How a category 4 hurricane changed the course of this stunning 1953 Ford pickup.
This 1953 Ford F-100 pickup, packed with a Ford Coyote engine, started out as a mild driver. Those plans changed when Hurricane Charley showed up.
JT Young owns a family trucking company in Punta Gorda, Florida. The 200 vehicles in the heavy-duty fleet are all construction related, with tankers, flatbeds, and dump trucks. Although he has been around hard-working trucks his whole life, JT has also benefitted from the fact that his father loved antique cars and passed that love down to his son—so for JT it’s work trucks during the day and cool custom trucks after hours. Multiple customs have enjoyed time in his family garage. This ’53 Ford F-100 is his latest effort, but this one took quite a bit longer to complete than his previous rides.
He found the truck at the Daytona Turkey Run in 2003. It was equipped with a 351 Cleveland and an automatic transmission and was in good shape. From the outset, the plan was to drive it for a while and then rebuild it into a good driver. As you can see, the outcome is considerably more sophisticated. About the time work began in earnest, Mother Nature called a halt to the proceedings. Hurricane Charley hit Florida in 2004, and the category 4 hurricane’s 150-mph winds had a devastating effect on the area that changed everyone’s priorities. The F-100 was spared, but the rebuild was put on indefinite hold. It wasn’t until almost a decade later that work resumed on the classic pickup. Once the decision was made, JT spent many hours online researching parts, wheels, air-ride suspension manufacturers, and interior ideas in order to create something genuinely unique.
Hot Rod Slammed and New Truck Smooth
The goal for the chassis was to make the truck ride like something fresh off the showroom floor. The Fatman Fabrications chassis is equipped with tubular A-arms up front along with power rack-and-pinion steering. The polished four-link holds a 9-inch Ford running 3.55 gears. Since a slammed profile adds to the look of any truck, the chassis was ordered with a RideTech air-ride suspension incorporating ShockWaves on each corner. Stopping power comes from Stainless Steel Brake Company disc brakes front and rear. The truck rolls on bold Budnik Canon rims, 18x8s up front and wide 20x10s in the rear.
The Coyote Takes Over
The original plan was to reinstall the 351 Cleveland engine, but many years later lots of exciting new powerplants were available. Ford was making it especially easy, thanks to their complete crate motor packages. The 5.0L Coyote Modular V-8 is a high-tech bullet featuring 32 valves and twin independent variable camshaft timing. It’s matched with a 4R70E automatic overdrive from Ford Performance Parts. With everything needed already in the crate, the swap was accomplished by Steve Ehrie at Saints & Sinners in Punta Gorda. Pumping out 420 hp, the new powerplant is more than quick enough in stock form to motivate the vintage truck with the added benefit that the carefully designed factory package looked as good as it performs. A Mustang radiator and cooling fan keep temps in the green. An Airaid filter helps the engine breathe more efficiently, and headers from Ford Performance minimize backpressure and increase scavenging. Since looks and performance go hand in hand, it was important to properly showcase the new V-8. The smooth firewall, custom inner fender panels, the tilt-forward hood, and the engine cover were all painted to match the exterior.
Transforming Iconic Sheetmetal
While the details of the chassis were being finessed, several body mods were also in the works. Customizing an iconic F-100 means coming up with something new, but not too new. You’re dealing with an icon, after all, so no Super Bird wings or Edsel grilles. The plan was to design a conservative update with an almost-stock appearance that’s been subtly enhanced. The effort began by eliminating door handles, emblems, and extraneous chrome, making the truck easy on the eyes while emphasizing its classic lines. The floating grille bar is a subtle combination of paint and chrome, along with unexpected, slightly oversized Model A Ford headlights, now fitted with modern internals. Vent windows were replaced with one-piece side glass, and traditional-style taillights light up the rear. The running boards that connect the front and rear fenders were painted to match and accented with slim stainless steel strips. A smooth 1953 front bumper and a stainless steel rear bumper, both tucked in close, add protection and style. The gas tank filler cap was replaced with a modern touch latch, and a smooth tailgate dresses up the rear. Continuing that same theme, that smooth custom tonneau covering the bed raises and lowers at the touch of a button, thanks to a pair of leather-wrapped linear actuators. Natural oak planks separated by stainless steel strips create a traditional look in the bed. The final move inside was a set of tubs added to the inner walls to accommodate the wider rear wheels.
