Each Better Than The Last

Gary Fuller is one of those talented craftsmen who doesn’t believe in wasting time. He’s a retired Captain from the Knoxville fire department with more than 30 years service and is currently enjoying his hobby of custom trucks. He’s built several over the years and this is his latest. He found his 1953 F-100 on E-bay in Arkansas and had it shipped to his home in Knoxville, Tennessee. It hadn’t been driven in three decades but the basics were there and Gary already had a clear vision of the finished truck. The cab was in fairly good condition needing only new cab corners. The rest of the truck was sourced from aftermarket suppliers with new fenders, new bed, and new hood, a smarter option than trying to save the rusted originals.

Stripping the body from the frame, Gary began the two-year rebuild by reinforcing the chassis, adding an additional cross member, and spraying it with jet-black epoxy paint. Modern suspension upgrades began in the rear with a new Heidts 4-bar and Panhard bar to hold the Moser Posi 9-inch with 3.73 gears. Heidts adjustable coilovers completed the rear but the front end would be a departure from the norm, dictated by the truck’s intended power plant. Gary’s former show truck had a good flathead engine in it that was replaced by a high-performance 302. Gary set the old flathead aside, waiting for an opportunity to use it and now was the time. Installing a flathead presented some unique problems, however. Because the oil pan extended down several inches lower than a modern V-8, front suspension issues dictated a creative approach. Gary assembled an imaginative engineering package that included a solid front axle with a monoleaf spring, Monroe-Matic shocks, new king pins and bushings, and topped off with a Toyota steering box. The unique twist of blending old with new technology came together beautifully, making room for the classic Flathead and establishing crisp handling for the vintage ride. Eleven-inch disk brakes on all four wheels and a set of 18-inch Boss chromed aluminum rims with Nitto 245/45-R18 rubber wrapped up the chassis mods.

The motor was next and after B&R Machine Shop in Knoxville reworked the block, Gary spent the winter assembling the motor using new Offenhauser internals, an Isky Max 1 cam, and Offenhauser polished aluminum heads. An Offy 1075 dual carb intake holds a pair of chrome Stromberg 97’s. Modern MSD electronic ignition and Blaster coil light the fire while spent gasses exit through polished, center dump headers and stainless Magnaflow mufflers. The distinctive flathead burble is heard through the side-exiting exhausts. Polished aluminum accents are everywhere, like the Edmunds air cleaners, water pump, and engine pulleys. An electric fan cools the 4-core aluminum radiator. Gary adapted the vintage V-8 to a modern Ford C4 automatic using a kit from Speedway Motors.

Bodywork was simplified using a combination of aftermarket fenders, hood, and bed. Details include halogen lights up front and bright LED taillights in the rear with stainless steel bumpers on both ends. A pop-open fuel filler door was cut into the driver’s side and smoked glass was the right choice for the shiny black truck. The bed floor is done in Birds Eye Maple with five coats of BASF clear for protection. (During its first time out, the bed captured the Best Bed trophy against 700 other vehicles!) Gary wrapped up the exterior, handling his own spray gun and shooting BASF Black, base coat/clear coat. His good friend, Mickey Harris was the airbrush artist in charge, using the tilt forward hood and the smooth tailgate as his canvas for the elegant Native American-themed murals, a trademark of Fuller’s restorations that honor his Native American heritage.

All that was left was the interior. The pair of custom bucket seats was upholstered in black and beige leather with beige carpet and a beige leather headliner. While the Auto Meter gauges monitor vital engine info, Gary and his wife Rose enjoy lots of ’50s rock ‘n roll from the Custom Auto Sound stereo playing through a pair of Sony 6 x 9 component sets located behind the seats. Cecil Risdale stitched the upholstery, Rose chose the elegant color combination, and Gary did everything else on the truck. “I have done four frame-off restorations and this is easily my best yet,” he told us. We photographed the truck at the F-100 Supernationals where the beautifully built vintage ride captured the Classic Truck of the Year award, up against more than 700 other competitors.

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