Thursday, August 4, 2011

1956 Ford F-100

Modernized Truck
Text and Photos by David W. Temple
          Ford’s truck series became much more modern with the introduction of a newly redesigned F-Series line for 1953. The F-Series which began in 1948 as the F-1, F-2, F-3, F-4, etc., were updated to become (among others) the F-100, F-250, and F-350 which were the respective designations for the ½-ton, ¾-ton, and the one ton versions in the so-called light-duty category. The F-250 actually replaced both the old F-2 and F-3 trucks. These light-duty trucks were joined by a number of heavy-duty types including cab-over engine versions. Ford’s trucks could be had with a regular bed, stake bed, or even without a bed for those needing to install a specially constructed cargo carrier. A panel truck was also offered.  One other vehicle included in the truck group, was the passenger car-based Courier which was a sedan delivery vehicle having very little in common with the F-Series.
          Of the 1953-56 models, the ’56 rendition was the most modern in appearance. A wraparound windshield (a styling craze originally introduced by General Motors) finally made it to Ford’s truck line, though it did appear the prior model year on their all-new passenger car line including the Thunderbird. The wraparound windshield forced a reshaping of the 1953-55 cab and doors. Ford’s truck literature boasted of the ease of entry and exit with doors “almost a yard wide.”
The new wraparound windshield was not just for the front; a desirable option for a ‘56 Ford truck was the wraparound rear window. When this feature was ordered, bright moldings were added to all windows. The standard rear window measured a bit over four feet, thus leaving wide pillars at the rear of the cab. The optional wraparound glass of 824 square inches certainly improved rearward visibility.
Other updates that freshened the styling of the F-Series for ‘56 included a new grille, “frenched” headlights, a dashboard similar to the passenger car line, and a 12-volt electrical system replaced the 6-volt system. This model year, running boards were painted to match the body instead of being painted black. Other changes improved upon handling qualities as well as aiding driver and passenger comfort. Ford’s designers concentrated on styling and comfort for the first time when designing the original F-Series and expanded on those aims with the new series; their ads expressed this approach with the marketing term, “Driverized.” This year also marked the first use of tubeless tires on all Ford light-duty trucks.
Another extra-cost option was the Custom Cab. Unless the Custom Cab was ordered, the grille, headlight and parking lamp bodies were painted Colonial White by the factory rather than being chrome plated. The Custom Cab option included the chrome-plated grille, bright metal molding around the windshield, key locks on both doors, side-mounted spare tire carrier, red or copper-tone vinyl seat bolster and facings, foam-rubber filled seat, headliner, sound deadener on the floor and rear cab panels, fiberglass insulation in the firewall, left armrest, twin sun visors, cigar lighter, and dome light.
Earlier inline six-cylinder and V8 engines continued to be offered for the 1956 F-100. The overhead valve six displaced 223 cubic inches and provided 133hp at 4,000rpm. A one-barrel carburetor fed the fuel/air mixture to the cylinders. The optional V-8 was of the Y-block family first available in Fords for the 1954 model year and in its original form it displaced 239 cubic inches – the same as the flathead it had replaced. To emphasize the new Y-block design, Ford’s truck literature called the eight-cylinder engine the “Y-8.” To keep up with the horsepower race of the times, displacement of the Y-block quickly grew to 272 cubic inches for the trucks (though passenger cars could be bought with the 292 or the 312 cid V-8s). The optional 272 gave the owner 167hp at 4,400rpm as well as increased torque. With either engine, the three-speed manual column-shifted transmission was standard. However, five transmission options were offered for the ’56 Ford pickup truck. These were comprised of three helical gear type Synchro-Silent manual three-speed versions subdivided into the standard issue type, a medium-duty version, and one with overdrive. A four-speed Synchro-Silent manual and a Fordomatic two-speed automatic were also offered.
The 1956 Ford F-100 illustrated here is owned by a resident of Westlake, Texas. The truck has been in the family since the owner’s grandfather purchased it new in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His grandfather used the truck for everyday transportation including hunting trips to Wyoming and Montana. The owner has fond memories of joining his grandfather on some of those hunting adventures.
In 1997, the truck was given as a gift and a restoration shop in West Texas was soon hired to perform a total restoration on it. Most readers are probably familiar with the occasional restoration shop horror story and this project soon became one of those. The owner who manages a business had little time to keep an eye on the process, but trusted the shop to do the job right. Unfortunately, patch panels for the cab were poorly installed, the original engine block was dropped from the engine stand, parts were lost, etc.; this was over a four-year period.
When the poor work was discovered, the pieces were packed up, taken away from the restoration facility, and a search for another restoration shop started. This search led to R&R Restoration in Longview, Texas. Over a two-year period they corrected the mistakes of the past and restored the family heirloom to better than new condition and to appear as it did almost from day one. As previously mentioned, the running boards for ’56 pickups were originally body color, but are black instead of Diamond Blue on the pictured truck. Within a week or two of purchasing the F-100, the grandfather had a minor mishap which left one of the running boards damaged. The running board was replaced and painted black; the other one was painted to match. At the time of the accident, black paint was readily available and therefore offered a quicker and less costly repair. Black was maintained for the running boards because this is the way it has appeared since his earliest days. The restoration included a replacement engine since the original block was seriously damaged when it was dropped, another cab to replace the poorly patched original unit, as well as some modifications to make it more comfortable and safer to operate for many years of fond recollections and new memories for the owner’s entire family.
Thanks to its styling and “driverized” design, the 1953-56 Ford F-Series trucks were extremely popular when new and remain so today with collectors.

1956 Ford F-100 ½-Ton
Base Price:  $1,485
Engine:  inline six-cylinder
Displacement:  223cid
Bore & Stroke:  3.62x3.60 in.
Compression Ratio:  7.8:1
Carburetor:  Holley 1-bbl.
Horsepower:  133@4,000rpm
Torque:  202 ft.-lb.@1,600-2,600rpm
Transmission:  3-speed manual
Wheelbase:  110 in.
Tire size:  6.70 x 15
Production:  137,581


  1. Why did the restoration shop interfere with the original make of the F-100. That was wrong! Such legend cars need to be left untouched for them to create a good history record. Nevertheless, i am glad to know that they finally got a company that restored it better than the first one.!

  2. Very nice '56! Really like the color and custom cab option. I have a '56 as well and live just down the road in Round Rock. Maybe I'll get to see it at a show sometime in the near future!