Chev 502 Ramjet-powered 1956 Ford F100 pick-up

Once a modest work truck, this superb F100 is now a rolling piece of automotive art

Photographers: Shane Matthews, Nathan Duff

Stunning! Magnificent! Breathtaking! You could exhaust a thesaurus and still not do justice to the sheer presence of Diane and Wayne McLaughlin’s killer 1956 F100. Dissect this beast inch by inch and you’ll struggle to find a single flaw. Concept, execution, craftmanship, engineering and attention to detail are all second to none.

This article was first published in the February 2011 issue of Street Machine

Wayne had been dreaming about building the ultimate F100 since he was five and had a clear idea of what he wanted. However, getting other people on the same page was frustrating.

F100s normally feature gaping wheel openings. Front and rear openings have been shortened 2.5in in so that they better fit the 20in wheel and tyre combo

You know what they say: if you want something done right, do it yourself. Tired of broken promises and over-inflated invoices, Wayne started his own shop, Fonzie’s Rod Shop, in 2008.

“I use it to build all our cars now. We’re currently working on a ’67 Camaro that’s going to be as good as the F100.”

Having his own shop meant work could continue full-time on the F100 and metal magician Rod Collis was instructed to get it finished. Stee Bow came on board in January 2010 to look after final fit-up.

Rugged durability and hay-hauling capabilities were the top priorities for FoMoCo’s F100 in the early 50s, so turning the iconic ’56 step-side into a slick show-winner took a mountain of mods. There’s not a panel of the Effie that Rod hasn’t reworked.

Every panel on the F100 has been modified for maximum smoothness, including shaving the gutters, front and rear roll pans, recessed numberplate housing and hugging the tray tight to the body. The tall and narrow fuel tank is cleverly hidden between the body and the cab – neat, huh?

The most obvious mod is the one-piece tilt front end with pancaked brow and smooth inner and outer skins. A lot of work went into ensuring it looks equally neat and integrated up or down.

The gutters and cowl vents were shaved and smoothed, along with all unnecessary body joins and ugly bits. The stylish front and rear roll pans are augmented by a recessed numberplate mount out back. The bed has also come in for some major surgery; it now hugs the cab and has had all its sharp edges rounded and smoothed. It also conceals the tall and narrow fuel tank that resides in a clever cavity created between the cab and tray.

Inside, the tops of the doors were reshaped, hidden retractable seatbelts were built in and metal sun visors that flip flush into the custom panel across the top of the windscreen were fabricated. Another rolled panel was fitted across the bottom of the dash to house the controls and vents for the Vintage Air system.

One of the trickest body mods is the side-exiting exhaust. Tony Porter is responsible for bending up the elegant stainless exhaust system that exits through here

The truck’s an airbag-free zone – it was designed and built to drive low, not just park low. To achieve this, a custom double-wishbone set-up from Rod City Repros was mated to rack and pinion steering from a retired BMW and grafted onto the F100 chassis. A triangulated four-link holds up the other end and the whole lot was fashioned from stainless, polished to perfection by Performance Polishing. Polished alloy coil-overs hold up all four corners.

It’s a well-thought-out, well-engineered set-up and the Effie drives better than any original.

Todd Emmons of Phoenix, Arizona, is a good mate of Wayne’s and was Boyd Coddington’s artist. He produced renderings with different colour schemes and body mods, and helped out with many design details.

He also hooked Wayne up with Chris Coddington at Coddington wheels. Chris and Wayne put their heads together and settled on a set of 20-inch Boyd GTs; eights up front and 10s out back in just the right offset for perfect guard clearance. These were then ordered through Wheelboyz in Oz. Noonan Race Engineering CNC-machined a new set of centre caps with the Fonzies logo and also tackled the billet numberplate surrounds, tailgate hinges, trick tail-light surrounds and more.

Donk is a 502 Ramjet crate engine, dressed up with a Billet Specialties Tru Trac accessory drive. The sheet-metal work on the underside of the flip front and the radiator support is simply stunning

Lifting the hood, there’s no missing the 11in-tall Ramjet EFI inlet manifold – it’s an imposing piece that tops an equally imposing 502ci, 502hp Ramjet crate engine from GM Performance Parts. It’s dressed to kill, with a Billet Specialties Tru Trac accessory drive supplied by Michael Palazzo from Rocket Industries. Mick also sourced the pedals, column, steering wheel, dash knobs, shifter, Dakota Digital dash and the Vintage Air equipment.

