Fred & Melinda Darrow's 1956 Ford F100 Pickup
(from Volume 17, Issue 196)

The Darrrow’s are not new to the street rod scene, and as a matter of fact they have been doing this for 55+ years. But this time it is quite different. Why you ask? Because this is the third time around for this same truck. It all started on one of the Darrow’s return trips home from Florida in 1992, when a 1956 Ford Pickup passed them by. Fred said to Melinda, “Hey look at that ’56. We need one of those!”. The quest began, but it took them two years to find a suitable starter for the project, a trip to Georgia to purchase it, then back to their warehouse in Northeast Pennsylvania.

The first build included reattaching the out of plumb Camaro front clip that was already in the truck, boxing the frame, the installation of a 5.0 liter engine from a salvaged Mustang, an AOD transmission, and 9-inch Ford rear end. At this point a 1973-76 Ford step side bed was utilized, which was narrowed by 4.75 inches by Bill Rorick, who also did numerous other sheet metal modifications, and fabricated the stainless steel rear wheel tubs to accommodate 29x12x15 inch Mickey Thompsons. Spectrum Auto Body in Scranton handled the body work, then applied the Winter Mint base coat and clear coat paint.

After completion Fred and Melinda went to several local shows over the succeeding three years, and took home a nice trophy from each show. But there was something missing that they spoke of frequently while putting 3,000+ miles on the truck, and that was the overall ride comfort level.

This lead to build up number two, when after a visit to Fatman Fabrications in North Carolina and a tour of the facility, Fred decided to replace the entire frame of the truck. That included a complete Fatman frame and front end, with air suspension, four bar pro-street rear suspension package, and 4-wheel disc brakes. At this point the truck also received a set of Trick Flow aluminum heads, Ford B-300 cam and roller package, new intake manifold, aluminum radiator, Baumann Engineering trans controller, 2,200 stall converter, stainless steel gas tank, Dakota digital gauges, and more.

After wining lots of awards in Pennsylvania and the North East, Fred and Melinda moved to Florida and brought the ‘56 with them. They continued to show the truck in the Central Florida area until the unspeakable happened. Yes, someone rear-ended Fred while he was sitting at a traffic light, doing very extensive damage as they hit him so hard that it knocked the truck over 100 feet into the intersection.

Fred turned to Dan and the boys at “The LAB” (Leesburg Auto Body - to rebuild his baby. He had used the hot rod and restoration shop in Leesburg Florida before for minor touch ups in the past and was always happy with the quality of the repairs, and now it was time for an almost complete rebuild. Luckily the guys at “The LAB” were able to determine that the frame was undamaged, however there was obviously still lots of work to be done. The entire bed had to be replaced, but it wasn’t as simple as just off and on. Since the previous bed was a 70’s Ford step side converted to fit the ‘56, with the bed and tailgate having been narrowed 4.75 inches, it now needed to be done to the new bed. The back of the cab was also crushed by the extreme forces that pushed the bed up into it, so Fred decided this was a good time to put in a big back window package from Mid Fifties in Arizona. After countless other repairs, and massaging all the metal back into shape, Leesburg Auto Body applied the truck’s distinctive Winter Mint paint, coming out as smooth as glass.

Next up was a complete interior makeover, which included a trip to Advanced Interiors in Leesburg for tan and brown genuine leather upholstery. Chuck Dennis did a great job, with the truck receiving many complements about the interior accommodations at various shows since completion.

The third build up and repairs took fifteen months to complete, but it was sure worth the time and additional money, with a great finished product as the reward. They say the “Third time’s a charm”, and in the case of Fred and Melinda Darrow 1956 Ford Pickup that seems to be the case. For their sake though let’s hope that a fourth reincarnation is never needed, as the truck is great just the way it is now! CN