Take any car, no matter if it’s a Fiat Bambina, or a limousine, and slam it to the ground, and you’ll create an impact. There’s just something about a car that sits so unfeasibly low that draws attention, regardless of whether slammed cars are a personal preference or not.
The owner of this wicked 1957 Ford F100, Bevan Mannix, has owned a bunch of cool cars in his time, from late-model turbocharged Skylines to a range of old Falcons, and everything in-between. What he’d never had though was anything even remotely like the F100.
It was the looks of truck that drew him to it. At first he thought it was ugly, and the more he looked the uglier it got. But that only made it more appealing. Bevan could see potential in the truck, especially as he wanted to build something totally different from anything else he’d ever owned, and even more so, something totally different from anything else he’d ever seen on the road.
Another part of the appeal was that the truck was fitted with a 429ci big block. Even though Bevan’s an auto electrician by trade, and runs an electrical/mechanical business (Kingsway Auto Electrical), after purchasing it there was plenty of time involved in trying to get it running right. Eventually it was discovered that the compression was too high for our pump gas, so try as hard as he could, it was never going to be right. But for starters, it was good enough as Bevan was more focused on sorting out the truck’s looks.
A contact of his, Blair Simpson, who was just 19 at the time the build began, had fabrication skills well beyond his years, and was to be in charge of the airbag set-up. The deal was that Blair was only interested in doing the job if the truck would sit on the ground. If it was only going halfway, he wasn’t interested.
With the ground rules laid out (pun intended) the build could begin, the aim being to get the truck a massive 13-inches lower than it was originally sitting. After purchasing a set of 18x8 and 18x9.5-inch Coys rims to build around, and getting advice from Neil Fraser (LVVTA certifier), the guys set to work. The rear end of the chassis was notched a massive 500mm to allow the diff to come right up. Rather than make the new cross members functional but boring, plenty of time went into making sure the job looked the part too, and it certainly does.
Getting the front to sit as low wasn’t so easy. After some head scratching, it was decided to Z the front of the chassis, lifting up the suspension mounting points, while keeping the cab and front valance mounts where they were. This led to the far better idea of ditching the stock front-end set-up and adding a Mustang II–style front to the newly Z-treated chassis. Not only would this get the front sitting on the floor, but it also gave the truck rack and pinion steering, far better geometry (zero bump steer), and made fitting a decent set of brakes a whole lot easier.
While Blair was working on the chassis and suspension, Bevan decided to get the motor sorted properly. Conveniently, Segedins had a special on a stroker kit at the time. So, rather than just purchasing new pistons, the kit was bought and sent to Murray and the team at Papakura Engine Specialists to be installed. This has seen capacity taken out to 501ci and with a set of Comp Cams items up top, and a 780cfm Quick Fuel carb, power is now estimated to be around 500hp.
Although the C6 trans that came with the truck seemed fine, that’s a significant jump in power from the 320hp that used to run through it, so Bevan had friend Glenn Pennell rebuild it with a 2400rpm stall converter and shift kit. 1957 was the first year nine-inch diffs were made, and the truck came factory-fitted with one, for which Tony at Steelie Gears whipped up an LSD centre, reusing the original 3.10:1 gear set.
With the newly built motor back in the hole, the air conditioning compressor was modified to be used for the airbag system, and as with the other airbag lines, the plumbing was routed inside the chassis out of sight. Now with the press of a button, the truck rises to attention, or slams back down to the ground for the ultimate look when parked. As Bevan says, “Height control is front and rear only. I don’t do the four-corner up and down dance shit.”
For added clearance around the front wheels, the guards were cut and pulled out, and although Bevan knew it needed to be done, he’d have preferred not to, as he was more than happy with the patina look the truck had, and the changes meant touching it up.
At the time this article was published (Januray 2013), Bevan admitted the truck was still a work in progress, and that playing with it was half the fun, but whether that progress included paint or not, we’ll have to wait and see. It wouldn’t be hard to sink an extra $20,000 on getting it looking perfect, but would it be worth it? Would it make it any better than it is now? It’s already got big impact, it’s already got plenty of power, it drives beautifully and is different to anything else on the road, which is exactly what he wanted. So would you bother? I know I wouldn’t!
- Engine: 501ci big-block Ford, 429 block, 30-thou overbore, Diamond pistons, stroker crank, ARP rod bolts, 6.8-inch rods, Clevite bearings, Romac balancer, hand-ported heads, Comp Cams springs, Comp Cams pushrods, Comp Cams guide plates, Comp Cams camshaft, Ferrea valves, JP timing set, Yella Terra roller rockers, Weiand Stealth intake, Quick Fuel 780cfm carb, K&N filter, Holley mechanical fuel pump, Pertronics distributor, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD coil, twin three-inch exhaust, Coby mufflers, Stock radiator, twin electric fans, mechanical fan, custom 70-litre fuel tank
- Driveline: Ford C6 transmission, 2400rpm stall, shift kit, factory 9-inch, 3.10:1 gears, LSD head
- Suspension: Mustang II–style front, airbagged, custom mounts, power steer rack, two-inch drop spindles, twin tanks, mechanical air compressor, custom four-link, 500mm notch, KYB shocks, 3/4-inch valves
- Brakes: Wilwood six-pot calipers, Wilwood hats and rotors, stock rear drums
- Wheels/Tyres: 18x8-inch and 18x9.5-inch Coys rims, 255/45R18 and 285/50R18 Dunlop tyres
- Exterior: Modified front guards, relocated rear tubs
- Chassis: Original chassis boxed and heavily modified, custom cross members, notched chassis front and rear
- Interior: Re-trimmed bench seat, B&M shifter, Toyota steering column, aftermarket gauges
- Performance: Approx 500hp