Often, the best part of a custom truck is the story behind it. How the process began, the inspiration and hurdles that occurred along the way, along with the joy upon completion are as important as the modifications themselves.
Stuart Cofer from Athens, Georgia, is a certified plant professional, an occupation not normally associated with custom trucks. While plants may pay the bills, custom trucks fuel life’s passions and Stuart clearly remembers when it began. As a young teen, he was intrigued with magazine articles showing Ford’s Big Back Window F-100. The fascination turned to reality when, at 17 years old, he purchased his first 1956 Big Back Window F-100 for $750. Back then, parts were not commonly available and completing the project was difficult for the young man. He sold the truck, but the fascination remained with Stuart purchasing more than 20 F-100s over the years. His current ’56 is the culmination of ideas collected over a lifetime, combining the best in custom techniques, luxury and performance.
As pretty as his current truck is, its beginnings were more than a little rough.
Purchased sight unseen in 1996 through Auto Trader in Nashville, the rusty ride was little more than a shell, with the bed nearly separating from the truck as it was being towed home. For Stuart, the most important part of the truck was the big back window so he wound up keeping only the cab, frame and the radiator support, knowing the aftermarket could supply the rest. It sat for almost a decade while Stuart collected parts and ideas.
Two key players turned their talents to creating Stuart’s dream truck, beginning with his good friend Mike Chesser in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Mike began the suspension upgrades with a ’76 Monte Carlo front clip that included 11-inch disc brakes and power steering. T.C. Carver from Claremont, Georgia, stepped in next, a NASCAR fabricator and the man in charge of most of the build. He boxed the original chassis rails, adding an X-member and a Ford 9-inch Traction-Lok rear from a ’61 Ford Starliner. Flaming River supplied the shocks up front and coilovers in the rear.
When it came time to choose a powerplant, Stuart relied on another early childhood memory. He had long been a fan of drag racer Big Daddy Don Garlits, watching him set records with those famous 392 HEMIs. While the heavy metal theme of a HEMI-powered Blue Oval might raise a few eyebrows among the Ford faithful, Stuart gently reminds them that “hot rods are always a collection of several cars. I wanted mine to be different from the hundreds of other F-100s out there.” Of course, hair-raising acceleration was the ultimate goal, something the HEMI could achieve easily.
After researching several internet forums, Stuart finally located a disassembled 1957 392 HEMI, stored in a garage for more than 30 years. It turned out to be an excellent motor, designed for 10-to-1 compression and bored 0.30 over to freshen up the cylinder walls. Ross pistons were added to the stock crank and Hot Heads valves and springs were fitted to the distinctive iron heads. Stuart opted for a traditional ISKY flat tappet cam to provide an additional horsepower boost. Fuel delivery is old-school-straightforward, thanks to a polished Edelbrock 750 cfm carb on a Hot Heads dual plane aluminum manifold. Managing the exhaust is equally direct with a set of Block Hugger Shorty headers that dump into a pair of stainless steel Magnaflow mufflers. Ancillary equipment on the V-8 includes a big block Chevy water pump and distributor, showy Ansen valve covers, and a Moon ½ tank used as the radiator overflow tank. A 700R4 four-speed automatic with a B&M shift kit gets the power to the ground. Once performance parameters were established, custom inner fender panels and smooth firewall, both painted to match the exterior, showcased the motor. The final step was to make the chassis a roller, done with a set of Schott SL65 rims, 18x8s up front and 20x10s in the rear. Stuart knew the combination could pump out about 450 hp and couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.
Body mods were next, but since the classic lines of the truck were already iconic, changes were limited to careful enhancements. Multiple seams around the body were filled, the cowl and side vents were eliminated, door corners rounded and drip rails smoothed. Upfront, the painted-to-match grille is stock, but aftermarket steel fenders and a tilt forward hood replaced the originals. The rear fiberglass fenders are 3 inches wider to accommodate the modern rubber and enhance the truck’s performance image. Lots of subtle details were added to the bed, beginning with rounding the corners, adding a smooth tailgate and cutting a billet gas cap into the new oak planks. Fiberglass running boards were expanded to close the gap between the boards and the bottom of the cab.
It’s time to enjoy this truck after dreaming about it for the last 40 years!
