Slammed Uni: A '61 Ford F100 Unlike Any Other
When talking about automotive customization, the general conception has always been that you must improve every segment of a vehicle. Altering functions and appearance on the inside and out is the definition of making a true custom. However, there is a new movement that has changed the way we look at classic vehicles. Rather going wild with the customizations, a common theme is to find a weathered vehicle and modify only certain pieces of it. Breaking away from traditional methods, these vehicles that showcase patina is what’s hot right now.
Tony Leal is one such builder that follows his own path by applying his own personal touches to all vehicles he owns. Recently, he decided to try his hand at a vehicle that was already different from the rest, a ’61 Ford F100 with a unibody construction. Unibody refers to a truck where there is no gap between the cab and the bed. These trucks were offered for only three years with Ford boasting they had a car-like ride and extra cargo space. However, when these trucks were pushed to their limits of weight stored in the bed, the body flexed and sometimes the doors would get pinched shut. Ultimately, the ’64 model reverted back to tried-and-true separate cab and bed.
Setting the Stance
Not only did Tony find one of these rare trucks, but the one he found already had character of its own. As you can see, it has been weathered but just enough to give it a unique look. All the pieces are still intact, making it the perfect candidate for a patina style build. One thing that Tony likes for his vehicles is a shockingly low stance. Achieving this ground-scraping stance is a complete Porterbuilt Version 7 Extreme chassis kit. The new IFS utilizes a pair of Classic Performance Products dropped spindles and Air Lift Dominator airbags. Out back is the two-link system with Watts link and a set of Firestone sleeve ‘bags.
Enhancing the ride quality at all four corners is a set of KYB shocks that dampen the bounce created by air ride suspension. Supplying the air for the ‘bags is a pair of Viair compressors that fed the FLO-BTS tanks, which store air regulated by the Air Lift 3H management system.
Thanks to the amazing work already performed, this truck started to take form and looked mean slammed on the ground. One thing that can really make or break a build is the rollers it sits on. Going with a classic theme, the 22x8.5-inch Coy’s C-33 wheels have the appearance of old steelies in larger sizes. The killer rollers were then paired with sticky Nitto NT555 255/30/22 tires for a slick profile. The tires were then dressed with "classic" whitewalls by Diamond Back Classics. The tires do a great job of gripping the pavement for blistering speeds and to help bring it all to a halt is a set of Classic Performance Products disc brakes for modern stopping power at every corner.
Packing a Punch
With each segment coming together wilder than the next, one of the biggest roles is the power plant. Underneath the weathered hood is a full engine setup from a donor Lincoln Mark VIII. Replacing the tired old running gear, this 4.6L DOHC V-8 brings modern power and reliability to the table. Boosting the power output is a set of MSD coils and plug wires, which are controlled by a custom ECU and wiring setup from Ron Francis. Feeding cool air to the engine is a K&N intake while a custom exhaust with Black Widow catalytic converters and mufflers releases spent gases and resonates with a nice tone as well. Tire-shredding force is transferred to a Ford 8.8-inch rearend from an automatic transmission, which is connected to a custom two-piece driveshaft.
Locking in the Look
Though this truck appears to be in disarray, it has been preserved so that it can maintain its current look for many years to come. Starting with the chassis, it has been powdercoated Wet Stone Copper to prevent corrosion and compliment the rest of the truck. As for the body, it was once all blue before Mother Nature gave it the distinctive coloring you see. To lock in the look and slow down the aging process, the exterior was coated in Hot Rod Flatz clear satin paint. One of the most sensitive pieces that are susceptible to wear with age is the windows and seals. Precision Replacement Parts came in clutch with quality products that were able to keep weather outside. Other than these new parts, the only modern pieces you will find on the outside of the truck are the Hella H4 headlights that help illuminate the way.
It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts
Function meets form inside the cab as it was upgraded with some newer features. To help keep control of the truck, an Ididit steering column was added with a Forever Sharp wheel. In front of it is a gauge package from Classic Instruments that tracks speed, RPMs and a few other vitals. For some extra style, Luis Customs reupholstered the original bench seat in materials from a Mexican blanket while California Upholstery carpeted the floor. For creature comforts, a RestoMod Air AC system was added with anodized black vents on the dash. Though the powertrain has a nice tone, there’s nothing like cruising down the boulevard to some tunes. Adding this capability, Tony hooked up a JL Audio Bluetooth controller to an amplifier that powers the Focal coax 6.5-inch speakers mounted in the kick panels.
Making an Impact
Years back, we would have never thought that a rusted-out vehicle would catch our attention as it was thought to be unacceptable at the time. The previous standard meant that you had to fix every piece and paint the body to call a build “done.” The game has definitely changed and Tony has tastefully captured the rugged look of a beat down truck and combined it with all the capabilities of a modern build. By defying the traditional rules of building a full show vehicle, this truck turns heads wherever it goes and proves that originality is king.
Love slammed vintage American trucks? You need to see "Retrofied," a 1955 F100.