I just recently completed the full restoration of my 1960 f-100 truck. It took me just over three years to complete ( partially because I'm still attending high school, so time and funds are tight) and I couldn't be happier with the outcome. I learned a lot as I went, and did all of the mechanical work on the truck myself. To anyone that is considering a big project like this one, I will say that I got into a lot more than I ever expected. The truck blew through the initial budget in no time, and multiple setbacks extended the timeline by months at a time, but I would gladly do it all again.
Step 1: Find a Vechile
I knew that I wanted a truck, and I knew that I wanted it to be old, but that was all that I had to go on when I went searching for my first vehicle. I looked at a few trucks on the side of the road and a few others online, but the best leads were by word of mouth. As far as 60s-70s trucks go, Chevy parts are cheaper and more readily available, but I found a deal on a good looking ford that I couldn't pass up. When buying something that I plan to work on, I try to avoid half finished projects. When someone else has disassembled or started to work on your vehicle, you can't be sure of what you're taking on or the quality of the work that was done. Surface rust was fine, but I wanted to stay away from serious rusting in the floor pan, frame, etc. The truck that I settled on was driven from 1960-1992, It was then parked in a field and sat for over 20 years. I purchased it for $800, and began my restoration.
Step 2: Assess Your Vehicle
When I got my truck into my garage, instead of rushing into disassembly, I tried to see what I was working with. The truck was rough and overall beaten up, but it had not been touched, and was complete. After looking at the essentials, I didn't see a reason why it shouldn't be able to to run. Here is a short list of what I did to get it ready to run for the first time in over 20 years.
- rebuilt the carburetor
- oil change and filter
- new spark plugs/ ignition coil/ points/ distributor cap
-fill radiator fluid
To get it to start I had to pour gas directly into the top of the carburetor (something I strongly advise against due to safety concerns). I also had to wire up a starter switch to use until I could re-wire the whole truck. I got the truck to run for a few moments at a time, which was enough to do some assessments. I realized that there was a serious issue with the engine when I started finding coolant in the engine oil (an indicator that there is a crack in the engine in the water jacket that surrounds the cylinder, usually caused by freezing water.) The brakes and clutch were inoperable, the wiring harness had been mostly chewed through, and the transmission had broken gears. The initial diagnosis revealed major problems, but got me well on my way.
Step 3: Sand Blasting
To start with a blank slate and keep the truck from rusting further, I had the truck sand blasted and acid washed. I prepped for this by removing the drive train from the engine through the drive shaft, and covering or removing any other parts that I didn't want harmed by the sand and acid. Because I didn't have the money to have the truck painted right away, I had it primed to keep it from re-rusting.
Step 4: Power Train Brakes and Suspension
While the truck was being sand blasted, I began to work on rebuilding the engine and transmission. I bought an engine block from another truck, and bought a rebuild kit for the 223 inline 6 engine. I decided to go with the inline 6 motor to keep the truck as original as possible. I disassembled the motor that I purchased and took it to the machine shop to be bored and cleaned. Because of the extreme wear on the cylinder walls, the engine had to be bored .0060 of an inch larger than the original. To compensate, I installed larger pistons. With the right parts and tools, reassembly of the engine went relatively smoothly. I put a new glass bowl 1904 Holley carburetor on it, because the one that I rebuilt had small interior cracks that prevented proper fuel flow. The transmission is a "three on the tree" three speed manual transmission. I was able to clean and rebuild it in a few days. When I bought the truck, all four leaf springs were in tact, but the shocks were shot. I put factory air shocks in the rear and hydraulic/ spring shocks in the front. The brakes on the truck are hydraulic drum brakes on all four wheels. The brake lines were all rusted through, cracked wheel cylinders, worn drums and shoes, I had to replace all parts of the brake system. The most time consuming part of that being bleeding the system of air. There are a lot of smaller jobs that were involved as well: installing a new gas tank, making new motor mounts, new radiator, etc.
Step 5: Bodywork and Paint
Painting and bodywork are arts that I have not yet mastered, nor do I trust myself to get the quality results that I want to see on my restoration. I removed the protective primer by sanding it back off by hand, and then separated the body of the truck from the frame to allow the paint and bodywork to be done. The frame was powder coated, and the body spent the next three months being smoothed out and painted.
Step 6: Reassembly
Once the painting was done, I reassembled the truck: installed the engine, transmission, drive shaft, a complete wiring harness from front to back, including a new gauge cluster, a new flowmaster exhaust system, lights, glass, new wheels and tires. I had the seat re-upholstered professionally in two tone leather, along with the carpet and headliner. I finished up with new chrome, hood emblems, interior touches, etc.
Step 7: Wood Bed
I decided after driving around for a few weeks that I wanted to ad something to the truck to give it that extra 60's truck feel, so I installed a wooden bed on a budget. Instead of buying the kits with the stained oak boards, I went to the hardware store and bought deck boards and 2x4's. The wood is not physically attached to the bed of the truck, it just rest inside, but it doesn't move because it is snug against the fenders and the walls of the bed.