Keeping temps in check is a custom radiator from PWR with twin thermo-fans. PWR also supplied the potent six-piston Alcon calipers clamping meaty 13-inch rotors all ’round.

Transferring the grunt to the Boyds billets is a 4L80E four-speed auto backed by a nine-inch diff that sports a Detroit Locker centre and was screwed together by Ross Hoare and Jimmy Stone of Stone Brothers Racing.

Wayne’s son Scott drives the Stone Brothers Fujitsu Series V8 Supercar and is an apprentice fitter/welder in the team workshop, and SBR, as well as Kees Weel over at PWR, offered a lot of help with the F100 project.

Cog-swapping is handled by a paddle shift set-up from Master Shift. Other interior tricks include the rolled edge on the bottom of the dash to house the a/c vents and controls, plus hidden seatbelt retractors

Kam Motor Trimming dragged out three maroon cow hides to cover the entire interior. The seat began with the stock steel frame and was built up to the desired shape. The stainless inserts in the flat floor are usually glued in but nuts and bolts have been incorporated into these so they bolt in for a secure fit.

The custom door trims received the same treatment and the hand-made stainless trim pieces are another example of Steve Bow’s craftmanship.

“He’s brilliant,” Wayne says. “The truck would never have turned out as good as it has if it wasn’t for this dedication – I can’t give him a big enough rap.”

The lower leading edge of the seat houses recessed speakers, while under the seat are the battery, fuses, cut-off switches, audio amplifier and ECUs for the engine and gearbox. The truck’s entire wiring system was made and installed by Competition Electrics. “It is,” Wayne says, “a work of art.”

The main head unit for the audio system hides under the seat but this neat little pad offers full control over all functions. The metal sunvisors flip up flush into the custom panel across the top of the windscreen

And so to the paint. It’s Gold Mine from House Of Kolor. They were going to do it two-tone but the truck doesn’t have a natural break line. Then at SEMA 2009, Todd and Wayne spotted this paint and the two-tone idea went out the window. Spraytime Marine was responsible for laying on that sumptuous wet-looking finish, which consumed an astounding 39 litres of ink!

Naturally, you’d expect that this has been built as something of a museum piece.

“Not on your life!” Wayne says. “Once it’s done the show scene, Diane and I are going to get in, start it up and head out on sunny days.”


Convoluted builds are nothing new but this project was extreme. Diane and Wayne are expat Kiwis and bought the F100 in New Zealand in 1995. After a few months the truck developed engine and brake problems so it was pulled off the road for a rebuild. Legendary Kiwi shop Rods by Reid set about boxing the chassis, adding a Jag diff and XJS front end. Work stopped shortly after and the truck was sold in 1997. Four years later the new owner had done bugger all and Diane convinced Wayne to buy it back. After a few more mods by Rod Wood Panel Beating, the project was put on hold in 2003 when Diane and Wayne moved to Australia. The F100 followed the year after and the project was go again – only to be put on hold as their trucking operation expanded. In 2009, Rod Collis was employed to work on the truck full time, with Steve Bow later coming in as shop manager. Their first order of business was to finish the F100.

1956 FORD F100

Colour: HOK Gold Mine

Engine: 502 Ramjet
Block: Cast iron with four-bolt mains
Intake: EFI Ramjet
Heads: Alloy oval port
Crank: GMPP forged 4.00in
Pistons: GMPP 4.47in forged
Cam: Hydraulic roller
Ignition: HEI
Computer: GMPP
Radiator: PWR custom alloy, twin PWR thermo-fans
Exhaust: Hand-formed stainless steel
Fuel: 98 octane
Power: 502hp, 565lb-ft

Gearbox: 4L80E
Diff: Nine-inch, Detroit Locker
Springs: Coil-overs with polished alloy bodies
Suspension: Rod City twin A-arm (f), triangulated four-bar, stainless (r)
Brakes: Alcon six-piston, polished (f&r)
Steering: BMW rack & pinion

Rims: Boyd GT 20×8 & 20×10
Rubber: Michelin 245/35/20 & 285/30/20

Trim: Maroon leather
Seats: Original bench
Door trims: Custom
Wheel: Billet Specialties
Shifter: Paddle shift
Gauges: Dakota Digital
Tunes: Alpine

Owen Webb & Tony Naughton at HOK for all their assistance, guidance & support; Robyn & Dean from Classic Pick-up
supplies for many little incidentals