There’s nothing more gratifying than driving cross-country, especially while motoring past the endless miles of farmland in America’s heartland. At its essence is the nurturing of land as crops are raised and harvested, while the use of classic commercial vehicles brings it all together.
Growing up in Crosswicks, New Jersey, on a farm that spanned generations of his family was the perfect base for a young Bill Liedtka to acquire an appreciation for anything motorized. With his dad launching a new excavation business, his young eyes were bedazzled by an endless flurry of backhoes, bulldozers, excavators, and dump trucks.
Fueling a young mind with an incredible amount of machinery on a daily basis was the spark that first led Bill into scale model building. While never satisfied with building them stock, he amassed a literal junkyard of parts to hop up every creation moving through his hands till literally hundreds had been built.
It didn’t take long till he landed his first combustion-powered project in the form of an old ’32 Ford pickup from his uncle’s farm at age 14. Once hauled home, he dropped it in the center of the shop and began the long process of tearing it down. Problem was, the project spread out across the shop, while his chores and responsibilities were forgotten, resulting in a wakeup call from his dad to clear out the truck and get back to work.
The truck was sold off, but he never forgot the adrenalin rush it gave him and he tried twice more with a ’55 Ford Victoria, and later with a ’50 Ford coupe, which both met the same fate! Finally, a few years later, he managed to meet the perfect balance of work and play and tore up the local streets with a ’64 Impala SS ragtop packed with a dual-quad 327ci V-8.
It wasn’t long till he settled down to start a family and continue on with the family excavation business. After the station wagons passed and his sons grew up, much like he did with the same background, he began to focus on getting back to his automotive roots.
While back into the car scene full throttle, Bill purchased and worked on a number of early Fords and Chevys giving each one his unique signature style. While attending an event and showing one of his cars in Pigeon Forge in 2009, he came across a ’51 Ford hauler that just left him in awe. Having grown up surrounded by commercial vehicles for most of his life, it was only a matter of time till a vintage pickup would command his full attention.
This one possessed a different vibe, however, between its combination of style, color, and driveline. A chance meeting with its owners Kert and Jean Lancaster of Warner Robins, Georgia, not only led them deep into a discussion regarding its build, but also into its availability for purchase. Bill wasted no time making the deal for the truck and envisioned it with a few personal tweaks that he could later make along the way.
Having a well-seasoned background with building cool vehicles dating back to the early ’60s, Kert always wanted to take on a hot rod pickup. He located a pair of derelict, but mostly rust-free ’51 Fords for the tidy sum of $300 and hauled their remains to his shop to get the project rolling. In his eyes he wanted to create a memorable truck by combining classic elements along with razor-sharp handling and a twist by using a late-model, fuel-injected Ford V-8.
He got started by first laying out a stout spine for the truck to rise from. Using an original frame, he ground it smooth to give it a clean, fresh look and followed with cutting-edge suspension components. Out back he ditched the stock leaf springs and suspended a Ford 8-inch rear filled with 3.50:1 cogs in place using a Rod & Custom Motorsports triangulated four-link accented by Aldan adjustable coilover shocks.
To make the truck handle like it was on rails, a Rod & Custom Motorsports IFS was grafted in place with tubular upper and lower control arms, 2-inch drop spindles, coil springs and shocks, and a 1-inch sway bar. Steering is handled through a power rack-and-pinion linked to a Flaming River column. To bring plenty of stopping power into the mix, a late-model Mustang master pushes fluid through stainless lines to 11-inch Ford drums out back and SSBC 11-inch discs and calipers up front. Linking it to the pavement, there’s plenty of grip as well as classic good looks from a set of 17-inch Coys C5 polished aluminum wheels shod with Fuzion ZRi rubber.
With the rolling chassis completed, Kert looked deep into his bag of tricks to see what type of angry V-8 would bring its gusto to the build. For the ultimate in well-balanced power, a Ford Racing 4.6L V-8 packed with all of Ford’s best goods, including a forged steel crank, forged H-beam connecting rods, and forged pistons capped with Mustang Cobra cylinder heads and matching EFI was nailed to the ’rails.
Dumping the spent gasses, a 2½-inch coated steel exhaust complemented by Flowmaster mufflers by Jason Sinor at Total Exhaust of Warner Robins, Georgia, sets the tone. To push the power rearward, a Ford T-45 five-speed trans linked to a custom driveshaft was set in place to complete the driveline.
When it came time to address the body, a decision was made to retain its original good looks. Both Kert and Jean rolled up their sleeves and made the sheetmetal mirror straight through the bodywork stage in preparation for its visit to the spray booth. To give the truck its own unique look, Kert mixed up a custom-blended PPG light sage green and chose to offset it with cream grille and hood accents. The combination’s vibe brought the truck to life, giving it just enough glamour to stop you in your tracks.
An oak bed from Hot Rod’s Classic Truck Parts completes the exterior to perfection. The job isn’t done till the business office gets its threads and for this step Bill Roger at Custom Cover in Macon, Georgia, got the nod to lay out yards of dramatic, vivid red ultra vinyl in a traditional roll and pleat format. A Lecarra ’40 Ford-styled steering wheel helps plot the course, while Haneline dials monitor the vitals and cool breezes come thanks to Old Air Products.
Bill made a few changes once taking the keys, including the addition of a Currie 9-inch rear with 3.70:1 gears, a Tremec T-56 Magnum six-speed trans, QA1 coilovers at each corner, a Pros Pick electric tonneau cover, and an Eclipse retractable Sirius radio and GPS. Kert and Jean’s passion to build the truck and Bill’s devotion as a new owner ensures that he and his lovely wife Pat will put down plenty of miles on their hot rod hauler.
Fueling a young mind with an incredible amount of machinery on a daily basis was the spark that first led Bill into scale model building.