The Lost Art of Truck Stop Modding

Posted March 03, 2020

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Facebook Marketplace

Fair warning, this story contains no information about replica, reproduction or continuation automobiles, just a singular “dent-side” Ford 4x4 that’s so bad that it’s good. I’m writing this in response to a direct order from my boss, who’s equally obsessed with period customized 4x4s as I am — brace yourself.

Tinted bug guards, analog compasses, spotlights and CB whips; I used to eschew these things as tacky and ugly on old 4x4s, and I’ve removed quite of few of them off old trucks over the years. But I’ve wised up these days and learned to appreciate most of these items as carefully selected modifications to classic American iron, and lasting traces a by-gone era of man and machine. From a time when your 4x4 was more about spartan functionality, lb-ft and off-pavement prowess, rather than mpgs, touchscreens and heated steering wheels. Today our pickup truck aftermarket is flooded with 24-inch wheels, low-profile mud-terrains and California rake, all of which makes us lament the loss of classic pickup truck customization. And there’s perhaps no more righteous an application of that than this 1975 Ford F250 4x4.

I should clear the air right away, and state that I’m not in love with every custom touch on this Ford F250. Some elements are downright ridiculous, like the flame decals, rattle-can handiwork in the engine bay and the like. But it’s nonetheless a fascinating study in the lost art of what I’ll call “truck stop modifying.” I’m referring mostly to those occasionally chintzy items that were bolted, stuck to or otherwise affixed to trucks in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s that added functionality, or made a personal statement on your pickup. And let me tell you, this truck has all of ’em. Did you notice the dual spotlights, sun visor, old-school fender flares and tinted bug guard? Or how about the eight air horns, custom hood ornament and Quick Stick Hat Saver? And trucker girl silhouettes? This rig has ’em by the truckload.

Inspired by 4x4 truck trends of the time and the booming big rig culture from the era of Convoy, Smokey and the Bandit, and Duel, customized pickups like this one could be found in just about every small town back in the day. Those aforementioned air horns and the full-width mud flaps across the back, adorned with lights and reflectors — clearly inspired by 18-wheelers. And how about the full dump bed function? Now you’re truckin. As if that wasn’t enough, the front end is fitted with an aftermarket brush guard and big ’ole plow mount.

Adding in altitude, attitude and off-road capability are the aftermarket wheels and bias-ply off-road tires. While they’re surely past their prime, those period-correct meats look spectacular. And unless I’m mistaken, we’re not looking at standard steel wagon wheels here; those appear to be aftermarket Jackman wheels, which have real value among vintage 4x4 fans.

Of course this pickup takes things to extremes, with the excessive decals, bedside vents, gold chassis paint and so on, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it doesn’t have value. Dent-side Ford 4x4s (referring to the body line on this era truck) are seriously tough and sought after pickups, and people will pay good money for exceptional examples (consider these recent sales on BringaTrailer for $21,250, $24,500 and $30,000). And underneath all the modifications, we’re looking at a period 4x4 with just 16,286 miles on the clock.

But the real question though, is what should be done with it? In a perfect world, the sellers would keep the truck as-is to honor the previous owner, Harry Gonzalez, who recently passed on. But that’s not always possible for various reasons. And if you’re going to sell it, the truck would need to be toned down some to achieve its best sale price. It would be easy to go too far though, and a shame to strip this truck of its character completely.

Having been appraised at $13,000 in good faith that the truck will run with a fresh battery, this one probably won’t go cheap. And unless you’re a family member, friend or are seeking to preserve this truck for some other reason, there’s plenty of work to do to get it up to snuff. In its current condition, I think you’d have to bag this 4x4 for considerably less to be in good shape.

Notions of value aside, this pickup is pretty spectacular as a time capsule to classic truck modification. It harkens back to the day when your truck was an extension of your rugged personality, instead of some traffic-stopping rave concert on wheels. By all accounts, Harry Gonzalez was into women, America and big trucks — Harry the Great indeed, just as his custom floor mats suggest.

See the 1975 Ford F250 4x4 here on Facebook Marketplace in Blue Island, Illinois.

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