Trace the lineage of kustoms back to where it all began and there's a sub-genre that's been there right from the start. That's right, I'm talking about kustom pickups. Whether they were shop trucks-and let's face it, there is hardly a better way to promote your business than by having a rolling billboard seen around town-or just kustoms that happened to be commercially inclined, they form an important part of our history, from the DuVall/Kurtis SoCal Plating '35 Phaeton (OK, so it wasn't strictly a truck), through the R&C Dream Truck, Ala Kart, Kopper Kart, and even the Alexander brothers' Deora. In fact, it was an old stock-bodied, but wildly scalloped, F-100 that Tommy the Greek painted in '55 that inspired the appearance of the truck you see splashed across these pages.
Owner Craig Hahn had built several Chevy trucks, but never a Ford, when he first laid eyes on this particular truck back in the early '90s, though it looked nothing like this. In a fresh coat of purple primer, then-owner Ken Kent wasn't ready to sell at the time, though the truck had really caught Craig's attention. "I asked Ken if he would be willing to part with it and he politely declined my invitation," Craig told us. "After that, each time I would see Ken we would discuss his not wanting to sell the truck, and my request of him not to be pissed when I built one just like it. Eventually, about a year later, the truck was finally for sale. He'd bought a Merc and wanted some seed money to begin the project. Knowing very well I would have paid him a premium price, Ken set an extremely fair value and the deal was done."
Craig bought what he considered to be a project, but ended up using it as a daily driver, putting more than 50,000 miles on it during trips to work and many shows. The only alteration he made in all that time was to add flames to all four fenders. "One year at Paso, Bo Huff's son, who was about 12 years old at the time, was laying flames in fine-line tape on his dad's coupe, then pulling them off and doing it over. I offered him $20 to flame all four fenders of my truck, then went to Wal-Mart, bought some house paint, thinned it, and brushed the flames in. I drove it like that for six years."
Around Christmas 2005, the pickup made it to the top of Craig's project pile. The bed came off, as did all the paint and plenty of Bondo that had to be 30 years old, including a wad that had been applied over the hammered-in vent on the passenger side of the cowl! The truck had been chopped and channeled by an unknown builder back in the '70s, so Craig set about taking the body mods a step further, pie-cutting and reverse-sectioning the front fenders so they aligned perfectly with the '61 Chrysler headlights and grille surround that now look like they were factory fitted. Pontiac skirt stars were added on a one-off insert to complete the front end, along with a rolled pan.
Moving back, the side glass was swapped for one-piece items, the door handles removed, the gas filler erased from the cab corner, twin '59 Caddy taillights frenched on each rear fender, and a rolled pan added below the smoothed tailgate, prior to Kustom Mike's in San Leandro, California, laying down the House of Kolor hues, starting with a blue base. This was followed by fine green 'flake, which the painter, who was used to painting lowriders, said was too bright. Craig had faith though, and once the black scallops and details were added, he admitted it was toned down just enough. There's also gold pearl in the mix to provide a little pop to the finish. "We call it the Poison Dart Frog because of the colors," Craig said. "It is basically a green and black version of that Tommy the Greek-painted F-100."
Mechanically, the truck is typical of a kustom-it's functional and gets the body closer to Mother Earth, but isn't flashy. The stock chassis still runs its straight-axle, modified by Craig to accept Corvette calipers and rotors, fed by a Firebird master cylinder. Monroe air shocks and an on-board compressor fine-tune the ride height at each end, though Craig is contemplating fitting airbags, but says it's presently just high enough not to scrape. A '61 Chevy 283 resides under the hood, with a trio of Rochesters on an Edelbrock manifold with matching valve covers, though that's about it for dress-up goodies, since "it's a kustom; I keep the hood closed," according to Craig.
The hood may stay closed on a kustom, but the interior should be something to write home about, and that's certainly the case here, with a custom-made headliner and bows, as well as a heavily modified seat from an early '60s pickup, all finished in black and cream Naugahyde by Rick's Upholstery in San Leandro. The dash is finished in a complementary white pearl drum wrap material. "I'm kind of proud of that dash, as I did it myself," Craig told us, seeing himself as more of a project manager than a totally hands-on builder. Of course, now that the truck is finished, it begs the question of what he drives daily. "I drive the F-100 as much now as I did before. In fact, I drove it to work today." Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?
Rod & Custom Feature Car
San Leandro, California
1955 Kustom F100
The original '55 Effie frame still lives under the bodywork, though the rear end has been C'd for axle clearance. Even the stock leaf springs are in place, the low stance achieved thanks to a 5-inch channel job and fine-tuned with the use of air shocks. Though F-100 steering boxes are sought after by hot rodders, Craig swapped his out in favor of a Dodge Power Wagon unit, turning the stock spindles that now wear Vette rotors and calipers thanks to a little homebrewed ingenuity. A junkyard GM proportioning valve does a fine job evening out the line pressure between those discs and the drums at each end of the 9-inch rearend.
A '61 vintage 283 small-block with Power Pak heads nestles between the chassis 'rails. Three small-base Rochester two-barrels feed fuel through an Edelbrock inlet, with Hedman headers clearing spent gases into straight pipes. Backing the 283 is a TH350 with a B&M shift kit, a combination that has proved reliable on a daily basis for a number of years now.
Wheels And Tires
Those chromed steelies came from Pete Paulson's House of Wheels and measure 15x7 at each corner. Whitewall radials from Coker provide the nostalgic appearance with modern handling.
Body And Paint
Chopped and channeled sometime in the '70s, the pickup now also features pinched front fenders, shaved handles and gas filler, and a smoothed tailgate, as well as rolled pans front and back. A quartet of Caddy bullets illuminates out the rear, while '61 Chrysler headlights and grille with Pontiac stars make a bold statement below the hood, which will soon be getting a tilt assembly to improve its fit. Green fine 'flake with black scallops and pinstriping by James Race was based on a Tommy the Greek design from 1955, while Allied Glass in Castro Valley, California, made sure the greenhouse was as good as new.
Rick's Upholstery custom-made the top bows and headliner, as well as covered the much-modified seat, doors, and kick panels in black and cream Naugahyde, using pleated inserts and black piping to contrast with the cream. Pearl white drum wrap covers the dash, which houses Auto Meter gauges above the '65 Riviera column. Stereo? We don't need no stinkin' stereo, Craig preferring the symphony of a V-8 with straight pipes!