John Maffucci discovered early that racing was in his blood. As a child, he would sit on the curb near his home in Bedford, Pennsylvania, watching the race cars heading for Cumberland, Maryland, on their way to the East Coast SCCA National Championship. John built his first hot rod when he was 14 and started dirt-track racing that same year. From jalopies, he moved on to late-model cars, then after high school, he moved to Daytona, because he was certain someone would hire him. Once reality set in, he became a short-order cook in a bar while awaiting his big break. It took awhile, but he eventually got a factory ride with Mazda in the IMSA Camel GT series and was soon spending quality time in the winner's circle. He moved from road racing in 1996, when the opportunity arose for him to do a Bonneville program with Ford. John took an '03 Mustang Cobra, equipped with Ford's 5.0 Cammer motor, and set a C/P class record of 178 miles an hour.
How does one go from a record-setting Mustang to a vintage Ford pickup? The '55 Ford F-100 in the photos is the culmination of years of experience and not what it seems. Found in an old chicken coop, the truck was originally going to be a shop truck for RPM Ranch, John's fabrication and restoration shop in Dawsonville, Georgia. When Ford got wind of the project and expressed interest in displaying the truck at the SEMA show, everything changed. Transitioning from a "chicken-coop find" to a Best of Show-winning, high-speed hauler took 18 months and the buildup can be seen on the Ford Racing Parts website at www.fordracingparts.com/builds/racingbuilds.asp. The goal during the buildup was to retain the original Ford look, while keeping the performance surprises out of sight. "I wanted the body to be traditional," said John. "The only thing not original is the opening up front for the intercooler and the exhaust out the back." The body sheetmetal, steel fenders, and bed are all Ford, but the bed is the giveaway. One look through the Lexan floor and you begin to understand just how drastically Ford's original design has been modified. In fact, the buildup incorporated the very same record-setting powertrain that put Maffucci's '03 Mustang in the record books.
Randy Powell of Powell Paint and Body in Dahlonega, Georgia, got the project started by bringing the body back to like-new condition, thanks to cab corners, fenders, running boards, and bed from Dennis Carpenter. Once the body was complete, fabricator Graeme "Rabbit" Bartils from North Georgia Fabrications began updating the chassis by boxing the original '55 framerails and welding in cross bracing. Bright, lipstick-red powdercoating by Evans Performance added beauty to its newfound strength. While cosmetics were important, this truck is not just another pretty face. It had to perform and the suspension work began in earnest.
The reworked rails were fitted with a Heidt's Mustang II front end, stabilized by Pro Shocks and Eibach Springs. For something genuinely different, John chose the '03 Mustang Cobra independent rearend that came from the Bonneville car. Maffucci said it was amazing how easily the independent rear was adapted to the vintage Ford chassis. Very few changes were required, although they did fabricate new lower control arms to hold the Pro Shock coilovers and rear Eibach springs. Stopping power was enhanced, thanks to some 13-inch '03 Mustang Cobra disks up front and 11-1/2-inch versions in the rear. A Flaming River steering column and wheel control the Mustang power rack and pinion unit. To get the chassis rolling, they chose a set of 18x8-inch BBS one-piece forged wheels with a six-layer Diamond Graphite paint finish. BFGoodrich Comp T/A radials add both looks and traction. The final touch was a Lexan bed floor that has spectators marveling at the unique chassis upgrades.