When I asked him about his hot rod preferences, Clay King told me, “I just love anything fast and old school.” Orange Crush, his beautiful 1963 Ford F-100, checks off both requirements.
In pursuit of something fast and old school, Clay headed up to Plano, Texas from his home near Houston to look at a rat-rod ‘66 F-100. But the front end on that truck was in horrible condition – the truck was all over the road when Clay drove it – and he didn’t want any part of it.
“I was bummed,” Clay told me, “and didn’t want to go home with an empty trailer. So I jumped on Craig’s List and started looking.” Fortunately, the ‘63 was close by and he went to check it out.
It was a little bit of a leap of faith to buy the ‘63 because the starter wires had burned up and he couldn’t start the engine. (The owner swore it had just happened.) Clay offered $4,500 and the owner said, “That’s fine. Just get it out of here.”
That was seven years ago, and Clay and the Orange Crush have been cruising around Texas ever since.
For most of that time, the F-100 was essentially the way it was when Clay purchased it. It came with the 390 cubic inch big block and 5-speed TREMEC transmission that are still in it. The body, paint, and interior are largely the same.
So far, the biggest change to the 390 is the Holly Sniper EFI system that Clay installed to replace the 600 cfm four barrel. Clay said the big block never really ran well with the carb. He tried adding a spacer and replacing the original fuel tank and line, all of which helped a bit, but overall he wasn’t satisfied.
But he is now. The Sniper has made a huge difference. The 390 is more responsive and powerful. And Clay loves the EFI display that’s mounted in the cab of the truck to help him tune. But other than the intake change, the engine is pretty much unchanged from what Clay purchased back in Plano.
Given that Clay drives Orange Crush around Texas, it’s not too surprising that he’s had some cooling issues. He had to completely rework the radiator and added dual fans in front of it. Clay also had to pretty much take the entire engine apart four years ago to clean it out after a cooling leak. “I had to clean it out everywhere,” Clay said. “It was horrible.”
The engine hasn’t been on a dyno yet, but Clay is quite sure it’s making a lot of horsepower. He knows that because…
“One day I dumped the clutch in second gear,” Clay told me. “I thought I broke the transmission. I took it to a shop and they opened up the pumpkin and there was just gears and oil all over the place.”
That busted rear end became the impetus for some major upgrades that Orange Crush is getting right now.
Obviously, the rear has to be replaced, and Clay’s going with a Ford 8.8 rear with 3.73 gears and positraction. With the overdrive 5th gear in the transmission, that should provide great acceleration as well as a comfortable cruising speed.
A new exhaust system is being installed with shorty headers and dual exhausts – with cutouts – that will exit in front of the rear wheels. Other than that, the engine will pretty much remain as is. Clay is thinking about installing a hotter cam, but that will probably be a future project.
The biggest change is the Crown Vic front end that’s going under the F-100. One of Clay’s friends has made the Crown Vic swap on his truck and says the ride is fantastic. Four wheel disc brakes are also being installed, which will have the 19” 50th anniversary Mustang wheels mounted to them.
Unfortunately, these mods are taking longer than expected. Supply chain issues have hit the hot rod industry as well, and Clay’s having to wait on some parts to finish up the work.
The all-steel body is one of the infamous Ford “wrongbeds.” I had never heard of a wrongbed before, but Clay pointed out how the body lines of the cab don’t match the body lines of the pick up bed. Turns out Ford had to revert back to a previous pick up bed when they introduced their Styleside pickups in 1961.
Mac’s Motor City Garage website provides a great explanation:
“In a departure from conventional U.S. pickup truck construction, Ford body engineers combined the cab and bed in a single welded assembly, which the company—with great fanfare—called ‘Integrated.’ But when Ford attempted the design way back in ’61, a serious problem soon arose. Owners discovered that when the cargo box was loaded, the doors would no longer open. Or close. Body panels rippled and tore. The new body shell design was insufficiently rigid, twisting out of shape when loads were applied.
“As Ford rushed to find a remedy for this embarrassing problem, there was a solution close at hand, fortunately. The automaker’s Flareside, 4×4, and high-load capacity pickups were still built on the traditional separate-cab-and-box plan, and the Styleside models of the HD trucks used a ’57 to ’60-style pickup box, complete with round tail lamps and the previous generation’s styling and sheet metal parts. It looked weird, but at least it worked.”
Whoops. Although some wrongbed owners update their beds, Clay hasn’t changed his. He has added a new front bumper to the truck.
The truck’s beautiful orange paint and matching interior were done by the previous owner. Clay has added a custom gauge cluster to the dash, and installed a RetroSounds stereo. The Orange Crush soda fountain handle shifter knob was made by someone he found on Facebook.
One final part of the work currently in progress is to add Vintage Air air conditioning to the F-100. “I’ve been sweating my butt off the last 7 years,” Clay said. The AC parts are part of the supply chain issues holding up the completion of the work in progress, but hopefully they arrive before the Texas heat does.
The interior also features the requisite pair of fuzzy dice hanging off the rear view mirror. In one of Clay’s Instagram posts (@OrangeCrush63) he explained the origin of the fuzzy dice tradition, which I had not heard before.
“After the WWII pilots returned home, the tradition of carrying dice for good luck was translated into hanging them from your vehicle’s rear view mirror, and the fuzzy dice meaning continued to be for good luck.”
Clay reports that Orange Crush is fun to drive, which he does as often as he can. “I’m not trying to race it,” he said, “I putter around and go to car shows.” And he’s had some success at those car shows, winning some awards.
The F-100 is Clay’s first old school hot rod car, and has been a learning experience for him. Fortunately, he’s not out there on his own. Clay’s dad is a mechanic and a hot rodder and has helped Clay out. In addition, his brother has a ’59 F-100 and one of his friends has a ’56 Custom Line and a ’60 F-100, so he’s also got lots of classic Ford pickup truck support around him.
And Clay’s spreading the hot rod love to the next generation through his four year old son. “He’s been loving it,” Clay told me. “He’s just like me. He loves cars.”
The King family is making sure that the love of things fast and old school will continue to live on.
All photos courtesy of Clay King
Click here to see more photos of Orange Crush
You can follow Clay and Orange Crush at Twitter via @OrangeCrush63