You ever go by another person’s ride or project and think of the things you would do differently if you owned it? Of course you have! I know for a fact David Hudson did when he saw a local hot rodder with a 1956 panel truck sitting in his garage for the better part of 30 years. David says the local man and his wife were both schoolteachers years ago, and in the summers, they used to load up and travel the country in it. Well, as much as he liked seeing the couple use that panel truck, he thought it would be pretty cool if he could put his own touches on that F-100 panel to make it his own. So, that’s exactly what he did.
David took ownership of the panel truck, but by that time it had been torn down and was actually far from the truck he had remembered. The truck had been parked since the mid ’80s. When he received it, it was no longer in complete running order and had seen better days. However, since it sat in a garage for so long, the truck was virtually rust free. This allowed David to skip a lot of the rust repair most people encounter with a mid-’50s build. His first thought was to take the unnatural Chevy drivetrain out and do a proper Ford powered build. He also wanted to redo a few things the previous owner had done and talked about showing the beauty of the original Ford body lines.
David started by taking the truck back apart to redo the chassis. The previous owner had installed a Chevy car clip, and that just had to go. David Sourced out another F-100 clip and reattached it, then he boxed in the entire frame for strength. After doing so, he found a front crossmember from a Crown Vic and used it as his updated front suspension. Since the donor car’s crossmember comes with all the suspension, steering and brakes, he was all set up front. Out back, he reused the factory leaf springs and positioned a Mustang rear axle from a 2012 Shelby. This guaranteed him strength for the added horsepower he planned for, and larger disc brakes to help slow down this bread box when needed. To keep all this suspension under control, he chose QA1 shocks for the job on all four corners.
David knew he wouldn’t let this F-100 roll under any other power except Ford, so he started to do his research and put in an order to Midway Mustang in DeWitt, Iowa. This is where he sourced the rear axle from a 2012 Shelby Mustang, but he also bought the complete drivetrain from there as well. He chose a powerful 5.4L Ford Racing SVT crate engine that is powered by an Eaton supercharger with integral intercooler and backed by the Shelby six-speed manual transmission. After David mounted the modern drivetrain, he built a custom Magnaflow exhaust to give it the right tone, exiting the tailpipes through the rear fenders just before the tire.
When it came to the body and metal work, David was both relieved and frustrated with the truck. As stated before, the panel sat in an enclosed garage for about 30 years. However, the truck’s previous owner had taken it apart and done some custom work that was just not David’s style. So, David once again had to source out a bunch of body parts to complete this project. He wanted to go with a more traditional look, the way Ford had produced it. Perhaps the only thing on the sheetmetal he really changed was the front wheel well openings. They were moved up about 3 inches, then forward about 4 inches. This helped center the wheel and give it a lighter, more streamline appearance to match the rear. Stock pieces like door handles, the front grille and the smooth stainless bumpers were all sourced and put back like stock. To add a personal custom touch, a few snake badges off the Shelby GT were added very tastefully.
When it came time to lay down the color, David had gone to a local paint store and chose a gray color. When they shot a test panel, it revealed to be too white for his taste. So, after several long hours back at his local paint store, they were able to come up with a custom mixed gray for the panel truck. When asked to name it David replied, “Geez, there must be 50 shades of gray in there,” and it stuck. Now that the color had been perfected David let his nephew, Eddy Hudson, lay down the shine.
Completely painted and ready for its final assembly, it was time to match a set of wheels to this newborn hotrod. Keeping things classy and adding a little bit of sport, David chose a set of Ford Shelby SVT aluminum wheels in a 19×10 for the front and 20×13 for the rear. Needing to keep this box glued to the ground, a set of Continental Extreme Contact tires were wrapped around the Shelby wheels, giving this F-100 panel a real thick look and perhaps foreshadowing the potential under the hood for those who were wondering.
The last piece of this restoration, but perhaps the largest, was the interior. Being a panel truck adds quite a bit of cubic feet to an interior. David entrusted Gary Hodge of A&G Upholstery in Elkview, West Virginia, to take on the task. Wanting to be subtle and not too loud, David instructed Gary to go with more tones of—you guessed it—gray! Utilizing yards of leather and tweed, the factory bench seat was covered along with the door panels, head liner, rear panel sides and rear roof. Details were added to the drivers compartment like the Ididit steering column topped off with a wood grain banjo steering wheel, and the matching Classic Instruments factory replacement gauge cluster. The floor of the cargo area steals the show. David laid down planks of rich oak with stainless steel strips to make a custom floor that would no longer be carrying the load of a work truck.
Wrapping up this colossal project within two years was no small task. That’s why David and his soon-to-be wife, Jeanie, set a goal to have this truck ready to debut at the Grand National F-100 Reunion put on by Joe Carpenter in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Not only were they to announce their project, but Jeanie actually called Joe to ask permission to be married at the show and announce their nuptials as well!
Hats off to a gentleman who can score a 1956 F-100 panel truck and a woman who wants to be married by it at a truck show! Best of luck to their future in hot-rodding—and marriage.
David and Jeanie Hudson
1956 Ford F-100 Panel
- Stock frame boxed in and smoothed
- Crown Vic front crossmember
- Shelby Mustang rear axle over leaf springs
- QA1 shocks all around
- Ford Racing 5.4L SVT crate engine
- Eaton supercharger with integral intercooler
- Shelby six-speed manual transmission
- Shelby Mustang rear axle
- Magnaflow custom exhaust
- Rick’s Tanks stainless fuel tank
- Ford Shelby SVT wheels
- 19×10 front
- 20×13 rear
- Continental Extreme Contact tires
- 285/30-19 front
- 335/25-20 rear
- Disc brakes by Ford
- Fifty Shades of Gray by Standox Paint
- Smooth stainless steel bumpers
- Shelby badging
- Custom side exhaust exits
- Front fender well opening raised and moved forward
- Factory bench seat
- Custom oak wood floor with stainless strips
- Black leather/tweed
- Classis Instruments gauges
- Ididit steering column
- Wood grip banjo steering wheel by Grant