MANSFIELD – Lily Bowen sat in a small chair eating string cheese Saturday afternoon, patiently waiting for someone to ask about her 1977 Ford F100.

Bowen, turning seven this September, is the proud co-owner of the ‘77 F100, along with her grandmother Christy Thomas.

“She claims it,” Thomas said. “It’s hers. She helped build it and likes to take it out to car shows.”

1977 Ford F100
Bowen sits with her string cheese in hand, waiting for someone to inquire about her restored 1977 Ford F100.

The all-black truck was displayed at the 26th Heart of the City Cruise-In in downtown Mansfield Saturday afternoon.

“She spends a lot of time with us at our house,” said Thomas. “Anytime she’s with us she’s right out to the garage to help sand, paint and clean.”

Restoration process

Thomas said she and her husband Eric purchased the Ford in southern Ohio around six months ago and their granddaughter instantly fell in love with it.

Poster board with pictures glued to it.
Bowen, 7, helped paint valve covers, install truck-bed flooring, and helped with the interior.

“It was originally blue and it needed some work,” Thomas said. “We decided we’d restore it and decided on black with some purple accents for our granddaughter.”

Bowen insisted on helping in as many ways as possible during the 30-day restoration process, she said.

“She (Bowen) painted the valve covers and the scoop,” Thomas said. “She helped with the interior and she got right in there and got dirty.”

Bowen said she enjoys going to car shows around the area such as Ashland, Hayesville and Savannah.

“I liked working on the valve covers and the scoop,” Bowen said with a grin on her face, string cheese still in hand.

Fourth project upcoming for Thomas, Bowen

Bowen’s love for vehicle restoration and working in the garage comes from Thomas, who has restored two additional trucks and currently has a 1979 Ford Bronco lined up as the next project.

“She’s on the next project with us,” said Eric Thomas, Bowen’s grandfather. “She’s ready to start sanding on the Bronco.”

The Thomas family, which resides in Ashland, enjoys restoring classic vehicles purely as a hobby.

“It’s fun, but it’s even better with her (Bowen) in there with us,” he said. “She jumped right in the garage and helped the whole time.”

Poster board with pictures glued to it.
The restoration, which took 30 days, was completed by grandparents Eric and Christy Thomas, and granddaughter Lily Bowen.

While it’s just over nine years away, Bowen has her sights set on driving the lifted Ford as her first truck.

“It’s hers, whenever she’s old enough,” Thomas said.

In the meantime, Bowen said she loves getting to work on projects with her grandparents and is excited to start working on the Bronco.

“If you ask where she wants to be, she’ll ask ‘Can we go stand in the garage’,” Thomas said. “She just loves it.”

Staff reporter at Richland Source since 2023. I focus on the city of Shelby and northern Richland County news. Shelby H.S./Kent State alum. Have a story to share? Email me at