In a world where gift cards and cash are the norm for holiday gifts, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires driver Neil Alberico spiced things up by surprising his dad Loren with a 1967 Ford F-100 pickup truck this Christmas.
Alberico found the truck on Craigslist right after the Indy Lights season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and he hid it until the holiday at a friend of his dad’s house in Chico, CA. The truck wasn’t running, driving or stopping when he bought it, so he expected it to be a fun project to work on with his dad for the next several years.
The truck represents more than an opportunity to stay busy for the Alberico family, however.
“My grandpa had a 1969 F-100 when my dad was in high school, and my dad had a 1978 when he used to live in the Bay Area,” Alberico said. “My dad always talked about how much he loved the truck whenever we’d see one on the road. My grandpa passed away last year, and my dad also had cancer last year. He’s cancer-free now, so this seemed like it could be an awesome way for him to get rid of some negative energy.”
Alberico hid the truck in a neighbor’s side yard until 1 a.m. Christmas morning when he parked it in his dad’s garage and affixed a bow to the hood.
“It was a nightmare to push the truck up our gravel driveway because I couldn’t change gears on it at the time,” he said. “I put the keys in a watch box and wrapped them up under the tree. When my dad finally opened them he started piecing everything together. When I walked him out to the garage he was laughing hysterically and said ‘Thank you, I think!”
Loren Alberico knew the truck would mean a lot of hours spent toiling away in the garage. With the help of his son and one of Neil’s cousins who is a mechanic in engineering school, they’ve made significant progress in a few weeks.
“We’ve only spent $400 or so on new parts since we started working on the truck, and it only cost $2,000 to start with,” (Neil) Alberico said. “You can’t even buy a go-kart for that price!”
To date, they have taken the brake drums off to look at the pressures and replaced the brake lines, fittings and cylinders. Next up was the gearbox and welding work to put the shift lever back together. It hasn’t been smooth sailing the whole time though.
“We made adjustments to the clutch and the carburetor and decided to take it for a test drive,” Alberico said. “We got about a mile away from the garage when the rod that runs the clutch broke. It just so happened to be 1:30 a.m. and neither of us had had brought a phone to call for help. So my cousin ended up pushing the truck down a hill while I steered, and then he jumped in and we rolled her home. So we’ll be working on the clutch before we take it out again!”
Alberico originally expected the project to take he and his dad as long as five years, but now he’s estimating it could be finished as early as this summer. To keep tabs on his progress follow him on Instagram at @neilalberico.