Friends in Low Places

DEREK BROWN IS A custom home builder from Oceanside, California. San Diego natives will know the unrivaled excitement of Goodguys Nationals, the event that takes place each year at the local Del Mar Fairgrounds. It attracts the highest caliber of customs and rods from all over and also boasts one of the most competitive autocross events for classics. There, Derek witnessed a fourth-generation F-100 tearing up the racetrack, and that memory stuck with him. It formed a goal in his mind’s eye of building and racing an F-100 of his own.

First up, he had to find the perfect specimen. He settled on a factory black, ’67 F-100 Ranger. Over the next year, he worked tirelessly to build a race truck capable of handling any curve the track had to offer.

’67 F-100 RangerDerek began his performance project with a clean slate. A FatMan Fabrication blank frame underpins the truck. The chassis was fully customized to suit Derek’s application. Custom-built three-way adjustable coilovers suspend the front and rear. The front uses 900-pound spring rates with 400 pounds out back. Derek also pieced together a custom steering setup (after burning up three at the track!) using Detroit Speed components. The FatMan chassis comes standard with Mustang II style IFS. But the crossmember and motor mounts beneath this truck are one-off creations. The powertrain sits nearly 7 inches farther back between the frame rails. If this ’67 was ever to be competitive, this weight balance was a crucial part of the equation.

The most difficult piece of the performance truck puzzle is weight distribution. Specialty applications might have more to say, but most would agree that as close to a 50/50 weight distribution to the front and rear is ideal for any road-course style truck project.

This is hard to achieve when a classic truck was first built to load and unload as much weight as possible over the rear axle. But moving the motor back more than half a foot will help get you there. The increased rigidity of a custom chassis and variable spring rates are also vital.

With so much invested into the chassis, Derek chose a powertrain equal to the task. Beneath the truck broad hood is a 2015 Boss 302 V-8. The Ford Performance engine is an 11.0:1 compression aluminum block. It makes 444 hp and 308 lb-ft of torque and utilizes forged Manley piston and rods for added strength. The Ford Performance headers hook up to a custom Black Widow 3-inch exhaust system. The motor was mated to a Tremec T56– magnum transmission and Ceneterforce clutch. All 444 ponies make their way down a custom driveshaft to a Speedway Engineering 9-inch floater rearend, which houses 4.11 gears and an Eaton TruTrac limited-slip differential. The modern powertrain is a force to be reckoned with. It outstrips plenty of muscle and sports cars hot off the press. And with a ’67 F-100 sitting on top, it’s obviously way cooler.

Not an ounce of power is left unusable. Underneath the Ford truck rolls a set of Forgeline GX3 wheels measuring 18×11 inches. The squared setup is desirable for autocross especially and it allows for a more direct turn-in. It can also help to quell the truck’s desire to oversteer. This, of course, means risking some understeer, but the heavier front springs, TruTrac diff and driver skill all serve to balance out the equation.

The wheels are paired with Falken Azenis 615R tires, an aggressive and track-ready compound. They measure 315/30/18 all around. Equally important to getting (and keeping) power on the ground are the brakes; 13-inch rotors from The Brake Man stop both the front and rear with 6 and 4-piston calipers respectively. They are fed by a Tilton high-performance master cylinder.

Most folks who go through the trouble of building a race truck, let alone a ’67, do so because they appreciate its timeless good looks. Derek is not an outlier here. His truck was left alone where it counts. Even the black paint is original! The desirable “Ranger” badge adorns the rear bedsides, and the lower-body chrome trim is in great shape. All of the chrome bits have been thoroughly cleaned and shined. It’s all tied together with the machined-finish lips on the Forgeline wheels. The brushed gold centers use a classic split-spoke Motorsport architecture. They bring a bit of spice to the visuals and even match the classic yellow-on-black California plates.

Despite the OEM appearance, the body modifications were no small task. To accommodate the tactical retreat of the engine, the firewall was cut out and pushed back 7 inches. The inner fender tubs have all been widened by 2 inches to clear the wide wheels. And the bed floor was raised 4 inches. This final cut ensures the suspension can fully articulate at the lowered ride height. It also makes room for the custom No Limit fuel cell.

Forgeline wheels on a custom F-100 RangerThe interior of the truck is built for both business and pleasure. Autometer Ultra 2 gauges strike a perfect balance of performance and style. They display a wealth of information from the Ford Performance ECU. Vintage-style Kirkey racing seats provide safety, rigidity and a low-back bucket style. Driver and passenger have a choice between an updated standard style seatbelt or a Crow 5-point SFI approved harness. Finally, a Sparco USA race steering wheel puts the driver in total control.

One year is a short timeline, especially to strip a truck down to its bare essentials and rebuild it to be a well-sorted track machine. But Derek trusted in the power of the hustle. He kept his head down and his goal in front of him. His hard work has paid off in this wicked ’67, a build that drives harder than it parks. In reality, the final assembly is just the beginning of any race project. Already the truck has been put through its paces at several Goodguys, SCCA and Optima Ultimate Street Car events. Build, compete, break, repeat—that is the racing lifestyle. And while this truck proves that hard work pays off, it also proves that the work never ends!