Street Rod Life

The Trading Game

56 Ford F1 31
Building a project F1 by trading parts, paint and labor –
Words & Photos: Chadly Johnson

One of the benefits of our overloaded world of instant news and social media outlets is the ability to glance into the shops of builders from around the world. You may feel different about social media if you have a teenager in the house, but when harnessed properly, it can be a great tool for inspiration and motivation on your own project.

1951 F1

Who would have guessed that the Sea Glass Pearl color from a Prius would look so perfect on a hot rod pickup?

I kept tabs on the build of this 1951 F1 by Jeff Jones of Monroe Center, Illinois, through social media. I was intrigued by his posts showing the metal and body work phases, but when Jeff laid down the perfect tone of pearl blue on the truck’s massaged body, I knew I had to see it in person.

The ‘51 made its debut last spring at Vintage Toque Fest, one of the Midwest’s premier traditional hot rod events. As you can see, the truck lived up to my expectations and we set up a photo shoot utilizing downtown Dubuque, Iowa, as the perfect back drop.

Like many of today’s hot rodders, Jeff was introduced to hobby by his father who built cars on the side for extra money. He and his brother John were mostly tool gofers, but it sparked a passion for old iron at a young age. In fact, at just 14 years old, he and his brother were attending college auto body courses!

1951 F1

Care was taken to hide the tailgate hinges while the custom bumpers were moved in closer to the body. Jeff also raised the truck bed to accommodate the air suspension system and stance.

Jeff’s first car was a ‘64 Chevy II, then took a left turn during the mini-trucking era, but eventually found his way back to classic cars again with his first full build, a ‘63 Chevy II convertible. The stages of buiding followed with a few more projects, each sold off to fund the next one. Fast forward a few titles and we arrive at this Ford pickup.

Another part of building a hot rod is staying within your own budget and as most involved in the hobby knows, selling parts, pieces and labor all help when it comes budgets. Jeff enjoys the body and paint side of things and acquired the ’51 in trade for spraying a ’66 Mustang. The truck arrived in pieces as its previous owner took it apart as a project then sat dormant for the next decade.

Once the forgotten relic was in Jeff’s garage, he got busy, starting with the suspension.  The perfect stance and smooth ride were accomplished by a combination of a mustang II front end and 4 bar out back. Stance is assisted by a custom airbag setup at each corner.

More parts-for-paint took place when Jeff shot a ’62 Falcon in return for a 302c.i. from a ’68 Mustang and an AOD transmission pilfered from a Crown Vic.  The small block was kept fairly stock with a nice dress of paint and accessories to keep under the hood tidy and simple.

With the chassis and driveline dialed in, Jeff went to work on the sheet metal. The cab was straight and solid but required a little floor and tunnel massaging for the updated driveline. The fenders and running boards were in rough shape so Jeff opted for fiberglass replacements to save his time on the metal work.

1951 F1

A smooth running 302 was checked out and cleaned up with some finned valve covers, headers and an HEI style distributor for reliability. Combined with an AOD trans, the truck simply hauls on down the road.

The bed is custom built with a raised floor to accommodate for the air ride suspension.  If you look closely you’ll also notice a host of subtle touches such as hidden hinges in the tailgate, tucking the bumpers tighter to the body, and hiding the air controls were the radio would have been.  Custom bullets were also made to accent and create flow throughout the truck from the hubcaps to components under the hood.

When it came to selecting a color for the F1 Jeff wanted to stick with an OEM color, primarily due to the ease of touch up. (Not something everyone takes into consideration until you get your first rock chip and want to touch it up.)  Ironically Jeff found the perfect tone in a factory Toyota Prius color called Sea Glass Pearl.

1951 F1

Jeff enjoys body work and paint, but left the interior to his pal Mike Lawson of Kustom Image Upholstery. The tuck and roll, swoppy shifter and white face gauges in the clean factory dash are just spot-on. The ’54 Ford Steering wheel crowns it all off.

Moving inside the cab we find a classically custom interior stitched by the crazy talented Mike Lawson of Kustom Image Upholstery.  Mike crafted a period perfect tuck and roll upholstery job that exactly matches the truck’s exterior. The dash is clean with its factory lines and a set of white faced gauges fit the color theme throughout.

As with many projects with a deadline, things seem to always come down to a mad thrash and Jeff credits his brother John and cousin Dan Hatfield for helping get the F1 road ready for the Vintage Torque Fest weekend.  The drive to the event in Dubuque doubled as the truck’s shakedown run, but the cruise was uneventful and a great weekend was had by all.

As we were putting this article together, we learned that after a number of shows and smooth cruises, someone made Jeff an offer on the ’51 that he just couldn’t turn down. Not to worry though, there’s already a ’54 Ford in the garage that will have some serious custom touches and throughout – and from what we’ve seen on social media, we can’t wait to see the finished product!