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1977 Ford F-150 - Raymond - Cheap Truck Challenge 2013

1977 Ford F 150 Driving Through Water
Harry Wagner | Writer
Posted August 15, 2013

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

Step By Step

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  • 1. I wasn’t planning to build an F-150 for the CTC, but the truck found me. I hauled all of this stuff home for $1,250. The Edelbrock intake manifold, Demon carburetor, MSD ignition, long tube headers, and Flo Pro exhaust sealed the deal.

  • 2. While the truck was still on the trailer I headed to the nearest coin-operated car wash with a few cans of Gunk (in case you didn’t realize it from the other two stories, the guys at Gunk sent all of us an abundance of cleaner to test) to remove the years of caked-on oil and grease so I could get a clear idea of what needed to be fixed or replaced daily. Gunk and car wash, $14.

  • 3. Some online shopping at RockAuto got me new Motorcraft spark plugs, a cap, a rotor, an oil filter, radiator hoses, and new belts. I sourced the fluids locally. Tune-up, $183.

  • 4. About a mile of wire came out of the interior and under the hood of the Ford, most of it connected with wire nuts or twisted together and covered in electrical tape. This took some time to sort out, but I had more time than money.

  • 5. I didn’t have room for AAA in my budget, so I left the spare change on the floorboards in case of emergency. This turned out to come in handy in Phoenix.

  • 6. Heater core leaking? No big deal; we weren’t going to North Dakota. I just bypassed the heater since I didn’t have the money to order a new one from RockAuto or LMC Truck before the CTC, but I will add a new heater core before the snow falls.

  • 7. The parts pile included some front coils, rear leaf springs, and used shocks. I put Daystar bushings in the leaf springs and then mounted them on top of the factory lift blocks. Daystar spring bushings, $46.

  • 8. The Pit Bull Rockers and Pro Comp wheels fit in the rear with no fender trimming after the springs were installed. This gives you an idea of just how big the wheelwells are on these trucks. Tires and wheels, $2,604.

  • 9. Aaron Lechner used a bottle jack between the axle and frame to get the taller front coils in place. Sketchy? Yes, but what high school kid has a lift in his garage?

  • 10. New Daystar C-bushings were installed on the radius arms to help correct the caster angle. Daystar makes these in a variety of angles, but I could only rotate the axle 4 degrees before the front driveline would contact the exhaust. Daystar C-bushings, $33.

  • 11. Dan Aguilar is a Chevy guy, so he was happy to help cut up my Ford. He masked off a line to guide him and then cut about 3 inches off each fender with an air saw, matching the factory shape.

  • 12. Clearly I didn’t spray enough Gunk on the steering box when I was at the car wash. Had I done so, I would have noticed this broken rag joint. It clunked a lot, but the truck still turned, so I ran it.

  • 13. One of the things we love about old trucks is that the engine bay is large enough to literally climb inside. Randy Ellis did the honors, shaking his head as he uncovered one problem after another.

  • 14. That could be a problem! The bent pushrod was just sitting under the valve cover minding its own business. Fortunately pushrods and lifters are cheap, and that spare change on the floorboards saved the day. Lifter and pushrod, $6.

  • 15. After a new lifter and pushrod were added the oil pressure went up from none-at-all to just-a-little. There is still a missing lifter, so we plan to toss some parts at the engine when the CTC is over and our savings account recovers. The truck may currently be a deathtrap, but it sure does look cool! And everyone loves it, hence the name Raymond. If you are going to think like a high school kid, isn’t having a cool truck what is most important?


Phoenix, AZ 85043
Rock Auto
Madison, WI 53719
Pit Bull Tires
St. Louis, MO 63103
Pro Comp USA
Compton, CA 90220
Indian Trail, NC 28079