During one's journey building a custom classic truck, we are sometimes introduced to many unique challenges that test our knowledge and our patience. Resurrecting something from its mechanical existence of decades ago can become a testimonial to one's dedication and perseverance.
As staff members of Truckin' magazine, we are blessed and fortunate to travel the country covering shows and photographing the most gorgeous custom late- and early model trucks on the planet. But what makes our job so great is the opportunity to meet the folks who own and have built the trucks. The personal stories and experiences that are shared with us gives each truck its own unique personality.
During the 2001 F-100 Supernationals in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, we came across this gorgeous '56 Ford F-100, which is owned by Arthur Hutchins and his wonderful wife Kathy from Huntington, Maryland. Hutchins' red '56 received Best of Show in the '53-to-'56 class. The incredible story of how it came about was due to a military parachuting accident in March of 1983.
Hutchins, a high-altitude parachutist in the Green Beret, was out on maneuvers, practicing for an assault in the Middle East when his chute malfunctioned. Although he was fortunate to survive the fall, he received multiple fractures and internal injuries that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Confined to a wheelchair during his recovery, he needed something to focus on, so he decided to purchase a '56 F-100 in July of 1983 as a therapeutic project. Fortunately, Arthur worked from his wheelchair for only a short period of time (but it certainly seemed like a lifetime) until he was blessed by the Lord, able to regain his mobility and walk again.
During his continued recovery period, he performed his shade tree mechanic abilities in his driveway and garage. Upon completion, the '56 became Hutchin's daily driver until 1992, after which he parked it in his dad's basement garage in North Carolina for the next five years.
In 1998, Hutchins and some of his close friends, Courtney Accipiter, Lance Accipiter, and Ronnie Carroll, decided to dedicate many late-night hours as they accomplished a complete frame-off masterpiece in only six months, accumulating 2,000 hours in the process. As the '56 was being loaded onto the trailer for its debut at the 1999 F-100 Super Nationals in Pigeon Forge, they were still assembling parts on it while the paint was still wet.
The frame was stripped and boxed, a TCI independent front suspension (IFS) with a power steering rack was installed, and 3-inch drop spindles along with coilover shocks achieved the in-the-weeds front stance. The rear is set up with a four-bar coilover and a Panhard bar. Stainless steel brake lines feed fluid from the power booster to the power disc bakes at all four corners responsible for those peel-your-face-off stops. Hutchins' red pride rolls on 16x7-inch American Torque Thrust IIs with P225/60R16 BFGoodrich rubber up front and 18x10-inch American Torque Thrust IIs with BFGoodrich Sport Truck T/A P345/55R18 chunkys in the rear.
A '97 502ci big-block Bow Tie crate engine is shoehorned between the framerails. Electrical energy is supplied by a MSD coil, distributor, and 8mm ignition wires. Jet-Hot-coated stock exhaust manifolds flow into triple chamber Flowmaster mufflers along with 2-1/2-inch-diameter exhausts, producing a throaty thunder. A Turbo 400 transmission with a 2,600 stall converter is linked to a Currie Ford 9 inch stuffed with 3.83 gears and 32-splined axles.
The all-steel '56 Ford F-100 is presented in its original trim, from polished stainless bumper to polished stainless bumper. The immaculate bodywork and flawless Red Vermillion paint was accomplished by Lance Accipiter from Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
As you swing open the door, a filled and smoothed dash with Dakota Digital Instrumentation replaces the original gauges. A late-model Chevrolet bench seat was shed of its original skin and re-skinned with Italian bone-white leather, the same leather that covers the cab's headliner and door panels. Vintage Air controls the interior climate, while a custom tilt column is capped with a La Carrera white bicycle-wrapped leather steering wheel. Audio entertainment is all Alpine. Under the feet, a cozy tan wool carpet finishes off the interior's decor.