A 1956 F-250 Show Truck

April 29, 2011
It’s hard to tell from looking at it, but Lynn Peterson’s dazzling 1956 Ford F-250 tow truck served his Minnesota business year-round for four decades before retiring to the garage.

Lynn Peterson was just 19 years old back in 1966 when he found a 1956 Ford F-250 pickup sitting in a Minnesota cow pasture.

At the time, Peterson was already trying to break into the collision repair business with his own company—one that eventually became Lynn’s Auto Body & Restoration in Lakeville, Minn. What the young entrepreneur needed was a solid tow truck that would allow him to pick up customer vehicles and expand his business, which was operating out of a small shop. The Ford seemed like a good candidate, even though its engine was blown and it had no towing boom. That was fine with Peterson, who enjoyed fabrication. He plunked down $130 for the red truck and hauled it out of the muck and manure.

Peterson bought some steel sheets, cut out box sides and pieced them together to form a new bed. He fabricated a boom and rigged up a hydraulic winch. Up front, he installed a flat chunk of a tractor tire as a push bumper.

He replaced the blown engine with a 312-cubic-inch mill from a police interceptor, which provided plenty of towing grunt. He left the frame alone, trusting Ford’s craftsmanship to handle the tow loads.

“I put my name on the side of it and there I was, in business,” Peterson says.

Over the years Peterson grew quite fond of his pieced-together workhorse, which was starting to look a bit rough. In 1980, he stripped it apart for a complete restoration, adding new steel to replace the rust, and refinishing everything. He added a few goodies, such as aluminum running boards and new mirrors, and he repainted the truck a deep burgundy. Sign painter Roger Benjamin put Peterson’s name back on the doors, along with some decorative pin striping.

And when it was looking shiny and new, the truck went back to work. Peterson used it regularly until about five years ago, when he decided it needed another restoration. He went through everything again, this time making everything show-perfect. The tractor tire was ditched in favor of an actual push bumper, the boom was brightened with aluminum panels and rivets, and the truck bed was covered with a shiny sheet of aluminum diamond plate.

Peterson knew going into the second restoration that it was time for the truck to retire.

The truck is still used to push-start racecars at local racetracks, but that’s about the extent of its work. Peterson was also invited to bring the truck to the local World of Wheels show in 2010, where it took first place in its class.

“It was a surprise to me that it was up for any award at all,” Peterson says.

The truck was the first vehicle Peterson ever crafted himself, and because of that, it’s more special than the dozens of other vehicles he’s restored over the years in his quaint, 2,000-square-foot shop.

“I’ve had it longer than my wife,” he says with a laugh. “I know there’s nothing else like it.”

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