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Honest Hauler

By Rotten Rodney



“Life’s too short to drive an ugly truck.” Even when Jerry Wassenaar first brought this little ’66 F-100 Custom Cab shorty in to Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, it wasn’t very ugly. In its worn-thin coating of honest, original lacquer, the ol’ truck seemed to talk to yours truly. So of course I enquired: “what’re ya in for?” “A transmission swap,” was the reply. At the time that seemed a little ho-hum to me, so I wasn’t exactly hovering the job. But I should ‘ave been. Why? ‘Cause somewhere along the line, the slated transmission swap would snowball into somethin’ closer to an off-frame build.


Sure, I suppose a transmission swap might go a little easier with the hood safely stored somewhere away from the action. Not quite sure why the front bumper ‘n’ hubcaps would need to come off for a trans’ swap, but no big deal. Truth is by this point; key crewmembers know what’s up. They just ain’t keepin’ this part-time roving reporter informed.


Could it be that this ol’ pickup’s work order has expanded since drop-off day? It kind o’ looks as though a front suspension upgrade might be in the works. And come to think of it, for this vintage F-100, that would be a really good call.


Back in ’65, Ford’s “better idea” was twin-I-beam front suspension for their lighter-duty trucks. As opposed to the previous solid beam axle on parallel-leaf springs, the twin-I-beam did render an improved ride. However, that design exhibits a tendency to wear tires in strange ‘n’ peculiar ways. Any change in ride-height would affect camber—further magnifying the flaw.


For years there was no practical solution for the twin-I-beam dilemma. Today we have choices. This particular pickup is receiving a new full-independent front suspension from No Limit Engineering—for whom HR&CS just so happens to be a dealer.


At least by this time the tight-lipped fabrication crew’s plot to keep the shop’s photojournalist clueless has crumbled. Yep, with or without input, we’ll figure things out on our own.


Judging by the big wooden crate, the ol’ F-100’s 3-speed standard transmission will be relieved of duty in favor of an automatic-overdrive from Gearstar—for whom HR&CS is also a dealer.


And apparently the rear suspension will also be upgraded.


Here HR&CS fabricator Jeremy quickly removes the original equipment parallel-leaf springs. He ain’t talkin’, but he ain’t foolin’ us—no sir-eee-Bob.


Marking axle center is standard procedure, but marking for a C-notch is a dead giveaway. From here on we can be certain that this former utility vehicle will be a sneaky, cool cruiser in its next incarnation.


As a perfect match for the truck’s new No Limit front suspension, a No Limit rear 4-link setup is goin’ in as well.


With the original 9-inch rear end smoothed up and connected to its new ‘n’ improved underpinnings, we’re lookin’ fairly sanitary at this point.


Some trimmin’ to the fender inner panels is required to create room for upper control arm travel. For that reason, the front end sheet metal must be re-hung—at least temporarily. Now is the time to confirm clearance.


It’s amazing what a difference a day makes here. Could it be the work order has been expanded once again?


Here keen instinct tells us that the frame is now out for powder coating. But where’s the cab?


I think I know where the cab might ‘ave got off to. The HR&CS compound takes up a good city block. Sure, walkin’ has health benefits, but I’d be happy to personally drive y’all down to the other end o’ the facility in my company car—the one that Randy has so generously provided.


Ah, just as I suspected. The cab ‘n’ doors have indeed been shuttled to the paint department of HR&CS, but why? This ol’ truck has an honest original finish, and let’s face it, they’re only original once.


That’s young Jesse—a multi-purpose HR&CS crewmember in there. “Jesse, what’re ya doin’,” I asked him. Over the screamin’ of his DA (dual-action) sander, and through his particulate respirator, “mmmm mmm mmmmmm!” was his reply. Loosely translated, this means he’s only preparing the cab’s interior for paint, which in turn means there’ll be no disrespect to the outward original finish. Wheew!


If you’ve hung-out in paint shops much, you already know there’s been a whole lot o’ work done ‘tween this shot and the last. From chemical-cleaning, to sanding ‘n’ feather-edging, to spot-priming, to blocking, through all the thoughtful masking you’re seein’ here and chemical-cleaning again—y’all get it, right?


Anyway, a day or three later the cab is back home in the fabrication department of HR&CS, so we might as well give it a thorough scrutinization. Did y’all remember to bring your magnifiers?  


Little things make big differences. This factory-original sticky thing has been permanently preserved for posterity—at least for the temporary time being.


Inside looks pretty bitchin too, eh? The sound-deadening undercoating is Lizard Skin—a HR&CS staple, and the contrasting cab-color fuel tank is beyond resplendent in PPG’s Envirobase and clear.  


Almost back together, up on the lift where Jeremy is finalizing down-under details like the inline 300-ci mill’s custom twice-pipes, the most distinctive difference is the ride-height. Even with its new suspenders in full-dangle, we can tell this truck’ll sit low.


Now how’s that for an attitude adjustment? The improvements go beyond aesthetics, as this little pickup now handles ‘n’ rides well too. At this point, we’re only hubcaps away from finished—or perhaps we should say finished for now. There’s been a rumor ‘round the shop that Mr. Wassenaar’s original lacquer-coated, honest hauler may come back one day in the not-too-distant future—for paint!