At­ten­tion-Get­ter

Com­bin­ing vin­tage Ford and mod­ern Dodge, this hy­brid hauler brings in busi­ness

Diesel Power - - Contents - Words by JOE GREEVES + Photos by JOE GREEVES

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.

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