Mary Hunter wasn't your typical truck enthusiast. In fact, she probably wouldn’t have considered herself a truck enthusiast at all. That all changed one afternoon while attending her youngest son Dwight’s tennis lesson. His coach, an avid hot rodder in his own right, was taking delivery of a 1954 Ford F-100 for a customer that he’d purchased from Michigan. It was love at first sight for Mary, but the truck was already destined for a new home. Mary left her number with the new owner and let it be known that she was interested in the truck should it ever come back up for sale. It took a few years, but Mary finally got the call.
When the truck showed up on Mary’s doorstep, she and Dwight, who had begun to show quite an interest in hot rods, made a quick list of upgrades they thought befitting for the Effie. Ghost flames over the existing Candy Brandy Wine paintjob, raising the fuel tank filler, and a few other minor modifications were at the top of this list. Jim Waggaman at AirStream Studio was enlisted to handle the upgrades, and what he found would soon turn the “quick fix” project on its head.
While prepping the body for the upgrades, hidden rust was revealed along with the rather “flaky” nature of the original Candy paint. Unsure of its age, it soon proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as it became painfully obvious that the paint had seen better days, peeling away from the body like the skin of an onion. At that point, Mary, Dwight, and Jim decided that a more in-depth overhaul might be necessary. The ghost flame paintjob was put on hold as the short-term overhaul evolved into a lengthier project.
With the paint and rust issues and other new upgrades needing to be made, Jim’s creative mind started turning and he suggested a few more ideas. In the end, the cab of the ’54 received a considerable amount of custom metalwork, with Jim shaving the driprails, filling the body seams, rounding the door corners, and frenching the antenna. Shaving the door handles and replacing them with one of his all-time favorite door buttons from ’40s-era Lincolns further enhanced the smooth visage of the truck and a flush-mount third brake light was added to ensure no damage to the extensive modifications.
To add to the already existing one-piece tilting front end, Jim designed and created a trio of custom ports on the hood sides, reminiscent of those found on the earlier ’40s and ’50s Ford trucks. The rear fenders were replaced with a pair of 3-inch-wider items to accommodate the new wider wheels that were planned for the truck. Deleted completely are the front and rear bumpers, replaced instead by Mar-K roll pans set at both ends with the rear housing late ’40s Chevy taillights, license plate, and exhaust tips. Also from Mar-K, are a smooth tailgate and hidden hinge and latch assembly, as well as a new oak bed floor, accented by their polished stainless strips with hidden fasteners. To protect all this, a Pro’s Pick tonneau cover was installed mated to a pair of electric actuators.
With all these new body mods complete, Mary started thinking about the existing drivetrain. Jim and Mary decided that the original 460ci Ford engine wasn’t worth the cost to rebuild,especially given what the price of gas and the MPG results would be, along with her concerns of reliability. Instead, Mary opted to give Dwight, her budding hot rodder, the task of choosing the drivetrain. An exemplary student, Dwight used his study skills to learn about the various drivetrain configurations commonly used in the classic truck market before deciding on a brand-new 2010 GM LS3 crate engine complemented by a 4L60E trans. Mary says the decision to give Dwight the opportunity to pick the drivetrain, “made sense since one day he will be inheriting the truck”. It was at this point Jim Waggaman decided it would be best for Mary to take the truck to someone more familiar with this type of upgrade.
Mary says the decision to give Dwight the opportunity to pick the drivetrain, “made sense since one day he will be inheriting the truck.”
While it was undergoing the new drivetrain swap, a few other modifications were suggested and made to the truck. With the installation of the new LS motor, a No Limit Engineering aluminum fuel tank with internal fuel pump was relocated under the bed and the gas filler and door were incorporated on the driver side rear fender. Before the new fuel tank was installed, the rear frame section was Z’d to allow for the new lower stance, and the front wheel openings were relocated 4 inches forward of the original centerline, effectively centering the wheel in the opening and giving the truck a more balanced look. The front fenders were also treated to custom-fabricated inner fenders and then re-attached to the one-piece, tilting front end.
Jim Meyer Enterprises was tapped to upgrade the truck’s suspension, starting with an IFS frontend courtesy of No Limit Engineering, which lowered the pickup 2 full inches thanks to a pair of drop spindles. Massaged and powdercoated GM disc brakes provide reliable braking power, while coilover shocks help smooth out the ride, front and rear. Out back, a Ford 9-inch rearend was located via a No Limit Engineering four-bar setup with Wilwood disc brakes providing additional stopping power. Jim Meyer made certain the stock frame was boxed in all the necessary places before setting the frame on a set of polished American Torq Thrust II’s, 16x8s and 17x91⁄2s wrapped in Goodyear Eagle GT tires. Jim Meyer also masterfully bent, polished, and installed all the necessary stainless steel tubing for the truck.
After hours of custom metalwork followed by days of block sanding and prepping, the pickup was finally ready for its much-anticipated fresh paintjob, mixed and applied by Tom MacMillan.
Inside the cab, the custom mods continue, most noticeably on the wrap-around dash that has been filled, smoothed, and modified with a custom gauge insert fabricated by Jim Waggaman that houses a quintet of Classic Instruments gauges. Below that hangs an ididit steering column topped by a Wheel Shoppe Banjo steering wheel with a custom machined horn button by Ralph Dorsey that matches a similar shift knob atop the Lokar shifter. In addition, Dawes Wafer assisted in creating the remaining control knobs all in the same pattern as the Lincoln door buttons. Ron Mangus Hot Rod Interiors hand selected Tango Brandy leather to design passenger compartment, inspired by the unique hood portals, which adorn the door panels and a pair of Cadillac six-way power seats. The Ron Mangus designed center console houses a hidden stereo and LCD screen that controls a license frame backup camera. German square weave carpet covers the floor. A Vintage Air climate control system keeps Mary and her driving companion comfortable on those long Southern California and Arizona drives, of which Mary says she has many planned.
What started as a simple love affair, meant to only satisfy a desire to have some fun with her youngest son before he left the nest has now evolved into a family-wide hobby, with Mary’s eldest son Brendon now showing interest in the car scene as well as her daughter Kristen and her husband Matt. As for Dwight, we think his fate is pretty well sealed and we have to admit that we’re pretty jealous of the Hunter’s new family heirloom!