Ron Cherry: Senior project ’56 Ford F100 Pickup |

Ron Cherry: Senior project ’56 Ford F100 Pickup

Ron Cherry
The F100 Fords were introduced in 1953 and that first model continued until 1956. That last year had the first “wrap-around” windshield. They were only built as step-sides, which is now a preferred styling for classic trucks.
Photo by Ron Cherry |

Technically, Justin Anthony’s ’56 Ford F100 was not his senior project. However, if not for his senior project Ford pickup, he would never have owned it.

Inspired by his dad having once been a hot rodder, Justin decided to build one as his senior project in 1998, while attending Nevada Union High School. He found a ‘51 Ford F1 Pickup in Lincoln he could afford.

“It had no rust and had been primered,” he said. “It was all stock running gear, but had been wired for 12 volts. It was the perfect starting platform.”

But he did not want the stock running gear. He found an old Ford LTD with a monster 429 cubic inch engine that he decided to use. Not having a home shop, he used the equipment at hand to do the job.

“I have pictures of me taking the motor out of the LTD with a tractor,” he said.

Helping hands

His dad helped where he could, however, dropping a big-block engine in an older pickup was not simple. A lot of modifications were needed.

“I knew almost nothing. I could do a few things, like change oil, but I didn’t know much,” he said. “I went to a hot rod shop, Nugget Classics for advice. The owner, John Ingram, said to bring the truck up to the shop and he’d give me a hand.”

It was a major project, requiring cutting the fender wells and some of the firewall for the engine to fit.

“John said, ‘Why don’t I hire you so you’ll be on my insurance. Then you can sweep floors or something for some money.’ So at 18, I was working at a street rod shop to pay for parts,” Justin said.

While Justin was working there, they brought in a ’56 Ford F100, a basket case.

“I helped unload it, piece by piece, from a trailer,” he said. “It was built as a shop project for the company.”

Workers in the shop would pitch in and help when they had time. They used a Plymouth Volare front suspension with disc brakes and a Ford 9-inch rearend. They lowered the suspension, giving it an “in the weeds” look.

For wheels, they used a set of vintage Cragar chrome-spokes. The shop had a ’68 Camaro SS they were building when the owner of the car sold it to someone who wanted it without the engine and trans they were planning to use.

So that 350 cubic inch engine and Turbo 350 auto trans went into the Ford.

“It has an Edelbrock intake and carb with an Excel ignition. I don’t know what it has inside,” Justin said, “but it’s putting out about 400 HP.”

He even did much of the rewire himself, since that was an area in which he had gained some proficiency.

“We all did something,” he said.

When finished, the truck might have served its time running parts or being sold to a customer if not for Justin selling his ’51 Ford.

“A guy came in who wanted to buy my truck,” he said. “So I sold it to him and bought the shop truck.”

That was about 20 years ago. Since then, Justin has done a lot of work on the ’56.

“Every few years, I’ve saved enough to tinker with it, fix something or change something,” he said.

About 15 years ago, he shaved (removed and filled the holes) most of the chrome.

“Personally, I think they are over chromed,” he said. “That’s why I painted the grill.”

He did all the body repairs himself, hand sanding the truck. Then he hauled it to Tripp’s Auto Body for a custom-color teal paint.

“It’s the only time I’ve put it on a trailer,” he said. “It’s made to be driven.”

Finishing touches

The next major redo was 10 years ago, when he bought a Glide Industry seat and had the interior re-upholstered. He also added Vintage Air air conditioning then.

The next milestone was maybe five years ago when he had Tripp’s fit a forward-tilt hood mechanism on the truck.

“I got tired of reaching in for everything I did,” he said.

His wife gave him a CD player with Bluetooth for sound. Finally, two years ago he completely redid the interior of the bed.

“I took it off and replaced all the boards with new oak so that it looked fresh,” he said.

Then he painted the strips between the oak planks to match the truck, keeping with his minimalist approach to chrome.

While a rodder seldom considers his masterpiece truly finished, it may be the case for Justin. At least for now.

“With young kids, I may not be able to do as much now,” he said.

That’s what makes Justin a little different than many of the guys who meet at Cars and Coffee every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. ‘til 10 a.m. at the K-Mart parking lot off McKnight Way. He’s not one who was a hot rodder in the ’60s.

“I’m one of the younger guys, that’s for sure,” he said with a laugh. “But I know a couple other guys my age into cars like these.”

And there lies the hope for keeping the hobby alive, guys like Justin and his friends. And their senior projects.

Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out before Christmas. Check his website at

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