“Thunderbolt” – Bob Gahagan’s ’56 Ford F100
Bob Gahagan retired as a colonel after years of military service, so it seems appropriate that when he purchased a ’56 Ford F100 in 2017 he would attack the project with an “Old School Army Tribute” theme.
The build began at Kiwi Classics and Customs, where Chris Slee got things started with a new TCI frame and performed initial metalwork, which included widening and shortening the rear fenders, a new firewall, new floor pans, deleted vents, and rust repair. After Chris was involved in a shop accident and Bob moved to a different city, the decision was made to move the project to Roman Road Auto Restoration, where Larry Cleary and other specialists continued the work to fulfill Bob’s vision.
Larry’s shop finished the body modifications and paint-prep chores. This included installing the widened bed and tailgate assembly from Dan Carpenter Specialties. Smoothie Fabrication created custom running boards to fit the wider bed and fenders, while BedWood provided a custom-cut Paduak wood bed floor.
The TCI frame provides a host of updates, including an independent front suspension with RideTech coil-overs, a four-link rear suspension locating a Currie 9-inch rearend, and four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes. It all rolls on polished 18×8- and 20×15-inch American Racing VF484 wheels wrapped in Uniroyal front and Mickey Thompson rear tires.
The frame is powder coated green, the running gear is power coated maroon, and the engine and transmission are painted PPG Garnet Red. Mike Sparks at Roman Road sprayed the body in PPG Dark Olive Metallic over gray.
Power comes from a new 460v.i. Ford big-block V8 and is controlled by a Ford C6 three-speed automatic transmission. A custom exhaust system built by Frank Gemini features Hooker long-tube ceramic-coated headers and custom 3-inch exhaust pipes.
The Army-themed interior is the work of Allen Carswell at Carswell Pro Interiors. Seats from a 2015 BMW M4 are fully adjustable with seat heaters and are covered in Italian leather. A Dakota Digital instrument panel and Ididit steering column complement the array of high-end stereo components, a Vintage Air system, power windows, and a keyless start system.
Built as a tribute to those who have served in the armed forces, this ’56 Ford F100 named “Thunderbolt” would certainly attract its share of salutes at any military base in the United States. It has also started collecting medals at truck shows, including the 2022 F100 Supernationals Truck of the Year honor and the 2023 Grand National F100 Show Truck of the Year title. That’s high praise for one fine F100.
Photos by John Jackson & Damon Lee