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Tom King’s 1956 Ford F-100 Custom Cab Small Window

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 7/26/2018 Hot Rod Network Staff
1956 Ford F-100 Tom King-01.JPG

There are some experiences in life that are so moving they stay with you forever. More often they are private, known only to ourselves, but every now and then they bubble to the surface and help define who we are. One look at Tom King's cool truck and you'll know the one that changed him.


Tom joined the Marine Corps when he was in college and was commissioned upon graduation in 1958. He was a rifle platoon commander in the First Marine Division and attained the rank of captain before being discharged, remaining in the Marine Corps reserve until 1965. "It was a wonderful learning experience," he told us and its influence is still obvious. While Tom may have found another occupation in civilian life, working in real estate finance and development, he never really left the Corps. The proof is his beautiful 1956 F-100. It's his first custom truck and it came about because he always admired the look of 1953-1956 Fords. "They are like the deuce coupe of pickup trucks with their classic lines," he told us.

Tom found the truck on the Internet, located in Lawrenceville, Georgia. It was on consignment at a restoration shop and had received a cosmetic restoration with some suspension and engine work. The red truck looked good and although he was able to drive it home, there were a few issues needing correction. Living in Jacksonville, Florida, Tom made a great connection with Jim Mercer of the Street Rod Shop in Orange Park, Florida, the place where some of the minor problems with the truck were corrected. Tom couldn't help but notice the impressive upgrades that Mercer had made to other vehicles in the shop and decided he would take his own truck a step further. The list grew and the sophistication of the Ford increased, but it was not a quick process. During the four-year upgrade, the decision was made to completely disassemble the truck; when the sheetmetal was dipped and stripped, it uncovered some serious body issues.

As a result of prior repairs, many of the parts were beyond saving and after a painful assessment everything but the cab, the hood, a fender, and one running board were replaced. Once the structural rigidity of the body was reestablished, upgrades to the frame were next, boxing it for strength and installing a 19-gallon fuel tank between the rear rails. The frame, suspension pieces, and inner fender panels were all powdercoated in Silver Vein for looks. Suspension mods were next, beginning with rejuvenating the 1979 Firebird front clip that came with the truck. Global West upper and lower tubular A-arms modernized the frontend and a Chassis Engineering ladder bar upgrade was added to hold the 1968 Monte Carlo 10-bolt rear, also on the Effie when it was purchased. Strange coilovers stabilize all four corners.

To take advantage of the crisp new suspension, the 302 V-8 was sent to Jasper Engines in Indiana for a complete rebuild. All the internals were upgraded and Tom opted for a showy Holley Tri-Power setup with progressive linkage that works the three two-barrel carbs. The center carb provides economical cruising but all three can smoke the rear tires when Tom hits the long skinny pedal. MSD electronic ignition lights the fire and BBK shorty headers feed a pair of Flowmasters, creating a mellow performance rumble. A March Performance serpentine belt drive system powers all the accessories, the oversized Griffin radiator is augmented with a 16-inch SPAL electric fan, and the engine room benefits from a smoothed firewall and chrome 302 emblem. The potent V-8 is matched up to a Ford AOD four-speed trans that turns 3.73 gears.

1956-ford-f-100-tom-king-rear-three-quarter-02.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 1956-ford-f-100-tom-king-rear-three-quarter-02.jpg

Once the powertrain upgrades were complete, the attention shifted to the interior, beginning with plush Cadillac De Ville eight-way power seats, complete with center armrest, console, and embroidered F-100 emblems. The tilt and telescoping 1962 Cad steering column is equipped with a Lokar cruise control and topped with a Lecarra wheel. Changes to the dash included new paint along with a separate panel added below to handle the clock, stereo, and power door lock controls. The original gauges were refurbished and the auxiliary tach from Super Pro keeps track of the high-revving V-8. Creature comforts include power windows, power door locks, and Vintage Air for those warm Florida summers. The Custom Autosound stereo controls the 10-CD changer hidden below the center armrest. The setup fills the cab with old-time rock 'n' roll and an occasional Souza March when Tom feels the need for a little Marine motivation. Mike's Auto Upholstery in Callahan, Florida, did the stitchwork, covering the seats and door panels with Soft Touch Perforated blue and gray vinyl, then accenting the interior with dark blue carpet and Marine Corps floormats.

Tom liked the lines of the classic F-100 so body mods on the Custom Cab Small Window 1956 were kept to a minimum. The tilt forward hood now properly displays the detailed engine and a new Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts bed replaced the original. Oak planks separated by stainless steel strips provide a traditional look to the bed floor while custom oak side rails match the oak inserts on the running boards. Tom's pride in his Marine Corps heritage can be seen in the bed, beginning with the World War I Marine Corps ammo box, now holding the truck's battery and the special oak cradle for the bed-mounted spare tire, also sporting a Marine Corps emblem. An additional Marine emblem was added to the front bumper and there is an Eagle Globe and Anchor on the rear bumper. The Marine Corps license plate shows the year and model of the truck. (No doubt there will be a few more Corps-related accents since those of us in the Corps know you can't be a Marine without bragging about it!) The final step was paint, with the Honda Blue Pearl and BMW Metallic Silver sprayed by the Street Rod Shop. The truck rolls on American Racing 15x7 wheels and 70 series BFGoodrich rubber.

The truck has been complete since 2009 and it sees occasional show duty and is a weekend cruiser. When we asked Tom if he was happy with the way the truck turned out, he smiled and said, "I've told my wife when I check out, just put me in the Ford and bury us both with a big backhoe!" No doubt, when the time comes, he'll be in Dress Blues.

1956 Ford F-100 Custom Cab Small Window


Frame: Original frame boxed and powdercoated

Rearend / Ratio: GM 12-bolt / 3.73 by Jasper Engines and Transmissions

Brakes: 1979 Firebird power front discs, 1970 Impala power drum rear brakes

Rear Suspension: Chassis Engineering ladder bar with Strange coilovers

Front Suspension: 1979 Firebird front clip, Strange coilovers

Steering: 1979 Firebird power steering

Gas Tanks: 19-gallon tank from a 1970 Barracuda


Engine: Mustang 302 built by Jasper Engines and Transmissions

Heads: Stock/Jasper Engines and Transmissions

Valve Covers: Satin black with Ford and V-8 logos

Manifold / Induction: Holley Tri-Power

Ignition: Mallory MSD electronic ignition

Headers: Ceramic-coated BBK Shortys

Exhaust / Mufflers: 2.5-inch exhaust and Flowmasters

Transmission: Ford AOD / Jasper Engines and Transmissions

Shifter: Column


Style: Custom Cab, Small Window

Fenders: Stock

Hood: Tilt forward hood

Grille: Stock, painted to match the body

Bed: Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts with oak floor, side rails, and running board inserts

Paint Type / Color: Honda Midnight Blue Pearl and BMW Silver metallic

Headlights / Taillights: Stock headlights / Reproduction taillights with blue dots

Outside Mirrors: Stock

Bumpers: Stock, chrome


Dashboard: Painted to match the exterior, auxiliary lower panel added

Gauges: Factory gauges with auxiliary Super Pro tach

Air Conditioning: Vintage Air

Stereo: Custom Autosound with 10-CD changer

Steering Column: 1962 Cadillac tilt/telescoping with Lokar cruise control

Steering Wheel: Lecarra

Seats: 2003 Cadillac De Ville, eight-way power

Upholstery By: Mike's Auto Upholstery, Callahan, FL

Material / Color: Soft Touch perforated vinyl/blue and gray

Carpet: Blue carpet over bedliner and Dynamat


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