A few years back, Don Harris met a man from Texas who was tellin’ stories even Pecos Bill would envy. The Texan claimed to own over ten ’32 Fords, more than a dozen ’33-34 Fords, five ’56 F-100s and a dozen or so other sought-after hot rod platforms all kept in a covered structure. Now to us hot rodders, stories of Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster, and Chupacabras are more believable than what this fellow was sellin’! But Don figured it’s not exactly trekking the globe from his home in Edmond, Oklahoma, so he might as well hit the road. Upon arriving, the guy wasn’t fibbin’, and offered Don the whole lot for $250,000. It was a bittersweet encounter; on one hand Don would have snatched the lot for the man’s price if money was no option, but on the other hand he came across a ’56 F-100 that was rust free and in great condition—for its age, at least. Long story short, Don may not have had the money for the lot, but he had the dough for the ’56 F-100.
For over 50 years Don has been a hot rodder, and worked most of his life running his body shop. Yet, as time went on, Don slowed down professionally and figured this would be the perfect project to occupy his time. (Ironically, after this truck was finished, Don began taking in projects on a selective and limited basis—so much for retirement)! Don knew from the start his truck had to be a blend of hot rod and custom, but above all had to be able to run down the highway on any given day. Because, as Don will tell (not shyly might we add), “If you see this truck on a trailer, ram them off the road ’cause someone is stealing it!”
The F-100 was stripped to the Oklahoma red dirt and Don began his groundwork. After cleaning up the frame, the straight axle setup was tossed aside for a Mustang II frontend. The engineering of the rack-and-pinion steering, IFS, and disc brakes was everything Don was after. Taking things to the next level are coilover shocks allowing Don to dial in the frontend to his liking. The rear of the truck retains the leaf spring setup, but the stock rearend was moved aside for a ’71 Ford 9-inch with a 3.35 gear ratio.
Accommodating the frontend is a set of lowering blocks. Don picked an engine/trans combo from a ’68 Mustang, which kept the build inside the confines of the Blue Oval. The 302 engine was taken to Larry’s Machine Shop in Oklahoma City where it was bored 0.040 over. J&E pistons with sealed rings, a Comp Cams camshaft and Cloyes timing chain were also thrown into the mix. Up top, the 302 received an Edelbrock intake manifold, 650 Edelbrock carburetor and various other chrome Edelbrock accessories. The exhaust system is comprised of Hedman headers and Flowmaster exhaust tubing and mufflers. The C4 trans was freshened up and sent packing. With everything coming together Don sprayed the entire chassis and running gear to match the exterior and assembled the chassis.
In terms of the exterior, Don was thinking of blending some simple custom tricks with some serious metalwork. For starters he removed what he felt was excess ornamentation, but yet still retained most of the iconic ’56 badges, and uniquely frenched the antenna. With that out of the way, it was time to get serious. Don began by lowering the lid of the truck 2 inches, an amount he felt was just enough to change the persona of the truck, but not stray too far from Henry’s concept.
Refining and redefining the body silhouette is the addition of the pancaked hood, which Don went about freehand until the proportions were to his liking. In order to put some more rubber under the bed, Don then widened the rear fenders 2 inches. With all the metalwork wrapped up, he then smoothed the panels and laid down a PPG custom-mixed pearl yellow paintjob with the help of his friend Keith Smith. Keeping things true to ’56 fashion is the matching yellow steel wheels with Ford caps and beauty rings. Of course, the caps and rings would be nothing without the Diamond Back Classic whitewalls, 235/60R15 in the front and 255/60R15 in the rear.
With things headed into the final stretch Don began work on his portion of the interior. The truck was wired with the aid of a Ron Francis kit. From there the custom chrome dash insert with Dolphin gauges was installed. The Old Air A/C system then found its way into the cab, along with the LMC radio and various other trim pieces. Peeb’s Trim Shop, in Noble, Oklahoma, stitched the cab in black vinyl. The Rod Doors door panels with billet handles also received the black vinyl touch. At that point all systems pointed to go and it’s been nothing but open roads for the F-100. CCT