Big Blue – A Post-Retirement Job Helped Michael Morales Transform This Family F100
Ever think about all those projects and builds you’re going to get to once you retire? After retiring from McClellan Air Force Base about 20 years ago, Michael Morales was able to put a lot of time into his ’51 Merc project, but his retirement ended up short lived.
When it was time to add some paint to his Merc, he took it to a paint shop that happened to be next to Roseville Rod and Custom. Every time he’d check on the car’s progress, he’d stop into Roseville to see what they had in their shop, which is when he met the owner Ben York. Those visits ended up turning into a lifelong friendship and eventually a job offer to come work at the shop. “I figured, sure, it would be fun to work around hot rods every day for a while,” Michael said. That position lasted almost 20 years!
Michael had always been a hot rodder with multiple builds running through his garage. His affinity for old cars rubbed off a little on his brother in-law Ron, who wasn’t really a hardcore hot rodder, but seemed to enjoy old vehicles from a distance. Ron ended up buying an original ’55 Ford F100 pickup in the early-’90s and thoroughly enjoyed putzing the big blue pickup around the neighborhood even with its drum brakes, wonky shifter, I-beam suspension and all. He enjoyed seeing Michael’s hot rods, but the old stock pickup suited him just fine.
Unfortunately, Ron passed away a few years later, leaving the truck to family where it was simply parked in storage. The years went by before Michael, with the urging of Ben and his father, Ben Sr., decided it was time to wake the old F100 truck from its hibernation and get it back on the road, this time with a little more hot rodding touch.
Michael planned on keeping the build simple and clean to retain the classic lines and look of the second-gen F-series, but it still was going to need some suspension upgrades to achieve a nice ride and stance. Once stripped of its sheet metal, the front frame was upgraded with a Heidts Mustang II kit while the rear was updated to a four-link and 9-inch. Wilwood discs are at each corner capped with a set of 15-inch steel wheels swathed in Firestone wide whites.
Hoisting the original Ford hood up reveals a 383c.i. small-block Chevy in place of the original Y-block. Topped with an Edelbrock carb and intake that flow into a set of aluminum heads, the small-block produces a fun blast of about 425 horsepower, plenty to push the big truck down the road. A pair of Sanderson headers connects to a custom exhaust incorporating a pair of Flowmasters that leave a hearty exhaust note behind. Michael enjoys controlling the gears and opted to keep things simple with a good ol’ Muncie four-speed and a Centerforce clutch assembly.
The interior received a few modern upgrades yet remains with most of its stock appointments and character. The factory instrumentation and steering wheel were restored, and original door handles, cranks and knobs were retained. The seat was thoroughly reworked in leather and cloth by Dave Putman and carpet was added, as well as a set of stylish door panels. Seat belts were included of course while a classic under-dash air conditioner from Vintage Air keeps Michael and Bev cool on their weekend cruises.
When it came time for paint, the decision was easy for Michael as the truck had to be blue. “When Ron bought the truck, it was blue and the whole family knew the truck as Big Blue,” Michael said. With that direction, he turned the pickup over to Roseville’s painter, Joe Vaca, who mixed a custom PPG blue that fits the pickup perfectly and serves as a nod to the family’s three-decade history with the truck. History that is still being enjoyed today.
After 19 years with Roseville, Michael decided to give retirement a second try, though he still goes into the shop a couple days a week. Instead of working on his Merc (which he still has), he’s working on a ’30 Ford woody. Better yet, he gets to cruise Big Blue to the shop and can head out whenever he wants now.
Photos by Steven Bunker