Sometimes, the very best truck building experiences occur when you share them with family. Taking a derelict truck and rejuvenating it not only creates a great piece of vintage transportation but also creates some unforgettable memories. Harry Kelly is a heating and air conditioning specialist in Callahan, Florida and this is his second classic truck. His first, a ’53 Ford was more of a cosmetic reconstruction that was both great fun and a confidence builder. It set the stage for trying something considerably more complex, like this shiny red ’56 F-100 that was a complete frame-off restoration. “I always wanted a mid-’50s-style Ford truck that I could build to be a nice driver,” Harry told us. As you will see, it’s a lot better than ‘nice.’

This one began thanks to a good friend who was going to build the truck but changed his mind. The rust-free ride had spent most of its existence in Nevada and was in fairly good shape. While perfecting the cab, Harry sourced the rest of the parts from area swap meets and pressed his brother Sam into service, working together on the six-year build. Both Harry and Sam got their automotive enthusiasm from their father and enjoy working together as a family.

Creating a solid frame is always the best first step and after completely disassembling the truck, Harry and Sam, along with Harry’s son Colton, boxed the original frame for strength and had it powder coated in Silver Vein for appearance. Relocating some of the truck’s components, the team moved the new 15-gallon fuel cell built by Doc’s Kustoms in Jacksonville to the rear of the frame. The power brake booster was mounted on the chassis, under the cab. Since precise handling and a low static drop were goals for the truck from the outset, a Mustang II front end from Speedway Motors went in, coupled with 2-inch DJM dropped spindles and 2-inch Mustang lowering springs. Out back, a Ford 8-inch rear was fitted with 3.00 gears and held in place by upgraded leaf springs. In order to lower the truck’s profile, the spring perches were relocated and 3-inch lowering blocks were installed. Monroe shocks stabilized all four corners and brakes are a blend of twin caliper, 11-inch discs up front with drums in the rear. The truck rolls on 15x8 American Eagle Alloy rims and 235/60R15 Summit rubber.

With most of the chassis elements accomplished, motive power was next on the list. Harry brought his Chevrolet 350 V-8 to Pete Wheeler of Wheeler’s Power Products in Jacksonville, Florida looking for an extra dose of power. Wheeler knew just what to do, revamping the internals and upgrading the engine to a 383 stroker motor using an Eagle crank, Scat rods, and Keith Black Pistons. A 750cfm Demon carb sits on top of an Edelbrock Air Gap intake, with a Comp cam directing the fuel/air mix through World Products aluminum heads. An MSD electronic distributor routs precisely timed explosions to each cylinder, amplifying the spark with an MSD Blaster coil. Waste gases are scavenged by Sanderson 2¼-inch Block Hugger headers that feed a 2½-inch exhaust, complete with an X-pipe and a pair of Hooker mufflers. The combination creates an estimated 450 hp, multiplied by the Turbo 350 automatic. Shifters in Jacksonville strengthened the B&M-modified trans, adding a shift kit and establishing a 2,400 rpm stall speed.

Throughout the build, the bodywork was ongoing, perfecting the exterior sheet metal while keeping the classic lines intact. One-piece side glass was installed in both doors, all the additional holes were welded shut in the bed, and show-chromed bumpers replaced the originals. The bed floor was a radical departure from the traditional oak planks and stainless steel strips. Swapping metal panels instead of wood, the floor features a flame paint job with young son Colton creating the unique graphics. A polished gas filler cap provides access to the fuel cell. Finishing the exterior was also a team effort with Harry, Colton, and Sam spraying the truck piece by piece in Sam’s garage, choosing bright DuPont Salsa Red.