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Tom Pagano grew up in Pueblo, Colorado. One particular local truck that really caught Tom's young eye was a chopped '53 Ford F100 built by Otto Rhodes and Bill Dickey. Bill Dickey handled the paint while Otto was the fabricator. Together they created the Mountain Pearl and it was featured in the July '62 issue of Hot Rod magazine. A nice, single photo of it with a model reappeared the following month in the magazine's first-ever color spread. The truck did very well at shows and was famous throughout the area.
The truck was taken apart in Otto's garage for updating in 1965 and remained there for over forty years until Tom purchased it. Otto felt the painted undercarriage, although a show winner, could be improved upon with chrome plating. Everything that "was not the frame" went to the platers. In fact, the chrome on the truck today is the very same plating done forty years ago.
The truck was originally featured in Hot Rod with an Olds motor. The engine was a little too radical for the street and had overheating issues, so a new 360ci FE motor was hot rodded with tri-power and a Mallory ignition.
While reassembling the truck Tom and his son T.J. had yet to replace the chrome panel that served as a firewall. While viewing the beautifully detailed engine through the interior, they decided to keep that view for everyone to enjoy, and they replaced the panel with clear Plexiglas. This and the side-mounted hood hinges were the only two basic deviations from Otto's original build.