Having been raised around hot rods, early Fords in particular, as well as riding dirt bikes, Michael Widener is a well-rounded gearhead. He wanted to build an off-road vehicle. After seeing Trophy Trucks up close in Baja at a SCORE race, he knew that he needed to have a truck. With his love of hot rod engines and old Fords, Widener knew that only a classic would do. He wanted it to have a rowdy motor and a license plate, so he set about to build his version of a desert-ready hot rod.
When Widener was told that a family friend had a bone-stock ’73 Ford F-100 shortbed, he bought it sight unseen. Widener says that though it was a clean old truck, it was full of wasps. Once pest free, he began collecting parts and getting things done.
We wonder what the guys who worked at the Ford plant would say about this ’73 Ford F-100 as it now stands. The frame has been fully boxed, the Ford I-beam suspension now features custom beams and radius arms built by Jason Heard and the Ford Camper Special spindles have been reinforced and steering arm double sheared and the original-style steering box has been modified by Howe with custom swing steering. We’re betting that they’d have nothing but good things to say about Heard of South Bay, California, who did all the modifications. Heard also built the full rollcage that the Ford now wears.
A host of Bilstein components, 9100 coilovers, 9100 four-tube bypass shocks, and bumpstops provide the cushion up front while out back the 9100 four-tube bypass shocks with bumpstops share space with the AutoFab leaf springs and two-link kit. A quartet of Wilwood four-piston calipers and rotors provide plenty of braking, and it’s all thanks to the Deering Industries (Long Beach, California) plumbing getting the fluid from the Hydro-boost assisted master to the corners.
Speaking of corner masters, we think that ’ol Mickey Thompson would be happy that his 35x12.5 Baja MTZ tires mounted on 15x8 American Racing Mohave wheels were included on this classic build.
Mickey liked power, and the power for this F-100 comes from a venerable Ford 390 big-block. The machine work was done by Clay Smith Cams and assembled by John Robinson of Buena Park, California. He used solid lifters, ported heads, H-beam rods, forged pistons, and ARP bolts throughout. The Holley dual-feed carburetor was tuned by Sean Murphy, and it sits on an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold.
The air cleaner is K&N unit, but one that has been equipped with a UNI prefilter. Can’t be too careful with cleaning the air. The ignition is a Ford Dura-Spark while Fantasy Muffler (Buena Park, California) connected the long-tube headers to Black Widow mufflers. Horsepower is over 500—and that’s on pump gas.
A Culhane Transmissions–built Ford C6 gets that big power to the GMR 9-inch with a Powertrain Industries driveshaft. The 9-inch is a full floater that features Strange 5:00 Gears and a Detroit Locker. A CBR trans cooler keeps everything cool.
The sweet 1973 cab is steel while the bedsides and front fiberglass are by Santee, California-based Autofab. Widener himself painted on the Glacier blue and white paint, but he had Alpha Wrap of Long Beach, California, cover some aluminum panels to give them the carbon-fiber look.
All of the factory lighting is operational, including turn signals and reverse lights but Widener installed the three no-nonsense Baja Designs Sol Tek HID lights on the front bumper. Don Knight used parts from Nexgen Offroad of Temecula, California, when he rewired the truck.
Inside, though the cage takes up a lot of room (and F-100 cabs weren’t large to begin with), there was room to retain the factory dash with custom aluminum gauge inserts fabbed up by Widener. He chose Auto Meter gauges and hung a nice big tach/shift light from the downtube. Also saved were the stock windshield wiper components. Twin Mastercraft 3G seats with Crow Instruments harnesses encase the occupants while the driver alone grabs the MOMO steering wheel and Winters reverse-pattern shifter.
The Winters is mounted on top of a very nice center console that also houses two PCI Icom 50-watt race radios along with the PCI intercom system and a host of switches. A Lowrance GPS has been bolted to the dash to provide guidance while the Vintage Air system provides A/C, heat, and defrost.
As any hot rodder would, Widener did the stuff that he could; he did all the paint, aluminum work, plumbing, accessory mounting, interior console and upholstery, and everything else at home. And as with hot rod, it was built with fun in mind. Widener says he uses the Effie “to play in, prerun, chase races, and still drive on the street. It was built to different, my idea of a desert hot rod.”
We think the results speak for themselves, and being old hot rodders ourselves, this Ford is the kind of fun that we love having ourselves.
American Racing Wheels
Clay Smith Cams
Culhane Racing Transmissions
Holley Performance Products
PCI Race Radios