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Now that the Clues are Gone, Even the Most Serious Enthusiast Can’t Tell the Year of this F-100

As a collision repair specialist, Mark Tullis began working on his highly modified ’53 F-100 as an outlet for his creativity. Since collision work is repetitious and fabrication is fresh and new, it was natural for him to launch a project where he could explore new directions. 

Mark got his start as an enthusiast at an early age, thanks to his grandfather who worked at General Motors and loved cars. About the time he turned 12, Mark’s enthusiasm genuinely ignited when he caught sight of a bright yellow ’53 F-100. It made an indelible impression, and he knew that one day he would own a truck like that.

Enrolling in vocational school and getting started in the body shop business, again with the help of his grandfather, he began earning a living in the trade. At about age 25, he found the perfect project vehicle, one similar to that yellow ’53 F-100 that started it all.

Mark says he had no real plan at the outset, other than he wanted the truck to have clean lines with no visible bolts or seams. For decades, customizers and shops hired by Mark chipped away at the vehicle’s vintage charm, hoping for a spin to set their efforts apart. Eventually, Mark decided that rather than crawl into an accepted styling bubble, he would let his imagination run free, moving way outside the box to take his F-100 in a whole new direction.

The fascination of spotting a Corvette independent rear under an F-100 at a truck show became the first of many radical changes, leading him to the truck’s highly detailed undercarriage. After boxing the Ford chassis rails, creating new cross members and running the brake lines inside the rails, Mark located a C4 Corvette rear. In order to allow future ride height adjustments, he removed the Corvette’s transverse leaf spring and replaced it with Alden American coilovers. Then, for balance, he installed a Heidts Superride with coilovers up front, giving the truck fully independent suspension. Bright Cherry Red paint highlights the new components and makes the bottom as pretty as the top. The frame became a roller with a set of 17-inch Budnik wheels with Hankook rubber connecting the truck with the asphalt.

After creating a chassis that looked almost too good to cover up, Mark’s next goal was power, which he achieved by repurposing parts from a ’89 Trans Am donor car. Already quick enough, the 350 V-8/700R4 powertrain was rebuilt back to stock specs, ensuring everything was reliable, fast and, as you can see, highly detailed. Once the cab was in place, Mark set to work designing an all new, sculpted and recessed firewall, adding custom inner fender panels and radiator shroud to further showcase the engine.

Imaginative exterior elements were next. One look at this unique truck and you’ll spot the distinctive frontend, based on 1997 steel Ford front fenders along with a matching fiberglass hood extended to meet the new grille. The front bumper was also extended 4 inches to make everything fit. Although this one-of-a-kind design element would’ve been a challenge for most, Mark was just hitting his stride. He altered the truck’s too-tall profile by chopping the top, taking 3 1/4 inches from the rear and 4 inches from the front, crafting a unique recess down the center and capping it off with a roof-mounted LED brake light. Both doors operate from a remote and the stock handles were shaved, now with tiny machined handles added.

The bed continues his unique vision, with steeply angled bed sides, 3-inch wider fiberglass fenders and running boards, and a tailgate that’s been welded shut. Although the bed is completely custom, it still retains the original F-100 style lines. For the ultimate in unexpected touches, the bed floor rolls on skateboard wheels, sliding rearward to give access to the 16-gallon fuel cell and battery. Traditional oak slats were glued together in one piece with decorative black inserts. The full-width prismatic light bar is a combination of turn signals and brake lights as well as the handle to release the sliding bed.

Inside, as expected, very little of the original ’53 Ford is recognizable. With a “less is more” philosophy clearly in place, the elegant interior begins at the dash, now a flat panel, wrapped in a combination of Willow Green and Black leather. A slim Dakota Digital gauge package occupies center stage and, using the steering column from the Trans Am, Mark added a tiny housing for the Dakota Digital shift indicator. The truck is air conditioned but there are no A/C vents in the dash. Mark relocated the vents to the sides of the new center console to keep the lines of the dash clean. The chrome Lokar shifter for the 700R4 resides in the console along with flush-mount, billet window buttons and door release buttons from Keep It Clean. Mark designed custom door panels using ABS plastic and more Willow Green leather that contrasts beautifully with the Tobacco leather Trans Am seats and Porsche Brown carpeting. Brake and gas pedals from Lokar wrap up the changes.

