In 1997, Tom made some time to update the truck with a brand-new chassis made from 2x4-inch steel tubing with a 4-inch Z in the front. After a couple of measurements, Tom was able to see that the new frame left a lot of space under the cab, and he was able to lower the floorboard down 4 inches for more legroom. Back to the chassis, Tom installed a complete Fat Man Fabrication Mustang II IFS and a matching four-link with Panhard bar. The new chassis gave the F-100 a good stance and better handling capabilities. Tom still had his conventional life that consisted of going to a regular job every day, with little playtime for his projects. A couple years later, the temptation to work in the garage was building to the point that one day he got fed up and said, "f@$# this!" Tom straight-out quit his job and went into business as Pagano Rod & Custom with his son T.J. Tom then left the truck alone to work on his customer's projects, while making some money to pay the bills.
Fast-forward a few years later. Tom caught word that the '06 F-100 Super Nationals show would have a special celebration for the 50th anniversary of the famed '56 Ford. The show was in May, and in January, Tom and T.J. tore the truck apart for a new paintjob and the addition of a 4.6L Cobra engine from a '99 Mustang. Once they started working on the engine swap, they started to realize that there were more things involved than just dropping in the motor. A call to Scott Sullivan of Sullivan Performance helped out with the majority of parts, as well as advice to get the motor firing with a ProCharger D-1 supercharger and twin intercoolers. To let the motor exhale, Donna at Sanderson Headers prototyped a set of headers for production on this very engine. With the motor planted in, Tom saw how the massive motor got in the way of the steering column. Luckily, his friend Dave O'Conner owns Wizard Fabrication, which makes an offset steering coupler called Steer Clear that took care of this problem easily.
The list of things to do on the build dwindled, and before they knew it, the Super Nationals had past. Along the way, the plan changed to get the truck to the SEMA Show, which would give them more time to tie up all the loose ends. They knew the truck had to be clean and presentable for the truck to go into the Stewart-Warner booth to display its new line of gauges. With the truck still not running, Tom and T.J. finished up the bodywork and added custom styling with 5/8-inch round aluminum stock in the front and rear, as well as in the bed. Once the body was ready to go, it was sprayed in two-tone with Sherwin-Williams Planet Color paints, featuring black satin scallops to break it up.
Come SEMA time, the truck was trailered to the show for its debut, and it completely blew everyone away-including us. Although the truck had not been fired up at that point, it still did its job of showcasing the many products that could be found on it. From there, it was on to getting the exhaust running through the back of the cab, wiring the engine, and plumbing the fuel injection. Then, it was tuning complications that had Tom and T.J. chasing down little issues to get the truck to run properly and to withstand Tom's heavy right foot. When it was ready to be driven, Tom took it on a quick testdrive around his block, resulting in four calls to the local police department by his neighbors. Their disturbance was due to the ear-pounding rumble of the 650hp engine in this little hot-rod pickup. It's loud, fast, and ready to get wild on the streets. Tom plans on doing nothing less than driving the hell out of this thing and collecting the trophies during the '07 show season. For his sake, we hope the cops don't try to stop his fun.