In 1966, i was recently discharged from the army and was back home on the ranch where the family business was orchard care. I was living in El Modeno, California, (the eastern end of the city of Orange) when I first saw my '56 Ford pickup. I was driving down the street and there it was, parked in the front yard. There was a For Sale sign on it, so I stopped and paid the guy $600. It seemed like a fair price. It was a six-cylinder, three-on-the-tree F-100. The left front fender had been repaired, but that was the only apparent damage, so I drove it home. I was now the proud owner of a truck that would still be with me 37 years later. The next night, in our old red barn, I pulled the engine and the transmission to make way for the balanced and blueprinted 327 I acquired from my brother Bob. I sold the old engine and transmission for $700, and, at that point, was ahead 100 bucks. I bought a four-speed hydro GMC transmission, installed it, and drove the truck for the next 15 years.
Richard wanted his '56 to...
Richard wanted his '56 to appear stock at a glance, but Pro Design performed many subtle mods that really cleaned up the overall appearance of the truck. The channels on the back of the cab that normally protrude past the top of the bed have been sectioned down, and the tailgate and bed ends have been smoothed out and the latches removed -- just for starters.
I married my wife Randi in 1969. I drove the truck as an everyday work vehicle, and the weekends saw us taking many trips to the dump as we worked on our new home in Yorba Linda. As we looked forward to the birth of our son, we counted our cars and decided we could sell the truck in order to keep our '68 California Special Mustang and pay the hospital and doctor bills for the new baby. With a heavy heart, we sold our baby blue truck to my youngest brother Michael. That $1,600 went a long way back in 1971.
Many years passed and we still had the Mustang, which we were showing at the Orange Plaza car show where Michael had joined us. That's when Randi began convincing him to sell the truck back to us. A year later, after much cajoling, he agreed, and the truck was coming home. He sold it to us for $6,000, which was what he had put into it. Randi thought we were buying a driveable truck to buzz around in on the weekends like the old days. Instead, it was in parts -- many parts. I was not daunted, knowing that I was going to restore it to a glory it had never known.
Inside the cab, the Glide...
Inside the cab, the Glide seat was reworked and wrapped in beige leather. The carpet, door panels, and headliner were custom-made to match -- the roof even got the suede treatment.
We began work on it in 2000 by sending it to Pro Design Hot Rods. Michael had some suspension work done by Mike Filion and crew and thought their work was great. This turned out to be a collaboration that was exciting, educational, and always interesting. The guys at Pro Design Hot Rods are professionals who care about the cars and their clients. I decided from the start that our truck was due for a Ford motor. I ordered a 514 SVO big-block crate motor and bought a built C6 transmission. The truck has a Volare front clip and a 9-inch Ford rearend. We wanted to make some subtle changes but keep the truck true to the original look -- no shaving of door handles or badges. We kept the stock exterior and dash. All the gauges were recalibrated to match the new motor. Now the speedometer registers to 120 mph. We had the truck painted a pearl orange at Paint N Place in Anaheim. Jerry had painted our Mustang a few years before, so we thought of him first. I had always pictured it in a bright, glowing intense color, which turned out to be House of Kolor Ultra Orange Pearl. It glows golden on all the curved metal. The all-leather interior was stitched by Francisco of Bill's Auto Upholstery. These people are true artists. It was a pleasure to work with them, as they are both supportive and helpful. We started with a Glide Engineering seat, then had Francisco create all the molding and lumbar support. It took many trips to the shop to decide on just the right color for the leather, carpet, and the suede headliner. A customized Ford oval with the embossed "MILLER" is under the back window -- a subtle touch attributed to my wife. In fact, she's the one who decided to go for all leather for the seats. No vinyl in this truck.
The inner bed received many...
The inner bed received many mods as well. The stake pockets were filled, the floor was raised 4 inches to clear the 9-inch, and the '70 Suburban wheeltubs were sunk into the bed wood.
