Building a show-stopping custom is no easy task. From the
initial concept to the finished product, a project of this magnitude
usually takes multiple builds to perfect. Keith Sayers achieved
perfection in his first attempt. This tricked-out 1953 Ford F-250 is
loaded to the brim with ingenuity and creativity—it’s a reflection of
Keith’s natural talent.
Growing up around cars, Keith is no stranger to working under a hood.
“My mom raced stock cars when I was a kid,” he says. “When I got older,
I helped my friends work on their mini trucks. I also helped my brother
build his ’66 Nova.” Armed with all of that hands-on know-how and the
drive to build himself a vehicle, Keith began searching for his dream
machine. Driving home from work one evening, Keith spotted an old Ford
farm truck for sale. “I’ve always wanted a ’50s Ford truck. I love the
rolling fenders and the mean look of the grille,” he explains. Realizing
the underlying potential, Keith was quick to bring home the retired
Keith, a sheetmetal engineer manager by trade, utilized his skills
and resourcefulness to bend, shape, and weld steel into this bare-metal
masterpiece. “Whatever parts I didn’t have, I built,” Keith says. For
many, that list would be brief. But Keith would have saved time by
listing what he didn’t create. “I built the frame, bed, tailgate,
running boards, and bumpers. The hood, fenders, and cab are original.”
But don’t be fooled, Keith repaired, reworked, smoothed, or otherwise
modified those, too.
“When I found the truck, it had knobby tires and a long bed with
wooden stakes,” says Keith. That may have worked for hauling hay, but
Keith had something else in mind for this metal masterpiece. “I really
wanted a short bed, but I also wanted to kick out the rear fenders so
they’d sit flush with the front fenders,” he explains. So, Keith did
what he does best—he custom-fabricated a bed that simultaneously changes
and enhances the F-250’s iconic bodylines.
In a nod to this farm truck’s past, Keith also added an actuator to
the underpinnings of his custom bed. “They were throwing out an old
air-powered lift table actuator at work, and they asked me if I wanted
it,” he says. Being the resourceful hot rodder he is, Keith didn’t think
twice. With a flip of the switch, the Ford’s bed tilts up in the air
like a dump truck, revealing an undercarriage overflowing with details.
Take a peek underneath the one-off bed and you’ll see a setup heavily
influenced by Keith’s race car and mini truck past. The undercarriage
is scattered with creative touches, like a triangulated 4-link setup, a
differential-mounted disc parking brake, custom-fabricated wiring and
fuel line brackets, and so much more.
Rather than cover all of that hard work in paint, Keith opted to put a
satin clearcoat on the raw metal, and it’s truly a sight to behold. “I
thought graining out the metal like stainless steel would be cool,” says
Keith. While he originally intended for the sheetmetal to remain clean,
it has since taken on a life of its own.
Oxidation has set in underneath the clearcoat, slowly evolving the
Ford’s finish. What was once grained sheetmetal has now developed into a
natural patina that treats your eyes to hints of bronze, silver, and
gold. Each panel looks completely different than the next!
But the truck is more than just looks. Pop the pickup’s
reverse-operation hood and you’ll find a bored and stroked Chevy 350.
“The 383 was given to me by my brother for working on his Nova,”
explains Keith. “I originally wanted to put a Ford engine in it, but I
couldn’t get one for free.”
Keith topped off his powerplant with ported and polished Dart
cylinder heads, a Dart intake manifold, a Mighty Demon 750 cfm
carburetor, and a Cadillac-style air cleaner, complete with a
custom-built cold air intake and pinstriped accents. It all adds up to
an impressive 430 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds of torque! There was a
Saginaw 4-speed transmission mated to the 383, until some hotrod
shenanigans ensued. “The kids urged me to do a burnout,” laughs Keith.
No stranger to burning rubber, Keith went to light ’em up and, as Keith
puts it, “The transmission case cracked, the output shaft broke off, and
it was bleeding all over the ground.” The transmission was totaled.
Keith took the hint and beefed up the drivetrain. He opted for a new
McLeod 5-speed transmission with overdrive, a McLeod Twin Disc clutch,
and a Lakewood bellhousing. While he was at it, he also upgraded the
Ford 9″ rear end with 4:11 ring and pinion gears for better performance
and improved cruising. When it came time to replace the farm truck’s
factory leaf springs, Keith installed a complete air suspension system
on all four corners. When he hits the switch, the truck’s frame gently
rests on the ground, providing a dramatic look that instantly turns
heads. Pulling ideas from the mini trucking world, Keith also bolted
drag plates to the frame so he can drop the bed and make sparks fly!
Inside the all black cab, Keith’s natural talent is on display
everywhere you look. From the custom-built gauge pods and accessory
switch panels to the custom-fabricated kickpanels and factory pedal pad
brackets, this Ford’s interior is dressed to impress. Utilizing the
original seat frame, Keith had a friend wrap the bench seat in black and
clay brown leather. “My buddy stitched the seat for me,” says Keith.
“It’s the only piece on the truck I didn’t build myself. I didn’t know
how to stitch,” he admits.
But that didn’t last long. Soon, Keith bought a sewing machine and
taught himself how to stitch. Then, when the Ford’s Saginaw blew, Keith
put his newly acquired skill to the test. “I made the transmission and
parking brake boots myself,” proudly proclaims the man of many trades,
as he adds another skill to his already impressive repertoire.
In the end, Keith’s metalworking mastery, vision, and creativity can
be seen throughout his F-250. What was once an old farm truck is now the
’53 showstopper you see today. With an ever-evolving finish and enough
custom touches to impress the most gifted fabricators, it’s hard to
ignore the ingenuity and natural talent behind Keith’s crafted work.
Story By: Nick Dinardo
Art Direction By: Lance Nemes
Photography By: Todd Biss