Neil Bunis’ love for classic cars and trucks started at the impressionable age of 14. By then he had already landed a part-time job at the mecca of motorsports in New Jersey, the famous Raceway Park in Englishtown. It was an eye-opening experience for a young lad like Neil and it was without a doubt a great place for a burgeoning car fanatic to spend his spare time.
During work breaks, Neil would cruise the raceway grounds, admiring the array of vintage cars and trucks that made their way to the track in preparation for high horsepower, quarter-mile showdowns. Though Neil loved big cubic-inch clout in all packages, he was especially drawn to the older trucks that made their way to the track. Interestingly enough, he felt that although they were the workhorses of America, they unfortunately never really received the attention they deserved from collectors.
During this time, Neil had a buddy whose stepfather lived down the street and who worked at the Ford plant in nearby Linden, New Jersey. Restorable cars and trucks rolled in and out of the neighbor’s driveway frequently, as they would quickly strip them down to their frames and completely rebuild them right in front of young Neil’s eyes. This lit a fire in him, and deep down inside, he just knew he could do the same if given the right opportunity.
So, at just 17, when other teens were buying cheap import sedans and using family hand-me-downs for their main drivers, Neil went out and found this sweet ’57 Ford pickup. It was an interesting buy for a young guy, and Neil surprised quite a few people when the crusty pickup rolled onto the property. But he was ready to conquer the task at hand; to bring the aging pick up back to life. The plans were to rebuild it over the next year, a little at a time, when money and free time allowed.
However plans changed dramatically later that year. Coming home from school one day, he was involved in a major car accident. Basically, Neil died three times, his heart stopped completely, only to be brought back to life by paramedics. He would end up in the hospital for six months, healing from massive injuries, and then was assigned to rehab for another year and a half. It was a long, hard road to recovery, but Neil pulled through.
By the time Neil was healthy enough to resume his normal life, the car had already sat for a few years. Once he had healed enough to take on the physical rigors of an all-out restoration, work started on the truck. In all, it would take 13 years from start to finish, but it was well worth the time and money spent.
Neil enlisted the help of Tony Cirillo at Classic Muscle Car Restoration to help with the refurbishment of the Ford. First off, the truck was dismantled and the motor and trans were put aside in anticipation of a more potent Ford setup.
Many of the parts were in reasonable shape and were set aside for future use. The doors, fenders, and hood were very usable—a good sign that this build would not be hampered by too many unforeseen problems.
The cab and frame were then sent off to the Hyers Auto Body in Toms River, New Jersey, where they were blasted thoroughly, and cleaned up of any rust. It’s at this point that Neil realized there would be some need for patches, both on the cab and the frame. The welders at MCR went to town, patching the necessary spots with appropriate fresh metal.
Next off, a Mustang II frontend was located, reassembled, and welded in up front. Out back, the original rear was taken apart, cleaned up, and reattached to make the frame a roller assembly, so that the mockup process would flow smoothly.