The first-generation F-Series pickup (known as the Ford Bonus-Built) was introduced in 1948 as a replacement for the previous car-based pickup line introduced in 1942. The F-Series was sold in eight different weight ratings, with pickup, panel truck, cab-over engine (COE), conventional truck, and school-bus chassis body styles.
For the 1953 model year, Ford introduced a second generation of the F-Series trucks. Increased dimensions, improved engines, and an updated chassis were features of the second generation. In another change, the model nomenclature of the F-Series was expanded to three numbers; this remains in use in the present day. The half-ton F-1 became the F-100, the F-2 and F-3 were combined into the 3/4-ton F-250, while the F-4 became the one-ton F-350. Conventional F-Series trucks were F-500 to F-900; COE chassis were renamed C-Series trucks.
The F-Series pick-ups have gone through many technological and body style changes over the years, and are now in the fourteenth generation. However, by far the most sought after F-Series (by collectors and enthusiasts) has been the second generation pick-ups with their bulging mudguards and classic looks. Hot-rodders seem to love the classic shape of the Series 2 pick-ups – so much so that many people have forgotten what a standard Series 2 F-100 looked like!
The F-100 featured here is a 1954 model second generation Pick-up; and I could safely say that it is one of those rare specimens in Sri Lanka that retains its original V8 petrol engine! But as the story goes, this truck almost had its’ engine swapped to a diesel!
Kumara is the owner of this Series 2 F-100. An unassuming guy, Kumara has many a classic – some with resto-mods, and some in original spec - in his collection. Having had a passion for cars all his life, Kumara would pour through car magazines in his spare time; and a feature in an American classic car magazine caught his attention. It was a F-100 with lowered suspension and hot-rod bits. Having seen many of them while living overseas, Kumra had not seen one of these F-100s in Sri Lanka at all. However, Kumara was in touch with a local “car spotter” who had helped him locate some classics before. On a whim, he gave a scanned photo of the F-100 in the magazine to the car-spotter and said to let him know if he came across one of them. Over a year passed’ and Kumara gets a phone call from the car-spotter to say that he had found an F-100 just like the one in the photo in Kurunegala! Even then Kumara thought that the car-spotter had made a mistake. Just to please him, Kumara went to Krunegala with the car-spotter. A further one hour drive took them to a make-shift workshop; and half covered, with parts dismantled, was indeed an F-100.
The F-100 had undergone some butchering already. The engine was out, and not to be found in the location where the truck was. The engine mounts were “modified” to take a Japanese diesel engine! When asked, the owner said that the original engine had been “given away” to a metal recycler! On Kumara’s insistence, they had gone to the metal recycler – and indeed the original Ford V8 with the automatic gearbox had been there! It had been open to the elements and water had got in to the engine through the carburetors… but it was there!
So the couple of transactions were made – one for the truck and one for the engine and the whole lot was loaded on to a carrier truck. The destination was “Motorama Customs” in Katupotha, in the Kurunegala area. Amila, the owner is known to Kumara and had worked on Kumara’s cars before. Amila took on the project to firstly repair and put back the original V8 and the auto transmission back in to the truck; then to make it a “rod” just like the one in the magazine feature!
Kumara sourced a lot of the necessary parts from the U.S. and Amila also substituted some parts – like the rear suspension that came from an old Buick sedan.
Kumara took me for a ride in the F-100 on the morning that we took it out for photography. The press-button starter brought the V8 to life; initially hesitantly, but then settled to the typical V8 burble. On smooth tarmac it is as smooth as a normal sedan. But every man-hole cover and small rut in the road reminds you that its’ sitting some four inches above the ground and there is hardly any suspension travel! It has the original steering wheel and dash-board with the speedo-meter with half round chrome surround. Blending in with all that is a well-functioning air-conditioner, power steering that makes life easier for Kumara and indeed a fabulous sound system that could either entertain you or your neighbours!
As expected, at our photography shoot, we attracted a mini audience – parents taking photos with their children next to the truck, couples taking selfies and the unavoidable know-alls who say that the front wheels are of the wrong size and that the suspension is all wrong!
It is great to know that there are real enthusiasts like Kumara who are well read on what is happening internationally; and indeed tech savvy and meticulously fussy people like Amila at Motorama Customs who will go out of his way to do a job right.