Father-Son ’55 Ford F-100 Build Needs No Moniker
This truck has some stories to tell. Owned by Justin Zerwekh of Roseburg, Oregon, the 1955 Ford F-100 has accompanied him on all his adventures, from high school homecoming to his honeymoon, across multiple states and beyond. And it’s all thanks to Justin’s father, Jim.
More than 20 years ago, when Justin turned 151/2, Jim sat his son down for a talk.
“He told me that when I was driving age, he wouldn’t buy me a truck, but he would help me build one,” Justin says. “He said it’ll take money and time, but he said I could build it. I could do it with his help.”
It was a pile of parts in their backyard. Literally, a pile in the yard, and it was full of dead possums and orange peels.
And so they hunted for the perfect project truck. One afternoon, the Zerwekhs’ next-door neighbor’s widow told them that her husband wanted Justin to have his old project truck from their backyard.
They hadn’t even known it was there.
“It was a pile of parts in their backyard,” Justin says. “Literally, a pile in the yard, and it was full of dead possums and orange peels.”
Once the father-son duo gathered all the project’s parts and pieces, the rebuild began. At the time, Justin didn’t even know how to turn a wrench. But that changed under his father’s tutelage. You see, Jim just happened to be a lifetime mechanic at a local Chevy dealership, so he knew a thing or two about trucks—but he razzed his “Blue Oval boy” for having a Ford.
“He taught me everything,” Justin says. “How to use the tools, how to perform maintenance, how to rebuild a transmission, and how to make the truck drivable. And, more importantly, the patience and drive that would follow me in life. My dad built the truck; I turned the tools.”
Every day after work and every Saturday, Justin and Jim retired to the driveway to work on the truck. Halfway through Justin’s senior year of high school, he was finally able to drive it to school. And drive it he did! He took it to homecoming parades and Rockabilly shows. He drove it daily while attending the police academy and college. It went camping, it hauled parts, and it drove Justin and his now-wife, Chelsea, on their first date.
“All throughout my 20s, my dad and I spent a lot of bonding time together talking trucks,” he says. “But honestly, it wasn’t about just about the truck. It was about the skills, experience, and time spent with my dad.”
THE CURRENT DETAILS
As you can well imagine, this F-100 has morphed over the past 20 years. Its current look, with Red single-stage paint, shaved emblems, and swapped taillights, complements the ’56 F-100 grille and headlights and stock bumpers.
My dad built the truck; I turned the tools.
The truck is on its fourth engine, notes Justin, and it’s a 1971 Ford V-8 302 high-performance police block with mild cam and upgrades. This is a far cry from the truck’s first engine when they found it: a 289 that was filled with water, he says. Justin and Jim performed all the engine rebuilds over the years.
A Ford C4 tranny, installed by the father-son team, lets this Ford move down the road. The front axle is stock with de-arched leaves. The truck also has an 8.5-inch Ford rearend. For stopping power, Justin added ’75 Chevy disc brakes in the front and stock drum brakes in the back.
Inside the cab, Justin installed seats from a ’55 Chevy for a smooth ride. He also added Stewart Warner gauges, a steering wheel from a ’53 Ford car, and pinstriping throughout the door jambs.
As Justin set out on his own, he and Jim continued to make improvements to the F-100. Meanwhile, Justin proposed to Chelsea in the truck. They took their engagement photos in it. He drove it to their wedding, and they honeymooned in it (and, of course, it broke down …).
The newlyweds rented a home in Southern California, and Justin launched his vintage restoration business, Vintage 55 Restorations, which rehabs all things vintage, from trailers to refrigerators.
Shortly thereafter, daughter Eleanor came along, which meant Justin and Chelsea needed a vehicle with more seating than the F-100 provided. After driving it to their new home in Oregon, Justin has decided to sell this piece of his history.
“It just sits there now, and it’s time for someone else to enjoy it,” he says.
But his truck-building days are far from over. He has plenty of other projects, and when 4-year-old Eleanor reaches driving age, Justin plans to follow his father’s footsteps.
“The plan is to get her a project truck, just like my dad did for me,” he says.
Justin, the Midcentury Master!
Vintage 55 Restorations
Restored and rehabbed everything!
Justin, Chelsea, and Eleanor Zerwekh
1955 Ford F-100
Builders: Jim and Justin Zerwekh
- Grille: 1956 F-100
- Headlights: 1956 Ford F-100
- Stock bumpers
- Custom taillights
- Shaved emblems
- Paint: Red single-stage; work done by Justin Zerwekh
- 1971 Ford V-8 302
- High-performance police block
- Mild cam and upgrades
- Transmission: Ford C4
- Stock front drive axle with de-arched leaves
- 8.5-inch Ford rearend
- Brakes: ’75 Chevy disc brakes in front; drum brakes in rear
- Seats from a 1955 Chevy
- Stewart Warner gauges
- Steering wheel from a ’53 Ford car
- Pinstriping throughout door jambs