Classic Car Studio's 1953 Ford F100 Restomod, Driven: The Fancy Muscle Truck Grandpa Never Had

As close to an honest-to-God performance pickup from 1953 as you're ever likely to see.

Who among us hasn’t wished to travel back in time and relive the past? In life, fat chance. But with cars...well, with projects like this 1953 Ford F100—which melds the old-school ethos of the original with a heavy duty truck-load of modern performance parts—your nostalgic dreams can become as real as you want them to be. This former farm truck proves you can go home again, and the drive once you get there is better than you remembered.

Restomod. Hot rod. Custom. Whatever you want to call it, this F100 fits square into the tradition of taking an old vehicle and jacking it up to today’s speedy standards. Think an AMC Javelin AMX with a 1,400 Hellcat motor, or a $300,000 Jeep Wagoneer. With an explosive aftermarket and new technologies like 3-D scanning and printing, it’s easier than ever to turn a car into a time machine. But it still helps to have an outfit like Classic Car Studio involved to do the heavy lifting.

Classic Car Studio

The St. Louis, Missouri-based shop has been around for over a decade, but it’s busier than ever these days with a bustling business centered on these restomod builds and a TV show on Velocity called Speed is the New Black. This F100 was actually the subject of the show’s pilot episode last year—the second season premiered on June 13—but it still holds a special spot as the one that kicked everything off. And I was able to drive it.

From a 1953 Ford F250 to a...1953 Ford F100

How does one turn an old jalopy into a drool-worthy cruiser? For Classic Car Studio, the approach can be summarized as follows: take one 1953 Ford F250, strip it down to the bare cab, toss it into an orgy of new parts, and say See you on the other side, champ. Literally every single nut and bolt on the truck has been replaced. As Fifties fabulous as it looks, most of that beautiful, curvaceous body is made up of replacement metal panels by LMC truck. 

Under the hood, the O.G. flathead V-8 has been swapped for a Ford Racing Boss 302 engine tuned to about 345 horsepower, which is connected to a Bowler-Tremec TKO 500 five-speed manual transmission. The whole shebang rides on a brand new TCI chassis—fabricated as an F100 frame, hence the new model designation—as well as RideTech shocks and 20-inch bronze HRBB wheels.

The mod list is just getting started. Wilwood disc brakes with six-piston front calipers provide stopping power your grandfather could have only dreamed of. The in-house stainless steel exhaust tubing paired with a set of Magnaflow mufflers sounds bananas. There’s a Ford 9.0-inch 3.50 rear end to help light up those massive Pirelli P-Zero tires. And a host of nips and tucks around the body give it an understated look of menace. (I might ditch those giant wheels for a smaller, less ostentatious set if I were writing the checks, though.)

Pappy would also be jealous of the interior, which has a level of fit and finish matching the finest automobiles of his day. The dashboard is a work of mid-century art, and the saddle brown leather is a perfect match for the waves of dark green that surround it. Key additions to the original feature set include a slim A/C unit that fits unobtrusively below the dash, a Kicker Audio sound system—and of course, that golden five-speed shifter sticking up from the floor.

Classic Car Studio made the interior of this F100 nice as hell, without straying too far from the character of an original 1950s-era pickup. Many restomod-style shops wind up overdoing the modern accouterments in the name of comfort and convenience, and the result often clashes with the rest of the build. But the minimalist design here balances out the luxurious trappings, and sliding behind the wheel proves to be a cohesive experience.

Performance Parts = Performance Pickup

Driving the truck, however, is anything but. On the road, the rigid chassis and stick-to-the-road shocks will trick you into believing you’re actually piloting a very tall muscle car...until ten seconds later, when your eyes once again register the flat, upright windshield and bulbous hood ahead. That visual disconnect between what you feel and what you see is more hilarious than disconcerting, and overall, it’s a smooth, untroubled ride.

You better believe that shifter is as fun to use as it looks. The spacing is incredibly tight, meaning second-to-fifth-whoopsies happens a bit more than most would like, but it’s so notchy and mechanical that you can forgive the ergonomic misstep. Pumping it feels like racking a shotgun, especially when your right foot is hovering over the accelerator like an itchy trigger finger, ready to unleash a blast of sonic buckshot.

Classic Car Studio

What surprised me the most wasn’t that this Ford was a fun time—which should be a given for any build of this price and magnitude—but the sheer usability. I wouldn’t haul a load of bricks in that wood-lined bed, and I might think twice about taking it on an extended road trip. But with a smooth ride, an appropriate amount of power, and just enough ground clearance to navigate an off-camber curb cut, it’s as practical as any modern car—just with no shoulder belts or airbags.

There was just one hiccup on the drive, and it's a good reminder that this is still a one-off, completely-custom build in spite of the daily driver vibes it gave off. I pulled off the road to check the map near the end of the shoot, and the truck physically wouldn't go back into gear when it was time to go. We chalked it up to the small incline I parked on, and rolling backwards in neutral did finally get it working...until the same issue popped up at a stoplight on flat ground a few miles down the road, at which point we had to push the F100 out of the intersection and wait for backup.

The gearbox eventually unstuck itself, the truck made it back to the shop under its own power, and the problem was fixed in short order. These things happen with custom projects, and it's less a reflection on Classic Car Studio than the finicky nature of building a vehicle from scratch.

Ford F100 As Past, Present, and Future

There will undoubtedly be some head-shaking at the perceived bastardization of history here. And hell, taste is subjective: You don’t have to be a hard-nosed preservationist to think you’d rather have an all-original 1953 Ford F100 (or at least one that looks all-original). But the work that Classic Car Studio put into this build should matter to you, because restomods are part of the future of automotive enthusiasm writ large.

Classic Car Studio

Sure, we’re still making pickups in this country, yes, but other interesting, unique vehicles are slowly being pushed out of the new car market by the middle-ground tastes of the masses. In a future of largely-identical, electric-autonomous crossovers, where will gearheads go to get their fix? The used car market is booming, but it’s also finite; once automakers stop building internal combustion vehicles and the supply dries up, the prices of the nicest ones are liable to skyrocket.  

So it’s entirely possible that more companies like Classic Car Studio will pop up to fill that void, and make old cars new again for new owners. Time travel is likely to remain a physical impossibility—but this F100 hints at a glimmer of hope for any dark future that may come.