An Ex-Dragracer Retires with a ’71 F-100 Sport Custom
On the custom car scene, Steve Howle has been around the block a few times. He built his first hot rod back in 1987 and has had some sort of custom, Pro Street or drag car ever since. Some of these include a Pro Street ’81 Vette, a Pro Street 8-71 blown convertible Camaro and a Pro Street ’62 Bel-Air bubbletop. In addition, Steve has built and raced numerous drag cars, including two ’66 Chevy IIs, two ’69 Camaros, a turbocharged ’65 Corvette and his fastest car, a ’69 twin turbo Camaro that ran mid 7 second quarter-mile blasts at almost 190 mph!
Steve is nearing his retirement years, so he has decided to mellow things down and build his final custom for the car show scene and late-night cruises. Steve initially purchased a black ’69 F-100 a few years ago but decided it just was not up to par with his vision. Instead of redoing that truck, Steve decided to go on the hunt for something factory fresh and ready for a new start. Steve found the perfect truck: an all-original Wimbledon white 1971 F-100 Sport Custom. And to his surprise, he just happened to find it right in his birthplace of Tyler, Texas.
Once Steve made the deal and got the truck back to his house, he began the build right away. Starting with the chassis, the truck was sent to Russ Garber at Top Notch Auto in Terrell, Texas. Russ was commissioned to install the Fat Man Fabrications Mustang II style front suspension and rear four-link. With the old front I beams out and the new Fat Man front crossmember installed, Russ completed the task by installing the Fat Man tubular upper and lower control arms along with the QA1 coilovers, dropped spindles and disc brakes. Once the front was complete, Russ tackled the rear of the truck by first notching the frame above the axle then welding in the Fat Man 4 bar with QA1 coilovers. Attached to the 4 bar is a tried-and-true Ford explorer 8.8 with 3.73 gears, 31 spline axles, track lock and refreshed stock brakes. Getting an F-100 of this vintage to ride low takes more than just a drop as Steve and Russ expected. This is where Russ implemented his sheetmetal skills and flawlessly performed a raised notch in the bed floor by utilizing the existing bed floor as well as some sourced from another truck. Finalizing the chassis was as simple as spraying it with some satin black topcoat.
Moving on to the next stage of the build, Steve contacted Casey Cole of Coles Collision Center in Forney, Texas. Casey proceeded to fill the bed seams, get the body laser straight, and then lay down a basecoat of DeBeers Wimbledon white and three coats of clear. Not wanting the painted surfaces of the interior to match the outside of the truck, Steve had Casey spray a matte Wimbledon white on the inside. The matte white also continues to the top of the hood. Once the truck was sprayed, Cole sanded and polished all the clear coated surfaces to a mirror finish. The outside bright work was supplied by LMC and installed by Steve himself.
After the paint was complete, Steve called up Emilio’s Upholstery in Dallas to take on the seats, door panels, custom console and carpet. Starting with Mustang-style seats from TMI, Steve had Emilio’s inlay some black and gray plaid inserts as well as complete custom stitched door panels with the same plaid inserts. The custom-made console also received the same treatment in addition to some billet cup holders. Carpet was sourced from Auto Custom Carpets and then installed over the Restomod Membrane sound and heat deadener.
Being an ex-dragracer, Steve could not settle for any ole powerplant. The heart of the beast is a ’66 Mercury Marauder 390 stroked to 447 cubic inches by Gary Williford of Bullets Racing Engines. Gary stuffed the block with a stroker crank, Liberty rods and forged DSS pistons with a 10:1 compression ratio. Topping the short block is a set of Trick Flow FE aluminum heads and a Trick Flow high rise intake. Opening and closing the valves on the heads is a Bullet Racing cam specked by Gary to Steve’s liking with .574 lift. Air and fuel are monitored by a Holly Stealth EFI system and spark is fired off with an MSD ignition system combined with custom made Taylor 10 mm sparkplug wires. A custom-made oil pan was fabbed so there would be no problems with the motor sitting down in the engine compartment. Sanderson FE block hugger headers direct the exhaust down to the 2.5-inch mandrel bent system with Borla mufflers, giving it just the right sound at the rear bumper. Backing the healthy FE is a Ford C6 transmission with a shift kit and a TCI Saturday night special Torque converter. Because Steve intends to highway cruise the truck quite often, he wanted to keep the RPMs in check, so he added a Gear Vendors overdrive unit behind the C6 while keeping the stock column shift in place to change the gears. The transmission is kept cool with a hidden Derale trans cooler with electric fan.
