Building a black truck with conservative modifications isn’t always the best way to draw a crowd of spectators, but real hot rodders will be lured in for a closer look. And so it was with Tom Baker’s 1952 Ford pickup. Built in what might be called various shades of black, the gray interior and black exterior combine for the ultimate understated look. But the straight panels and flawless finish were enough for us to take a closer look.

What we found was a nice blend of traditional hot rod touches and contemporary pieces. The blending of parts made for a modern hot rod without losing all the appeal of an old truck.

Tom Baker lists his occupation as “retired,” but what that really means is he has retired to his garage to pursue his real passion—building trucks and hot rods. Tom likes them all and at any given time he may be immersed in a project on a traditional hot rod, truck, or muscle car, and he does all the work except for upholstery.

He drove his latest creation to Knoxville for the NSRA Nats South. Getting there was easy, thanks to the Fatman Fabrications Mustang II-style front suspension and the rebuilt stock leaf springs out back. The power disc brakes on all four corners provide effortless braking. Under the hood, a 1965 vintage 283 is nestled between the framerails, with a TH350 coupled to it spinning the 3:08 rear gears.

The engine was rebuilt to stock 195 horsepower specifications. This makes for an economical cruiser with the addition of an Edelbrock intake and dual exhaust running through Magnaflow mufflers, which push the motor to over 200 hp—right at double the original horsepower rating. While the 283 is a vintage motor, the Billet Specialties valve covers lend a contemporary look on either side of the early style breather, while a Walker radiator looks right at home under the hood. The firewall and inner splash panels have been worked to the same high level as the truck’s exterior.

After spending countless hours straightening the old truck panels and bed, Tom built a rolled rear pan that includes smooth taillights in the lower corners. New bed wood was refinished and the gas filler in the bed floor leads to a stock 1965 Mustang gas tank that was mounted between the framerails. The tank does a good job of staying up between the rails rather than having an unsightly tank hanging down below the frame. The twin openings in the front of the hood have been filled.

Inside the truck, Tom modified the dashboard and filled it with Haneline gauges. The ididit steering column is topped with a Juliano’s banjo steering wheel and Tom fabricated a banjo-style grille to cover the former radio opening. A Haywire system handles all the current needs and an Old Air Products unit keeps the cab cool. After lining the entire cab with Dynamat, Tom installed a pair of light gray leather-covered bucket seats from an Astro Van and then drove the F-1 to Jim Rogers who completed the headliner, door panels, and carpeting.

Tom and Sandy Baker have been at this hot rod game a long time, and every car or truck he builds is for the open road. This truck is no different, seeing plenty of street miles and doing it all in timeless fashion.