Have you ever driven past an old pickup truck sitting in a field and thought about giving it a new lease on life? California-based hot rod builder Scott Birdsall did just that to a Ford pickup, with a twist. He picked up a Ford F1 built in the late 1940s for $225 on Craigslist, and turned it into a Cummins diesel-powered race truck.
The central — and, arguably, most impressive — part of the build is a 5.9-liter diesel engine borrowed from a Freightliner truck. Through extensive tweaks, it belts out 1,200 horsepower and a mighty 2,000 pound-feet of torque. It’s all sent straight to the rear wheels. Birdsall explains getting that much power to the ground wasn’t possible with the stock frame, so he designed and built a tubular frame from scratch. “There’s no 1949 Ford left,” he points out. Birdsall works for Chuckles Garage, so he knows a thing or two about fabricating parts of a car.
Birdsall might have a PhD in turbocharging. Old Smokey F1 uses a compound turbo setup that makes a Ford GT look simple. It’s made up of a regular turbocharger driven by exhaust gases that drives a bigger turbocharger, which then returns some of the boost to the first one. Lost yet? Just remember: this truck has a ton of boost; 106 psi, to be precise. An intricate intercooler setup keeps the temperature in check, while a five-inch exhaust lets the oil-burner breathe freely.
The F1’s original bench seat has been tossed out and replaced with a pair of bucket seats. You’ll notice the dash isn’t stock, either. Updated analog gauges occupy the space formerly reserved for the instrument cluster, the steering is commanded through an aftermarket three-spoke wheel, and there’s a modern touchscreen on the center console. The body, however, is unmodified. Birdsall explains the patina is the inimitable kind that comes from 40 years of sitting in the bushes, not from a paint shop.
You can’t take this truck to Home Depot anymore — at least not if you’re planning on coming back with a load full of plywood. The bed is now home to a large intercooler, a battery, a custom-designed suspension setup, and 375-horsepower’s worth of nitrous. With this much power at your disposal, the hardware store might be the last place you’ll ever want to go.
“I built this truck to do multiple motorsports. I wanted to drift it, I wanted to road race it, I wanted to do land speed racing with it, and sometimes drive it around town,” Birdsall notes. Seeing a classic pickup aim for a land speed record is unusual, to say the least, but we’ve seen weirder vehicles do it.