Colorado teenager Otto Rhodes had barely graduated from high school when he began customizing this 1953 Ford F100 pickup that would become a multiple show winner and the first vehicle to appear in color in the pages of Hot Rod magazine. Known as the Mountain Pearl, it scooped up five trophies in its first show and a passel of hardware after that.
The draft intervened, followed by marriage and a family, and Otto finally abandoned his plan to rework his custom Pickup for a second shot at the show circuit. The dry Colorado climate insured that the then-dismantled Mountain Pearl remained in good condition, a fact that helped in its reconstruction years later by Tom Pagano, owner of Pagano’s Rod & Custom of Sacramento, CA, who had fallen in love with the Pearl years before at the age of 8.
Working with Otto’s guidance, Pagano prepared the original body complete with lead filler while finishing the revisions Otto had begun years before, including the Ford 360 CI FE Tri Power engine and fully chromed drivetrain and undercarriage. Now finished in Sherwin-Williams Pearl White and Candy Apple Red urethane paint with a Pearl White and Red interior, the resurrected Mountain Pearl exhibits superb quality and attention to detail, qualities that have earned it another wave of prizes including the Goodguys Kustom of the Year finalist and Builders Choice awards, the West Coast Kustoms Preservation award and George Barris’ Custom d‘Elegance award at the Grand National Roadster Show.
The Mountain Pearl has also been featured in Rod & Custom, Hot Rod and Restoration and Kustom Illustrated magazines and the book Lost Hot Rods by author Pat Ganahi, an enduring classic that will continue to inspire practitioners of the customizer’s craft.