The Rusty Ripper – A Modified F-100 Built With Performance In Mind

When Josh Sands’ 1969 Ford F-100 comes rumbling down the road, you know instantly this is not just a normal vintage Ford pickup that has somehow beat the sands of time and is still running. The first giveaway that something is extremely custom is the sound. It’s a deafening pounding from a healthy and modern Ford Coyote engine. Once your head turns and you see the F-100 screaming down the road, you’ll instantly notice the stance.

This truck is low, lower than the engineers at Ford in 1969 ever imagined was possible. As the truck flies by you and takes a corner like a slot car, you realize that trucks don’t normally corner that well. That’s because this isn’t any normal F-100 restoration, this hot hauler has a fully custom chassis, a modern monster, known as The Rusty Ripper.

F-100

The Rusty Ripper has a stance like no other thanks to its fully custom chassis hand-built by The Roadster Shop. The chassis came complete with full suspension, rearend, and brake lines. The amount of work put into this truck shows up clearly, even when just parked for photographs. 

Sands lives in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, and owns a few car dealerships, including two Ford dealerships. About three years ago, Sands was looking for an old Ford truck to tinker on in his home garage. “I figured I would get an F-100, toss in a V8, and probably install a Ford Crown Vic front end,” says Sands. That idea sent him searching the internet to find the perfect starting project. Eventually, he found a 1969 Ford F-100 short-bed Bumpside with a six-cylinder engine and all-original paint on ebay in Missouri. A quick transfer of $5,000 from his bank account and the Ford was his. He brought it home and put it in his garage to begin the process of upgrading the engine and suspension.

F-100

Like many automotive projects, this one started out simple in the planning stages, but then like a snowball, it grew into the fully custom and awesome F-100 that you see here today, with a powerful Coyote and a modern muscle car suspension.

Next, Sands found a powerplant for the F-100. They say one man’s misfortune is another man’s treasure. After a 2016 Mustang GT had been rolled over and totaled, Sands scored the Gen-2 Coyote 5.0-liter and 6R80 automatic transmission out of the wreck for $5,000. According to Josh, this is considered the deal of a lifetime compared to what car parts are going for today. Sands had the engine and transmission in the truck before he realized there was going to be a fair amount of fabrication to the floor pan of the F-100 to make everything fit just right.

F-100

This Coyote engine came out of an upside-down 2016 Ford Mustang GT. Josh picked up the wreck for a decent price, sourced what he wanted from the Mustang, and sold the rest.

“The truck sat in my garage for about a year,” Sands says. “As I started looking at some of the things I wanted to do, I realized it was going to take a fair amount of welding and fabrication. These were skills that I don’t possess, I made the decision to farm out the work and moved the truck from my house to the guys at Warhart Customs.” Once the truck landed at Warhart, things started to escalate quickly. This would not be a simple engine swap with a Crown Vic front end. – this would become something much, much more.

The massive center tunnel in the floorboard is an upgrade to make room for the Coyote 5.0 and 6R80 automatic transmission, while allowing the truck to have its wicked-low ride height. This truck came from the factory in 1969 with a radio delete plate and it still does not have a radio to this day.

After the truck was at Warhart, the major decision to use an entirely custom frame was brought up. Instead of modifying the 1969 Ford truck frame to work with the Coyote V8, they would scrap the original piece and bring in a fully custom modern chassis built by the guys at the Roadster Shop.

The custom A-arms of the suspension would give this F-100 a modern muscle car suspension, as opposed to a truck suspension from a half a century ago. The Roadster Shop chassis solved many problems right out of the gate, including the ability to lower the ride height It also came with new brake lines plumbed, and coilover shocks already installed.

The ride height says it all on this F-100. Sands’ truck rolls on Schott Wheels called “Throttle,” wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport tires. The 20×12 rear wheels have massive 345/30ZR20 tires on them to help keep the power from the 5.0-liter Coyote on the ground. You can see the custom Wilwood disc brakes through the “Throttle” wheels.

To make the modern Mustang drivetrain work in a custom chassis with a 1969 body, Sands chose a Ford control pack. The Roadster Shop chassis uses a standard rack-and-pinion steering system and a Strange rearend, which simplified portions of the build. Where the guys at Warhart had their work cut out for them as they put all these components together was dealing with the low ride height. “Oil filter location, headers, power steering components, these were all the things that the guys at Warhart problem-solved with the build in regards to the low ride height,” Sands says. “But they did a great job. They put together an excellent build.”

Besides just modern running gear, this F-100 has the creature comforts of air conditioning thanks to a kit installed from Restomod Air. However, the truck still uses a stock 1969 key to open the door locks.

The interior of the F-100 sports Autometer gauges and custom upholstery by Bux Customs, who have won numerous awards at Goodguys shows in the past for their interior work. To keep things modern and comfortable, an air conditioning system was installed from Restomod Air. Ensuring that the 5.0-liter V8 engine always has a steady supply of fuel is a custom fuel tank from Scott’s Hotrods ‘N Customs.

A close look inside the bed reveals this truck isn’t perfect for hauling bales of hay anymore, ashere is a large hump for the rear axle. These days, the bed hauls an ice cooler and a couple of chairs to local car shows. Its days of making runs to the dump are over.

One of the many things that sets Sands’ F-100 apart from the crowd, is its natural patina, from over 53 years of the paint being naturally worn down by the elements. The faded blue and the rust are simply gorgeous. The paint is 100-percent original and he has not touched it. “I didn’t even add clearcoat over it, like other pro-touring builds do,” says Sands.

The paint is the one thing that comes up every time he takes it out for a drive. 

“People continually say, ‘Hey, that’s a cool truck, when are you going to paint it?’ I just tell them, ‘never.’ ” Besides the paint, people are also often confused about the extremely low ride height. “People assume the truck is on air bags, which it isn’t,” explains Sands. “This is the actual ride height. Because of the shallow front end, it actually scrapes a lot less than a stock Mustang going into a driveway.”

The all-original 1969 paint remains. Sands has not clearcoated it, nor done anything else to it. Oftentimes the first thing people ask him when they see the truck is, “When are you going to paint it?” His response is the same every time, “Never.”

Sands says the truck drives like a modern sports car. “It is super comfortable and handles great.” He takes it to local car shows and to his dealership to show it off (however, it is definitely not for sale). He even picked up a couple of trophies at the 2021 Carlisle Ford Nationals,earning second place in Ford Trucks and first place for the coveted Celebrity Choice. 

“With the Coyote engine, it’s turn-key,” Sands says. “With the air conditioning, it’s great to cruise around in.” As far as a sound system the only thing to listen to in the Rusty Ripper is the sound of the V8 exhaust note erupting through its custom Pypes exhaust system. “This truck came stock with a radio delete in the dash, and I decided to keep it in place. No radio, just engine noise,” says Sands.

This 1969 Ford F-100 accelerates and handles like a modern muscle car. “She is stiff,” Sands says, “but she starts up, handles great, and has air conditioning like a brand new car.”

The truck is essentially done, or as much as any custom project can be done. “I might add a supercharger or turbos,” Sands shares. The future for The Rusty Ripper looks promising – maybe more power, but certainly no radio and absolutely no paint. He is keeping this F100, one-hundred.

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About the author

Rob Krider

Rob Krider will race absolutely anything. He is a multi-national champion racing driver and is also the author of the novel, Cadet Blues.
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