Retired Mechanic Puts a Shine on Classic Ford Trucks


During a recent drive we came upon shiny "roll-back" car hauler carrying a beautiful 1956 Ford F-100 chained to the aluminum deck. Initially we thought the old classic pickup truck was headed to a repair shop or being taken to its new owner.

Rolling past the car hauler, however, we noticed it was a classic too: a '56 C-Series cab-over-engine flawlessly painted to match the pickup on its deck. For those who might not know, both are from their respective model's last year of production.

After doing some research, we found the owner of both trucks: John Hagen of from Eugene, Ore. Hagen, a retired diesel mechanic and former sprint car driver, is respected among classic truck and car owners in the Eugene area and known as the go-to guy for just about any type of mechanical or customization work. He has a reputation for being knowledgeable and passionate about the work he provides.

As for the two classic Ford trucks, painted Snap-On Blueberry, he rebuilt them in the mid-'90s and occasionally drags out the soap bucket and wax to clean them up for local rod runs and car shows. But he is quick to point out they are daily drivers, built to enjoy and use.

"I fire up the big truck to haul a customer's classic vehicle to the shop when they break down and to take my little truck to the shows," Hagen said. "These aren't show trucks. They're just trucks that show up."

They also are fine examples of an automotive era of simplicity still appreciated by truck aficionados today. photos by Bruce W. Smith

A perfectly matched pair of Ford trucks: a 1956 F-100 on a 1956 COE. John Hagen, a retired diesel mechanic and full-time classic car/truck gearhead in Eugene, Ore., rebuilt both because he loves old trucks.

The wood in the bed was recycled from parts laying in a junkyard. Hagen sanded and refinished the weathered and warped planks for use in his pickup. Twenty years later the bed is still in good shape for a "go" truck.

A stock Chevy 350 powers Hagen's classic Ford pickup, backed by a TH400 automatic transmission. "I wanted to keep things simple," Hagen said.

The rear suspension is Mustang, the 9-inch running 3.50 gears. "It rides and handles like a car," Hagen said.

The COE's engine is a 383 Chevy stroker, backed by a Turbo 400 and transfer case. The engine was built by the late Grant Springer (Grant Springer Engines), who built Hagen's sprint car motors. It has World heads and "a small cam to help it pull better at lower rpm," Hagen said.

The Jerr-Dan roll-back makes it easy for Hagen to load customers' classics should they need to be taken to his shop for upgrades or repairs. It also makes it convenient to take his own '56 F-100 to rod runs and car shows.


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