A Baja Blaster Built by Avocados
Mike Friel is a third-generation avocado farmer in California. He grew up with John Swift, whose dad, Ray, got into off-road racing in the 1960s. (The Swifts now have three generations of racers in the family, just as the Friels have grown avocados and citrus on their family acreage for decades.)
Mike got exposed to go-fast desert driving through the Swifts. He crews for John and has put thousands of desert miles on trucks over the years. Mike recently decided to build a prerunner that could handle everything he’s ever encountered being on a chase team in Baja. The end result is a highly detailed Ford.
To create a custom go-anywhere prerunner, John referred Mike to Roper Design & Fabrication in Ventura, California. Shop owner Sean Roper previously worked as a fabricator for Swift Racing prior to striking out on his own. Sean still race-preps the Swift fleet, including the infamous Vic Hickey Banshees, the two famous ’glass-bodied Oldsmobile Cutlass 442s that James Garner raced in the 1970s.
Although the truck is thoroughly modified, bits of the original F-100 remain. The original frame and powertrain remain, although they’ve been beefed for severe duty.
Under the ’glass hood, the Ford 390 FE V-8 was warmed up with a mild cam and Cobra Jet aluminum heads. The top end consists of an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, a 770-cfm Holley Truck Avenger carburetor, and a K&N air cleaner. Fuel and fire are assisted by an MSD box and a Holley electric fuel pump.
The exhaust is trick. Sean fabricated four-into-one headers with equal-length 2-inch-diameter primary tubes. He continued the custom dual exhaust using 3-inch tubing, ending at MagnaFlow mufflers behind the cab.
Sean also added some cooling tricks. He integrated radiator mounts into a custom engine cradle, which also serves as attachment points for the hood pins, shocks reservoirs, and more. Transmission fluid is routed through dual C&R Racing coolers with built-in electric fans, mounted in the bed.
But the bulk of the work happened on the rest of the truck. The rearend had previously been upgraded with a three-link suspension system and a Cone Industries Ford 9-inch. Roper Design fine-tuned the setup. Wilwood Superlite four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors were added to all four corners. Extra braking power comes from a Motorcraft hydroboost unit added to the master cylinder. Roper Design also added primary FOX 2.0 coilovers with remote reservoirs. Each corner also gets a FOX bypass shocks and a FOX air bump.
Steering wasn’t overlooked. For better response, Sean upgraded to a Howe system that includes a 1,650-psi pump, remote reservoir, and ram-assist. A custom skidplate integrates into a Roper Design front bumper to protect the steering box, transmission, and front suspension.
The bed was set up to be utilitarian and clean. Dual stand-up spare carriers are built into a Roper rear bumper. The spare mounts have attachment points for multiple ratchet straps so that flats will stay secured. The Fuel Safe fuel cell is enclosed in a lockable toolbox, and the lid is stout enough to stand on.
Similar attention to detail spills into the interior. Sean fabricated a ’cage from 1.75-inch chromoly tubing. Brushed-aluminum dash panels house Auto Meter gauges. The custom center console has the switches, which are identified with old-school hand lettering. The aluminum panels also accommodate vents for Vintage Air A/C.
At this point, the truck is fairly dialed in. Mike successfully uses it to chase John in SCORE races. He also ran it in the 2012 Parker 425 PreFun and is considering entering some BITD events. Before then, this reborn F-100 might get a stroked Ford 440 big-block and a Mogi-built C-6.
The price of avocadoes could affect those and future modifications. The more guacamole we eat, the wilder Mike’s F-100 could get.
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Vehicle: 1972 Ford F-100
Owner/Hometown: Mike Friel/Oxnard, California
Engine: 1972 Ford 390ci V-8, Cobra Jet heads, Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, Holley Truck Avenger carburetor, K&N air cleaner, custom Roper Design headers, MagnaFlow mufflers
Transmission: C-6, Art Carr shifter, C&R cooler
Frontend: Twin I-beam, Eibach coils, FOX coilover and quadruple-bypass shocks, FOX 2-inch pneumatic bumpstops
Rearend: 40-spline Cone Industries Ford 9-inch, Cone spool, custom Roper Design three-link, Eibach coils, FOX coilover and triple-bypass shocks, FOX 2-inch pneumatic bumpstops
Ring and Pinion Ratio: 4.88:1
Tires: 37x12.50-15 BFG Baja T/As
Wheels: 15x9 TrailReady bead locks
Interior: MasterCraft suspension seats, Auto Meter Phantom gauges, Momo steering wheel, custom Roper Design dash, center console, 1.75-inch chromoly ’cage