Rod & Custom Feature Car
Owner contact info:

Tom Pagano
Rancho Cordova, California
1953 Ford F-100

Though extensively modified, the frame under the Pearl is the same one it came with in 1953. Otto incorporated the entire driveline from a '70 Ford pickup, which required him to make a front crossmember from steel stock and bits and pieces of the '70 crossmember. He made a transmission crossmember from a '50s-era Ford.

Though only twice as many beams as an earlier axle, Ford's twin I-beam front suspension is considerably more complicated. As installed it made the truck sit too high, so Tom Pagano took a pair of stock beams to Mor-Drop in Oakland and had them bent so he could lower the truck with shorter springs. Sherm's Custom Chrome Plating in Sacramento finished them to match the rest of the undercarriage. Gone is the hulking F-100 steering box; Otto replaced it with a manual Torino box...and plated it too.

Otto used the split driveshaft and rear axle from the '70 Ford pickup. To make the tail sit lower, Otto reversed the spring eyes and flipped the forward mount. He also transferred the Traction Master traction bar brackets from the old Spicer axle to the new 9-inch.

The '70 360 was almost brand new when Otto bought it, so it's largely untouched. In place of the iron manifold is a 3x2 intake and its attendant Holleys from a 406 Ford. The carbs wear O'Brien Truckers air filter housings and the engine wears Edelbrock valve covers. The Mallory dual-point was high tech in its day, but Tom updated it with a Pertronix breakerless module. Otto fabricated the pipes from 2-inch mandrel bends. They dump into 4-inch pipes that turn down just ahead of the rear axle.

Behind the 360 is the C6 that came with it. For security's sake, Ed Willets rebuilt it; however, it's entirely stock except for the polished finish. Tom did use one piece of modern equipment on it: a Gennie shifter.

Wheels & Tires
When the Mountain Pearl appeared in Hot Rod, it wore early pickup or cut-down '40-48 centers with Bell Auto Parts accessory caps. The visible angled drop centers suggest that Otto had the wheels reassembled with reversed stock rims. He likely got the deep rear-wheel offset by using reversed Buick rims. Right now the Pearl wears chromed '49 Mercury rims up front and 7-inch pickup rims out back. They sport Merc caps and Coker Classic G-78 and J-78 white-wall tires.

Body & Paint
Where do we start? Otto and Bill Dickey pinched the nose and Otto fabricated a new grille surround out of 2-inch tubing. He floated the '58 Lincoln headlights on expanded metal, and between those he installed a '55 Chevy pickup grille that he cut down, inverted, and filled with perforated metal and drawer pulls. They defined a license plate cove in the front apron and pushed back the center. After filling the stock bumper bracket holes, Otto cut out new ones in the shape of the running lights that he made from the tips of '58 Olds bumpers and their reverse lights. Otto and Bill chopped the top 5 inches at the windshield and 31/2 inches at the rear window. They elected to stretch the roof rather than angling the windshield posts. Otto had a local sheetmetal shop press-brake the rear roll pan, which he recessed in the same fashion as the front. Otto sunk '58 Chevy taillights into rear cans that he made from more 1/4 inch tubing and sheet. He fabricated a non-functional tailgate from tubing and clad it and the bed sides in thin-gauge steel that eventually wore red flake. Tom replicated the pearl white and flake red, albeit with two-stage Sherwin-Williams urethane. He also hinged the hood sideways using Firgelli linear actuators as the hinge bases and lift rams.

Seeing how Otto decommissioned the truck with the intent to update its interior, Tom had his work cut out for him to do the new job justice. He replaced the center of the firewall with clear acrylic to give occupants a view of the engine. He then incorporated the firewall design with the inverted-trapezoid dash and '65 T-bird cluster that Otto built decades ago. Otto also created the floating steering column from a piece of flared exhaust tubing, topping it with a '62 Olds wheel. The seats began life as Monte Carlo swivel buckets, but all that remains are the seat pans and swivel mechanisms which mount to round pedestals. Howdy Ledbetter gets serious kudos for pleating and pulling so much of that white vinyl flat.

Otto's original tonneau was a piece of plywood trimmed in button-tufted biscuits; however Tom made this one from tubing. In show-car fashion, Howdy applied the interior theme to it. The tonneau now hinges from the side rather than the front. Tom motorized it with linear actuators. The box at the head of the bed conceals the truck's inner workings, including the battery and fuel tank.