The Ford Model T is a real part of American history. This vehicle was the start of the assembly line, mass-production, and Henry Ford’s fortune. The Model T laid the groundwork for all of Ford’s early vehicles, including the 1936 pickup truck. These trucks were the perfect base for hot rodders and rat rodders to build speed machines that would end up looking nothing like the original truck. Chopped roofs, lowered ride, and a bare engine all give the look and feel of a 50’s hot rod. It was this rat rod look that caught the eye of Billy F. Gibbons from ZZ Top, which is what we’re talking about today.
This specific truck came from hot rod builder Kirby Stafford, co-owner of Dillehay Street Shop in Louisville, Kentucky. Kirby Stafford recounts that along with him, “eight other guys who owned property, or worked on Dillehay Street, had ol’ style hot rods or were building them. People started calling us Dillehay Rats, just like they did back in the ’50s.”
This isn’t to say that Billy’s truck is a rat rod, however. Rat rods are hot rods that are pieced together with whatever parts you can find. They are seldom reliable and definitely not daily drivers. This truck has the rat rod look but a custom hot rod function. It was this combination that caught Gibbons’ eye and made him need to have it.
The truck began its life as a 1936 Ford pickup. As the conversion to hot rod took place, the engine was swapped for a ’53 Ford flathead mated to an S-10 transmission. To get the drop Kirby was looking for, he did a 6-inch drop tube front axle, and an 8-inch Ford rear end. The rear suspension consists of buggy springs and air shocks.
The body was channeled six inches, which means the floor was cut out and raised up so the body would sit lower on the frame. The frame had to be Z’d four inches in the front and 14 in the rear to allow for the transformation that was happening. Thanks to how the frame was lowered, the cab still consists of all original steel, even though 5 inches of it is missing thanks to a 5” chop and an 18 inch shortening of the chassis.
The saying goes “the devil is in the details,” and this truck is no exception. The headlights are from a ’33 Ford, which had to be bolted on, thanks to the front fenders going away. A wishbone frame was added to the bed to support a Hanson long board because who doesn’t think of surfing when you see a hot-rodded Ford? Keeping with this timeframe theme, the truck even has stickers on the rear window from World War II fuel rationing programs.
A rusty patina covers the outside of the truck, giving it that old time look and feel of someone totally focused on the engine and not at all on the look. There’s even an old Coca-Cola bottle opener mounted to the rear of the bed for those hard days a truck like this might have spent in a field.
Billy Gibbons is known for his love of classic and custom vehicles. With all-star rides like the Eliminator Coupe and the Cadzilla, Gibbons knows what he’s talking about when it comes to cars and trucks. The ’36 Ford, much like his unmistakable voice in songs like La Grange and Snake Boogie, stood out from the crowd immediately. What started as a visit to a car show for Gibbons ended in the purchase of a hot rod truck he never intended on happening.
This rugged hot rod, with its straight pipes, flat head engine, and overall unfinished look, speak to the inner kid in all of us. Hearing the raspiness of the engine and exhaust is enough to make any real truck fan smile.