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1972 Ford F100: Making The Grade

Posted in Features on October 1, 2011
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The right seat of most desert trucks sees a rotation of enthusiastic occupants. The left seat is reserved for the fortunate few. To get to sit at the controls, most of us either have to buy or build our way in. Then there’s 15-year-old Brandon Arthur. He hits the books. For Brandon, driving the F-100 you see on these pages is just a report card away.

Of course, if said report card doesn’t reflect a pre-determined level of academic excellence, Brandon’s stuck studying until his grades are up to snuff.

It’s easy to gawk at the ’72 F-100 and tell yourself that if you had that arrangement, you’d be found nowhere but the school library and the classroom. Looking back to his own high school years, yours truly knows better. I had a similar arrangement with my parents so that I could retain permission to ride my dirt bike. Studying was tough and the dirt bike was always more appealing.

This truck has been in the Arthur family for three generations, first owned by Bob Arthur, Brandon’s grandfather, who kept it stock and enjoyed its workaday utility. Brandon’s father, Todd Arthur of HRT Motorsports, is a veteran of many, many years of desert racing in a variety of two- and four-wheeled machines. Todd’s desert talents extend beyond the racecourse, stretching right into the shop.

When Brandon’s grandfather donated the truck to him, the stage was already set. Todd and Brandon set about building the truck from humble utilitarian nostalgia into a genuine desert weapon. Friends Donny Kerr, Torrey Parker, Taylor Burger, and Roger Stokes also lent their time and talents to the build.

It would have been simple to add a basic rollcage, modified stock I-beams up front, and race-tuned leaf packs out back. The simple truth is that Todd’s fabrication experience allowed him to help Brandon create a truck that was much more capable.

After you’re done drooling over this truck’s cool factor, look underneath and you’ll see that there’s not much factory frame left at all. Up front, the rails have been chopped in front of the motor to facilitate ideal steering geometry. Similarly, the frame ends just behind the cab, creating a blank slate on which to arrange rollcage tubing around ideal performance instead of around a factory frame designed to support a cargo bed.

The stock framerails were getting in the way of the steering, so Todd and Brandon sliced them off. The steering box and ram are by Howe Performance, based on a Chevy steering box. The front suspension cycles 20 inches from bump to droop.
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Even if you can’t see this truck, you’ll mistake the sound for few others. If you’ve been around off-road racing for a few years, you might remember the Enduro Racing F-150 of Dan Smith and Dave Ashley, and its 8-into-1 headers. The 8-into-1 creates an exhaust note that sounds like an angry, high-revving Indy car. Brandon’s F-100 has that sound, but it’s not coming from the original ’72 Ford FE big-block. It’s coming from a small-block Chevy!

A Chevy engine in a Ford truck? It’s been done before, and it works great. Why is it such a desirable combo? Ford’s I-beam suspension delivers gobs of wheel travel in a rugged, simple package. Chevy’s small-block V-8 delivers gobs of power in a readily-available, aftermarket-friendly package. Bringing such a chassis and engine together makes for a sweet truck with an even sweeter sound.

A Chevy engine in a Ford? Indeed! The small-block displaces 406 cubic inches and breathes through a K&N filter, a Barry Grant Demon 750 cfm carb, and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold. The compression’s 9:1 which makes for good power and reliable performance even on pump gas. The ignition’s by MSD.

Photo shoots go best on the weekdays. Off-roading areas are less crowded during the week, so it’s safer to run a fast truck through the rough. Another bonus is that the photo backgrounds are more controllable. The only bummer was that Brandon couldn’t be there, because it was a school day.

After checking out Brandon’s ride from every angle, hearing the headers sing their beautiful song, and going for a ride, we’ve gotta say this: “Stay in school” never sounded so good!

Rigid Industries LED lights keep things bright at night. Dick Cepek Fun Country II tires grip well over a variety of terrain types.

The Best Reason to Stay in School…Ever!


Vehicle: 1972 Ford F-100
Owner/hometown: Brandon Arthur/Ramona, California
Engine: Chevy 406, custom Sheffield 180-degree headers modified for 8-into-1 collector
Transmission: GM Turbo 400 built by Culhane Transmissions
Front suspension: HRT Motorsports custom I-beams using Ford TTB Dana 44 beam ends and steering knuckles. Fox coilovers and bypass shocks, King bumpstops. HRT custom steering with Howe steering box and ram assist. Travel: 20 inches
Rear suspension: HRT four-link using a Mittler Bros. axle housing, 40 spline axles, CNC hubs and 13-inch brake rotors, Wilwood calipers. Fox coilover and bypass shocks, King bumpstops. Travel: 32 inches
Ring and pinion: Chrisman 10.25 gears, 5.00:1 ratio
Rear differential: 40-spline spool and matching axle shafts
Tires: 37-inch Dick Cepek Fun Country II
Wheels: Beadlock-model Ultra custom wheels, 17x8 inches
Cool tidbit: Brandon was racing across the desert at 90 mph before he was licensed to drive on the street!

This is a no-frills, all-business competition interior, but everything’s within easy reach. We like the Lowrance GPS’s mounting: very accessible from the co-driver’s seat, and mounted at an angle that’s less likely to reflect the sun’s glare. Furthermore, it’s shielded with a visor. The custom aluminum dash was built by CRB Fabrication in San Marcos, California.
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