Mitch Whalen has started on a complete rebuild of his 1959 Ford F-250 – and he’s agreed to let Garage Hot Rods follow along with the build as it progresses.
“I’ve always liked old cars,” Mitch told me. “They’ve always been part of my life. My dad owned old Mopars.” When Mitch was 15, he was looking for his first car and saw the green F-250 being sold for $500. “I had to get it,” he said.
He did get it, and had been wrenching on it through high school, until last year when it got in a wreck and Mitch had to park the ‘59. Then he found a blue 1958 F-250. The ‘58 became his daily driver until another accident, which occurred just before Mitch left for school.
Mitch is a student in the Automotive Technology program at WyoTech in Laramie, Wyoming. WyoTech provides its students a very hands-on experience with programs in automotive and diesel repairs. Students spend 60% of their time in the shop.
That worked out great for Mitch. So he loaded the ‘59 and the ‘58 onto a trailer at his home in Utah and towed them up to Laramie because, he said, “I needed a project for class.”
The first step will be to completely rebuild the original Y-block V8. Mitch already has the engine torn apart and plans to have it completed by the end of the semester. Since his class just finished sessions on rebuilding engines and head work, the timing was great. “I can apply everything I just learned to my truck,” Mitch explained.
He started the rebuild by honing the cylinders, and doing some port and polish work and a valve job on the heads. The 292 cubic inch small block is running a Ford two-barrel carburetor. Mitch had previously upgraded to an electronic ignition, and has a set of long tube headers for the exhaust.
But for the most part, he’s going to keep the engine pretty stock. “With my college budget right now,” he said, “that’s about all I can do.”
Once the engine is complete, Mitch will turn his attention to the front end and steering. The F-250 has a solid I-beam front axle mounted on four-leaf springs.
The Borg Warner T98 4-speed manual transmission will stay in place, but Mitch will be doing a rear end swap. He got a 1969 Dodge Dana 60 rear, with 3.73 gears, from one of his teachers. Mitch expects the swap to go pretty smoothly since the original rear was a Spicer.
The 12-inch manual drum brakes will be rebuilt. Mitch is going to replace the factory two-piece wheels with a set of Coker steel rims with the stock 8 x 6.5” bolt pattern. The electrical system will get a once over as well, and Mitch expects to do some rewiring.
Then he’ll turn his attention to the interior. It’ll get a complete re-do, albeit with a largely stock look. Mitch is planning on new carpet and headliner, and to reupholster the seats. One non-stock part of the interior will be the 1960 Ford Firetruck dashboard that he’s going to install. It’s all original, including the tachometer, and is fully functional.
Despite the fact that he lives in southern Utah, where Mitch told me the temperatures get up to 120 degrees in the summer, he’s not planning to add air conditioning. But he also told me that the winter temperatures in Laramie can get pretty cold – he’s seen 38 degrees below zero – so the F-250 will have a heater. (Good idea.)
There aren’t any significant changes planned for the body or bed of the truck.
“I always liked rat rods,” Mitch explained. “Keep it original, how it was. Why spend all that money when you can just make it really cool as is?” So with that philosophy he’ll keep the body very stock. As for the paint, Mitch said, “I like that patina. I’m going to keep it just like that.”
Obviously Mitch is looking for a successful school project, but he’s got another motivation as well. He plans on the F-250 being his daily driver for a while. “I’m planning on driving it until I get my first job,” he told me.
I’m very excited that Mitch is going to share the story of his project with Garage Hot Rods, and look forward to his updates.
All photos courtesy of Mitch Whalen.
You can follow Mitch and his F-250 on Instagram via _1959_f250_