 for a high-performance crate motor. The newer 350 was an easy fit and made a big increase in power thanks to the roller rocker cam, 600-cfm Edelbrock carburetor, Accel ignition, and Sanderson block-hugger headers feeding dual Flowmasters. Chrome GM Heartbeat valve covers proudly advertises the power source while the chrome alternator and polished aluminum A/C compressor add a few extra show points. The motor sends an estimated 360 hp to the Turbo 350, strengthened with B&M internals. A Be Cool radiator and auxiliary electric fan ensure temps stay in the green.
The unique body mods on the F-1 are what attracted Mike to the truck in the first place, beginning with the 3 1/2-inch top chop; shaved door handles; and wider fiberglass front fenders, rear fenders, and running boards. The hood was smoothed and the original chrome accents around the side louvers eliminated. Painted to match the body color, the factory Ford grille bar was fitted with a set of tri-bar headlights, providing plenty of illumination when Mike and Susan return from late-night cruise-ins. Around back, a shortened '56 Ford bed modernizes the profile of the vintage truck. It's fitted with oak slats, painted-to-match steel strips, and a new rear pan with bright LED taillights. Twin exhaust tips exit behind the rear wheels on both sides. The bumpers on the truck account for the majority of chrome on the body. The F-1 rolls on American Torq-Thrust rims, 15x6 in front and 15x10 in the rear, wrapped in BFGoodrich 60- and 70-series T/A radials. The burgundy paint with ghost flames was the perfect finishing touch to the exterior.
Susan and Mike spend lots of time inside the truck enjoying the comfortable bench seat upholstered in matching burgundy tweed. Upgrades include a Billet Specialties steering wheel and VDO gauges set in a reworked dash. The Vintage Air blows cold and the Panasonic stereo, with its pair of 6x9 speakers mounted under the seat combine to add a grand touring touch, making the truck a fun, long-distance cruiser. The custom headliner along with the Billet Specialties door handles and window cranks complete the interior mods.
While Mike is sticking to his original approach of "not making the truck a ten," he still has lots of plans for improving his favorite weekend driver, including upgrading the bed, adding new bumpers, and redoing the interior. It will never be a trailer queen since he and Susan would miss the fun of driving their cool custom cruiser to shows throughout the Southeast. One final note: judging from the list of awards that Mike listed in his tech sheet, apparently, you can have your cake (trophies) and eat it (drive your truck) too!