With everything thing starting to come together, Steve enlisted Comet Fab and Speed LLC in Haltom City, Texas, to do the final assembly and finish work. The crew put some finishing touches on the truck, like coating the entire engine in a beautiful satin “stainless” Cerakote ceramic coating. This included modifying a factory air cleaner housing and covering it in the same Cerakote along with the Mercury valve covers. Once the engine and its components were all in Cerakote, Comet mated the engine, trans and gear vendors together, and then stabbed them into the truck. Comet utilized ARP stainless 12-point fasteners on all visible bolt locations. Before the engine could be started, the crew wired up the EFI, including rewiring the entire truck with a new chassis harness from American Autowire. The handheld EFI control screen is hidden in the center console. In addition, Comet fabricated custom A/C lines, which lead to the vintage restored under dash A/C unit, as well as Cerakoted the front pullies and brackets in a satin black. Back into the interior, Comet removed the factory fuel tank behind the seat so they could weld in a sump and install the correct return lines for the Holly EFI. Monitoring the engine is a F600 gauge cluster modified by Comet to utilize Speed Hut gauges (with GPS) in the holes. The Gear Vendor controls are mounted in the cluster as well. Finally, Comet also installed a fiber optic light in the factory shift indicator so Steve could always see what gear was selected, day or night.
Once everything was complete, Steve put the final touch on the truck with a big set of Budnik billet Muroc iv wheels. The wheels and tires fit in the wheel wells perfectly with the fronts measuring in at 20×8 with 5.5 inches of back space and the rears measuring in at 20×9.5 with 3.25 inches of backspace. The rubber wrapping the wheels is none other than Nitto brand. The front wheels have 245/40/20s on them and the rear wheels have larger 295/40/20 tires filling up the wheel well. Those with a keen eye will notice the Cerakote on the engine matches the center of the wheels and the Budnik steering wheel as well.
Since completion of the truck, Steve has competed at numerous truck shows, including the F-100 Supernationals in Tennessee where he won a top 10 award among some very stiff competition. Steve would like to thank everyone involved in helping him build his truck including they guys on the F-100 pages who helped him find parts or solve issues. Although Steve claims he is finished with the truck, we suspect he will not be complacent and will find more things to improve upon like most diehard car guys do.
1971 Ford Sport Custom F-100
- Fatman Fabrications Mustang II front clip
- Fatman Fabrications four-link
- Fatman Fabrications tubular control arms
- Ford explorer 8.8 with 3.73 gears
- 7/9 drop
- Notched rear chassis
- Power rack-and-pinion steering
- Motor: 1966 Mercury Marauder 390 stroked out to 447 ci
- Manifold: Trick Flow FE
- Fuel Injection: Holly Stealth EFI
- Ignition: MSD Ignition
- Torque Converter: TCI Automotive – Saturday Night Special
- Headers: Sanderson
- Exhaust: Borla 2.5 inch
- Transmission: Ford C6 with Gear Vendors Overdrive
- Fasteners: ARP 12-point
- Power front and rear disc brakes
Tires and Wheels
- Nitto G2
- Front 245-40-ZR20
- Rear 295-40-ZR20
- Budnik Muroc IV SKO’s
- Front 20×8
- Rear 20×9.5
- Color: DeBeers Wimbledon White / Matte Wimbledon on inside of bed
- Chassis Harness: American Autowire
- Steering Wheel: Budnik GTV
Speed Hut F600
- Shocks: QA1 Coilovers
- Carpet: Auto Custom Carpet
- Seat: TMI
- Sound Deadener: Restomod