High Plains Pickup – Mark Gruss’ 1956 Ford F100
When Mark Gruss sat down with the father-son hot rod build team of Danny and Doug LaRue to outline a plan for his 1956 Chevy truck project, he explained that he wanted Lexus quality throughout. The truck had to drive smooth, handle like a new car, be comfortable, and of course it had to look cool.
From there, Danny and Doug got busy sourcing components, planning the driveline and figuring out styling cues. As the owners of the Rod Shop at the Hot Rod Institute in Rapid City, South Dakota, they weren’t intimidated by any of Mark’s goals and by receiving a finalist nod for the Goodguys 2019 Scott’s Hot Rods Truck of the Year early award, it sure seems like they accomplished that goal…except for one somewhat significant detail.
The truck they ended up building was a 1956 Ford F100 rather than the original Chevy version! Doug explained that while searching for a Chevy pickup, they came across this big window Ford. It was exceptionally clean and solid, plus it was somewhat local. Once they showed the Ford to Mark along with their plans for subtle custom touches, he was sold.
To achieve the smooth ride and performance handling Mark craved, a new TCI chassis was called in to duty. RideTech coil-overs were fit to each corner so the ride could be dialed in and a set of Wilwood discs deliver plenty of stopping power for the 19×10- and 17×8-inch American Legend wheels wrapped with Pirelli tread.
Since everyone was geared up to build a classic Chevy pickup from the start, an LS3 engine backed by a 4L60E transmission was chosen for the driveline. With the change to a Ford build, options were weighed, but it’s tough to argue with the compact size and power of the proven driveline. A custom air cleaner/intake assembly was fabricated along with coil covers for the LS3. The vast engine compartment received serious clean up and custom fab work including the hand-formed cowl over the radiator and fill panels.
The vintage sheet metal received a few subtle mods including recessing the running boards and rounding the door corners. A custom rolled rear pan was formed along with a slick tonneau cover for the finished bed in addition to a set of ’37 Ford taillights. The final touch was a beautiful brandywine tone from House of Kolor complemented with bronze pearl over the grille and for details under the hood.
With the handling, driveline and looks covered, the LaRues set about creating comfort inside the cabin. Custom bucket seats were wrapped in two tone leather that blends perfectly with the paint and trim. The dash also received the leather treatment along with instrumentation from Dakota Digital and an IDIDIT column topped with a Billet Specialties steering wheel.
You’d never know you were sitting in an old 1956 Ford F100 farm truck – especially with the power and smooth handling the LaRue team achieved!
Photos by John Jackson