IT’S not like Alan Robson is an F-truck fanatic. He’s had a V8 HK Premier wagon, an XA Falcon GT, a V8 Fairlane, a Gemini, some Eurotrash and no less than a dozen Beetles. So how does a man who simply doesn’t mind an Effie get fanatical about building the cleanest F100 shop truck around?
First published in the May 2021 issue of Street Machine
We decided to visit Lonsdale Autoshop in Seaford, SA to get the lowdown from the bossman Jason Riding and Alan himself. “I’d seen a few cool F-trucks on those American build shows,” Alan begins. “So I thought: ‘Let’s build a nice, shop-style truck’, even though I don’t have a shop.”
Buying a 1975 F100 sight-unseen out of Queensland around June 2018, Alan was expecting a rust-free car, but of course that wasn’t the case. “It had a lot of bog in the guards, and the whole rear panel under the sliding window was rusted out,” he says.
After buying a couple of replacement cabs worse than the one he had, Alan made the decision to get stuck into the rig and do it all properly. The Aussie-built F100 went to Regal Crash Repairs for the bodywork and paint, and although they normally handle mainstream crash work, they’d been fixing Alan’s fleet vehicles for years.
“Paul and John at Regal were keen to have a crack at a street car while they were quiet,” Alan says. “And I think the boys there enjoyed working on something other than a brand-new Mazda with a rear-quarter hit for a change!”
Knowing the factory 302 was almost as cactus as the body, Alan took the freshly painted car to Jason to handle a heart transplant that would get the F-truck moving to the beat of some modern muscle: a 5.0-litre Ford Coyote V8. Jason was also tasked with doing whatever else was needed to make the truck drive a lot better. He’s been cranking out quality builds for some time now, so Alan afforded him some creative licence on the F100. “It’s turned out a better car because he went ahead and did some things that I probably wouldn’t have thought of,” Alan says.
“Yeah, like the tubs,” Jason clarifies. “I was thinking: ‘Alan doesn’t really want them, but I reckon he just doesn’t know he does.’ I just had to word it right so that he realised it’s the way to go.”
Jason’s strategy worked, dispelling any beliefs Alan had that tubs were only good for swallowing drag rubber. “The F-truck needs big wheels to fill it out,” Jason says. “Therefore, it needed tubs.”
Body modifications like that meant another trip to the panel beaters, this time Southern Classics & Customs. “Regal was fine, but Adam at SC&C is an expert in these sorts of modifications,” Alan says. “Besides, they’ve got a good relationship with Jason and they’re just down the road from here.”
The fellas at SC&C carefully crafted new tubs for the F100, grafted in a ’68 dash and fabricated the rear beaver panel that replaces the bumper.
Adam and his team weren’t the only ones having to carefully grind and weld around the quality paint and panel already applied by Regal. A modern, tube-arm front end required Jason to chop out the I-beam front and all the crossmembers without letting the body flex. “We made up all these brackets and welded them onto the car,” Jason says. “Then we literally welded the chassis to the hoist.”
Ford’s F-truck has never been a bastion of automotive technology, yet the process of installing the tube-arm front end was cutting edge. Sot Kavuki from Modified Vehicle Engineering instructed Jason to strip everything off the underside, grind all the rails flat, then paint everything matte-black. “Then he came here, plugged this little hairdryer thing into his laptop and started firing it everywhere,” Jason explains. It was the same process for fitting the Coyote motor. “Sot was like, ‘dert-dert-dert’ in the engine bay,” says Jason, loosely mimicking Sot’s 3D image-capturing process. “We had the motor and trans on a stand, so he walked around that and it was ‘dert-dert-dert’ again.” With the info loaded into his laptop, Sot went back to his workshop and worked his magic. “He overlayed one image with another image, and bang – that’s how we knew we’d be 10-15mm out,” Jason says. “We had to move either the alternator or the brake booster.”
The V8 Coyote motor was sourced from a near-new Mustang stacked at only 11,000km, but engines are heavy regardless of age, mileage and technology. The 3D imaging process meant the 5.0-litre didn’t have to be trial-fitted. “We recessed and offset the brake booster a bit, then the engine went straight in and it’s never been back out,” says Jason.
He also installed a hot rod wiring kit from Ford Performance to ensure the Coyote could cope with having no Mustang around it. “It’s basically an unlocked ECU with an oversized wiring loom. You just trim it down to suit, it all goes in and talks to the engine. It couldn’t have been any easier,” Jason says.
With modern motivation, air con from Vintage Air, up-to-date suspension, big wheels and digital guts hiding behind classic-style gauges, Alan’s F-truck is generations away from its 1970s roots. “I guess I didn’t have to do the front end, but F100s drive like shipping containers,” he laughs.
Alan and Jason’s quest to get the F100 driving and handling like a car rather than cargo hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the truck picking up Best Engineered Street Machine at the 2021 Extreme Auto Expo.
“A few of the other classic cars I’ve owned are really nice to look at and are fun to be in for something like an hour,” Alan says. “This one looks old-school, but if you want to throw a bike in the back and head to the Flinders Ranges, it’s not a problem. It drives like a new car; it will quite happily cruise through the countryside on a 40-degree day.” And even though he doesn’t have a shop, Alan does plan to use it for work occasionally. “You can only drive so many HiLuxes,” he reasons.
1975 FORD F100
Paint: Boxwood Green
Type: Ford Coyote V8
Intake: Standard with Fat Fender IMRC delete kit
Fuel pump: In-tank Aeromotive Phantom 340 Stealth
Exhaust: Twin 2.5in exhaust with MagnaFlow mufflers and high-flow cats driveline
Transmission: 6R80 six-speed auto
Tailshaft: 2017 Mustang front half to custom rear
Diff: Narrowed full-floating 9in, Truetrac, 3.8:1 gears, 35-spline Moser axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Viking double-adjustable coil-overs (f)
Rear: Speed Garage spring-over-axle conversion, reset leaves with Viking double-adjustable shocks (r)
Steering: VE Commodore rack-and-pinion with electric pump
Brakes: Wilwood calipers (f & r); 14in discs (f), 12in discs (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood with modified VT Commodore booster
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Simmons FR1; 20×8 (f), 20×12 (r)
Rubber: Hankook; 245 (f), 315 (r)
Jason and Jaiden at Lonsdale Autoshop; Paul and John at Regal Crash Repairs; Adam, Jodi and the team at Southern Classics & Customs; Sot at Modified Vehicle Engineering and Speed Garage; Ben Dunn at Elite Trim; Danny at DesignWire; Davor at Performance Auto & Dyno; Carmine and Dino at CDS Chassis & Diffs; NDR Fab Precision Race Fabrication; South Coast Exhausts; LJT Restorations for some detail assembly work; Southern Steering & Suspension; Shimtech