Hot Rodder living his dream

Photo contributed by Paul Hinkle
Photo contributed by Paul Hinkle

By Paul Hinkle | Contributed

Johnny Mendiola grew up on the west side of Fresno and attended Central High. For as long as he can remember, he dreamed of owning a hot rod but never quite seemed to have enough money to buy one of his own. In 1968, Mendiola found a 1953 Ford F100 which he was able to purchase for $50. It was in need of a lot of repairs and needed a motor but that didn’t matter.

He had it towed to his good friend’s house, John Bertaio, so they could begin the necessary repairs needed to make it driveable. It took a year to get it on the road with a 430 c.i. Buick motor under the hood. It still needed paint and upholstery, but that didn’t stop Mendiola from enjoying his hot rod pickup. His family and friends called it a “piece of junk.” He was always fixing bent tie rods and spent many weekends at Bertaio’s doing repairs. Having little money, Johnny had to save to buy parts for the needed repairs to keep it on the road. He fondly remembers dragging the ‘Main’ (Belmont) on Friday nights in his ‘53.

After driving it for a time, Mendiola decided that it was time to start customizing his F100. He wanted a show quality truck that he could be proud of. It took hours of hard work, many weekends and eight years to complete his final build. The 430 c.i. Buick motor was replaced with a 1966 Buick Wildcat 425 Nail Head and he bolted a Turbo 400 transmission and a ‘68 Camaro rear end to it. The stock front axle was replaced with a Fat Man Mustang II front suspension. Bertaio did all of the needed fabrication. Andy Almeraz did final body preparation and paint. “The Kid” (Greg Gonzalez) did the striping and candy apple flames. Baskin Upholstery of Fresno put their touch to the custom interior, 18” and 20” American Racing wheels were installed to give it the custom stance that Mendiola was looking for. One of the last things he wants to do is have the name of his brother Benny and his friend Gorden (who have passed away) painted on the tailgate as a dedication. Mendiola’s wife calls this F100, “Johnny’s Mistress.”

Photo contributed by Paul Hinkle
Photo contributed by Paul Hinkle

Johnny’s first car show with “Johnny’s Mistress” was the Route 66 Car Show in Barstow. After placing in the Top 20 at the show, he was hooked. Last year he took it to the North & South Truck 53–56 Show, again he placed in the Top 20. Within the next three years, he hopes to fulfill one of his dreams, showing the “Mistress” at the Pigeon Forge Truck Show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It is one of the largest truck shows in the country for Ford trucks 1953 to 1956.

Mendiola would like to thank his best friend John Bertaio for all his help in building the ‘Mistress’ and keeping it running when they first put it together.

“I’m driving my truck everywhere and living my high school dream,” he said.


August 26th – Clovis Missionary Baptist Church Car Gathering – Kings River Winery Car Show

August 27th – Happy Hearts Car Show Dinuba

August 26th – 27th – Wheels ‘N’ Windmills Car Show

August 26th – 28th – Goodguys 30th West Coast Nationals

September 2nd – Rods on the Bluff

September 2nd – 3rd – Paso Robles Car Show & Cruise Night

September 4th – Cambria Pinedorado Car show

September 9th – Clovis Missionary Baptist Church Car Gathering

September 10th – Kiwanis 14th Annual Run For The Gold Car Show – Summer Send Off Car & Motorcycle Show

                             – The 2nd Annual Car Show West Hills College

September 11th – The VFW 6th Annual Car Show Biola

If your club or organization is putting on a car show or motorsports event we are always looking for interesting cars, people and events to share. You can reach Paul Hinkle at or call (559) 970-2274 or Eric Hinkle at

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @clovisparknpark and on Instagram @clovisparkinthepark.

For more information on upcoming events, past events and articles, go to