Like all our readers, the staff at CCT loves old trucks. We've built a number of F-1s, F-100s, early Chevys, and there's a '58 Apache and a C10 on the waiting list. But regardless of what trucks were around when there was an engine to be hauled or a trailer to be towed, the old reliable '73 Ford F-350 was put to work.
At this point a confession is in order-we've been lured to the dark side from time to time and thought about a new truck. We freely confess to walking through the lot of every new truck dealer in town and being intoxicated by the smell of a hauler fresh off the assembly line, only to be sobered up by the thought of spending more for it than we did for our first house. However, while sticker shock is a factor, the fact is we don't want or need a truck with lots of load capacity on a daily basis; the problem is when one is needed there is no substitute. That dilemma got us to thinking-there are many longbeds, 3/4-tons, and bigger trucks that fit the definition of a custom classic truck. And since they can be utilitarian too, why not build an older truck that has some character and is a workhorse to boot. Those revelations gave birth to our project Long Hauler
Our project will be based on the aforementioned Ford, which happens to be a 1-ton Super Camper Special, but just about any 3/4-ton truck is a candidate for what we're doing. Some of the people we've discussed this project with have questioned the need for anything larger than a 1/2-ton, but we based our decision on the fact that most trucks of that capacity have a full-floating rearend, which are much more appropriate for the kind of loads that towing and hauling impose. In fact, the heavier frames, longer wheelbase, and beefier components of these trucks are far better suited for the kind of use our hauler will see. The investment will be modest compared to buying a newer truck.
Building The Engine
In most cases, a big-block will be the engine of choice for a truck that will be called on to haul a load. And regardless of whether you're working with a Ford, Chevy or Dodge, they can all make good pulling power. The problem is going to be fuel mileage.
We're currently working on gathering precise performance and mileage data on our 460 running empty and pulling a loaded car trailer, and we can tell you the economy numbers are not encouraging. When this engine was originally built we took the hot rod approach, and although it has a mild cam and roller tip rockers, the 429 heads we chose have huge ports and valves. The engine has enough compression that Supreme grade gas is necessary to prevent severe detonation. We used a 750-cfm carburetor on a dual-plane manifold, headers, and an MSD ignition. The combination of parts we chose resulted in an engine that pulls hardest at 2500 rpm and up.
Our new engine combination will be built by John Beck at Pro Machine and is going to be different from what we're running now. First, it will be equipped with EZ-EFI from FAST. This system is not only easy to install, it learns as you drive and tunes itself accordingly and will certainly be much more efficient than carburetion. We'll stick with the MSD ignition, but we'll be using a roller hydraulic cam from Comp Cams and heads with much smaller ports. Our intention is to build an engine that is more efficient and produces power much lower on the tach dial. We'll be doing a dyno comparison of both engines, plus we'll gather real world data.
One of the shortcomings of our truck, and most others of this era, is the gearing. Our truck has a C6 automatic with 3.78:1 rear gears, and while the present gearing allows it to move out smartly with a load, it desperately needs an Overdrive at highway speeds when the tach reads 3,000 rpm. We're leaving the rear gears alone, but will install an E40D four-speed automatic with a lockup converter from Gearstar. Built for extreme duty and the rigors of towing, the transmission's added gear will allow the engine to operate more efficiently and economically.
Worn glass runs make it tough to roll the windows up and down. As a result, the knob comes
The truck came with factory air, which we will retain; however, the stock gauges are typic
Like most longbed pickups of the era, our Ford isn't exactly dainty, but then our goal is
Over the years the original tailgate was wasted. Unfortunately, it was replaced with a che
Ford trucks of this era had some good and bad. We've never been big fans of the twin I-be
One of the earlier attempts at increasing fuel mileage was the addition of headers and a 3
We added a set of halogen headlights to our truck and found out almost immediately that they would trip the circuit breaker in the switch. We'll be adding relays to resolve that issue and a larger-than-stock Powermaster alternator.
We really want to lower our truck for appearance sake, but there are two concerns: Twin I-beam Fords, especially 3/4- and 1-tons, can be a challenge to drop, and we want to retain all the truck's load carrying capacity. This is one of the elements of the rebuild we haven't worked out. It will definitely get new shocks all around and maybe lose a few spring leafs in the rear to soften the ride, and get a pair of auxiliary air springs to handle heavy loads.
Given the size of the stoppers that came on the truck, we'll probably just rebuild what's there.
Fortunately, the body of our truck is in reasonably good shape. There are a few rust bubbles here and there, the inside of the bed needs help, and the tailgate is trash. We might just touch up the paint unless we have enough left over in the budget for a total resquirt.
The inside looks pretty good for a truck this age, but the plastic door panels are cracked and will be replaced. Our biggest concern is that the steering column is actually worn out and the steering wheel is ugly. We also want to get rid of the added gauges under the dash, but that will require having instruments we trust, which means the originals aren't an option.
Wheels and Tires
Our truck has 16-inch aftermarket wheels (the originals were 16.5), and while we're going to make a change, we haven't made the final decision on what will be used.
We obviously have a fairly extensive list of modifications scheduled for our Ford, and the obvious question is: Are such trucks worth the investment of time and money? From our viewpoint, the answer is absolutely. First off, all modifications don't have to be done at once-this is a truck that can be built as its being used-it can be done on a pay-as-you-go basis. And the best part is when we're done, we'll have something different; we really will have a custom classic truck.
The set-back rear axle eliminated room for a spare tire in the conventional location, so F
The side panel removes like a fender skirt, revealing the spare in a drop-down carrier.
We're lucky that our truck has very little rust; however, it does have some telltale bubbl
Unusual in a number of ways, these Fords had an extended wheelbase with a set-back rear fo
The 460 under the hood has plenty of power and has been reliable as an anvil, but the fuel
Thanks to dual Optima batteries, the truck never lacks starting power. The batteries, alon