“High Roller” 1970 Ford F-250 restomod definitely deserves its moniker
If you haven’t been watching the classic pickup market too closely, you might be surprised to learn that it’s one of the hottest segments among all collector vehicles. Buoyed by the popularity of classic 4x4s like the Ford Bronco, Chevy Blazer, Jeep Wagoneer, and International Scout, the pickup truck versions of these SUVs soon began to follow suit. High-end restoration shops have taken notice. We had the pleasure of driving one of Icon’s Derelict line of resto-modded Chevy pickups earlier this year, and just recently Velocity Modern Classic invited us to sample its beautifully modified “High Roller” F-250 outside of Los Angeles, California.
To be clear, this is a 1970 Ford truck with a price tag starting at $285,000. Gently put, it’s a long way from the workhorse original, both in substance and spirit.
Starting with a donor F-250, Velocity Modern Classics (located in the western panhandle of Florida) strips the truck down to bare metal to begin bodywork. Restorers attend to every single nut and bolt when building it back up to better-than-new condition. The example we drove was assembled to demonstrate the full scope of Velocity’s build capabilities, but each project is custom such that any color and interior combination is possible. This two-tone model manages to seem, at first brush, like a very lucky survivor truck that’s been carefully restored. Until you actually start to pay attention to the details, anyway. The 18-inch wheels are perhaps the first clue that it’s much more, and the pristine paint and trim betrays a far better fit and finish than any ’70s pickup could claim. Still, the overall effect is handsome, classic, and restrained. Velocity’s handiwork is neither outrageous nor audacious.
The details, however, suggest impeccable attention to quality. The interior in particular: Woven leather upholstery covers the door panels, bench seat, and the twin-stick for the Atlas transfer case. The white dash and white accent leather match the bottom half of the truck, and aluminum accents like the steering wheel, HVAC vents, shift knobs, window cranks, and door handles aren’t too flashy. After climbing in—an easy task thanks to running board steps that deploy automatically—we noticed the custom Dakota Digital cluster. It features a digital odometer and well as a trip odometer that look convincingly original and hardly out of place. Digits even “roll back” as the miles pass. The door closes with a satisfying thunk that is not the least bit tinny.
A twist of the original-Ford-style key in the dash-mounted ignition switch brings the engine to life. An assertive burble ensues and the Dakota Digital dash reveals a subtle linear tachometer. Powered by a 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 and a four-speed automatic, this truck is a lot more powerful than any 3/4-ton truck of the era. We took the F-250 on a quick, 40-mile round trip that saw us on city streets, open freeway, and broken two-lane asphalt to suss out how it compared to both classic iron and modern pickups.
Classic pickups, especially those of the single-cab variety, offer amazing outward visibility. The hood is low and the pillars are slender. As we maneuvered out of the parking lot and hit the streets, it was reassuring to feel firmness in the steering, particularly at lower speeds. The hydraulic steering system, which also powers the brakes, is wonderfully weighted. A truck like this is supposed to demand some effort, rather than behave like a luxury land yacht with overboosted, one-finger steering. With 400-plus horsepower to work with, the pickup was eager to accelerate and the exhaust note was authoritative when on the throttle but hardly noticeable otherwise. That’s a good balance to strike, and a theme with this build, as the hydroboost brake booster was also perfectly tuned for seamless operation.
Like many of the nation’s top car and truck builders, Velocity chose a Roadster Shop chassis to underpin its restomod. The chassis uses sturdy rectangular steel tubing for the rails and employs four-link suspension with coilovers front and rear. It gives a firm ride in conjunction with the truck’s 33-inch Toyo rubber. On smooth highway pavement, the setup made for confident handling at freeway speed without any slop or wandering in the steering. You don’t have to go too far back in time to find solid-axle vehicles with numb steering and vague on-center feel. With no load in the bed, the ride over rutted roads and potholes was firm but never jarring—not too far off a modern heavy-duty pickup like the Ram Heavy Duty Rebel. It’s more comfortable than you’d think, but a heavy solid axle is still slower to respond to absorb bumps than a smaller, lighter wheel and tire combo that can react on its own.
The primary indicator that you’re still driving a classic pickup truck is the sound of the wind, which is considerable. At any speed over about 50 mph, the window trim, and presumably the tall side mirrors, create a lot of white noise. Contrasting it with the Ram Heavy Duty Rebel we just drove (thus why it’s on the brain) lays bare a clear manner in which a modern truck changes the driver experience.
Velocity builds custom Broncos, Scouts, FJ40s, and several other 4×4 restomods. It plans to build these F-250s in low volumes, with a similarly limited clientele. Why? Because you’ll need at least $285,000 to burn on the F-250 Signature Edition, and $325,000 for the Heritage Edition which includes all the bells and whistles like billet door handles, chrome trim, and color-matched bedliner. That’s objectively a huge pile of money, but not totally out of line with fully custom 4x4s from outfits like Gateway Bronco, which cost even more. Looking at the parts list, too, you see where Velocity puts that money. Just the Roadster Shop chassis with its Atlas transfer case and Fox bump stops goes for the price of a brand-new crew cab F-250, in excess of $45,000, and there’s no assembly line to increase economies of scale for custom vehicles like this.
For those with deep pockets who would rather drive their dream version of a vintage Ford workhorse than a brand-new Bentley now have one more provider to consider. The price is steep, but we can’t say we’ve ever seen a ’70 F-250 that’s on par with Velocity’s masterwork.