Jon Unick’s 1956 Ford F100 Packs a Hidden Punch

By Chuck Vranas   –   Photos by the Author

Mention the word sleeper and the mere thought of it brings forth visions of a late night rendezvous on city streets where a mundane sedan sits rumbling at the lights with a clueless challenger waiting to hit it on green, only to be shocked when left in the dust. Wearing old paint, tarnished bumpers and factory hubcaps it’s what lies under the outer skin that counts. Packing plenty of upgrades into the suspension and driveline departments is what separates them from the rest. For Jon Unick of Kearney, Nebraska, bringing the sleeper formula to a new level with his 1956 Ford F-100 featured across our pages evolved as a part of a well-thought plan.

Having grown up in the farming industry, Jon was accustomed to working on everything from heavy equipment to daily haulers as a part of his work life. It was a path that he followed ever since his youth where mechanical knowledge was gained with every turn of a wrench to maintain the fleet. The one cool part of growing up was that his family was also heavily into motorsports which meant the weekends were dedicated to attending local circle track racing, tractor pulls and mud racing events while also staying in tune with who had the most-wicked hop-ups on the street. From when he received his license to this day, Jon has only owned trucks, which leads us down the path to his latest acquisition.

When it came time to narrowing it down to a favorite era of trucks to focus on, Jon went straight to Fords of the ‘50s. His main quest was to locate an F-100 with a perfect sun-baked exterior that he could fuse with a modern chassis and cutting-edge performance, making it the perfect sleeper. You never know when the right candidate might show up on your radar and sometimes they’re located right in your home town. One afternoon Jon discovered what appeared to be an abandoned 1956 F-100 beneath a highway overpass. Looking into who owned it led to a party in Florida who had left it there in suspended animation with hopes to eventually get it running again. In conversation they advised that they wanted to preserve its original patina, especially since it was a rust-free example. Eventually a deal was made when Jon told them of his intent for the build and that he would sell them back the rolling chassis and driveline.

Having previously worked with Randy Lofquist, owner of Dynamic Rides located in Kearney, the truck was delivered there for initial evaluation. It was easy to lay out a plan for the rebirth since the pair shared much of the same vision to inject it with plenty of attitude starting with the chassis. To get started, Randy contacted No Limit Engineering o Dandridge, Tennessee, for one of their Big 10 spines incorporating custom crossmembers and their exclusive 10-inch tall center X-member. Out back a Currie Enterprises 9-inch rear packs 4.10 gears spun by matching 31-spline axles. It’s nailed in place by a combination of No Limit’s custom trailing arms with cantilever-style rocker arms, links and Panhard bar along with RideTech billet coilover shocks. For razor-sharp handling, No Limit’s Wide Ride IFS showcases their tubular upper and lower control arms combined with their 2-inch dropped ZG spindles, RideTech billet coilover shocks and custom splined antisway bar by Dynamic Rides. If you want speed, you’d better plan on stopping just as fast. A Wilwood 8-inch dual power master moves juice through stainless lines to matching 12.19-inch drilled & vented rotors with 4-piston calipers out back and 12.88-inch drilled & vented rotors with 6-piston calipers in front. Bringing it to the street, a set of wicked Forgeline Model RB3C wheels wearing Toyo Model R888 low-profile rubber lay down the goods.

Nothing speaks louder than an aggressive mill under the hood. To handle the job, Jon contacted Ford Performance for one of their fire-breathing 427ci crate V-8’s filled with plenty of go-fast goods.  A BOSS 351 block was packs a SCAT forged steel crank linked to forged steel H-beam rods wearing Mahle forged pistons getting bumped by a hydraulic rolled cam. To build plenty of seamless power, a set of Ford Performance aluminum “X” heads meet an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap intake topped with a Holley Ultra Street Avenger 770cfm carb capped with a C. Cook Enterprises air cleaner. MSD ignition lights the fire with spent gasses dumping through stainless headers from GP to a custom 2 ½-inch stainless exhaust with Dr. Gas Boom Tubes and Magnaflow mufflers. Power moves through a Ford 4R70W trans hopped-up by Bowler Transmissions coupled to an aluminum driveshaft from Denny’s Driveshaft. It’s all good for a healthy 450hp @5600rpm. Sprinkled with evil under the hood, the Dynamic Rides team including Randy, Dustin Maxson and Aaron Pullman altered the driveline placement. For better weight distribution and an even lower center of gravity they moved the driveline back 7-inches from the stock location which also required recessing the firewall by 3 ½-inches. They wrapped it up with custom fabbed inner fenders, radiator and trans cooler mounts and a reverse-opening hood.

With a rust free cab and bed wearing priceless original patina, it was an easy decision to retain its glory, highlighted of course by a few tasteful updates by the team. To dial in the details they tucked the bumpers, rerouted the exhaust vibe through the running boards and accented it with custom wheel tubs in the bed to accommodate the wider rubber. To add an air of refinement, Jon had Randy lay down a subtle coating of PPG Meadow Green and custom-blended bronze both under the hood and inside the cab. Inside, the stock dash was treated to Dakota Digital VHX gauges to monitor the vitals while a Budnik wheel (modified by Dynamic Rides) links to an ididit tilt column. Shifts move through a Lokar stick while Vintage Air cools the cabin and an American Autowire Highway 22 wiring kit brings it all to life. For plenty of comfort, Glide Engineering bucket seats were covered in gray leather accented by matching side panels with complimenting green square-weave carpeting. The completed truck brings plenty of sleeper attitude to the street while also embracing fresh chassis dynamics and a fierce V-8 under the hood and to us that’s just plain cool.

Modern Rodding Magazine