When it comes to classic trucks, there’s a reason why some builders stick with a stock restoration or time-honored traditional modifications. It’s risk management. Doing something the way people before you have done it is safe; it ensures that what you do will be accepted—at least by the previous person who did it. Trying something different—not so safe. There’s always the chance that changing something won’t work. If you’re going to customize a classic truck, you want to be sure that the custom and the classic fit together. Ralph Holguin’s ’56 F-100 exemplifies how it looks when the combination really works.
The classic part was easy. Ford took care of that when they introduced the F-100 pickup, and it’s as classic today as a Fender Strat or a pair of Ray-Bans. When Ralph was growing up, his father drove a Ford pickup, and that truck is part of the memories he has of his dad during those days. Ralph says he built this truck in homage to him.
Finding the right raw material was straightforward. Ralph knew he wanted a ’56 F-100. He found the perfect subject at a local swap meet. Typically, there was some competition from another interested enthusiast, “but we were the lucky ones,” he told us.
The Ford Coyote engine sits...
The Ford Coyote engine sits like a jewel in the clean, finished engine compartment of the ’56. MagnaFlow exhaust system routes Coyote exhaust to a pair of BBK mufflers.
The original plan was to keep the project simple. Just a straightforward restoration—safe, you might say. So what happened? As the head of RMD Group and RMD Garage, builders of some of the world’s most advanced high-performance cars and trucks, Ralph has a reputation for going big. And this truck, he says, ended up being his biggest build. “I really wanted to make it very modern and clean, but at the same time still pay tribute to its era. I didn’t just want a custom truck, I wanted a one-of-a-kind custom truck that would be beyond amazing.”
Taking a project to that level requires careful planning and execution. Ralph assembled a build team that included Felix Gomez, David Ortiz, and Juan Carlos “Mosco” Lomas.
The project picked up momentum when Ralph decided to extract the truck’s other-brand engine, and get a Ford back in his Ford—but nothing predictable. He made a call to Vaughn Gittin Jr., one of the most successful competitors in the Formula drifting series. Gittin helped Ralph get a new Coyote modular engine from Ford Racing. “That changed the whole plan,” Ralph said. “We knew we had to do something great to go along with the engine.”
The Coyote is the new Ford modular engine that got everyone’s attention when it was introduced a couple years ago. Formally known as the 5.0L Ti-VCT, which is easier to say than “Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing” (but not as easy as “Coyote”), the all-aluminum engine is available as a crate engine from Ford Racing—or wrapped in a Mustang. Making a modestly estimated 412 horsepower, it’s what every F-100 needs. Putting that power to use is a six-speed manual transmission with an Exedy racing clutch.
Underneath, the chassis was entirely rebuilt, starting with custom fabricated framerails. The frontend was then upgraded with a Mustang II-style independent suspension. At the other end, a 3.73:1 rearend was recruited from a second-generation Ford SVT Lightning truck, and a four-link system was added. Air suspension components from RideTech were added at both ends to improve handling and ride quality, and help provide the truck’s low posture and ready-to-go rake. Stopping is not a problem with a Mustang GT master cylinder feeding Wilwood 16-inch disc brakes at all corners.
The combination of contemporary and classics continues inside the ’56 where the RMD Garage team replaced the mid-century bench with a pair of built-for-comfort Lexus buckets. The upholstery is deep red leather, and the pattern is a modern version of a ’50s style, updated with 5.0 emblems. The door panels and headliner were similarly finished in leather and aluminum.
A full-length custom console separates the seats and houses the one-off shifter handle. The ’56 F-100 arch-shaped dash was kept intact, and a custom instrument panel was filled with a full range of Auto Meter gauges. The steering wheel is a Billet Specialties Stiletto model on a polished tilt column.
Take a close look at the bodywork on Ralph’s F-100. Mirrors have been removed, door handles and emblems have been shaved, and the gaps are consistent, but there have been no radical alterations made to the factory lines—just some simple, smart ones. The vent windows were eliminated in favor of one-piece glass, and front and rear bumpers were cleaned up and pulled in as close as possible to the body. The rear bumpers were also modified to contain the taillights.
The paint colors were chosen conservatively (using the two most popular paint colors), but applied creatively. The PPG paint was sprayed at RMD Garage. A neutral pinstripe separates the red from the dark gray. The curved drop in color in the center of the doors mimics the back of the front fenders and helps visually tie the bed to the body.
The tires and wheels are the most modern elements of the exterior. Ralph went big. These 22- and 24-inch Asanti wheels leave just enough room inside the fenders for low-profile rubber. These are Pirelli P Zero Nero performance radials measuring 265/30ZR22 and 285/30ZR24.
Ralph and his crew at RMD Garage had the F-100 finished in a quick six months. “I really wanted this particular build to showcase our in-house talents,” Ralph explained. “The end result totally surpassed my initial expectations.” Considering that his goal was “a one-of-a-kind custom truck that would be beyond amazing,” we’d say his expectations were pretty high to begin with. We’d also say he got his wish. At the prestigious Grand National Roadster Show the truck won awards for Truck of the Year and Best In Class.