1955 Ford F100 – Renovating a Hot Rod Pickup
If you can look at a shell of a building, see beyond the rubble, years of neglect and disrepair, and you have a good idea how to make it better than before, then you understand what Oregon City, Oregon contractor John Rydzewski does for a living and what he did with his 1955 Ford F-100. With most of the real estate in Oregon City at a premium, it’s even more important to find someone who can turn dreams into reality, at a cost that’s within budget and done with a sense of style. That’s John’s specialty.
In his off hours, Rydzewski applies his renovation talents to the hot rods he builds, preferring a truly hands-on approach to that of opening a checkbook. This story starts with a $1,200 1955 Ford F-100, a well thought out build and four years later John has a truck that’s been appraised at more than $250,000. He’s good like that.
John started hi 1955 Ford F-100 by boxing the stock steel frame, fitting it for air bags, giving it a C-notch, and running all the wiring inside. A 70s van donated the nine-inch rear end, which was smoothed, equipped with a Detroit Locker, 3.70 gears, and Dutchman axles. Up front, a Mustang II IRS was installed, actuated by a Flaming River rack through a ’78 GM tilt steering column. RideTech ShockWave adjustable air springs are at the corners, with twin Viair compressors and a two gallon tank, a 4-link Johnny Law kit and an owner-built custom Watts link.
The rolling stock consists of 18” X 10” Schott wheels with matching 20” X 14” Schott’s wrapped in Mickey Thompson tires. The 13” SSBC brakes mounted fore and aft, feature an SSBC master cylinder and power booster. The crowning touch on the chassis was drilling out the rivets and after all the work had been completed, installing chrome bolts in their place.
Putting a Ford back in his Ford (applause), John located a ’69 351 Windsor, which was bored .030” over by Portland Engine Rebuilders, who also balanced the assembly, utilizing a Crower cam and lifters, stock crankshaft, rods and pistons, with a set of Hastings moly rings. Painting the block pewter gray, Rydzewski used the stock oil pump and pan, with ceramic coating the latter. A Holley 7 PSI electric fuel pump, Johnny Law billet transmission oil cooler, and polyurethane motor mounts completed the bottom end.
A Vintage Air Front Runner kit with a polished A/C compressor and power steering pump was selected, and all the lines run parallel along the inner fender in polished metal tubing. While attending to the cooling system, an aluminum radiator, electric fan, and overflow tank were added. An MSD electronic distributor with a Blaster coil and Mallory ignition amplifier, NGK plugs and MSD wires fire up the Ford small block. The Windsor cylinder heads were ported, polished and CC’d by Portland Engine Repair. Mounting a single Holley 770 cfm 4-barrel carburetor atop an Edelbrock Performer RPM manifold seemed like the way to go. Both were topped off with a polished aluminum Hilborn-style air cleaner.
While built to a mild tune, the 351W still puts out 485 HP at 6,000 RPM. Applying that power is the duty of the Ford C6 automatic, with a stock flywheel, Hughes 2800 stall speed converter, B&M shifter, and the Driveline Specialties-modified driveshaft.
Rough doesn’t begin to describe what John started with, yet it’s the classic body style and the lore surrounding the Effies that gave him a vision of what the tired pickup would look like when hot rodded. To fit the big Mickey Thompson tires, Rydzewski could have narrowed the rear end and tubbed it, but instead chose to take two sets of rear fenders and widen them, with an inner fender that matches the tire’s radius. The running boards have been modified to match the wider fenders and fill the gap that previously existed.
The emblems were removed from the hood and doors, door handles shaved, and the stake pockets filled. John also removed the tailgate chains, opting for concealed latches. In deleting the bumpers, both pans were filled and smoothed. All the bodywork was done in steel rather than fiberglass, with the welds ground smooth and a minimal amount of filler used. Once Rydzewski felt the body was on par with his exacting standards, it was delivered to Ben’s Custom Paint , also in Oregon City, where a custom candy blue hue was applied – a mix of Valspar’s DeBeers Refinish and House of Kolor paint.
Inside, John used Dakota Digital gauges to keep track of the 1955 Ford F100’s vitals, with a Ron Francis wiring harness. A billet steering wheel matches the machined door handles, pedals, rear view mirror and cup holder. A JVC head unit, MB Quart 4” tweets, 6” mids and a 10” JBL subwoofer turned the cab into an exceptional audio environment. The custom console, crafted to house and showcase the Alpine amplifiers, provides a neat place for the inlaid Accuair air ride controller. CSC Custom Upholstery of Beavercreek, Oregon, laid down dark blue synthetic carpeting, removed the headrests and reshaped a pair of bucket seats before wrangling with Rydzewski over upholstery colors. Going with the recommended buckskin and brown leather, it was an aesthetic call John is glad they made.
With the accolades and awards Rydzewski has already received, he’s only a single point away from being invited to Chicago for the 2018 ISCA Finals, a testament to the four years of hard work put into the F-100. A labor of love, it’s reflected in the comments and smiles of admirers who appreciate what this hot rod renovator has created.