Man spends years restoring '55 truck

Nic Hanks stands with the 1955 Ford F-100 pickup during its restoration process.

It's a well-worn cliche that collecting classic cars is only for those of retirement age. But someone forgot to tell Nic Hanks, because he is the proud owner of one of the nicest '50s F-series pickups on the road.

It's his first restoration project, but certainly not the first time the now 24-year-old ever worked with a wrench. He's always had an inclination for all things mechanical, whether it was taking apart toys when he was a child or starting a business fixing golf carts when he was in the eighth grade.

He was even the first graduate of the automotive technology program in Williamston to go on to a four-year school. There, he was highly influenced by teacher Ron Kennedy. He was confident he wanted to work on BMWs, but was offered a scholarship to Clemson and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

Restoring a truck was a natural progression once he reached driving age. He combed the local newspapers and online postings for something he could work on. Eventually, he found a rusted 1955 Ford F-100 pickup.

"It was in real bad shape," Nic's father, Ronnie, said.

Nic tore the truck down to the bare frame and started from there. He wanted to keep it bone stock - exactly as it would have come from the factory. He did, however, add some soundproofing, something that would go unnoticed anyway.

Finding parts was relatively easy because there's aftermarket support, and he was able to fabricate parts that weren't readily available. One issue did give him headaches: The transmission. The original unit was altered, so he had to find one that he could use for parts. He found one, through what he would describe as a miracle in a junkyard in Ware Shoals. It was just what he needed to get the transmission going.

Keeping everything original meant working with the original equipment, like manual four-wheel drum brakes, steering and clutch. The engine is a 223-cubic-inch "Mileage Maker" straight-six that had a factory horsepower rating of 115. The transmission was a three-speed manual with overdrive on the column.

Nic painted the truck himself and found it was a trial-and-error process. He was unhappy with the results of the first paint job. The imperfections that don't look bad during the bodywork process get magnified once the paint goes on, he said. He stripped the truck down and started again. He kept the factory white-and-red paint scheme.

"I wanted it to be perfect," he said. "Body work takes a lot of practice."

The restoration process was long, and carried him through half of his high school career at Belton-Honea Path High School and his college years at Clemson. In fact, he said he finished only six or seven months ago.

He said driving the truck is fun, but long trips would get tiresome. The manual drum brakes mean much longer stops and manual steering means keeping your arms in shape.

"It makes you appreciate modern technology," Ronnie said.