BEING commercial vehicles, pick-up trucks normally live hard lives, so it’s rare to find a survivor in good condition, and Travis Fink’s F100 was no exception. He found a Californian import as a left-hook roughie, then set about swapping the steering over and getting it sorted, but project snowball took flight.
This article was first published in Street Machine Hot Rod magazine #20, 2019
Behind the angry SBC lives a three-speed transbraked TH400 and TCE converter, while the rear end has a 9in filled with floating hubs and 35-spline axles. The brakes are EL discs on the front and VT discs out back, with a custom under-dash booster and master combo
The immaculately presented F100 blew up the internet after it was unveiled at MotorEx 2019, wowing people with its immaculate fit and finish, epic pro street engineering and attention to detail.
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“It took about nine years start to finish,” Travis says. “I always wanted a pro street look for it; I actually started it with the idea of making it a pro street burnout car, but it’s a bit too nice for that now. Typically when people build these trucks they have heaps of custom parts and modifications, but I wanted to keep it a classic shape.”
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“I started with a left-hook truck out of California,” says Travis. “I did the right-hand-drive conversion as I felt it would have been worth more converted. I stumbled across a rusty right-hook cab for $500, but the dash was good, so it was perfect for me”
Starting with the chassis, Travis beefed up the original weak 1955 frame. A notch was added to the rails in the rear and a parallel four-link and AccuAir air suspension system inserted to achieve the perfect ride height. Up front, Travis grafted the front end from an EL Falcon to the F100’s frame, instantly improving geometry and safety.
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“I grafted on an EL Falcon front end to get independent suspension, disc brakes, a steering rack, the whole lot,” Travis says. “The Falcon rails actually line up to the original ’55 F100 horns! The EL power steering rack is mated to a 1970s F100 collapsible column, and the engineer was happy because the EL/EF/XH Falcon front end is rated to a one-tonne capacity, so it is sweet in the F100”
Most people wouldn’t notice all that hard work on the chassis, though, as they’re blinded by the beauty that is the super-smooth Tiffany Blue body. While classic pick-ups traditionally suffered from poor fit and finish on their bodies from new, Travis’s has taken some impressive tinware, including a gold medal for Paintwork and a silver for Bodywork at MotorEx 2019.
The Effie’s awesome attitude comes from air suspension all ’round, with Shockwave air struts used up front and traditional bellows-type ’bags in the rear. “I didn’t want it to sit on the ground, but the height it sits at I feel is perfect,” says Travis
Dave Adams from Top Job Paint & Panel is the wizard who spent bulk time getting the gaps, sheet metal and paint finish to the award-winning level, adding a custom sheet-metal tub to hide the new rear suspension and fat 15x12in Weld rear wheels. After putting in the hard yards, Dave also laid down Travis’s pick of custom Tiffany Blue two-pack as an ode to the truck’s original hue.
“The colour was originally aqua and I always liked aqua,” says Travis. “I also liked the commercial look with the painted front and the white touches, and I am so happy with how it turned out.
“When it came back from paint, the car turned out way better than I thought it would, so I knew I needed to build a stronger motor. I called Adam Rogash from MPW Performance and John Pilla from Powerhouse Engines.”
MPW Performance and Powerhouse Engines are two shops that have built a bunch of ridiculously fast, super-detailed and superbly engineered street machines, some of which are bona fide seven-second street cars. Now, at this point all Ford fans are probably going to throw codes and flip desks when they realise Travis’s truck features the heartbeat of America up front.
Hidden in the front end are twin air-to-air intercoolers using PWR cores, custom-welded by MPW, while Race Radiators built a custom core using a single electric thermo fan on the back. Vitals are displayed on a Haltech digital dash in the cabin
“I was an apprentice when I started building it so funds were a little tighter back then,” explains Travis. “Initially I wanted to have an under-bonnet blown Clevo but I realised I’d have to cut the entire firewall out to fit it. I had a small-block Chev sitting there with a Kingswood sump on it, and after a few beers we had it sitting in the bay within half an hour and without hitting anything.
“The future is turbos with the power you can make and the driveability they enjoy, so Johnny Pilla from Powerhouse Engines built an engine capable of holding up to 2000hp.”
Starting with a Dart small-block Chev block, custom JE pistons, Callies Magnum crank and Carrillo Boost Max H-beam rods push a total of 400 cubes, while a Cam Motion hydraulic-roller cam, Crane Ultra-Pro lifters, calico bearings and an ASR dry sump oil pan round out a seriously tough bottom end. A five-stage Peterson dry sump pump keeps the black gold circulating at the right pressure, with the oil tank mounted out back in the tray.
Up top, the Dart 18-degree cylinder heads are fitted with good gear like Jesel rockers, titanium intake valves, Inconel exhaust valves, custom Crow pushrods, and K-Motion valve springs, while a Jesel belt drive also got the nod. The custom Brodix EFI intake manifold wears a 90-degree elbow on top, with 2200cc injectors pushing a choice of pump 98 or E85 fuel that is supplied by a pair of MagnaFuel 750 pumps.
Inside, the Effie is a far nicer place to be than a stock ’55 thanks to a customised original bench seat trimmed in big-buck Muirhead leather used on exotics like Aston Martins. “Just the leather for the front seat cost me $5000 or $6000,” sighs Travis. “I tried to use nice materials to finish the truck off”
The Roots-type blower was replaced with a pair of mirror-image Garrett 35/82R snails, with a Haltech Elite 2500 wired in to control the angry small-block and help it produce 1300hp on 20psi.
Despite having enough power to reverse the earth’s rotation, the truck isn’t heading to the track just yet. “I’m not going to use it much until after Summernats next year, and then we’ll start using it more,” Travis says. “The lack of rollcage doesn’t bother me but it bothers the safety guys, so if it runs an eight I’ll be over the moon. Everything we’ve done on the truck is over-engineered and I tried to complement what was there from the factory.”
1955 FORD F100
Paint: Custom Tiffany Blue
Brand: Dart 400ci small-block Chev
Induction: Custom Brodix EFI
Turbos: Garrett 35/82R mirror-image
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Heads: Dart 18-degree
Camshaft: Cam Motion hydraulic-roller
Conrods: Carrillo Boost Max H-beam
Pistons: JE custom
Crank: Callies Magnum
Oil system: Peterson 5-stage dry sump pump, ASR pan
Fuel system: 2 x MagnaFuel 750 pumps, 2200cc injectors,
Cooling: Custom Race Radiators
Exhaust: Custom MPW
Gearbox: Transbraked TH400
Diff: 9in, 35-spline axles, floating hubs
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Airbags with e-Level management, EL Falcon front end, EL Falcon steering rack, 1970s F100 column
Rear: Airbags with e-Level management, notched chassis, parallel 4-link
Brakes: EL Falcon discs (f), VT Commodore discs (r)
Master cylinder: Custom under-dash XA booster & master
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld; 17x8 (f), 15x12 (r)
Rubber: Bridgestone (f), M/T Pro 315 (r)
MPW Performance; Powerhouse Engines; Protrans Performance Automatics; MBW Kustoms Mordialloc; McBride Auto Upholstery; special thanks to my wife and family