Tom and Joan Bell drive and show their custom ’53 at every opportunity
Clyde “Tom” Bell, a retired letter carrier, is one of those lucky guys, thanks to his wife Joan who shares his lifelong passion for automobiles. They are true-blue Ford fans who enjoy showing their ’42 Ford coupe and their ’47 Ford convertible at local shows.
It was at one of those events that Tom spotted a vintage Ford pickup that really got his attention. He was happy to hear that Joan was enthusiastic about it, too. Before long, the hunt was on for a ’53-’56 Ford F-100 to add to their collection. It didn’t take long before Tom located an Emerald Green ’53 in Florida, equipped with a Lincoln V-8 and transmission. It arrived at his Allegany, New York, garage in 2013, and the couple drove the truck throughout 2014 until Tom decided to take it off the road, intent on making it different from any other truck on the circuit.
With the help of Brett Barry at 6-Star Auto in Eldred, Pennsylvania, Tom planned an elaborate list of upgrades. It began with correcting hidden flaws from previous builds followed by boxing the original frame and adding a Mustang II front end. The rear end used parallel leaf springs to hold the Lincoln Versailles 8.8 rear fitted with 3:50 gears. Four-wheel disc brakes from Wilwood ensured adequate stopping power. As you can see, Tom wanted a genuinely unique look, trying for a departure from some of the traditional F-100 customizing tricks employed over the years.
The completed truck is a joy to drive and Tom and Joan enjoy showing it and traveling in it, planning on cruising in the Effie for many years to come.”
The first set of modifications began by slicing 4 inches from the top, shaving the door handles and eliminating the emblems. Side scoops were cut into the tilt-forward hood, and the one-of-a-kind grille uses 2008 Dodge Challenger headlights. The Ford emblem was moved from the hood to the center of the grille bar. The running boards were blended into the body and painted the same color as the graphics.
When it came time to choose taillights for the truck, Tom used another out-of-the-box approach. Armed with templates of the F-100 sheet metal, he checked dozens of vehicles until he found the perfect answer: adapting a set of distinctive 2013 Nissan Sentra taillights into the truck’s rear fenders. Bumpers were eliminated front and back, custom roll pans added, and lighted Ford Fiesta side mirrors completed the external mods.
The bed benefitted from a set of highly figured Bubinga planks separated by stainless steel strips and covered with a Pro’s Pick aluminum tonneau cover. The tonneau is raised and lowered with linear actuators, and graphics on the top and bottom match the rest of the truck.
Getting the Ford rolling is a set of 18 x 7 and 18 x 8.5-inch Borghini wheels wrapped in Continental rubber. Once the body was ready for paint, Tom and Joan collaborated on the color, choosing a custom mixed shade of rich “Bell Brown” accented with unique gold graphics. Dave Ayers of Ayers Auto Body in Allegany, New York, sprayed the PPG shades, and Dick Briggs followed up with custom Von Dutch-style pinstriping.
The modified classic was now ready for its interior with Joan picking the colors and Tom Kolivoski of Smethport, Pennsylvania, creating the stunning leather package. A combination of leather and wood accents the dash, fitted with Dakota Digital HDX instruments, Vintage Air and a Ford 50th anniversary horn button, now positioned in the center.
Tom gets a good grip on his ride, thanks to a classic wood-rimmed Banjo wheel on a GM adjustable column. Those plush, power buckets were sourced from a Chrysler 300, now separated by a center console that flows forward from between the seats with the upper portion holding the start button, window switches and trans overdrive controls.
Built into the leather headliner, the matching overhead console holds the JVC head unit that drives four Pioneer speakers, two in the headliner and two behind the seats. Wood accents and chrome Ford side trim pieces were blended together to create the one-of-a-kind door panels. The elaborate interior is as comfortable as it is visually stunning.
It was at this point that Tom realized there was one major change remaining. (He also realized that he probably should have done it sooner!) The Lincoln power train had to go since it simply did not match the quality level found in the rest of the truck. He located a 2011 Mustang Coyote 5.0 V-8 in a salvage yard in Texas and had Phoenix Transmission in Weatherford, Texas, rework a 4R70W automatic overdrive transmission to fit. Then he contacted his friend Joe at Collins Automotive in Scio, New York, for the engine swap. Joe and his son Ryan took on the task, taking the engine in and out a total of six times during the fitment process, being careful not to nick the fresh paint.
The 412 hp V-8 and automatic are a potent combination, needing only a few additional details like a cold air kit, Hush Power dual mufflers, and custom painted and pinstriped valve covers, along with a painted and pinstriped engine room. The foreword-opening hood gives spectators a good view of the under-hood artwork.
The completed truck is a joy to drive and Tom and Joan enjoy showing it and traveling in it, planning on cruising in the Effie for many years to come. ST
Clyde “Tom” and Joan Bell
1953 Ford F-100
Allegany, New York
- Ford 5.0 Coyote V-8
- 412 hp, 390 ft-lbs of torque
- Digital Guard Dawg keyless ignition
- SPAL 16-inch cooling fan
- Custom painted valve covers
- Painted and pinstriped engine compartment.
- 2.5-inch exhaust, Hush Power dual mufflers
- Shop: Joe and Ryan Collins Automotive, Scio, New York
- 4R70W automatic overdrive transmission
- Shop: Phoenix Transmission, Weatherford, Texas
Chassis & Suspension
- Boxed frame with Mustang II front end
- Parallel leaf springs in the rear
- 2.5-inch wheel tubs
- Lincoln Versailles 8.8 rear with 3:50 gears
- Four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes
Wheels & Tires
- 18 x 7.5 Borghini front
- 18 x 8.5 Borghini Rear
- 225/50ZR18 Continental front
- 245/45ZR18 Continental rear
Body & Paint
- Shop: Brett Barry at 6-Star Auto, Eldred, Pennsylvania
- Four-inch top chop
- Shaved door handles and emblems
- Side scoops cut into the tilt forward hood
- Grille fitted with ’08 Dodge Challenger headlights
- Running boards blended into the body
- Taillights from a ’13 Nissan Sentra
- Bumpers eliminated front and back
- Custom roll pans added
- Ford Fiesta side mirrors
- Bed fitted with Bubinga wood planks and stainless-steel strips
- Pro’s Pick aluminum tonneau cover, raised and lowered with linear actuators.
- Graphics on both sides of the tonneau match the rest of the truck.
- Custom mixed PPG “Bell Brown” paint accented with gold graphics.
- Paint by Dave Ayers of Ayers Auto Body in Allegany, New York
- Von Dutch-style pinstriping by Dick Briggs, Cattaraugus, New York
- Shop: Tom Kolivoski, Smethport, Pennsylvania
- Chrysler 300 bucket seats covered in Macaroon and Sultry Chocolate leather
- Leather and wood accents on the dash with Dakota Digital HDX instruments
- Vintage Air with custom panel under the dash for vents left and right
- Wood-rimmed Banjo wheel on a GM adjustable column.
- Waterfall center console with matching wood and leather trim
- Overhead console holding the JVC stereo head unit
- Four Pioneer speakers, two in the headliner and two behind the seats.
- Custom Macaroon leather headliner with wood trim
- Custom door panels with wood accents and chrome Ford side trim
- Custom floor mats with 50th anniversary logo.