It's Good To Have Friends In High Places. Chad Walen's buddy, Lee Breckheimer, was a crop duster in North Dakota who often used his lofty views to scout out old cars for Chad and his uncle. "He found everything you can imagine," Chad says, "from a '34 Ford Tudor sedan, to '48-53 Chevy trucks, Nashes, Buicks, Pontiacs, etc. Back on the ground, we would all jump in the truck and go find them."
It was fun sport, even if Chad and Lee already owned a couple of cool rides. Chad had a '53 Ford F-100; Lee had a '57 Ford Custom. "He called the '57 'Cliford,'" Chad says. "His dad bought it new, and he didn't want to sell it because he wanted to restore it. He soon realized he would never get it done. He had seen my F-100 and decided to sell it to me instead of [accepting] any offers made by others. Soon after I got the car, Lee was killed in a crop dusting accident."
This was more than a decade ago, when Chad was just 20 and still in college. After getting the car home to Prior Lake, Minnesota, Chad installed Fatman dropped spindles and disc brakes, then drove it and enjoyed it for a while. Eventually he blew the car completely apart for a ground-up rebuild.
Chad sandblasted the frame before delivering it to Opie's Hot Rods, where Steve Elliott installed a custom three-link rear suspension with coilover shocks. The original 9-inch rearend was treated to an Auburn locker and Richmond 3.50:1 gears, rack-and-pinion steering was installed up front, and BFGoodrich-wrapped 17x7- and 17x8-inch Billet Specialties rollers found their way onto the corners.
A 429ci big-block with Cobra Jet aluminum heads was built to fill the refurbished framerails, and topped off with a polished Edelbrock intake, Holley carb, and MSD distributor. Chad built his own billet brackets for the serpentine accessory drive system, dressed the big V-8 in matching aluminum, and bolted up a TCI Automotive-built C6 automatic to transfer power.
The project was moving along pretty smoothly by the time Chad had the body media blasted and began planning for bodywork and paint. "I could do the bodywork, but I wanted it really nice so I thought I would hire it done," Chad says. "This is when I ran into problems."