Vortech-blown elite-level 1955 Ford F100 pick-up

Clever body mods, a blown and injected Windsor and 22-inch wheels are just some of the tricks worked on this magic hauler

Photographers: Brian White

This article on F100 first appeared in the May 2007 issue of Street Machine

There a million reasons why people choose the vehicles they want to do up. For some it was a deal too good to pass up, others might have fond memories of good times — driving or otherwise — and for many, peer-pressure is the deciding factor.

For West Australian Travis Sturk-Ralls, it’s all about history. “Ninety per cent of the old drag and salt lake racing photos I’ve seen have had an F-truck as a push car. It’s just a classic scene, an icon,” he explains.

“I’ve had a lot of tough street cars in the past, everything from a VC Valiant ute with a 360 and Six-Pack to a beautiful HK Premier. I’m not biased; I love them all.” But he does admit that this is the first one that’s been modified to this extent.

It’s clear that this F-100 has had cash thrown at it but Travis is by no means a chequebook builder: “I’m not rich, I just love cars. When I was younger all my mates would go to the pub but I’d stay home and save my money for cars.

“With my trade as an electrician I managed to do a few deals, a few contras and a bit of wheeling and dealing. It bit me on the arse a couple of times but it all worked out in the end,” says Travis.

Budnik Wheels put on extra staff to make sure the Muroc III wheels would be ready for the truck’s Summernats 20 debut. Travis can’t speak highly enough of the help that Ziggy’s Hot Rods gave him in making it all happen

That ‘end’ was the Great Meguiar’s Uncover at Summernats 20, a deadline that Travis only just made.

“The decision to put on the blower was a last-minute thing and getting the intercooler sorted out and the motor started was a bit of a rush job but thanks to good mates and a lot of late nights, the job got done. The wheels only arrived a week or so before Summernats — Budnik put on extra staff to make sure they were ready in time! If it wasn’t for all the work that Ziggy’s Hot Rods did to organise the wheels and then help me out at Summernats, it may never have happened.”

Not many trucks are this smooth in the back after 50 years. The same biscuit leather that covers the seats is used in the tray, as well as wrapping the stainless wires that hold up the tailgate. Fuel filler is neatly recessed into the tray floor

Originally the truck was fitted with Budnik Anvils — 18s on the front and 20s out back — but that didn’t work for Travis. The new rollers are Budnik Muroc IIIs, a style that borrows heavily from the design of the old Halibrands often seen on Indy cars of the 50s and 60s.

It’s a classic design but in much more contemporary 20×8 (f) and 22×10 (r) sizes. Travis jokes that he went for the bigger wheels to get better mileage — we’ll take that one with a pinch of salt.

The obvious mod here is the scallop for the twin 3in exhaust, custom-built by Prestige Exhaust, but there’s a lot more going on. The stock running boards never met up so nicely with the rear guards, tailgate and body

The rest of the truck is built along similar lines — it keeps its classic F-truck styling while looking modern and updated. This can be a risky project as mixing styles can quite often lead to a very confused design. Absolutely none of that going on here; this baby is spot-on everywhere you look.

The tray needed a lot of work to get it looking this nice. Normally the top roll of the tray is open on the end and the tailgate has a much more industrial latching method. It’s still nice and simple but a lot nicer looking!

On the sheet he handed over, Travis listed the body mods as: “Smoothed over with a tilt bonnet.” You don’t have to be an F-100 tragic to realise there’s more going on than those relatively simple mods. Turns out Travis just didn’t have enough paper to write it all down. After a quick chat, neither did I!

Custom rear bumper was formed from round tube, with accessory tail-lights frenched in for an individual and clean look. You may have seen these lights somewhere before but they never looked this neat

Starting from the front: ’56 grille; bumper pulled closer to body; front beaver panel holes filled; running boards extended; filler panels between cab and bed; rear guards widened three inches; hidden tailgate hinges; tube bumper with frenched tail-lights; flat tonneau with electric lift — and that’s just the outside!

The cleverly engineered blower set-up was a last minute addition. The CAPA-supplied Vortech blower mounts low on the passenger side and forcesthe air through a front-mounted intercooler and into the Edelbrock intake

The interior has copped just as much: the door jambs were smoothed; the dash has been filled, smoothed and stuffed full of Ford Classic gauges; there are new door panels; biscuit leather trim by Tony Riggio at Total Trim; billet brake and gas pedals; and a killer stereo install by Top End Audio.

