1956 Ford F100 - Reflections
Dad's Classic Truck Dream
Kenny Stephens and his younger brother, Tim, had a wonderful relationship with their dad, Lamar Stephens from Buford, Georgia. Lamar, an upholsterer for 40 years, had a successful family business where Kenny worked alongside his dad learning the craft. Lamar always had the desire to build a custom '56 Ford F-100. After searching for years, he purchased his dream truck from his friend Mike Chesser. Lamar and his two sons began the build together. Kenny did most of the light work and was supposed to apply the paint, while brother Tim did the fabrication, suspension, and engine duties. Lamar was responsible for the bodywork. While the Stephen's men were working together on the F-100, Lamar was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even during his chemo treatments he kept working on his dream ride.
The previous owner, Mike Chesser, had grafted a '77 Oldsmobile Cutlass front clip to the original '56 Ford F-100 boxed framerails. The front clip included factory upper and lower control arms, spindles, and factory disc brakes. With a hearty engine swap planned for the Ford, suitable wheels and tires were chosen. Weld Racing 15x7-inch Drag Stars were wrapped in Michelin 215/70R15 rubber up front and matching 16x14-inch Weld wheels were consumed in chubby 31x16 Hoosier meats in the rear. Tim fabricated the four-link rear setup incorporating a Panhard bar. A Ford 9-inch rearend was stuffed with 4.11 Richmond gears, Auburn posi unit, and 31-spline axles for bulletproof strength.
Under the hood we discovered a '72 Chevy 350ci cast iron block with 461 heads that were machined by Tim's shop, Stephens Automotive in Buford, Georgia. Tim machined the block to accept a 400 cast-iron crank with a set of 400 3.75 connecting rods. Adding a 0.030-inch overbore of each cylinder and the 3.75-inch stroke increased the engines cubic inches to 382.6 that was rounded off to a 383ci known as a mighty Mouse 383ci stroker. The powerful small-block was backed up to a prepped 700-R4 automatic transmission. The engine’s good looks start with a beautiful Concept One billet aluminum pulley system. A chrome Powermaster alternator keeps the electrical juices flowing, while Cal Custom smooth aluminum valve covers were dipped in chrome to match the eye candy. Mike Chesser fabricated a cool custom engine cover that was also chromed. Two-inch-diameter ceramic-coated Hooker headers merge into a 2-inch exhaust system that is quieted by a couple of Flowmaster mufflers. The Griffin aluminum four-row radiator maintains a cool engine temperature while cruising or running hard. The mighty Mouse powerplant produces 425 hp and has no problem lighting up the chubby rear Hoosiers.
While undergoing chemo treatments, Lamar and Kenny massaged, block-sanded, and prepped the body. After all the years that Lamar had built rods, customs, and muscle cars, he had never sprayed the final coat of paint. One morning, Kenny was putting on his paint mask and about to walk into the paint booth, only to be stopped by his dad, "What are you doing?" he asked. "I'm going to spray the truck Dad", Kenny replied. Lamar looked his son in the eye and said, "No you're not, I'm going to paint it." This '56 Ford pickup was his first paintjob. The reflections of the flawless PPG Black paint Lamar buried in multicoats of clear was a testament to the hidden talent he always had. He was very proud of his flawless paintjob and even now, the paint draws a crowd.
Opening the doors, your eyes are directed to the silver and birds-eye maple dash, with a Dolphin gauge cluster and white-faced Dolphin vintage gauges. An '88 Cadillac telescope/tilt steering column was capped with a LeCarra 14-inch leather-wrapped steering wheel. A Vintage Air A/C system is responsible for keeping the cab's interior cool during those hot Georgia days and nights. A custom leather-covered waterfall center console separates the '92 Mazda 929 bucket seats that were reworked and covered with BMW champagne and black leather. The door panels were also covered with matching BMW champagne and black leather with birds-eye wooden inserts. A one-piece champagne headliner covers the cab ceiling. The floor features Daytona loop carpet. Tim installed the traveling tunes that are produced from a Clarion head unit powered by a Clarion amp and delivered through a pair of 6-inch speakers located in the door panels and a pair of 6x9-inch speakers located behind the seats.
Lamar, Kenny and Tim took the '56 to the '06 Ford F-100 Supernationals where they received a Top 10 trophy. Lamar took the trophy to church to share with many of the folks that had helped with the project and prayed for his recovery from his cancer. At his show and tell session at church he designated his pallbearers. Lamar passed away a couple of weeks later. At Lamar's service, Mike Chesser said, "Lamar had finished and accomplished what he had set out to do in his life." Lamar was blessed with a wonderful family and every time the family takes the F-100 out for a cruise they know Lamar is ridin' shotgun, with a big smile on his face.