Howard Phetteplace was an extremely talented fabricator who owned this incredible Ford while operating his business, Howard's Metal Craft, in Stanton, California. He was the kind of old-school master metal fabricator that believed in lead and not plastic body filler. For the better part of two decades, he owned this fine '55, which served as his own personal guinea pig. Whenever a customer requested an odd body mod performed on their vehicle, he'd give it a go first on his own truck. His story mirrors most every shop owner we know, where the customer comes first and the fabricator's own ride remains unfinished and in a constant state of change.

In 2000, the angels beckoned Howard home, leaving his estate and this truck up for grabs. Howard's brother Ed and his wife Joy decided to rescue the truck, before it fell into the hands of another buyer who would most certainly not understand the value of such a machine. Working with several other members of the Phetteplace family, Jimmy, Richard, and Eddy, the truck was relocated to Florida and completed with all the right parts and details that would have made Howard proud. The finishing touches brought the project full circle, but looking back at the bulk of Howard's work is just as interesting.

This isn't your average chop-'n'-drop cruiser. Indeed, Howard was a master at the choptop, and he worked overtime to make the roofline of Sun Kiss not only lower but more graceful as well. The roof was lopped off at the pillars, and a flatter top, taken from a '56 model Ford F-100, was added. The '56 top gives this truck a look we've not seen before, and the cab even retains the stock 'glass. Howard also sectioned the cab between the door hinges, removing 3 inches of heft from the profile. The fenders also received the same attention to keep the truck proportionate. Once the truck was substantially lower-looking, Howard pie-cut the hood and then turned his attention to the bed. With no fear, Howard shortened the entire bed a full 5 inches and then added 5 inches to its width. The collective alteration gives Sun Kiss the appearance of a scale model, whenever it's a parked next to a fullsize F-100.

The Phetteplace family should be proud of this truck for many reasons. Not only are they keeping Howard's memory alive but they did it in a fashion that he would most certainly approve of. We can't be sure, but we imagine he was looking down on them fondly as his old truck became a Top 5 finalist at the Good Guys Truck of the Year awards ceremony, too.

The 411

Owner/location: Ed and Joy Stuart/Pensacola, Florida

Year/make/model: '55 Ford F-100

Engine/drivetrain: GM Vortec 2000 / GM 4L80-E auto / Ford 9-inch rearend with 35-spline Moser axles / 3.89 Detroit Locker/ K&N air intake / Taylor ignition / Power-Master alternator / Sanden A/C / Griffin radiator / DynoMax headers and Flowmaster mufflers / Zoops serpentine pulley system / Lokar shifter / polished driveline

Wheels/tires: Billet Specialties 15x7- and 15x14-inch / Hoosier Pro Street 26x7.50- and 29x18.5-inch

Suspension: Art Morrison chassis / (Front) '91 Corvette IFS with Air Ride Technology Shockwaves / (Rear) four-link with Shockwaves / Wilwood disc brakes

Body Mods: 4-inch choptop fitted with a '56 roof / body sectioned and channeled 3 inches / hood pancaked 1-1/2 inches / bed shortened and widened 5 inches / headlights and taillights frenched-in

Bodywork: Howard Phetteplace of Anaheim, California / prep work by Brian's Garage in Pensacola, Florida

Custom Paint: PPG three-stage Yellow Pearl by Brian Crawford

Interior: Dashboard filled and dropped 2 inches / Dakota Digital gauges / Billet Specialties steering wheel / Flaming River column / '98 Honda Accord bucket seats / wiring by Ron Francis / interior upholstered in ivory leather and suede with wool carpet

Upholstery: Wayne and Pam McGriff of Holly Pond, Alabama