Neglected 2 Perfected
A Retirement Project Turned 25-Year Masterpiece
A ’53 F100 retirement project turned 25-year masterpiece
Raul Silva from El Paso, Texas, enjoyed a career in the engineering department of his city, charged with inspecting and maintaining its infrastructure. When he retired, he took a slightly different approach than most. “When a lot of people retire, they immediately go out to find another job,” Raul tells us. “I wanted to retire and get away from the business world. Thankfully, I had a project.” As it turned out, the truck he bought back in 1991 might have been even more of a project than he bargained for. But, with the help of many friends, the forgotten old Ford became a showstopper—although it was anything but an overnight success.
Raul grew up in a car-oriented family where Dad, a consummate car guy, would buy, fix, and regularly sell cars.
That established a love for the hobby in Raul that is still strong today. Using multiple car shows over the years and the endless opportunities available from the aftermarket as a source of inspiration, Raul already had a clear idea for the direction of his project truck. His talents as an experienced draftsman helped create design visuals, and his good friends were able to put his ideas to work. The build, however, needed to start from scratch. Found in a field, the tired and neglected ’53 F100 needed extensive sheetmetal work and all-new running gear, so the first step was separating the usable parts of the body from the chassis. After boxing the frame, the long march into the new millennium began with a TCI independent front suspension package that included new A-arms, adjustable coilovers, and rack-and-pinion power steering. The TCI four-link and Panhard bar in the rear hold a narrowed Lincoln Versailles 9-inch positraction rear and 4.88 gears. A 16-gallon tank from Rick’s Hot Rods located between the rear framerails keeps the cab sweet smelling. An indicator of the attention to detail is the 1/2-inch PVC along the framerails, added to protect all the gas lines, brake lines, and wiring.
Power was next, and it was important to Raul that the Ford have a Ford under the hood—in this case, a 351 Windsor bored to 383ci. Since it also had to be really quick, he turned to the aftermarket to create just the right amount of too much fun.
The Windsor was completely disassembled and rebuilt with a handpicked assortment of modern performance upgrades that began with Keith Black pistons, a Pete Jackson gear drive, Lunati cam, and Edelbrock heads. For looks as well as performance, dual quad Edelbrock 500-cfm EnduraShine carbs sit on an Air-Gap Performer intake. The MSD Pro-Billet electronic ignition fires the fuel/air mix while Sanderson ceramic-coated headers extract spent gases, directing them through a Sanderson X-pipe and dual Magnaflow mufflers. Dress-up items include Billet Specialties valve covers and air cleaner, TruTrac serpentine engine pulley system, and a polished aluminum radiator. A reworked Ford
AOD transmission, complete with B&M 10-inch torque converter and Monster Transmission and Performance shift kit, multiplies the engine’s stout 385 hp. The chassis became a roller, thanks to American Racing 17x8 rims and Toyo rubber, with Wilwood fourpiston disc brakes ensuring modern stopping power.
All the original sheetmetal on the truck was reworked to a high standard, with the exception of the bed and rear fenders, which were too far gone to save. Dennis Carpenter came to the rescue with aftermarket replacements. Subtle touches include the running boards redesigned to fit closely to the body and the front bumper tucked in 3 inches. The factory grille was chromed, and Raul chose Tri-Bar headlights originally designed for motorcycle use. They match the vintage taillights, all four featuring centrally mounted blue dots. Magnaflow pipes poking through the Dan Carpenter roll pan give you a hint of the F100’s power under the hood. Personalizing the smooth tailgate is a Little Stinker cartoon character, a tribute to Raul’s first truck, one that went missing back in the ’80s and was never seen again.
Moving inside, the interior started as a clean slate with a starkly simple dash, devoid of any distractions, painted black and white, and holding only Dakota Digital gauges and Vintage
Air components. The cab benefits from a stunning collection of fiberglass upgrades, beginning with a unique overhead console that holds the Pioneer head unit. Below, the matching center console begins as a gloss black and upholstered armrest between the Infinity bucket seats, flowing forward to hold the Lokar automatic shifter. It transitions to White Pearl and drops down, returning to create a waterfall effect. The grille between the buckets holds the Memphis 10-inch sub, tweeters are mounted in the headliner, and 6.5-inch component sets are located behind the seats. A 400-watt Memphis amp under the passenger seat provides power. Raul’s wife, Gela, nicknamed the lightning bolt theme in the distinctive door panels the “Power Ranger touch.” The fiberglass kick panels match the door panels perfectly. Raul connects with his “Effie” using a Billet Specialties wheel on an ididit column. With every feature modernized, the single-pane side glass, doors, and tonneau cover all work from a remote with linear actuators raising and lowering the Pro’s Pick tonneau cover. The Ford logo and V-8 symbol were airbrushed under the cover, and the maple planks are separated by aluminum strips. The upholstery was done by the talented team at Keller Kustoms in El Paso, which was also responsible for the bodywork and paint. Raul chose House of Kolor Raven Black along with Ivory Parchment Pearl with tangerine and gunmetal striping. Graphics pass through the doors and into the engine compartment.
We ran into Raul at the F-100 Supernationals in Tennessee, an event that’s been on his bucket list since 2012. It was a five-day, 1,350-mile trip from home, but Raul smiled when he told us, “Seeing your truck in your favorite magazine makes the journey worthwhile!” One more special item of note: Raul is continuing the family tradition started by his dad, working with his grandson Austin and teaching him about cars. A recent high school graduate, Austin will get the keys to the ’53 and a legendary road trip on Route 66 with his grandfather when he shows Raul a college diploma. Talk about incentive!