Combining vintage Ford and modern Dodge, this hybrid hauler brings in business
MOST SHOP OWNERS know creating a distinctive truck for their business is one of the best forms of marketing. Not only does it serve functional purposes such as hauling parts, transporting the crew, getting lunch, or returning you home at the end of a long day, it also acts as cost-effective advertising for the organization wherever it goes. A wellexecuted design brings customers to the door and provides for them a closeup view of the shop personnel’s ability and imagination. The goal is to hear: “Hey, can you build one of those for me?”
Sergio Cueto understands these advantages and brings a unique approach to the concept. Sergio was born in Cuba, learning about automobiles from his father, grandfather, and uncles, all of whom worked as mechanics. In Cuba, being able to innovate is critical since supplies are difficult to find. In times of need, a gearhead either fabricates or goes without. For nearly two decades, Sergio parlayed those traits, doing aluminum welding for boats and creating T-tops, radar arches, and railings along with marine upholstery in his shop S&E Custom in Miami, Florida. Obviously, those same welding skills were a big advantage when Sergio built his one-of-a-kind vehicle, the diesel-powered rat rod featured in these pages.
This ride was actually inspired by a previous hybrid custom, a ’28 Ford Model A, boasting a unique 24-valve 5.9L Cummins diesel engine. It was fun to build, and the Cummins is such an eye-catching addition that he could not wait to try it again, this time with something more relevant to the shop.
Once the rat-rod-shop-truck concept was fleshed out, collecting the raw material began with a ’59 Ford F100. The body needed lots of work, but “rough around the edges” was part of the plan from the outset. Motivational power was secured when Sergio found a ’97 Dodge Ram 3500 dualie. The effort to blend the classic Ford shell with the almost-40-year–newer chassis began with stripping the Dodge bare and taking measurements from the Ford cab.
The first hurdle to overcome was the size disparity between the two vehicles. To fit the
Ford’s regular cab and 8-foot bed on the Dodge extended-cab chassis, Sergio fabricated new mounts for the cab and stretched the Ford bed
to fit. Sergio used 1x2-inch steel to create a frame that ensured the bedsides held their shape once the bed was sliced, just behind the forward wall. The front portion was clamped in place behind the cab, and Sergio positioned the rear half so the Ford wheel openings matched the Dodge rear wheels. Sheetmetal panels were formed to fill the gap and welded in place, making for an unusually long bed.
Even at this early stage, the truck already had the beginnings of the eye-catching, customer-attracting look Sergio wanted. A new bed floor was created from pine planks, separated with 1-inch aluminum trim strips and sealed with a stain and clear epoxy finish. Sergio adapted a set of rear fenders from a ’56 Ford
F100, widened to fit the dualie wheels in the rear and matched with a similar set of abbreviated flares up front. The combination creates a genuinely aggressive look. Details included the small toolbox behind the back window that holds essentials.
Adopting the “if it ain’t broke” philosophy, Sergio got the truck rolling using all the Dodge suspension bits just the way they rolled off the assembly line. The fullfloating Dana 80 rearend is equipped with 4.10 gears. Similarly, the 5.9L Cummins engine and automatic transmission are also stock, except for a cold-air intake, a repositioned intercooler to fit the engine bay, a tweaked fuel pump, and a 4-inch exhaust that feeds a huge 6-inch stack behind the back window. “It has more than enough
power to get the job done,” Sergio says. Since wheels can make or break a design, filling the new fenderwells are six 24.5inch Alcoa rims, shaved to 24 inches to fit the low-profile 305/35-R24 Nexen tires.
Dressing up the exterior was a no-brainer. “I always liked the rat rod look, so I kept as much patina as I could, clear-coating it after it was finished,” Sergio says. “It takes the worry out of driving, but the truck still gets lots of attention.” Luis Gutierrez helped with the paint and Tito Boom created the Rat Fink–inspired cartoon on the fender along with the logo on the door that directs business to the shop.
Moving inside, the Dodge instrument cluster was adapted to the Ford dash and an aftermarket air-conditioning unit was installed. The original Ford bench seat was reengineered, with the springs being removed and new foam used. The diamond-stitched Russet rawhide upholstery creates a road trip–comfortable perch and the diamond-stitched headliner matches the seat. Sergio devised a highly unique steering wheel, using an agricultural chain and a circular mold, welding the links together with connecting rods as spokes. Everything had to be perfect from a safety standpoint, and since one weak link could spell trouble, it was a test of his welding skills.
Tunes come by way of a Pioneer head unit, four 6.5-inch speakers, and a pair of 10-inch Kicker subs, driven by a five-channel Kicker 1,000-watt amplifier under the seat. The cool and comfortable cab combined with the long wheelbase makes the truck a joy to cruise the interstates.
Trimmed flares up front and widened dualie fenders in the rear give the F100 a bold look. The Ford crest and Cummins Turbo Diesel plaque reveal some of the truck’s secrets. Six 24.5-inch Alcoa rims were shaved to 24 inches and wrapped in low-profile...
A welder by trade, Sergio created this unique steering wheel using a rugged agricultural chain for the rim and three connecting rods as spokes. He calls it the “Necker’s Knob.”
Comfortable inside, the interior uses the original Ford bench seat, now covered in diamond-stitched Russet rawhide with a headliner to match. Stereo and air conditioning add modern creature comforts.
Don’t let the Ford plate on top of the engine fool you. The 12-valve Cummins diesel sports a cold-air intake and a 4-inch exhaust. The intercooler had to be relocated below because of space concerns in the narrow engine compartment.
The classic Ford body and modern Dodge underpinnings, along with some aggressive-looking wheel flares, make this rig the center of attention, which is perfect for a shop truck.
The sheetmetal extension makes the bed even longer than stock, while the patina paintjob does its best to arouse customer interest. Sergio is a patriot, and the flag is always flying!
Adding looks along with a little additional horsepower, the center stack enhances the truck’s performance image. The wooden storage cabinet holds spares and cleaning essentials. Rough-cut pine planks in the bed blend nicely with the patina paint.