Creating a custom vehicle is not for the faint of heart. We're often our harshest critic, making it quite difficult -- if not impossible -- to craft a masterpiece that turns out just right on the very first try.
Faithful readers of this column have met Hank Groves of Woodstock, who built a pair of 1932 Ford roadsters. Groves has also taken several stabs at transforming a vintage truck into the custom hauling ride of his dreams.
"I've owned and built multiple pickups from the 1940s and '50s. They had great style but they weren't complete restorations and just not exactly how I wanted them to turn out," he says.
Returning a vehicle back to factory form is more of a straightforward task, but Groves isn't one to follow that route. "I've never been a stock truck kind of guy," Groves says. "I want my pickup to be something that drives, brakes and handles remarkably well. Something that has increased dependability, thanks to modern specs and the latest tech."
With those other projects under his belt, he took another crack at it in 2010 after purchasing a 1949 Ford F1 pickup. He located the vehicle in Crystal Lake. The truck had just started being customized.
"The previous owner had a similar vision to mine and I really liked the direction the project was heading."
When Groves acquired the F1, the vehicle consisted of a frame, cab and front fenders, leaving him to track down a cargo box and rear fenders. "It was in a great stage for me to be able to assemble it and make the design changes I wanted."
For a subtle muscle look, he opted for rear fenders that are two inches wider than stock. The shapely body was painted in a 2001 Chrysler Blue. Power comes from a rebuilt Ford 302-cubic-inch V-8. A MagnaFlow exhaust system dumps spent fumes just forward of the rear tires.
New disc brakes are installed up front while a Heidts independent front suspension keeps the American Racing wheels planted during spirited jaunts.
"Stance is what makes a full-fledge street rod," Groves says. "I worked hard to ensure this truck fires on all cylinders in that department."
From the Ford factory, these rough 'n' ready 1949 machines sat up quite high. That raised elevation works great for traversing to off-road worksites, but it doesn't mark high in Grove's style department. To bring it back down, drop spindles were installed in the front and new springs in the back lower the rear of the vehicle several inches.
"I'm very pleased with the final rake. It gives it just the right attitude."
The truck isn't all about being aggressive, because it's also quite cozy. Inside the cabin are such creature comforts as power steering and brakes and A/C. Occupants are also treated to 2004 Lexus GS luxury sedan power seats. "They're a far cry from what the factory would have installed, but they make riding so much more pleasurable," Groves says.
Other touches include custom bumpers, LED lighting and gauges. The overhaul wrapped up in just one year, perhaps lending credibility to the axiom of practice does make perfect.
"It may have taken a couple tries, a lot of late nights and more than a few headaches, but this is one truck I'm thoroughly satisfied with."