What’s Lurking in Your Garage?
Everyone's got some leftovers. From an oddball wheel to a slightly dented grille, we've all stashed a few truck parts somewhere. The phrase"still good" and the word "someday"seem to prompt most of the stashing. We're sure we'll happen upon a time when those parts will come in handy.
John Ehmke of Autofab is very familiar with this scenario. His shop has been in business since 1977, and his specialty is Ford trucks with I-beam and Twin-Traction Beam front suspensions. For John, saving truck parts for the future makes perfect sense.
Truck parts take up space, and many of us would be well-served to just hold a garage sale. In John's case, he had stashed away almost everything he needed to build the 1975 F-100 on the pages before you. The key ingredient was a cab and frame left over from a project that stalled out when the customer succumbed to cancer. The cab had been treated to a rollcage, and the bodywork and paint were complete. Another major component was a long-travel I-beam front end, left behind when its buyer changed his mind and disappeared. A third major player was a full-floater Dana 60 rearend built by Sandy Cone. The Cone Industries Dana 60 was in stock at Autofab, but it was factory width. These days, almost everyone wants to go wider and as such, the Cone 60, in all its full-floating glory, gathered dust.
With the three major players (frame/cab, I-beam front end, Dana 60 rearend) in place, it was time to fill in the blanks between them. Some parts weren't lying around but were available in-house thanks to Autofab's manufacturing ability. Autofab is famous for its high-quality fiberglass, so John and the Autofab crew broke out the molds and created a pair of bedsides, a pair of fenders, and a hood for the Spare Parts Truck project. The cab 'cage was already built, so the crew started in the center and built an engine cage up front and a bed cage out back. Bolt-together, modular construction was used throughout the project, a hallmark of Autofab's fabrication style.
Other parts needed to be brought in from outside, such as the Fox bypass shocks and the services of a local engine shop. Goodyear Wrangler GSA tires were found and purchased wherever possible, as these tires aren't in production anymore but are still sought-after items.
Since Autofab has phones to answer and customers' orders to fill, the Spare Parts Truck was worked on as time allowed. The project took a few years to complete, but when it was done, it was done right. The truck handles well, soaks up the rough, has plenty of power, is reliable, and is easy to work on. It's a truck built to last.
So, what's lurking in your garage? Do you have enough leftovers to build a whole truck, or do you just have two components of a daydream? Whatever your situation, do what you can and don't give up. Above all, make sure it's a project you're able to turn into reality. There are a lot of attractive facets to the Spare Parts Truck, but the most salient is that the truck is finished. It's out of the shop and where it belongs: in the dirt.
Behind the Wheel
John generously offered yours truly a stint in the driver's seat, and I gladly accepted before he could change his mind.
Climbing in, the first thing I noticed was the ease of ingress. The 'cage tubes are protective but are easy to step over on the way to the MasterCraft seat. A horizontal 'cage tube might be required around the door's midline for a competition vehicle, but the Spare Parts Truck was built to be a real-world, functional prerunner. Tucking the 'cage tubing behind the dash and behind factory sheetmetal as much as possible created a roomy interior.
I've been inside many 'caged trucks that required earplugs. Solidly welding the 'cage to the frame and then to the cab creates a strong truck, to be sure, but it also becomes one giant sound chamber. The bushing mounts and modular 'cage construction resulted in a truck that's structurally solid but is almost as quiet inside as a non-'caged vintage Ford would be.
Once harnessed into the driver's seat, I had yet another affirmation that, yes, I'm short. The seat isn't adjustable, but I was able to make do. It was easy to reach the wheel, but the pedals and the shifter were a stretch. Average-to-tall drivers won't have any issues.
The 460 roared easily to life and propelled the truck with authority. Even with a mild build, this powerplant has plenty of muscle, and it's easy to see why it's so popular with Ford enthusiasts.
In the rough, this is a balanced truck. Eighteen inches of travel lets you keep the hammer down through all but the biggest stuff, and even when the whoops get too big, the chassis takes it in stride, letting you know to back off. The two-link rear system keeps the axle planted. Wheel hop and axle wrap simply don't exist on the Spare Parts Truck.
Steering was stable and predictable. Whether pointed straight or sweeping through a turn, the truck complied with every input at the wheel. It's very forgiving.
I took it easy. I wanted to get a feel for the truck. Pushing the performance envelope is reserved for those who can affect the repairs should something go wrong. When John and I traded seats back, he gave me a firsthand tour of the truck's (and his) off-road abilities. Terra firma rushed by quickly!
Is it a Trophy Truck? No. And for the record, I've ridden in a true-to-life TT. At the same time, when you consider the stock width, full framerails, and leaf-spring rear suspension, you can't help but be impressed. This is an everyman truck that can take you many, many places, year after year. I loved it.
Vehicle: 1975 Ford F-100 2WD shortbed
Owner/Hometown: John Ehmke/Santee, California
Engine: Ford 460 V-8 big-block with Super Cobra Jet connecting rods, 9.5:1 compression, 500 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: C-6 with reverse manual valvebody
Front suspension: Autofab kingpin I-beam system with equal-length tie rod system, Fox bypass shocks, Fox bumpstops, Autofab adjustable coil buckets, 18 inches of wheel travel
Rear suspension: Spring-over leaf springs with Autofab anti-wrap two-link system, National Spring leaf packs with stock spring hangers and Autofab shackles, Fox bypass shocks and bumpstops, 18 inches of wheel travel
Ring and Pinion: 4.56
Rear axle: Dana 60 built by Cone Industries, full-floating hubs, disc brakes, a full spool provides reliable full-time traction
Tires/Wheels: 35-inch Goodyear GSA Wrangler/15x7 Centerline forged three-piece
Other cool stuff: Autofab bushing-mounted rollcage, Autofab urethane hood grommets and matching hood pins, Autofab urethane fiberglass panel mount, Autofab bedsides, front fenders, and drop-center hood