Everyone Loves This Ford
The first complaint often levied against my truck is that it doesn’t look like a cheap truck. But isn’t that the point? This truck looks badass! Any kid would love to drive it. Look a little closer though and you find a series of leaks, poor steering geometry, and an engine that barely runs—but hey, nothing’s perfect.
I picked this truck up from behind a body shop, where it had been sitting neglected for years. I went there to look at a set of Ford axles, but I ended up getting the axles and a complete truck as well for only $1,250.
These generations of Fords have really good running gear and are cheap to purchase. My ’77 F-150 has a V-8 engine, NP435 transmission with a 6.69:1 First gear, a gear-driven NP205 transfer case, a high-pinion Dana 44 front axle with disc brakes, and a big-bearing Ford 9-inch rear axle. I also got a second high-pinion Dana 44, a 9-inch, and some lift components included in the $1,250 purchase price.
Having a cool truck is most important
My plan was to put used 33s under the fenders and a $30 mini spool in the rear and go win the Cheap Truck Challenge, but Fred Williams told me that was boring: “You need to think like a high school kid!” Hmm…how would a high school kid think? The first thing I did was give in to peer pressure. With this newfound motivation I spent my entire modification budget on tires. After all, I had a spare set of axles, what could possibly go wrong?!
A clearer head would have recognized that the four 411⁄2-inch Pit Bull Rocker radials cost more than my $2,013 modification budget—and I still had to get the truck running, fit the tires, and find wheels to mount them on. Some high school kids aren’t very good at planning ahead! They do usually have an abundance of time and energy though, so I started wheeling and dealing (literally) to get Pro Comp steel wheels and the rest of the parts I needed. This meant selling the extra axles to free up cash (so much for my backup plan).
My friends Aaron Lechner and Dan Aguilar helped me put the truck together at Lechner’s house. The three of us thrashed on the Ford until midnight two days leading up to the CTC, and we only got it running in time to head to Arizona.
“You don’t have any oil pressure,” Lechner warned.
“Probably just a bad sending unit,” I replied optimistically.
The Ford barely ran when I rolled up to Randy Ellis Design at the start of the challenge. While Williams was monkeying with a worn drag-link end on his Land Cruiser, Ellis and Péwé helped me work on the Ford. They would say, “The float is adjusted way to high” or “You have a huge vacuum leak,” and we would fix each malady only to have it run the same. Eventually Ellis started pulling spark plug wires and finally pulled the whole passenger-side bank…and the F-150 ran the same! Then he pulled the valve cover and we found a bent pushrod and a missing lifter. You could see all the way down to the camshaft!
Fortunately a replacement lifter and pushrod cost under five bucks, and I had enough change on the floorboards to pay for that. The oil pressure came up after the new lifter and pushrod, but there was still a huge dead spot in the engine, basically between idle and wide open throttle. Williams was done fixing his Land Cruiser by this point though, so it was time to run what I brung.
Is It a ’77 or a ’78?
One question that frequently gets asked about my Ford is whether it is a ’77 or a ’78. The title says that it is a ’78, but the door tag says that it was built in December 1976. The VIN indicates that the truck is a ’77 and came with a 351, although I was told that it has a 400M. The mystery will be solved when we tear into the engine after the Cheap Truck Challenge.
1977 Ford F-150 purchase price Plus Extras... $1,250
- 41x13.5R17 Pit Bull Rocker radials ($553 x 4)... $2,212
- 17x9 Pro Comp Series 98 steel wheels ($98 x 4)... $392
- Daystar C-bushings... $79
- Tune-up parts from RockAuto... $183
- Gunk engine cleaner, car wash... $14
- Lifter and pushrod... $6
- Sold extra axles... -$600
- Sold extra radius arms... -$100
Total upgrades... $2,186
Total build... $3,436