It’s hard to describe Fat Jack, but it’s easy to tell when he’s built a car. Actually, it’s easy to describe Jack: short, fat, foul, with a wicked wit and an eye for building cars that doesn’t come from following what other builders are doing. And for 40 years his cars have a reputation for being low, fast, and smooth.
“I build cars to hammer hard on them.” — Fat Jack
You may remember seeing him on the cover of HOT ROD’s July 1985 “Fat Attack” issue along with his 1946 Ford coupe that ran in 9 seconds in the quarter-mile at 150 mph. He still builds cars, mainly for customers, but was able to put one together for himself.
When you look at his 1951 Ford F1 that has taken more than 25 years to complete—fitting in between customer cars at his shop in Wildomar, California—it doesn’t feature a million body mods, sculpted interior, or twin-turbo two-tone trigasm overreach. Instead it exhibits authentic kick-ass construction with subtlety, detail, lots of horsepower, and riding so low it looks like it’s bagged—but it’s not. Ever. The rule of low hot rodding to guys like Jack is that bags are for babies, while driving a slammed old car means you build a smooth, fast heap, and take your bumps as they come. They don’t come any lower than Jack’s builds.
He’s a builder and a scrounger, but his scrounging gets out of hand sometimes, and that was the basis for this build. He had a lot of parts lying around—”good parts,” he says—but still a lot of stuff he decided to turn into a truck. This F1 had been sitting in his back yard for years, and so the parts and truck came together. The Ford hauler itself was a “s*** box” when he got it, but everything has potential if you labor over it enough, and that is what Jack, his crew, and son John did over time.
Starting with a 430 Buick engine from a cast-off Blair’s Speed Shop project, Jack had George Striegel at Clay Smith Engineering do the machine work, keeping the stock crank but boring the block out to 444 ci. Jack’s son, John, a builder in the vein of his father, then assembled the engine with a Clay Smith cam, H-beam rods, and JE forged pistons and oil pump—all assembled with ARP fasteners. The iron heads run TA Performance stock rockers, have been ported and massaged, and are covered with stock Buick valve covers modified by Jack with breathers. The intake is a TA Performance aluminum medium-rise manifold crowned with a 750 Holley and one of Jack’s purple anodized billet air cleaners. It also has a TA aluminum water pump featuring more vanes for more flow. Pulleys are stock Buick dipped in the chrome vat.
The aluminum radiator is by Ron Davis. Ignition comes from a standalone MSD, with the exhaust running through an old pair of Blair’s Speed Shop headers reworked by Jack. He also built the stainless steel exhaust that includes Magnaflow mufflers and machined both the billet exhaust supports and the tailpipes, too.
Randy’s Transmission in Anaheim, California, rebuilt the Turbo 400 transmission, mating it to the Buick with an adapter. Power is sent to the narrowed late-1960s 9-inch Ford rear with 3.25 gears and stock brakes.
Jack built a new tube X-member and raised an aftermarket Mustang II crossmember into the stock frame running stock Mustang II stamped lower A-arms, tubular uppers, stock spindles, CPP S-10 calipers with Granada disc brakes, and stock Mustang rack-and-pinion steering.
The body was basically left alone, but required some modifications to smooth it out and also tweak it for clearance with its low stance. The hood vents up front were filled, with the stock pockets on the sides left alone after removal of the F1 trim. The door handles have been shaved, and the stake pockets in the bed have been filled. The chin and tails of the front fenders have been trimmed about 1-1/2 inches, and the rear fender tails have been trimmed 2 inches. This was done to give more clearance for the low ride height. The rear wheel openings have also been raised about 1 inch to match the front openings.
The stock grille is painted silver and features frenched headlights. The bed has inner wheel reliefs, with purple tinted wood slats and stainless machined runners made by Jack, with reliefs machined into them by Mike Curtis. A relief panel for the third member was also fabbed at Jack’s.
After all of the bodywork was finished, Jack laid on a basecoat of clearcoat black, finished off with Dennis Ricklefs pinstriping and lettering on the tailgate. Ricklefs also pinstriped the rear axlehousing, lower control arms, oil and trans pans, and other undercarriage components.
Inside, James in San Jacinto, California, created the leather interior that features a Jack-modified dash with carbon-fiber insert, bear-claw door latches, Vintage Air air conditioning, Specialty power windows, a GM van tilt steering column, and aluminum panels covered in leather also by James. American Auto Wire supplied the wiring kit.
Wheels are a set of old Boyds billet wheels, 15×8 in front and 15×10 in the back, covered in Hoosier rubber.
Jack has passed down his building ethic and aesthetics to his sons, John, Gary, and Eddie. Gary told us, “My dad always instilled on us that stance, wheel and tire choice, fit, and finish is essential. It’s no more than that.” Jack adds, “Building cars is not easy, and it’s not cheap, but I build them to hammer hard on them.”
Gary said the front fenders of his dad’s truck have been repaired at least twice that he knows of from crowning because it’s so low. “With all of the scrapes on the undercarriage, it makes you wonder why he details them so much.” He also added, “My dad refuses to raise the truck or go with taller tires.” That’s why Jack is known for building cars “too low and too fast.” We hope he never changes.