1962 Ford F-100: Old Friend, New Flame


Daniel Edward Newton and I have been friends for nearly 50 years.  We met in Kindergarten in the fall of 1962.  We later went to the same college, roomed together, attended who knows how many sports car races and never had a cross word between us.

A few months before Dan and I began terrorizing the playground at Valley Vista Elementary School in Cucamonga, Calif., his folks bought a new 1962 Ford F-100. The long-bed half-ton had a 160-horsepower, 292-cubic-inch Y-block V-8 and manual everything.  His father converted the original three-on-the-tree to a granny low-four-speed so the V-8 could better handle trailer towing. Dan and I took it camping and went on many road trips with our 10-speeds or motorcycles in the back. I've known the Newtons’ F-100 its entire life — which equals about 90 percent of mine.

Dan’s parents passed away some years back, and they left him the truck. For a while he drove it every day, then only once in a while, before he parked it a few years ago. The truck was then mothballed in a desert storage lot to bask in quiet, sun-drenched retirement. And recently, in a semi-weak moment, I bought the truck from him for $300.

Oh crap. Now what?

We could have gotten it running and out of storage under its own power, but I didn't want to drive it back to Los Angeles from Victorville only to blow a hose or clog the fuel filter. Instead, I borrowed a $100,000 Cummins turbo-diesel Ram 5500 with a fully articulated Jerr-Dan flatbed rig. What better way to transport a $300 truck that didn’t run?

This almost-a-Kenworth proved amazing. We’ve all grunted and pushed old cars onto trailers; no fun. Not this time. After rocking the platform down to the ground, we threw a chain around the Ford’s front axle and winched it aboard with no more drama than it takes to order a combo at In-N-Out Burger. The hearty Ram drove as if the F-100 were no more than a butterfly on its shoulder.I'm now the Ford’s second owner, ever.

I decided to go with LMC Truck as the primary parts supplier. Its extensively illustrated catalog listed most of what I needed, and the people seemed to know their stuff, and the prices are competitive.

Do-it-all local mechanic George Beal had the task of initial recommissioning.  A new gas tank, battery, master cylinder, new front-wheel cylinders and brake lines, motor mounts, a complete fluids transfusion, and a carburetor rebuild got the Effie back on the road. Not pretty, but running, functional and safe.

Fortunately, the truck didn’t need much heavy mechanical work. The original Y-Block V-8 had a valve or cam lobe going soft, which yields a somewhat lumpy idle, but said engine was rebuilt about 60,000 miles ago, and it otherwise runs pretty well. The clutch and granny low-four-speed manual transmission are tough and up to snuff, as is most of the suspension. It takes three grown gorillas to turn the steering wheel, but that’s kind of the way they were, and it didn’t help that the tires are old and hard. While the parts were in transit, I fiddled, fettled and, mostly, I scrubbed.  I must have spent $40 — a quarter at a time — at the pay-and-spray carwash. 

The next thing I had to get after was all the cab rubber — or, more correctly, the decided lack thereof. The windows rattled in the doors, and the doors shook in the door openings. The windshield and rear window seals leaked, so it all had to be addressed prior to any interior work (or rain). LMC sells an affordable windshield/door aperture/rear window rubber kit that takes care of all of that, and my friends at Bistagne Brothers Auto Body popped it all in for me. The Bistagne boys also shaped out a few dents (courtesy of an errant snowplow) on the driver's door and front fender.

With the cab now tight and dry, I decided to proceed with revitalizing the interior. A headliner kit, vinyl seat kit, carpet set, new pedal rubbers and shifter boot, plus a period-looking chrome-and-foam steering wheel from LMC gave the cabin a makeover that Bob Vila couldn’t compete with. Oscar’s Upholstery in Glendale, Calif., did the job, and we put a layer of foil-lined Dynamat, supplied by Year One, between the roof and the headliner to quell heat and noise. A layer of thinner, peel-and-stick Dynaliner sound insulation went on the floor, under the new rugs. No more metal floor, furniture blanket “upholstery” and brittle, water-damaged headliner to contend with.

Nothing improves the character of any vehicle more than fresh tires and just the right wheels. All the best choices appeared in Wheel Vintiques’ online catalog.  I selected a set of stock-appearing (though wider) Gennie steel wheels, sticking with 15-inchers to maintain a nice ride and a ‘60s look.  I ordered them in red to match the interior accent color, plus some shiny stainless steel repop Ford hubcaps. The glossy-yet-sturdy powder-coated finish on these wheels is beautiful, far and away the best paint surface on the entire truck.

The Tire Rack supplied 225/70-15 Firestone Indy 500 tires for the front, with 255/70-15s out back, to add the slightest rake. Not only does my F-100 look cooler by a factor of many, but the ride improved, and the steering got lighter. This rolling stock is the best money I could have spent.

The stock single muffler was about the size and shape of a Civil War canon, and it leaked, so it needed to go. I wasn’t yet ready to go to a full dual exhaust system (that will come with a valve job and a set of headers) so my muffler dude scrounged up a slightly used single-inlet, dual-outlet Flowmaster muffler that turned out to be a solid yet affordable alternative.  He cut off the old exhaust system just ahead of the massive old muffler, replacing it with the Flowmaster, then running an exhaust pipe and chrome tip to exit the truck on each side, just in front of the rear tire. That was $200 out the door. It sounds great, doesn’t leak, and I swear it has more power. Magical.

The bed was a festival of dents and surface rust, so we visited Rhino Linings of Orange Country. “Rhino Phil” and his sidekick sanded and sealed up the bed, laying a fine coat of “industrial gray” textured Rhino lining, which is tough as nails, and cleaning up the look of the bed (and mitigating the chance of rust-through). Maybe it’s not as cool as metal-finishing the bed and having a factory-style repaint, but it was loads cheaper, quicker and still lets the truck work like one.

It’s pretty much done for now, save for the constant fettling and fiddling that a 50-year-old vehicle will always require. I have no plan to replace the well-worn factory paint job, and while it’s not as pretty as fresh Wimbledon White paint, it’s original, and people love the patina look these days. Plus, this way I don’t have to worry about a nick or scratch now and again, or sweat parking places so much. The roof was pretty rusty, so I took it back to Bistagne’s and had them paint it to match the accent red in the cab. But other than that, the plan is to drive it another 200,000 miles, just like the Newtons did.


  • LMC Truck, 800/LMC-TRUCK,
  • Wheel Vintiques, 559/251-6957,
  • Tire Rack, 888/541-1777,
  • Bistagne Brothers Auto Body, Glendale, CA, 818/242-6876
  • Oscar Upholstery, Glendale, CA, 818/248-3830
  • George Beal Automotive, Montrose, CA, 818/249-7855

Latest expert reviews