Moving inside, the same subtle approach was used, welding up the glovebox and ashtray to smooth the dash. Although the gauges are stock appearing, they are a six-unit, white-faced package from Classic Instruments. The CON2R steering wheel turns on a polished Ididit tilt column and a Vintage Air Compac Gen II keeps the driver and lucky passenger cool, using unique carb-style, venturis on the dash as vents. But it’s the 1998 Cadillac Sedan DeVille 60/40 bench seat that first catches your eye. Featuring a center armrest and flip out drink holder, the seat was trimmed to fit below the big back window. Bright red Ultraleather ensures that it is as elegant as it is comfortable. Door panels, headliner, seatbelts, carpet and even the brake calipers are all the same stunning shade of Lipstick red, a standout next to the deep blue exterior color. Single pane, power side windows are a modern touch and a Custom Auto Sound Secret Audio system hidden under the seat adds another level of fun, controlled with a hand-held remote. Four 6.5-inch Pioneer component sets pump out a steady stream of Fifties-appropriate, Golden Oldies.
The final step was paint, with Stuart cruising new car dealerships until he found the perfect shade of Ford Blue Flame Metallic, sprayed by T.C. Carver in Clermont, Georgia. The actual build took about three years, and Stuart feels his collection of subtle modifications pays homage to the original design and will stand the test of time. Now that it’s complete, he already has several shows on his “Can’t Miss” list, eager for the truck to come full cycle. Attending F-100 shows over the years has always been his prime source for inspiration.
He says with a smile: “It’s time to enjoy this truck after dreaming about it for the last 40 years!”
1956 Ford F-100 Big
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
- 1957 Chrysler HEMI 392 .30 over
- Ross Pistons
- Isky 280 Cam, 232/.50, double roller chain
- Factory iron heads
- Ansen polished aluminum valve covers
- Polished Edelbrock 750 cfm carb
- Summit Racing chrome oval air cleaner
- Hot Heads dual plane aluminum manifold.
- MSD Blaster II Coil
- Performance Automotive Warehouse (PAW) Block Hugger Shorty headers
- 3-inch aluminized exhaust
- Magnaflow mufflers.
- PAW engine pulleys
- Auto Rad 4-core radiator, 16-inch SPAL fan
- Carrol’s Engine Rebuilders, Athens, Georgia
- Atlanta Speed Shop, Gainesville, Georgia
- 700R4 four-speed automatic transmission
- B&M shift kit 2400 stall speed
- Ronnie’s Automotive Trans Service, College Park, Georgia
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
- Boxed frame rails
- X-member installed
- 1976 Monte Carlo front clip
- 2.5-inch drop spindles
- Chessers Auto Emporium, Lawrenceville, Georgia
- Heidts four-link
- Ford 9-inch rear, 3.50 Traction-Lok
- Flaming River dual adjustable front shocks
- Flaming River rear coilovers
- 11-inch disc brakes
- Mid Fifties stainless steel 19-gallon fuel tank
- T.C. Carver from Clermont, Georgia
WHEELS & TIRES
- Schott SL65
- 18×8, front; 20×10, rear
- General G-Max 40- & 45-Series radials
EXTERIOR & PAINT
- Reproduction steel hood front fenders
- CPP front tilt kit
- Door corners rounded, one piece door glass
- Speedway Motors 7-inch fluted headlights
- Mid Fifties stainless steel, smooth/tucked bumpers
- Cowl and side vents eliminated
- Fiberglass rear fenders, 3 inches wider
- Custom running boards extended to meet cab
- Rounded corners on the pickup bed
- Smooth tailgate
- Oak planks with stainless steel strips
- Billet gas filler cap
- Chrome taillights
- Ford Blue Flame Metallic paint
- Paint & Bodywork by T.C. Carver, Clermont, Georgia
INTERIOR & STEREO
- Interior painted Ford Blue Flame Metallic
- Cadillac Sedan DeVille bench seat, red Ultraleather
- Custom door/kick panels, red Ultraleather
- One piece ABS headliner shell, red Ultraleather
- White faced, Classic Instruments
- Polished ididit tilt column and shifter
- Glove box and ashtray welded shut
- Custom Auto Sound Secret Audio
- Handheld remote with screen
- Four 6.5-inch Pioneer component sets
- Dynamat sound deadening throughout
- Gary’s Auto Interior, McDonough, Georgia