Matt’s 1971 Ford F-100: modern tech with ‘barn find’ patina
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Matt’s 1971 Ford F-100: modern tech with ‘barn find’ patina

By MarkOastler - 10 June 2024

The dream of discovering an unrestored automotive classic that’s been hiding in a shed for decades is shared by many. There’s nothing more authentic than the patina of undercoat emerging through a thinning topcoat to validate a vehicle’s natural ageing.

The dictionary aptly describes patina as “a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use.” However, there are enthusiasts like Sydney-based Shannons Club member Matt Xavier who wanted the best of both worlds, by blending the look of a ‘barn find’ with the enhanced performance and creature comforts of a newer vehicle.

His low-riding 1971 F-100 showcases Matt’s concept, highlighted by its bodywork which at first glance appears to be long overdue for a new coat of paint. However, this is a new coat of paint, made to look old. What you might call pseudo-patina.

“It’s largely well received,” Matt says. “Of course, the diehards want to see an original patina, as I would, but the reality is this was built from a couple of trucks. My usual response is ‘I’ve done this so I don’t have to wash it!’”

Matt’s F-100 has a low-slung stance and rides smoothly on four-coil suspension.
Image: Dale Haberfield - Millbrook Studio

The naturally-aged paint effect is the work of Greg Hammond, founder of Viking Hot Rods based in Berry on the NSW south coast. Greg (his mates reckon he looks like a Viking hence the name) heads a team of car-crafters that can handle anything from minor rust repairs to complete ‘turnkey’ creations.

So, Matt could not have asked for a better one-stop shop to turn his dream pickup into reality. He’s always loved Ford’s legendary F-Series pickup trucks, having owned numerous examples over the years, but with his background in creative design he decided it was time to focus that creativity on a resto-mod.

After deciding a rusty old F-Series in his shed could only be a parts donor, Matt found a partly completed project on Gumtree which was broadly aligned with his plans. It comprised a cab mounted on a modified chassis which had been ‘notched’ to allow a low ride height and equipped with an EL Falcon front suspension kit from The Pickup Place, along with four-wheel disc brakes.

As you can see, the patina effect is most prominent on the bonnet! 
Image: Dale Haberfield - Millbrook Studio

Matt delivered this ideal starting point to Viking, along with countless boxes of parts and panels plus a complete road-registered AU Falcon V8 auto to serve as a donor for much of the drivetrain and ancillaries.

In planning the build with Greg Hammond, Matt was resolute in ensuring ‘daily driver’ comfort and practicality, given both he and his wife Nadia would be sharing the tiller.

So, creature comforts like auto transmission, power brakes, air-conditioning etc had to be on the job card. And although performance would be enhanced, it could not be overly powerful or throw tantrums if stuck in heavy traffic.

The Viking team brought the chassis up to scratch by completing installation of the EL Falcon independent coil-spring front suspension, plus fabricating a new transmission mount and replacing the original rear leaf-springs with a bespoke coil-over four-link live axle fabricated in-house.

Shrouded custom air filter feeds ample cold air to the 5.0-litre V8’s Mustang-style EFI induction.
Image: Dale Haberfield - Millbrook Studio

The low ride height maintained a sensible ground clearance for street use, with a much smoother ride resulting from the upgrade to four-coil suspension. The power-boosted disc brake system was also rebuilt and black 16-inch steel wheels with mini-Moon caps and seven-inch front and eight-inch rear rim-widths were bolted on.

The 5.0-litre V8 transplanted from the AU Falcon remained largely stock (as did its four-speed auto) apart from bigger-breathing GT40 heads and an aftermarket EFI engine management system from the US, featuring inlet hardware from the Fox-body Mustang era. Dual exhaust pipes, which exit in front of each rear wheel, provided a beautiful note.

When tackling the bodywork, Viking’s first task was to strip everything back to bare metal to reveal any hidden nasties. Fortunately, the cab and most of its front-clip were in good shape, except for the damaged bonnet which had to be massaged back into shape.

The load-tub required more extensive repairs, as the floor was missing and the side panels were dented and twisted. However, there was enough for Greg and his team to work with, which included fitting a new floor that was slightly raised to suit the pickup’s lower ride height.

The inner and outer shells of the wheel-housings were smoothly welded together and neatly integrated with new one-piece inner load-tub walls. Viking also fabricated a large but hidden 80-litre fuel tank to give the 5.0-litre V8 a decent range.

Viking’s one-piece inner-load tub walls create a neat finish and protect the outer panels from being dented by internal loads. 
Image: Dale Haberfield - Millbrook Studio

Matt specified a six-bar grille from an earlier ‘68 model F-Series and numerous body parts were sourced from US and local suppliers including new headlight surrounds, bumpers, side mirrors, rubber seal kit and countless bits and pieces required to complete the body makeover.

To make sure he chose the right colour to suit the F-100’s retro style, Matt photoshopped every 1971 Ford factory paint option before deciding on a period-perfect combo of Twilight Green with contrasting white roof.

Greg’s patina effect, using a De Beer base coat with satin clear, is only on the external panels. So, if Matt wants to return to a solid coat of Twilight Green in future, no panels will need to be unbolted to do it.

Distressed leather upholstery and woodgrain wheel are in perfect harmony.
Image: Dale Haberfield - Millbrook Studio

When designing the interior, Matt collaborated with Benny Stitch (great name for a trimmer!) at Southside Stitching by using his creative design skills to illustrate the practicality and aged look he wanted, which was consistent with the exterior theme.

Given it had to seat up to three people for comfy cruising, a bench seat and column-shift were mandatory. Matt also insisted on using ‘distressed’ (prematurely aged) leather on the bench, choosing a tasteful shade of brown trimmed in a pattern reminiscent of early Mustangs.

The distressed leather look extended to the Bluetooth-controlled sound system box hidden behind the seat, along with door-pulls and kick panels. There’s also a suede headliner and the floor was trimmed in quality German square-weave carpet.

More fine craftsmanship is evident in the sound system, trimmed carpet and kick panels.
Image: Dale Haberfield - Millbrook Studio

Other neat interior touches included a woodgrain steering wheel mounted on an aftermarket tilt-adjustable steering column, complete with column-shift to provide the clear floor space Matt wanted for a centre passenger. There’s also central-locking, a heated seat (!) and Dakota digital instrumentation discreetly integrated with the original gauge panel.

“It was set-up to be a daily driver and it drives like a beaut,” Matt says. “It’s not overly powerful, it tracks nicely and stops and handles as well as most modern vehicles. Perhaps a Tremec (floor-shift manual) would have been better, but it’s a cruiser and I didn’t want to take anything away from the original layout of the cab.

“The reaction on the street is phenomenal. Every time I take it out, oncoming traffic will have their thumbs up or make a point of winding their windows down and giving me a wave. Although I didn’t physically build it, they’re all my ideas and the whole process has been incredibly rewarding.”

From any angle Matt’s F-100 looks like a fine resto-mod.
Image: Dale Haberfield - Millbrook Studio

It seems plenty of people like Matt’s patina effect. Even his wife Nadia, who initially hated it as she logically couldn’t see sense in spending lots of money restoring something that ended up looking like it was unrestored!

However, given time she has come around to liking it. Well, parts of it, at least. Which just goes to show that the time-honoured ageing process which creates “a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use” does tend to grow on you.

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