*This story was written by Brian Littlefield who was nice enough to send it to me to share with you guys. Here is what Brian has to say about his friend, Wes:
It all started some 50 plus years ago. My good friend Wes Oster was hit with the Ford truck bug. Wes fell in love with the blue oval when he was a young kid. His Uncle Fred had an old Ford truck on the farm that Wes would get the privilege to drive once in a while. Uncle Fred would let Wes use the truck whenever he needed and this started a passion and love for the old 50’s Ford trucks that will never end. And this is where the legend begins.
Wes’ first pickup was a 1955 F100 that he bought from a local farm. It was a nice little driver that did the job. The 6 cylinder motor was getting Wes around town just fine. Until the day he laid his eyes on the ‘56 parked at the local Elk’s Lodge. Wes wanted that truck very badly. He couldn’t get it out of his mind.
Seeing that ‘56 reminded Wes of all the good times that he had in Uncle Fred’s old F100. Clyde, a member of the Elk’s, would drive that 1956 F100 to every Elk’s meeting night and Wes would always pester Clyde to sell the truck. This went on for close to 8 months until finally one evening Clyde said, “Ok, I will sell it.” Wes was surprised that it was finally for sale and he did not waste any time making the deal happen.
The price was $600. Clyde mentioned that he would take Wes’ ’55 on trade and $300 in exchange for the ’56. Wes ran home, grabbed his ‘55 title and cash and made the deal. He was extremely happy with his new purchase.
Shortly after the deal, a couple of months later, Clyde on the other hand was experiencing “seller’s remorse”. Every time Clyde saw Wes he would ask if he would sell him back the truck, but of course, this never happened. Wes now had his dream ride and there was nothing that could get it away from him.
The truck was red when purchased and had chrome exhaust stacks like many pickups did in the day. The ’56 was a part of the Salem Push Truck Association when Clyde owned it, so there was a giant push bumper on the front. Most of the ‘56’s duties of pushing had taken place at the legendary Salem Speedway for many years. Once Wes acquired the truck though, the pushing days were over. Wes quickly replaced the bulky push bumper with a stock one.
The Y-block and 3-speed did well for Wes’ daily driving back and forth to work for many years. It was all well and good, but it was never quite enough for Wes and what he wanted for his pickup. The truck needed something more. And over the years the truck was constantly being changed and improved. Either new wheels, new paint, or some kind of upgrade. When talking to Wes about the ‘56 for this article he mentioned that it has been two or three different colors over the years. From the pictures it appears that, other than red when it was purchased that it had been gold and the black that it wears today.
Wes wasn't content to just work on his truck though, he also enjoys using it for what it is intended: Driving. Wes and the ’56 have been all over the place. Believe it or not, he has driven it from coast to coast many times and all over the northwest. Eventually all of this driving lead to the need for a complete makeover. In the mid-90’s the truck was taken off the road and torn down to bare metal to begin the process of bringing it back to life better than ever.
Some small rust was repaired, the front suspension was upgraded with a Volare disc brake clip by Norm Brown and a 9” rear-end was installed. A good friend, Brian Osbon was responsible for the body work and beautiful black paint job. Jon Dunn was responsible for the 351 Windsor engine. Jon made sure that Wes had the best 351 that money could buy and to this day it has never let him down, along with the C6 mated to it to handle the shifting duties. Wes is extremely grateful for this help, and very happy with how the truck came out.
The list of friends who were kind enough to lend a hand didn't end there: Rand Breitbach, Jeff Brown, Gilbert Arevio, Jerry Thomas and many others also had a lot of fun helping Wes get his pickup back on the road.
Since this major overhaul in the 90’s Wes has had virtually no major breakdowns. Just routine maintenance and the truck keeps motoring along. Some minor upgrades here and there are still taking place. In the past ten years or so Wes has added headers, tilt steering, a new wiring harness, and deleted the wing windows with full glass windows in the door to give it a more modern look. In the late 2000’s the black paint job needed a bit of freshening up, so he had Brian Osbon do the paint again. As expected it came out great! To spice things up a little, Wes also had Brian add some flames to make the truck standout even more.
If one were stop by Wes' shop, one thing that would strike them immediately is the staggering number of trophies he has won with his '56 pickup. They are literally everywhere. One of the most memorable of the bunch is one that prominently reads: "BEST OF SHOW." It seems the person in charge of choosing the winner of this prestigious award at this particular car show had been hoping for several years that Wes would attend. And when he finally did, this is what he got in return.
When I asked if he had any future plans with the ’56 he gave me the best answer that I have ever heard. His response was. “Live another 20 years!”. Darn right, keep gas in the tank and keep that truck on the road! Wes, your pickup brings a smile to my face every time I see it because I know that you are close by. It represents good times, lots of laughs and countless lasting memories, and it will always be my favorite old truck.
This story was written in September 2014, and Wes continued to drive and enjoy his 56 as much as possible until he sadly passed away in April of 2018, leaving a large void in the local hot rod community. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. Wes was one of those guys that the instant you met him, it felt like you had known him for years, a truly great human being and die-hard Ford man. RIP, Wes.