A 1960 V8 F100 was rated at 172hp and 270ft lbs torque from a 292 cubic inch Y block. After 55 years and god only knows how much abuse, if the truck was making 72hp I would have been quite surprised. When I bought it, I didn’t do nearly the inspection that I should have. It ran, and drove, mostly, and after ignoring several tell-tale signs of issues I fell in love and decided with my heart rather than my head. Two months later when it was finally in my driveway and I actually had some time to inspect my new toy and I realized just how dumb I really was. It was advertised as a 292 Y block, and after crawling on top of the block, standing on my head, and reciting several incantations using several four letter words, I was finally able to make out the block casting numbers. After looking up said casting numbers, I discovered I didn’t have a 1960 292 Y block, instead I had a 1957 272 motor. So much for numbers matching and having the original block, but hey it runs and drives so I can’t be that bad off right? Wrong… I continued looking over my new prize and realized that not having the original engine wasn’t my only problem, the flywheel was missing its lower dust cover, and the teeth on the wheel looked like they had been used to grind rocks. Sadly these were still not my only issues, not even close.
Since I knew I was dealing with a rebuilt motor, I started looking for desirable part numbers that would indicate performance parts and found I had actually did have the desirable 4 barrel 57 intake (makes sense given the 57 block) but I found no other performance parts. Instead I was rewarded with a lovely chocolate milk colored stain on the passenger side of the block, which is pretty indicative that the truck had blown a head gasket at some point. How I missed such a stain in the initial inspection I’ll never know, but it makes for a pretty good argument that love is deaf, dumb, and blind. I still had the original seller’s number, I shot him a quick text asking if the truck ever overheated on him. He said it had once, but after he flushed the cooling system he had not had any more issues. I still wasn’t sure if the head gasket was blown, but a friend of mine suggested I start by tuning the carb and checking the timing, to see why the truck was so down on power.
It was was an excellent call on his part. He stopped by after work on a fall night and as the light quickly failed us, I stood there in the dark and half frozen holding a flashlight as he checked the timing. I don’t recall just how badly the timing was jacked up, but I do remember us both being surprised the poor girl ran at all. Yep, love is definitely blind. Once we adjusted the timing and the carb a bit, the motor sounded much happier, she roared to life with a renewed vigor and resolution to cling to what life she had left. It really was a night and day transformation. This reaffirmed my love, as well as my blind spot for the old girl, and I resigned myself to finding the parts needed to bring her back to her former glory. But the first thing I needed though was to learn to drive her properly.
Around this time another friend of mine who restores cars called me up because he had a used Thunderbird 312 motor for sale (with the lovely Thunderbird valve covers) for 1200 bucks. It was a steal of a deal and I should have bought it, as it would have saved me a lot of money later on, but hey, my motor ran great now so what do I need another one for? In retrospect the delusions that everything with the truck was going to be just fine were adorable. In reality I had simply sold myself on a fantasy so good, Disney would be jealous. Back to learning to drive the truck though. I started by driving it in loops around my neighborhood and after making my neighbors think I had finally lost my mind, I finally started to feel comfortable and had that damn 2nd to 3rd gear shift down. I then worked my way out onto the public roads and the highway. Classic cars are a funny thing as it’s ridiculously easy to get registration for a vehicle that has no working speedometer, no gas gauge, a braking system designed at the end of world war two, no seat belts, and steering worm gear with about 4 inches of play. You just show up, provide the title and they give you plates. Granted there are restrictions on use, but I have never seen them truly enforced.
As I began to get more comfortable driving the truck I realized just how little you need working gauges or a radio. Sure seat belts would be nice…but hey, this isn’t a Bentley. I have driven a range of good and bad cars over the years, some so bad that they shouldn’t be anywhere near public roads, but this truck took the cake. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just that 1960’s tech doesn’t hold up well in 2015. 4 wheel drum brakes, and the football field of space needed to stop from 50, just doesn’t cut it when some soccer mom in her VW Routan cuts you off with no signal because little Jimmy is late for practice. The funny thing about the truck though is that I really liked how bad it was. Driving it was hard, and driving it well was even harder. Driving it well in some of the worst traffic in the nation was one of the hardest things I have ever done. This truck forces you to be aware of everything around you. There is no texting and driving in this thing, there is no distracted driving, vehicles like this demand your attention 100%, as they should, because driving should be challenging and rewarding. Its’ that rewarding feeling that I kept reminding myself of when I realized the truck was suddenly missing several gallons of coolant…
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