Larry Hunkele has always been a truck man -- the bigger the better. Over the years, he's owned such heavy haulers as a 1973 Dodge Power Wagon, a '70 Ford F250 4x4 and a '71 International Scout AWD.
Family duties piled up and soon trucks veered off his driveway, but they didn't stay away forever.
"With the kids raised and grown, I decided I had the time to get another vintage truck," the Aurora resident said.
While he's liked Fords, the 1963 F100 wasn't one of his favorite model years. However, the uniqueness of this 4x4 pickup hooked him.
"This truck came equipped from the factory with a special package specifically designed for hard work. Only 997 vehicles were built like it," Hunkele said.
To ensure this four-wheel drive brute could stand up to ultra-tough tasks, Ford bolted on a cattle guard, cab lights and heavy duty leaf springs capable of carrying 9,000-pound loads.
The vehicles were designed for work, not luxury, and optimally "for ranchers, electrical linemen and the forestry workers."
True to its original purpose, Hunkele's F100 was used on a cattle ranch out West. Years passed by, along with various owners, before it received a frame-off restoration in 1995. It came onto Hunkele's radar in 2008 when he stumbled upon an ad online.
The seller was located in Arizona but, with Hunkele's daughter getting married, he was strapped for cash and let the truck pass. Unbeknown to him, the seller gave the four-wheel drive F100 to his son, who lived in Downers Grove.
"While at a car show, I turned a corner and there was the truck," Hunkele said. Still enamored with the Ford, he committed to staying in touch with the new owner. One year later, another online ad surfaced and this time Hunkele participated in an auction for the truck, but missed the final bid.
The winner, who ironically lived in Arizona, didn't want to the pay the transfer fee. Hunkele quickly swooped in to make the purchase.
During the initial restoration, the rust-free body had a few dents taken out but the Wimbledon White truck has retained all its original panels. The Ford appears bone stock but a few subtle changes were made. The ignition system on the 292-cubic-inch V-8 was upgraded from points to solid state, a second stainless steel fuel tank was installed and a tough-as-nails rear diamond plate bumper was mounted.
The vehicle came equipped with the Custom Cab package and has such things as a chrome horn ring, thicker seating, two-toned red and white interior and a sound-absorbing headliner. To make it capable off road, Ford installed a four-speed manual transmission with both high and low gears. The wheels also have locking hubs for optimal traction.
"When the 'granny' first gear," Hunkele said, "it could easily pull down a house!"
It's not uncommon for truck owners to wrench on components and modifications to their own off-road rigs, but few came out of the factory ready for action.
"With all the ground clearance and its jacked-up appearance, spectators can't believe it doesn't have an aftermarket lift kit," he said. "I remind them this was used to go up fields and farms, to put the power lines through and other off-pavement jobs."
Just as you'd expect, to make that dirt magic happen, Hunkele's Ford doesn't have a sumptuous ride. "Driving it takes you back to when trucks were trucks. With drum brakes and no power steering, it's rough."
Its backbreaking days are long gone as this F100 now is purely a show truck, carrying only the most precious of cargo.
"It's my pride and joy and I think the only person who likes it more than me is my 2-year-old grandson," Hunkele said. "I installed the optional seat belts and he gets no greater thrill than going for a ride."