Hiding In Plain Sight - Part 6 - '56 Ford


I'm pretty sure everyone at the show saw this '55 Chevy Gasser, a down-to-the-last-nut-and-bolt replica of the one used in the movie "Two Lane Blacktop". Pretty tough to miss a car sitting 6' off the ground. I must admit, it was what first caught my eye too, but it wasn't until I began to take some photos I realized the "Gem in hiding" was not the Gasser. It was what it was sitting on.
 Just to be clear, the Gasser is amazing and we'll tell you about that too
There were a few people standing beside the truck, engaged in conversation. So instead of interrupting them I took some time to look more closely at the Gasser and the truck. When their conversation ended, I walked over to the remaining gentleman and asked if the Gasser was his. "Yes, it's mine." After introducing myself and shaking hands he replied, "Bob Johnson, nice to meet you."  
Accurate right down to the flex fan
"It's a replica of the '55 Chevy they used in Two Lane Blacktop." "I didn't realize that at first. Very neat idea", I said. "It's complete right down to the last detail", said Bob. "It used to belong to a friend of mine, John Leonard. John's a retired Airline captain and gets bored so he builds some nice cars from time to time", he said while rolling his cigar in hand. "The engine is a Johnny Thomas 496 cu in bored and stroked 454, makes 725 hp." As I listened, Bob and his "signature" cigar reminded me of Bill Jenkins. Very candid, tough to get a conversation started, but totally genuine. "This is a very neat truck." "What can you tell me about it?" That's when I saw a sparkle in his eye and when we started a pretty good conversation.

"It's a '56 Ford C500. You can tell the '56's apart from other years because of the brow over the windshield", he said while pointing at the roof. " '55's didn't have it and in '57 it was a totally different design. There were several versions of this truck in '56. The C500 had the lowest height. That's what I was looking for."
"I have owned the truck for about 15 years. I bought it at the Woodward Cruise-In auction that RM was promoting there. It's a late model chassis. The body was channeled to lower it even more and to fit on to the chassis. The ramp truck bed on the back is a Hodges piece. You send them the truck and they will install a ramp bed on the back. It had a 429 Ford with a C6 transmission when I bought it. The previous owner had mounted it mid engine. The engine was getting tired, and with no overdrive, it was hurting the motor to run 75 and 80. I was on Ebay a few years ago and saw a Duramax with 10 miles on it, complete with the new Allison 6 speed trans, all the wiring harnesses, radiator, etc. So I bought the Duramax, and had it installed mid engine like the old 429 was." 

Looking back at the truck, I quickly surmised the layout. "So the engine is actually mounted mid-chassis under the flatbed." "Yup", said Bob, a man of few words. "Very slick", I replied.

The new mid-engined power train
"Bolted right in", he said. "Really?", I asked. "No just screwin' with you", he chuckled. "It took a lot of work to fit it to the chassis. I had Walker Radiator make a custom radiator and monster sized intercooler for it. The harness was sent to PPE in California. They got all the redundant and unnecessary wires out of the harness, which was something that was worrying me. They told me it would be a plug-in and would run perfectly. For once that was true.

While we were talking, another person had come over to look at the truck and listen to what Bob was saying. "It looks pretty top-heavy", he said. "How does it drive?" "It drives really well. With the double overdrive and the torque of the Duramax, you can cruise uphill or downhill with a car on the bed and one on a trailer behind it at about any speed you'd like to go. We installed a supplemental air ride system in the rear to handle any overloads without affecting the ride when no weight is on it. The truck is so well balanced and the center of gravity is so low, it handles like a sports car. It's better balanced than my '11 Ford Dually." "What's under the hood now?" "Cooling, condenser, electronics", replied Bob. After asking Bob if I could get some photos of the interior, he said, "Sure, but there's a bunch of crap in there. Let me get it out of the way."

The reconfigured dash eliminates the "brow" styled speedo
Photos done, Bob told me he has a collection of Classics. I asked if I could visit to get some photos and collect a few more stories. "Sure", he replied. I am looking forward to doing that and Preserving (more) Automotive History...One Car at a Time. 

The Garagistry Team