All Mark Leonard wanted out of his latest truck build was to be able to fit his family in one vehicle (including their dog Duke) while pulling their camper during road trips. Simple, right? The build of his 1970 Bumpside Ford F-250 was relatively straightforward without any disastrous detours to report, which was due to equal parts streamlined planning and a little bit of sheer luck.
Mark was not looking to pile on all the bells and whistles with this project, so he had the luxury of not worrying about things taking a turn for the worst.
“For the most part, I just wanted the truck to look relatively stock with a few custom touches peppered here and there,” he admits. “I was worried about the two layers of paint on top of the original coat, however. The last paint job was white, which is typically used to hide Bondo. The guy I bought it from said that it was one of the nicest ‘rust free’ crew cabs that he has every seen, so I put my faith in him and hoped I wouldn’t regret the purchase later down the line.”
As Mark began the process of taking the truck apart, he was pleasantly surprised to not find rot anywhere—a huge relief.
“When I took the bed to the sandblaster, I was expecting to hear some bad news, but my friend Melvin called a week later saying that it was the nicest bed he has seen in 28 years,” Mark adds. “I lucked out big time—I just don’t see trucks like this living in Ohio.”
With that potential landmine successfully avoided, Mark then moved on to the task of rebuilding the ’70 390FE engine, which is still a go-to selection for vintage Ford performance enthusiasts. Tom Zajbel Machining and Welding in Xenia, Ohio, was able to offer some assistance with the engine rebuild, as well as adding a few performance additions as well in the form of an RV camshaft and a Holley 500cfm carb. The air conditioning system was also refurbished to keep the Leonard family cool and comfortable during their summer road trips. Dayton Clutch and Joint also joined the project by balancing the driveshaft and lining up all new U-joints and carrier bearings for good measure.
Since Mark was interested in keeping his F-250 looking as factory as possible, he did leave the suspension alone. It wasn’t lowered or lifted one inch in either direction, which is just the ride height he has grown accustomed to over the years.
“There’s nothing better than a stock truck, which is what I grew up on hanging out with my brothers and friends,” he says.
I Lucked out big time—I just don’t see trucks like this living in Ohio.
Not having to worry about installing an air-ride suspension or shopping for performance chassis products also alleviated a possible pressure point for Mark, which allowed him to remain focused on keeping the Ford running strong and being ultra reliable.
Making a good first impression in the truck was also one of Mark’s top priorities.
“I had a Marti Report done on the truck, and it was one of only 2,107 crew cabs built in 1970,” Mark explains. “It also had a paint code of #7, which would make the original color Harbour Blue. I should’ve probably gone back to the original color, but as I sat looking at the truck, it just always seemed to be as big as a battleship, which got me thinking back to how my dad always painted our garage walls and floors with battleship grey paint. That’s really how I landed on the truck’s current color.”
To offset the muted gray exterior, Mark wanted his F-250’s interior space to pop with color. To do this right, he reached out to Shane Gambill in Dayton, Ohio, to reupholster the factory bench seats with plush red vinyl. Shane also created custom door panels, a dash pad, headliner and then hand-stitched the steering wheel to match. Fresh red carpet was also laid down to complete the in-cab overhaul, which still needed a couple more touches to satisfy Mark’s eye.
“I had purchased an F-600 instrument cluster, and once I held it up to the Battleship Gray paint, I couldn’t believe how good it looked,” he says.
After two and a half years of steady, enjoyable progress, Mark now holds the key to his ideal crew cab F-250, and he is overjoyed with the help and guidance he received throughout the build.
Once I found all the various Ford groups on Facebook (Bump Life in particular), I was able to discuss my passion with a much larger group than ever…
“One person in particular that I would like to give credit to is ‘Old Man Jack’”, Mark says. “He also owns a 1971 Ford truck that he shows every now and then, and he was always there to inspire and help me with his advice, his time, and his wisdom to never take shortcuts with anything.”
Mark has also grown to lean on the community of other Bumpside aficionados for additional help and guidance throughout the build.
“I’ve always been a Ford guy since I was young, but they have always been few and far between in my area, which is predominately packed with Chevy trucks”, he admits. “Once I found all the various Ford groups on Facebook (Bump Life in particular), I was able to discuss my passion with a much larger group than ever, which has been a great source of encouragement these last few years.”
This straightforward yet killer F-250 build is proof positive that anyone can build a legitimate show truck that can also double as a reliable tow pig. Sure, Mark had a stroke of luck on his side, but the rest of his success is due in part to thorough research, setting an attainable goal and networking with others interested in trucks just like his. Catch the Leonard family cruising and camping alongside their ’70 Ford pickup for the remainder of the summer and well into the fall this year.
1970 Ford F-250
• Shop: Tom Zajbel Machining and Welding, Xenia, OH
• 1970 390FE 6.4L V-8
• 30 over pistons
• RV camshaft
• Holley 500 carburetor
• 2.5-inch exhaust system w/ right rear dump
• HEI electronic ignition
• Hardened seats
• A/C system
• 1970 Ford transmission rebuilt
• B&M deep trans pan
• Driveshaft balanced, new U-joints and carrier bearings by Dayton Clutch and Joint, Dayton, OH
• Rear Dana 60 drive axle
• Factory 1970 Ford Chassis
• 149-inch wheelbase
• 20-gallon fuel tank
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
• Steel wheels and hubcaps w/ decals by Billy Adams
• 16.5R8.75 and 16.5R9.50 Firestone Transforce tires
• Front disc brakes, rear drums
• Power master cylinder
Body & Paint
• Summit Racing Battleship Grey paint by Mark Leonard
• 1967 F100-F350 steel grille chromed by Metal Bright, Dayton, OH
• Painted factory bumpers
• Cargo and rear cab light
• Mirrors, hubcaps and window trip polished by Jerry the Polishing Guy, Dayton, OH
Interior & Stereo
• Factory bench seats, headliner and door panels reupholstered in red vinyl by Shane Gambill, Dayton, OH
• Ford F600 instrumentation
• Factory steering hand-stitched vinyl wrap
• Factory AM stereo