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Other People's Projects

Posted in How To on March 1, 2010
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For a while there we were all livin' high on the hog. Businesses cranked out already-sold products, prices were up, and our homes were gaining in value. Things were hunky dory. That is, until reality came along and gave us a nice swift kick in the ass. A lot of folks had their world turned upside down, leaving an onslaught of unfinished off-road projects. Dreams of building the "ultimate off-road truck" or "the last truck I will ever own" and of course the infamous "they will bury me in this truck when I die" declaration quickly lost seniority to food on the table. But the vehicles and the parts that never quite made it to the garage assembly line still sit in boxes, next to a partially completed and sometimes rolling chassis. There are a number of aborted race and recreational projects for sale in select classified ads with the potential of being just what you wanted for much less than you think. If you have cash in hand, someone else likely needs it more than you. Now is a great time to do a little shopping.

Although you can find deals on elaborate tube-frame trucks, there are a couple rigs out there that ring true to the classic off-road truck. After a short search, this old F-150 stood out for our purchasing plans. Certainly an icon in desert racing, and a bonus that it's smog exempt, this truck is a dream waiting to happen. The previous owner planned on building a fullsize multi-purpose truck. The truck is fully 'caged front to rear with a mish-mash of chromoly and DOM tubing-ugly, but effective. The welding is decent, but not the beads you would pay for at a professional shop. There's a nice link system up front with 2.5-inch shocks and airbumps, but the straight axle forces the truck to ride a little high. Heavy modification to the frame and cradle has given the selectable locker Dana 44 a bit more uptravel. In the rear, the loved 9-inch with a nodular iron third member and spool is more than enough to handle 300 hp. One of the truck's golden eggs is an Advance Adapters Atlas transfer case-not a cheap item. This is where shopping for someone else's junk can get weird: This particular Ford has a small-block Chevy crate motor and TH400 tranny. Scream sacrilege all you want, but remember this is a low-buck operation and we can find parts for this mill anywhere.

You should spend time, and be patient when searching for your own pre-owned gem to build. A lot of guys threw a lot of money at a lot of trucks that were never finished, and you can end up picking up some really nice parts and fabrication for pennies on the dollar.

This small-block isn't coming out unless the steel surrounding it gets cut. You can build a rollcage with almost any kind of metal, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Look for drawn-over-mandrel (DOM) or chromoly, and avoid welded seam tubing and water pipe. Pipe is for poop. It's a good sign if the fabricator engineered most joints to come together at one point. The opposing forces create a stronger overall structure.

Sites to Find Rigs and Parts:

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