Few classic pickups get less respect than the mid-70s Ford F-150. Could it be because of the hayseed image cultivated by years of being Uncle Jesse’s ride on TV’s Dukes of Hazzard? Possibly, but reason suggests that there must be more to it than that. It’s not as though it is an overtly ugly design. In fact, the deep-set single headlights and broad grille strike a much more aggressive chord than either of its domestic contemporaries. Whatever the case may be, it is a body style that merits more attention.
Bruce Tschida couldn’t agree more, and his ’76 F-150 is just the sort of truck to get the bandwagon rolling. While no single element of the truck is over-the-top radical, it is the combination of well-thought-out, well-executed modifications that make it a standout. Starting with a neglected but intact truck in need of paint, the project quickly snowballed. As owner of Lake Marion Collision, in Lakeville, Minnesota, Tschida was more than up to the challenge of a simple, nicer than stock re-spray. With the black Sikkens basecoat barely dry to the touch, Tschida and his crew began laying out and masking the flowing licks before rolling the truck back into the booth for the three-color fade. With the color down, pinstriping was the next order of business before the truck was once again put back in the booth for the final clearcoat to be laid down. After a grueling and meticulous wet sanding, the truck was pronounced ready for its final buff.
With the truck out of the paint booth and reassembled, Tschida quickly realized something was amiss. The freshly polished stainless trim and re-chromed bumpers vastly outshone the vintage cast-aluminum wheels. The old tires used to look pretty aggressive, but now looked completely inadequate in the big Ford’s massive wheel wells. What to do? The answer was obvious. Tschida realized the truck needed an altitude adjustment.
On paper, the notion of dumping the truck was a no-brainer, but physically putting the truck on the ground wasn’t to be as simple as it seemed. The problem was a complete lack of companies making the necessary parts for lowering the vintage Ford. Research led Tschida to Fat Man Fabrications and their Mustang II independent front suspension kit. The install went on without a hitch, save for a lengthy scavenger hunt for a 4X4 oil pan for the 390 (necessitated by the kit’s new crossmember). Out back, a universal Air Ride four-link replaced the archaic leaf springs and the on-board compressor allows each corner’s ride height to be independently adjusted.
Needless to say, the old oxidized aluminum wheels didn’t look any better now that the truck was on the ground. Not sure in which direction to head with the rolling stock, Tschida called on Todd Thompson at Showcar Supply. Thompson came up with a set of Boyd Coddington Smoothies, which provided a retro flavor perfect for the truck. The 18 inchers were wrapped in Toyo rubber and bolted up.
"The engine and trans were rough and needed to be gone through," said Tschida. The stock 390 has been freshened and given a mild camshaft just to add a wee bit of lope to the idle. Hedman headers, turbo mufflers, and custom dual exhaust combine to supply a muscular tone. The remainder of the driveline consists of a C6 automatic and a 9-inch rearend stuffed with 4.11 gears.
Tschida says the best single mod made to the truck was the Air Ride suspension system. "The truck rides like a car instead of an old pickup," he says. "Plus, the stance is now killer." He also likes that the ride height can be adjusted from the comfort of the now leather covered stock seats.
Love it or hate it, Tshida’s choice of platforms is refreshing. And while no single truck can be expected to repair an entire genre’s image, this is one that can do nothing but help! Even Rodney would have to approve.