Junkyard Gem: 1973 Ford F-100 Custom

The Ford F-Series has been the best-selling truck in America for something like 18,000 years and the best-selling vehicle in America for about 17,990 years (actually, the first figure is 43 years and we could argue forever about the latter number based on hair-splitting differences between the F-150 and all the other F-Series models compared to their rivals). Because work trucks stay useful for many decades and the appearance of the F-100 and its F-150 successor didn’t change a whole lot between the early 1970s and middle 1990s, it’s easy to overlook old Ford pickup after old Ford pickup as I walk the rows of my local vehicle graveyards. I’ve documented a few of these trucks over the years, but the significance of the F-100/F-150 warrants more wrecking-yard history. Here’s a well-worn 1973 F-100 in a Denver-area yard.

The build tag shows that we’ve got a 1973 F-100 with two-barrel 360-cubic-inch V8, built at the San Jose assembly plant in California (now the site of The Great Mall). The original transmission was a Borg-Warner T-18 four-on-the-floor (cheapskate truck shoppers could still get a three-on-the-tree at this time) and the differential had a 3.25:1 ratio (I use the past tense because this truck has the look of a vehicle that has undergone plenty of component-swapping over the decades, so this stuff might have changed since 1973).

The F-100 continued as the entry-level half-ton F-Series pickup all the way through 1983, but the F-150 appeared in the 1975 model year as the “heavy-duty” version and eventually became the default commuter pickup for North America. Most junkyards go ahead and label F-100s as F-150s in their inventory listings, so deeply has that designation become ingrained (despite the F-100 name— allegedly inspired by the F-100 Super Sabre airplane— dating back to 1953). “Custom” was the base trim level in 1973; high-rollers went for the Ranger XLT versions.

This may not be the original 145-horsepower, 360-cubic-inch (5.9-liter) FE-series V8 engine that went into the engine compartment in Milpitas back in 1973, but it’s some member of the FE big-block family, and the truck-only 360 is a good bet due to its undesirability in the eyes of speed-crazed performance fanatics. I’m a bit surprised that some 390 owner hadn’t grabbed the aftermarket tube headers by the time I got here. Perhaps the swap meets have become glutted with such parts these days.

Likewise, the granny-gear-equipped four-speed isn’t in much demand by your typical Mustang or Torino owner, though it’s very sturdy.

The mismatched camper shell and abundance of stickers tell the story of a truck that spent its final years as an un-killable utility beater.

The shift-knob hood release is a nice fix for a common problem on old vehicles.

I’m not sure what’s going on with this setup, but I think it’s an armrest and field-expedient door-release handle made from materials on hand.

How many miles were on it at the end? I’m guessing the final tally came to more than 300,000.

Even available with optional air conditioning!

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