Traditional packaging among the F-100 crowd is hardly anything new; the truck’s intrinsic good looks made it pretty easy to stay the conservative course and still end up with a beautiful truck. What’s a bit more difficult is to carefully mix and match F-100 parts with traditional hot rod pieces and end up with a contemporary truck with a real retro feel. When Robert Frank embarked on this project he had a good idea of how the truck should look, and Dan Kerbo, the man behind the build, not only happily spun the wrenches, he was also a collaborator on the project. The result of this teamwork is a truck that has all the flavor and emotion of a ’60s hot rod hauler, but with contemporary craftsmanship and materials.
The first order of the day was to achieve the proper hot rod stance. To that end a Fatman Fabrication Mustang II front suspension was grafted to the fully boxed F-100 framerails, with QA1 coilover shocks providing the fully adjustable suspension. Stopping the truck was left to Wilwood 12-inch rotors and aluminum calipers up front, while out back disc brakes from an ’84 Eldorado are attached to the Ford 9-inch rear. Another set of QA1 coilover shocks were utilized on the rear of the truck and a 20-gallon aluminum fuel tank from No Limit rests between the framerails. And this is basically the theme of the entire build, modern components yielding traditional results. The Fatman/Wilwood/QA1 combo provides state-of-the-art drivability, while visually the truck has a nice hot rod stance.
Continuing in that direction, when it came time to select a powerplant for the 1955 Ford Robert knew it had to be a Caddy. Why? Simply because he remembers that some of the finest hot rods ever built were Cadillac-powered Fords and he wanted to maintain that tradition.
Once again modern meets traditional and rather than run a “little” 365-inch early Caddy motor Robert opted to go for the big boy, and dropped 500 inches of Cadillac’s finest between the framerails. Now this is not your grandfather’s Caddy. This engine was built by the Cadillac specialists at Potter Automotive in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee. Beginning with a 1976 engine the heads were extensively reworked, while a set of Keith Black pistons were fitted to the big-bore motor. A custom-ground cam moves the valves and an Edelbrock intake and carb feed the thirsty beast. Sanderson headers lead to Flowmaster mufflers and when the engine hit the dyno it pumped out 400 hp with a whopping 550 lb-ft of torque. While a 500-inch Caddy is never going to deliver good gas mileage, the 700-R4 overdrive helps to limit consumption a bit.
With the mechanicals worked out it was time to focus on the aesthetics, and once again it would be a blend of old style with new products. The body itself remains stock, and many people casually walk by the truck believing it is a ’56, but one look at the cab will tell you that’s not so. The 1955 truck sports a chrome ’56 F-100 grille. The chrome front and rear bumpers are neatly tucked to the body and a very nice custom pan resides between the bed and the rear bumper. Dan Kerbo also fabricated a small pan that rests on top of the chassis, between the rear of the cab and the front of the bed. His thought was simple; he just didn’t like seeing the framerails, the exhaust pipes, and driveshaft when you looked down into that space. A small body-color panel on top of the frame took care of that problem in fine style.
Steve Holcomb handled the stitchwork in his Halls, Tennessee, shop. The stock seat remains
VDO gauges monitor the big Caddy motor, while a Dakota Digital cruise control makes for co
Classic oak flooring with stainless strips always looks good in a truck bed. That gas fill
Generally these latches are mounted with the latch on the tailgate, but Dan Kerbo opted to
Rather than make radical changes to the body, Kerbo spent his time working every detail to perfection. Things like a smoothed firewall, tailgate latches, and taillight brackets are all thoughtfully formed and detailed. When the body was flawless Kerbo applied the 1958 Ford Holley Green paint in his Knoxville, Tennessee, shop. Stock emblems from Dennis Carpenter were installed and the era-perfect Cragar S/S wheels were bolted on. The wheels are also a modern twist on vintage style as these Cragars measure 17x8 and 17x9.
Inside the truck, the stock dashboard holds a custom gauge cluster, filled with VDO gauges. An ididit steering column and Grant banjo wheel provide direction, while Vintage Air and a Dakota Digital cruise control make things comfortable on long trips. Steve Holcomb of Halls, Tennessee, handled the tan leather interior after fully lining the cab with Dynamat.
Robert Frank couldn’t be happier with his hauler; it was exactly what he had envisioned from the start—a traditional hot rod truck with new and improved products. We must agree it is a very effective approach.