Building the Cab to Keep Up
One of the most intriguing highlights of this truck is the elegant interior, beginning with the dash, which was stretched, smoothed, and painted to match the exterior. A 3-inch-wide lower panel was welded seamlessly in place to accommodate the vents for the Vintage Air A/C. The gauges are a modern take on a vintage look, thanks to the Dakota Digital instrument package. The polished three-spoke Budnik wheel sports a flat bottom and matching leather wrap and sits atop an ididit tilt column. Seats have to be comfortable and supportive, or all is lost. The beautifully contoured and embossed Glide Engineering bucket seats in the truck are separated by a correspondingly contoured center console, all stitched in luxurious tan leather with subtle orange accents. The small door in the console hides the PCS touchpad control module and the push-button shifter for the four-speed automatic. The sculpted door panels match the console.
Sound deadening was applied throughout, making the cab library quiet to ensure optimum sound reproduction. The playlists in JT’s iPhone are the Bluetooth music sources are amplified by a JL Audio amp. It powers a pair of 6.5-inch JL Audio component sets in the kick panels, along with twin 6x9s and a 10-inch sub in a custom enclosure, located behind the seats. Jamie Borg from Punta Gorda was the craftsman in charge of the interior. JT says, “Very little guidance was given or required. When you see an artist’s work, you essentially give him free rein.” Obviously it was the right approach since the end result is exquisite. The bodywork was completed with a custom-mixed shade of “JT Blue Pearl,” sprayed by Lloyd’s Auto Restoration in Bartow, Florida, wrapping up what turned out to be the final step of a 15-year effort.
Now that the truck is finally complete, JT and his wife, Penny, plan to enjoy taking it to shows and sharing their radical ride with the grandchildren. The truck was completed just a few months before we photographed it at the F-100 Supernationals where it captured the impressive Elite Five award along with the Classic Trucks magazine Editor’s Choice award.
Building This 1953 Ford F-100 Pickup
- Fatman Fabrications frame
- Ford 9-inch rearend with 3.55 gears
- Brake Company disc brakes, 12-inch front and 10-inch rear
- Rear Suspension: Polished four-link rear suspension Ridetech ShockWaves
- Front Suspension: Tubular upper and lower A-arms, ShockWaves
- Power rack-and-pinion steering
Wheels & Tires
- Budnik Canon wheels with smooth center caps, 18×8 and 20×10
- Nexen tires, 255/45ZR18 and 275/40R20
Body & Paint
- 1953 Ford F-100 Pickup body
- Factory fenders, running boards accented with stainless steel strips
- One-piece side windows, shaved door handles, touch-latch gas cap
- Tilt-forward hood
- Smooth tailgate
- Floating grille bar with paint and chrome
- Model A Ford headlights and stock taillights
- Factory outside mirrors
- 1953 front bumper and stainless rear bumper
- Custom tonneau cover, natural oak planks, stainless steel strips, tubs
- “JT Blue Pearl” custom paint by Lloyd’s Auto Restoration, Bartow, Florida
Engine & Transmission
- 2014 Coyote Modular Crate engine, 5.0L Ti-VCT, 420 hp
- Factory heads
- Factory induction with Airaid air intake
- Ignition: Factory ignition
- Headers: Ford Performance headers
- Aluminized exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers
- 2014 Ford 4R70E four-speed automatic transmission
- Contoured Glide Engineering bucket seats
- Embossed tan leather upholstery by Jamie Borg
- Custom tan carpet and stitched floormats
- Smoothed dash, lower panel added for A/C vents
- Dakota Digital gauges
- Budnik leather-wrapped steering wheel and ididit tilt column
- Vintage Air A/C
- iPhone with Bluetooth, JL Audio amp, 6.6-inch component sets, 6x9s and 10-inch sub
- Powertrain Control Solutions push-button shifter in center