Paratrooper’s 1975 Ford Restomod to be Auctioned on Veterans Day – Report by Robb

If some vehicles seem to have heart and soul, it is because of the people whose deep care and attention have been imbued with them. And while it’s all projections after all, it’s hard to deny that this custom 1975 Ford F-250 pickup practically lives and breathes. On Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11th, Mecum Auctions will feature this towering restomod as the main attraction of its Las Vegas sale held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The truck’s nickname is Wheelie. Those familiar with the Transformers movie franchise (anyone with kids) know the character Willy, who starts out as an evil Decepticon but eventually becomes a good Autobot. Regarding the moniker, owners Chris and Jen Leatham of Palmer, Alaska, explained, “We wanted something that would appeal to both kids and adults, and that would show the character of this restomod: bad but good!”

The 1975 Ford F-250 restomod pickup is available through Mecum Auctions on November 11th.

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The project was conceived and built by husband and wife, with even their son Colby turning a screw or two. Like most vintage cars and trucks, this Ford has a distant past that is unknown. It was purchased by Leathem with the intention of making a reliable daily driver. According to Chris, a former US Army paratrooper who served multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan while assigned to the 101st Airborne (Airborne) and then the 501st Airborne Division, a long-dormant was soon captured an idea.

Chris, Jen and Colby Leitham stand in front of the family’s dream project.

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“One of my favorite pastimes when I was on duty was reading the latest issues of various car and truck magazines,” says Chris. “The amazing builds have inspired me to someday build a magazine-worthy truck. So we decided to go all the way and do a full frameless restomod. But it had to be a real street trailer-pulling machine. A truck that has the guts to step into the arena with other county fair contenders to haul sleds around the track, but still cleans up well after a hard day’s work. We began by evaluating common points of failure that we observed as viewers. During countless hours of research, we eliminated as many of the design weaknesses as possible.”

The truck is a 5.9L Cummins 24-valve inline-six with a P-pump.

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This truck left the factory as an F-250 crew cab short bed, one of 2,123 produced by Ford in 1975. A total of 13,948 F26 Vin trucks were produced by Ford from 1973 to 1979. Naturally, as with any exceptional restomod, this one features with an extensive list of custom components and manufacturing. The 5.9L 24-valve P-pump Cummins inline-six diesel engine is a real stump puller, driven by an NV5600 six-speed manual transmission with an NP2441DHD (Heavy Duty) transfer case.

The interior features air conditioning, hydraulic power steering and Dakota Digital gauges.

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In fact, everything about Wheelie is heavy-duty. The factory OEM frame, wrapped from stem to stern, uses Ford F-450 Platinum rear leaf springs and Ford F-350 front “snowpack” leaf springs. Heavy duty front and rear axles, 4.10 gears, fuel wheels and specially designed diesel fuel tanks are just some of the other upgrades.

Despite the seriousness of the construction, the black and white pickup truck is modest and feels at home in the snow of Alaska. Not so discreet is Wheelie’s brute force. Each custom bumper—front and rear—is equipped with Smittybilt X20 winches rated at 12,000 pounds. And a super farm Super Hitch rear hitch, black and white gooseneck hitch and rear drawbars help tow heavy sleds.

Each custom bumper—front and rear—is equipped with Smittybilt X20 winches rated at 12,000 pounds.

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Inside the spacious cabin, driver and passengers are cooled by Vintage Air. Dakota Digital hydraulics and gauges are also welcome. A custom grille and headache rack (the mesh that keeps the rear window — and passengers — from shifting cargo), and solid LED E-Series Midnight Edition lights — front and rear — boost safety, as does the HornBlasters Outlaw Train Horn installation.

The upcoming national holiday has always been celebrated and loved in the Leathem household. Chris says, “My family and I couldn’t be more honored to have our hard work displayed and showcased as we cross the auction block on Veterans Day.”

Click here for more photos of this Ford F-250 restomod pickup truck.

The 1975 Ford F-250 restomod pickup is available through Mecum Auctions on November 11, 2023.

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