Builder, Bill Ziel (L) and owner Nelson Vazquez (R) built the truck together and regularly
When you talk about creating a top-of-the-line, trophy-winning, feature-worthy, custom truck, the progression generally takes a while. You start with something small, maybe a cosmetic restoration or two, move to some suspension or power train upgrades, then try your hand at upholstery, bodywork, or paint. Each step adds to your confidence and, over time, each truck gets better than the one before. As you can tell from our title, that’s not exactly the way that Nelson Vazquez approached the problem. From Panama City, Florida, Nelson is a construction project manager and this is his very first truck. Adding to the unique story, the truck didn’t start out as his! Nelson has known his good friend Bill Ziel for almost 30 years. Bill is an active drag racer and a talented automotive restoration expert who works out of his well-equipped garage in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Bill has restored many Mustangs and Thunderbirds over the years and wanted to restore a ’53-55 Ford, the years that represented true classics in his opinion. Knowing that Nelson traveled extensively throughout the Southeast, Bill asked him to keep an eye out for one and before long, he found one.
It’s hard to beat the classic lines of a vintage F-100 so the builders wisely left the fac
Parked out in a pasture just south of Albany, Georgia, the old farm truck had obviously fallen into disuse. No one answered when Nelson knocked on the door but he left a note and the owner contacted him about a week later. A price was agreed upon and Bill and Nelson picked up the old ’54 with their trailer. Although the original plan was for Bill to restore the truck for himself, somehow the plans quietly changed. Nelson jokes saying “I stole it out from under him!” With Bill doing the construction and Nelson writing checks as well as helping out whenever possible, the truck began to take shape. It’s a story we’ve heard many times before—the initial goal was to create a truck that was nice, usable, and drivable. “We didn’t want a show truck but before long, we crossed the line,” Nelson told us with a smile. “As we were ordering parts, for just a little bit more, you could get the nicer stuff, so we did.” Pretty soon that’s the direction the team was heading, and as you can see, lots of the ‘nicer stuff’ was incorporated into this classic F-100. The initial assessments revealed that rust was pervasive so the truck was stripped and the frame sandblasted. The front section of the chassis was boxed for strength to handle the big motor scheduled for the truck and crossmembers were relocated in the rear to accommodate the new fuel cell. A Mustang II front end and 2-inch dropped spindles, both from Heidts, modernized the steering end. At the propulsion end, a Heidts four-link holds the Strange 9-inch Ford fitted with 31-spline axles, 3.50 gears, and Detroit Locker. Heidts coilovers stabilized all four corners and a set of 11-inch, twin-caliper disc brakes from US Brake guaranteed rapid deceleration.