In all, my truck took 2-1/2 years to complete. Brandon Smith of Pro Design spent countless hours massaging the truck to its present glory. No one could have given it as much attention and care as this man did. I should have known since his daily driver is an F-100. One of the questions we have been asked is "What would we do differently if we had to do it over again?" Absolutely nothing! We ran into very few snags and were lucky to have joined with the professionals who made this dream come true for us. I never could have done this work in a home garage and ended up with a truck with this degree of detail. Besides, we wanted to finish it and enjoy it. Yes, we drive it to the shows. This truck is no trailer queen. It's been part of our family for 37 years, and I hope we enjoy it for another 37. Our son Jason really has his eye on the old family truck. I know he hopes it stays in the family.
Richard & Randi Miller, Yorba Linda, California
Frame: '56 Ford
Modifications: Smoothed and powdercoated, all mods by Pro Design Hot Rods, Santa Ana, CA
Rearend / Ratio: Fab-9 9-inch with 31-spline axles by PDC of Brea, CA / 4.11:1 Posi
Rear suspension: Total cost involved four-link with coilovers
Rear brakes: Ford Motorsports
Front suspension: Volare clip, all components powdercoated
Front brakes: Custom Volare by Pro Design
Master cylinder: ABS kit under cab
Front wheel make, size: Intro Emotion, 17x8 inches
Rear wheel make, size: Intro Emotion, 20x9.5 inches
Front tire make, size: Goodyear Eagle GT II, P225/55R17
Rear tire make, size: Goodyear Eagle GT II, P285/50R20
Gas tank: 24-gallon powdercoated aluminum by Pro Design
Between the handbuilt firewall,...
Between the handbuilt firewall, custom inner fenders, and Mattson aluminum radiator and shroud rests an immaculately detailed 514 SVO crate engine from Ford Motorsports. If it isn't polished, it's paint matched or powdercoated silver. This motor is rated at more than 600 ponies, and you could hear every one of them when we shot this truck.
Year and make: '02 Ford SVO crate
Displacement: 514 ci
Camshaft: Ford roller
Heads: Aluminum SVO Cobra Jet
Valve covers: Ford SVO
Manifold / Induction: Edelbrock Victor Jr. / Holley 920 by C&J Engineering
Ignition / Wires: MSD Ignition
Headers: Custom by Mesa Muffler, Costa Mesa, CA, coated by MB Performance, Santa Ana, CA
Exhaust / Mufflers: Handbuilt 3-inch with stainless Mac mufflers
Detail work: March serpentine belt kit; H.O.K. paint, polish, or silver powdercoat for every component
Make and model: Ford C6
Modifications: Custom by Dibb's Transmission, Costa Mesa, CA
Shifter: On ididit column
The restored dash features...
The restored dash features the stock gauge cluster, which was reworked to max out at 120 mph. The stock radio was also restored. A Budnik wheel tops the polished ididit column.
Body style / Material: Custom cab, all steel
Fenders front/rear: Stock steel
Modifications: Handbuilt firewall and inner fenders, reworked running boards, channels on back of cab sectioned down 4 inches
Hood: Stock steel with tilt kit
Grille: Rechromed with emblem removed
Bed: Bed floor raised 4 inches to clear pumpkin, '70 Suburban wheeltubs sunken into bed wood, shaved stake pockets, smooth tailgate with hidden latches
Metalwork by: Pro Design
Bodywork and paint by: Paint N Place, Anaheim, CA
Paint type / Color: House of Kolor / custom-mixed Ultra Orange Pearl
Headlights / Taillights: Stock/stock
Outside mirrors: Stock
Bumpers: Rechromed, raised, tucked
Dashboard: Stock / restored
Gauges: Restored by United Instruments
Steering wheel: Leather- wrapped Budnik
Steering column: Polished ididit
Seats: Modified Glide Engineering
Material / Color: Beige leather / suede
Upholstery by: Francisco of Bill's Auto Upholstery, Brea, CA
Stereo: Functional '56 circular radio in dash