Probably the feature that everyone sees first in this feature-laden ride is the flat black paint job. Mark’s original thought was to paint the truck a bright shade of Mercedes Red, but after agonizing over color choices for months, he finally settled on PPG Ditzler Hot Rod Black. Although it took a while for Mark’s wife Lisa to embrace the new shade, she is fully onboard and now thinks the truck looks tough. In fact, she came up with the name, “I’m Dull.” Mark has accused her of describing his personality, but she assured him she was only referring to the truck!

The final element to this story takes a serious turn with Mark diagnosed in 2011 with a serious brain tumor. Two surgeries failed to eradicate it and the future looked bleak. There were thoughts of selling the truck to pay medical expenses, but Lisa would have no part of it. Despite physical limitations and the difficulties he was experiencing, Mark began to use the truck as a form of therapy, continuing to work on it. Now, seven years later, it is finally complete. New ideas continue to pop up, however, so there’s a good chance that the build that actually began more than 25 years ago may never be completely finished!

TRUCK Specs

Owner Lisa and Mark Tullis

 Dacula, Georgia
’53 Ford F-100 

ENGINE: 

Engine Work by Mark Tullis, Dacula, Georgia
Chevy/Corvette 350 TPI 5.7L 8-cylinder
Stock Chevy heads
Street and Performance valve covers
K&N Performance air cleaner
1970 GMC 2500 truck radiator in a custom radiator support
Summit Racing cooling fan
Mallory Distributor and Powermaster 100-amp alternator
Street and Performance engine pulleys
Block Hugger headers
Ceramic coated 2.5-inch exhaust
Contoured firewall and inner fender panels
700R4 four-speed automatic
Lokar shift kit
Summit Racing trans cooler
Transmission Work by Whitley Garage, Lawrenceville, Georgia

CHASSIS & SUSPENSION

Boxed frame with additional cross members
C4 Corvette independent rear with Alden coilovers, C4 disc brakes, and red 2-piston calipers
Heidts Superride front end with Alden coilovers, 2-inch drop spindles, Mustang II High Performance disc brakes, and red 2-piston calipers.
Bright Cherry Red paint on the frame and suspension

WHEELS & TIRES 

Front: 17×8 Budnik 255/50R17 Hankook
Rear: 17×9.5 Budnik 275/60R17 Hankook

BODY & PAINT

Body and paint by Mark Tullis, Dacula, Georgia
1997 steel Ford front fenders
F-150 front bumper with fog lights added, no rear bumper
Fiberglass hood extended to meet the grille
Hand fabricated chrome hood hinges
Chopped top with central recess and LED brake light
Shaved doors with new machined handles
Three-inch wider fiberglass fenders and running boards
Custom seamless bed with angled bed sides
Tailgate welded shut.
Oak bed floor that slides to the rear for access to the fuel cell and battery.
Full width combination brake light and turn signals
Side mirrors from Vision Hot Rod Concepts.
PPG Ditzler Hot Rod Black sprayed by owner

INTERIOR

SHOP: Owner and Lamar Stephens Custom Upholstery, Buford, Georgia
Tobacco leather Trans Am seats
Custom dash wrapped in Willow Green and Black leather
Dakota Digital gauge package and shift indicator on a modified Trans AM column Budnik wheel
Custom center console with side exiting air-conditioning ducts
Flush-mount, billet window buttons and door release buttons on console
Lokar chrome shifter
Lokar brake and gas pedals
ABS plastic door panels
Porsche Brown Sliverknit carpeting

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