Orange Blossom Special

August 19th, 2011

Text and Photos by Travis Noack

Neil and Jackie Utt - 1957 Ford F-100 - Mt. Airy, NC

Not many people can say they have owned or been around the same vehicle for 52 years, but it seems like years ago people used to keep their trucks a lot longer than they do today. Neil Utt of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, has been bonded to the orange ’57 F-100 stretched across these pages since he was knee high to a grasshopper. The truck was purchased by his father, James Utt, in 1959 and was dear old dad’s daily driver until 1994 when he handed Neil the keys with a request to make her shine again. This old workhorse had been run hard hauling numerous loads of gravel and wood throughout Neil’s youth, and when he turned 16, Neil even took his driver’s test behind the wheel of the trusty old Ford. Fishing and hunting trips in the truck with dad when Neil as a kid and memories of teen date nights, fueled the rebuild of the original red and white two-tone pickup.

Like most custom truck projects, the stance was the first order of business. After the truck was torn down to a bare frame, a Jim Meyer Racing Mustang II with dropped spindles was shoehorned under the front end to get the chrome nose in the weeds. A 1968 Ford 9-inch was tossed under the back with dropped leaf springs and parallel leaf coil-overs. Disc brakes and a Ford rack-and-pinion hooked to an ididit column provide some modern brake and steering control. Ricky Utt, Neil’s first cousin, did all the fabrication on the chassis and suspension for modern drivability and the ultra-hammered stance. For a retro rolling combo, Neil chose 16 x 8-inch front and 18 x 10-inch rear Billet Specialties Vintec billet wheels mounted on Goodyear Eagle LS P225/60R16 front and P235/65R18 rear rubber.

Before the power plant was upgraded, the chassis was boxed up front for strength and rigidity. To power this slammed retro cruiser, Jasper Racing prepped a 1972 Ford 302 small-block. A Crane hydraulic roller cam spits out the small-block Blue Oval’s grunt, while an Edelbrock intake manifold and Edelbrock 600-cfm carburetor deliver the perfect amount of fuel to the conservative small-block. A Pertronix distributor, Accell coil and MSD wires light the Blue Oval performance party, while Patriot Performance headers send the power fumes packing through Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers. Ford Racing valve covers and Mr. Gasket air cleaner, breathers, chrome pulleys and brackets dress the raspy small-block for show. A Flex-A-Lite cooling fan pours cold air over the engine. A Ford 1968 FMX transmission commanded by a Lokar joystick sends gear commands to the 9-inch.

When it came time to dive into the body and paint work, Neil embraced much of the truck’s OEM heritage blended with some mild metal updates for a custom twist. The hood, grille shell and front bumper were left stock with a ‘60s Ford Bronco bumper doing the talking out back. Ricky Utt filled in the stake pocket holes, louvered the cowl panel and shaved the factory emblems to tighten up the body a touch. Ricky also built a custom-smoothed radiator shroud cover, so when you pop the hood all you see is orange paint and polished parts. Once the body was arrow-straight, and 54 years of abuse were pounded out of the truck, and it was sprayed DuPont orange by Ricky Utt.

A 1972 Ford 302 built by Jasper Racing in Jasper, IL, sports a Crane hydraulic roller camshaft and Edelbrock induction. It breathes through Patriot Performance 2.5-inch headers and Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers and is detailed with plenty of paint, chrome and polished parts.

After the paint was laid and the truck was put back together, Ricky got down to business on the interior. A Tea’s Design bench seat was used for the cruising platform, which Ricky stitched up in sand-colored tweed. Custom steel plates fabricated by Ricky fill the cab and offset the pure-looking threads. The dash was smoothed and filled with Dolphin gauges mounted in a custom billet dash insert panel, while the ididit steering column was covered in matching orange and topped with a Billet Specialties steering wheel. Ricky tightened up all of the electrical connections with a complete Ron Francis wiring system and installed a Pioneer head unit with Pioneer 6.5-inch speakers for cruising entertainment. Lap belts from Auto Loc keep occupants strapped in while Neil commands the gears through a Lokar shifter mounted through a custom center console built by Ricky Utt.

Orange Blossom Special was built to allow Neil to relive his youth in a pickup he grew up cruising in with his dad James. Sadly, James passed away a few years ago, but the ’57 is a reminder for Neil of all of the good times they shared in the truck throughout the 52 years it has been in the family. Here’s to many more years cruising the ’57. We bet no matter where Neil goes dear old dad is always riding shotgun.

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