Classic cars have always been on center-stage when it comes to the aftermarket hot rod world; fast forward into the ’90s, ’00s, and today, and there’s a new obsession among a subset of hotrodders. There’s been an uptick in interest in classic hotrod trucks, and among those trucks is the Ford F-100, commonly known as the fat fender Ford. These uniquely designed trucks were built from the late ‘40s up into the mid-‘50s. Tom Sutton’s beautifully crafted F-100 machine seen here is from the end of the run, originally manufactured in 1955.
Another trend among the F-100 crowd is the resto-mod, which references crossing today’s tech and drivetrains with yesteryear’s sleek body lines. This particular specimen is indeed a resto-mod in almost every way. As I walked through classics lining a small town cruise-in, I was drawn toward Sutton’s white ‘55 because of its unique stance. Peering into the engine bay, I found the EcoBoost badge across the cover and grinned immediately.
Mr. Sutton, who is in his mid-70s, walked over, smiling, and said: “Now that’s the last thing you thought would be under the hood, right?” He proceeded to tell me not only was it a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine underhood, but that it was backed up by a five-speed manual transmission. He impressed me with his knowledge of the modern tech world, whereas most of the people from his generation that I encounter are still playing with their carburetors and double hump heads.
If you’re like me, this unique vintage resto-mod F-100 looks oddly familiar. Why? It was built on the TV show Truck Trend, which I was a fan of and religiously watched during my formative years. Although he didn’t have a hand in the project during the build process, he’s built many hotrods over 60 years as a hobbyist and owns an automotive museum where most of his collection rests. Although he’s aged out of full-tilt build adventures such as this, he can still be found tinkering in his garage often, excellent for a young man in his 70s. Always looking for something else to add to his collection, Sutton attended the Mecum Auto Auction in Greensboro, NC, where he fell in love with this ’55, eagerly bid on it, won, then drove his new beauty back to his home base in Rock Hill, South Carolina. When I asked why he bought it and didn’t build it himself, he responded with: “Do you honestly think you can build something of this caliber for less?” The answer is no, especially the type of build done on a nationally televised show. We’re not talking Pimp My Ride quality here—this truck is the real deal.
PowerNation TV hosts Jeremy Bumpus and Lawrence Tolman spared no expense with this one-of-a-kind build. At the core of the truck, the stock F-100 frame was replaced with one of JW Rod Garage’s chassis, which sports the traditional Mustang II front end, including tubular A-arms. The Currie Enterprises 9-inch rearend is stuffed with 3.73:1 gears. It’s suspended by a parallel 4-link setup and Panhard bar, with Viking coilover shocks at all four corners. With this superb suspension underneath, this resto truck has no problem keeping all four tires planted on the road or keeping the rear wheels from spinning. Having that ability to speed through corners is nothing unless you can stop on a dime, so big Baer disc brakes were installed at all four corners.
Under the F-100’s hood, you’ll find the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost crate engine in Ford Performance trim, which produces 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. That’s more than enough to get this vintage truck moving and far more than the 130 horsepower that was delivered by the truck’s original engine. The boosted setup needs to be intercooled, and Vibrant Performance supplied a custom intercooler and plumbing to keep that clean look. The same goes for the exhaust, with the turbos breathing through 3-inch custom bent stainless steel piping. Backing the boosted powerplant is an American Powertrain TREMEC TKO600 five-speed manual transmission, which gives Sutton complete control of the truck’s power and performance. Scott Bowers of Ron Francis Wiring set the truck up with his company’s components to ensure each of the pieces could communicate properly over the electrical network; he tucked the wiring so clean that it’s as if it’s not even there. Power gets to the ground by way of TSW Nurburging 18-inch wheels wrapped in 295/45ZR18 Nitto NT555 tires in the rear, while the 245/45/ZR18 variant sits out front.
One of the best things about these fat fender Fords is the eye-catching body lines. During the construction of this truck, there were subtle changes made to accentuate them and turn the truck into a show-winner. The only factory sheetmetal that remains are the doors and cab, both of which received a small two-inch chop to keep everything proportional; for that clean look, the door handles were shaved. New fenders two inches wider than stock seamlessly match the bedsides, which itself was raised 1.5 inches. The running boards were mounted closer to the body to get rid of the ugly gap from the factory and ensure the lines flowed together. PPG white paint, along with a slew of other PPG products, were used to create the mesmerizing glass-like shine across the flanks of this stunning truck. Undoubtedly the same amount of detail went into the underside of the truck, with each part base and clear coated, and ARP stainless fasteners used front to rear to secure each of the components.
Upon opening the door, you immediately notice that all of the design cues and colors from the outside of the truck were also brought into the interior. The custom interior uses black and grey vinyl on the door panels, back wall, headliner, and seats. Daytona ‘50s style carpet covers the floor, and custom orange stitching adds a nice touch. Dakota Digital VHX series gauges are in place, allowing him to keep tabs on the particulars of the truck. A Unisteer electric steering column adds a modern touch making steering the agile resto-mod F-100 a breeze. Finishing off the interior, Billet Specialties supplied the steering wheel, window cranks, and door handles.
Some say all show and no go, but Tom Sutton begs to differ. His gorgeous resto-mod F-100 has it all and then some. He drives it often and can be found at local shows and cruise-ins along the east coast, all while winning awards, turning heads, and surprising people with such a unique build.
Tom Sutton's 1955 Ford F-100
|Engine:||Ford Racing twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost crate engine|
|Transmission:||American Powertrain Tremec TKO600 five-speed manual transmission, Denny's Driveshaft custom 3.5-inch driveshaft|
|Chassis/Suspension:||JW Rod Garage with Mustang II front end, tubular A-arms, parallel 4-link rear suspension with Panhard bar, and Viking coilovers|
|Rearend:||Currie Enterprises 9-inch Ford with 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion|
|Brakes:||Baer Brakes Track 4 System F&R, drilled and slotted rotors|
|Wheels & Tires||TSW Nurburgring, 18 x 9-inch diameter, Nitto NT555 tires, 245/45/ZR18 (F) and 295/45/ZR18 (R)|