But wait, there’s more! The rear tray is just a bit nicer than your usual work-truck — as you’d expect. The metal work is as smooth as a baby’s bum but in place of more metal or maybe varnished wood, you’ve got an acre of the same biscuit leather that covers the interior.

The fuel tank is also accessible from the tray, using a marine-type filler that vents to the outside and is topped by a cap engraved with the truck’s personalised F-55 logo.

When it came to creature comforts, trucks like the F-100 were never meant to be this nice

All of this fine bodywork — mainly by Ed Parker and expertly bathed in Lightning Strike Silver by Stuart Adams — rests on a stock chassis that has been boxed and fitted with a Jag front end and a nine-inch rear by Vintage Rod and Custom.

To get it down to its ridiculously low — for an F-truck — stance, airbags are used front and rear, helped out by a set of Koni shocks. This truck is in the weeds but it doesn’t look broken like a lot of ’bagged cars do.

A full set of Ford Classic gauges has been beautifully worked into the original instrument location while the tacho was cleverly recessed to the left. On top of the steering column is the boost gauge, a late addition with the blower

When Travis purchased the truck, it had a complete Chevy driveline and was a pretty neat unit. He describes it as ‘better than good’: “It was owned by a wrecking yard in Bakersfield and had been used as a tow car at the drags and maybe even on the salt but it had practically no rust.”

That Chevy drivetrain just had to go. In its place came a 351 Windsor that once saw service in a country ambulance. It only had 60,000km on the clock because the ambo caught fire!

It was a good unit to start with but Travis made it was better by fitting a crank girdle and full Edelbrock Performer top-end. Other good stuff includes a Crane roller valvetrain plus MSD billet alternator and ignition. With the Vortech T-Trim blower it should make about 560hp and 600lb-ft of torque. “Good for towing,” Travis concludes.

The decision to go with the CAPA-supplied blower meant working new plumbing into the engine bay. Travis had a stock radiator and got in touch with Brown’s Radiators to build a front-mounted intercooler. The guys said the only way they’d build the intercooler was if they did a new radiator too. Sounded like an offer too good to refuse, so Travis took them up on it. Unlike the import crowd, Travis was adamant that the intercooler must be hidden from view. A wise choice.

Tony Wardle fabricated a breather tank — visible at the rear of the engine bay — that doubles as an oil filler. Check out those smooth rocker covers; no holes in those babies!

The centre of the seat has a fold-down cover that mounts the airbag controls, ignition switch, electric windows and tailgate controls. Ahead of the shifter is another panel that drops down to reveal the air con, headlight and tweaker controls

Tony also made the plumbing and bracketry for the blower set-up, which is all tidy and unobtrusive. It locates the blower down low on the passenger side and the pipes feed through the radiator support, via the intercooler and into the intake plenum on the other side.

Controlling it is the factory EEC IV computer, upgraded with a ‘tweaker’ set up by Peter Bysterveld to give five different maps. You can go from economical highway cruising to full-house drag racing at the flick of a switch. Genius!

This truck is all about neat little tricks like that. Just wait until Travis gets serious and builds himself a show car — this one is just the tow car, after all!

1955 FORD F-100

Colour: Spies Hecker Lightning Strike

Brand: Ford Windsor 351ci
Induction: Vortech T-Trim
Injectors: Bosch 40psi
ECU: Ford EEC IV with tweaker
Heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Camshaft: Crower hydraulic roller
Pistons: TRW forged flat-tops
Conrods: Standard with polished beams
Cooling: Aluminium radiator with four eight-inch electric fans
Exhaust: Stainless
Ignition: MSD coil and electronic distributor

Gearbox: AOD pre-electronic
Converter: 2500rpm high stall
Diff: Nine-inch with 3.55 LSD gears, Moser 31-spline axles

Springs: Jaguar with airbags (f), leaves with airbags (r)
Shocks: Koni (f&r)
Mods: Full Jaguar front suspension
Brake discs: Ford cross-drilled and slotted (f&r)
Calipers: Four-spot Jag (f), twin-spot Jag (r)
Master cylinder: Jag

Seat: Original bench
Wheel: Budnik
Trim: Biscuit leather
Instruments: Ford Classic
Stereo: Pioneer
Installed by: Top End Audio

Wheels: Budnik Muroc III, 20×8 (f), 22×10 (r)
Tyres: Hankook 245/40/20 (f), 285/40/22 (r)