$92,000 2010 FORD F150 lariat
VIC | 35,000Kms
JUST Cars 15/08/2012
Ross Wegner is no stranger to creating exceptional “stepside” vehicles. After producing “Tunnie”, a stunning stepside based on a VZ Commodore 1 tonner, Ross was laid low by a stroke. However, that didn’t dampen the Queenslander’s love of cars. In fact, Ross found his next project while still in hospital!
“I was looking at cars on the net whilst in my hospital bed when I found this pickup in Northern Victoria,” Ross said of the discovery of the ’59 Apache. “I first saw the car on my way to Adelaide the following January (2008). It looked pretty straight without much rust. The owner told me the only patches were over one window and in the bottom, back of the cab.”
The pickup was a highly-spec’d model from the factory, with big back window and additional gauges, which is a rare combination in Apaches from this era. It suited what Ross was after, so following a heart bypass operation in early 2008, a deal was done and the pickup was soon its way to Queensland. After getting it back to his home on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and experiencing a couple of dramas getting it off the trailer due to jammed steering gear, the real work began.
Given the limitations imposed by his stroke, Ross couldn’t do a lot of the work on this project himself, so a lot of the stripdown and buildup work was done by Paul Gerard and the crew at Hughes Stepside Bodys in Gympie. Stripping the white and Candyapple Green paint (including flames and pinstripes) from the body revealed the seller wasn’t telling porkies about the state of the body; the panels were in good condition, with no rusty surprises lurking under the paint. However, closer examination of the chassis revealed why the tinware was so good.
“With all the panels off ready for the L300 front end, a small kink was found in the front chassis,” Ross said. “The presumption was it had been in a small front end collision at some stage. The chassis was very easy to get perfectly straight, but we believe most of the front panels were replaced as there were no visible repairs and all the panels were perfectly straight.”
Although it was largely complete, Ross said the Apache was a bit of a mess mechanically, so there was some work ahead, and some decisions to be made about the engine and transmission. Following his stroke, Ross decided an auto would make for easier driving, while a bigger engine would provide the grunt he was also looking for, which meant the 283 V8 and manual transmission supplied with the truck had to go.
“I was given a Turbo 350 gearbox with the pickup, but the housing was cracked, so it went in the bin and a T700 was found and an over-engineered 2800 stall converter fitted,” Ross explained. “Although the motor sounded alright with good compression, I had always liked the 327, so was able to swap it for a clean American block that had never been modified.”
The 327 V8 Ross sourced came with heads and a crank, but the heads were cracked under the seats and the crank nose was a bit chewed up. Given Ross planned to fit a supercharger to this beast (part of a broader plan to include all the goodies he hadn’t been able to fit to previous projects), the crank definitely wouldn’t be up to the job, so it was given the flick, replaced with a steel crank. Alloy heads were then manufactured to give perfectly even compression suitable for the Weiand 671 blower. Most of this engine work was done by Ross Brown at Brown’s Engineering.
“The balancing came out perfectly,” Ross said of the revised high-performance engine set-up. “With the motor theoretically capable of 11,000rpm, I wouldn’t like to be in the cab when that was happening. All that power gave me issues with how much fuel it might use, so I fitted twin 465 Holleys to give better agitation and therefore better mix of fuel and air. It worked well,” Ross added. Combined with a Ford 9-inch rear end, Ross says the Apache produces neat “11s” every time he plants the foot!
The bigger donk and blower didn’t come without problems, though. The main one being severely limited space for the exhaust system.
“I couldn’t fit off-the-shelf extractors as there just wasn’t room on the right hand side,” Ross explained. “Not even ‘block huggers’ (would fit), so I had to go down the custom route. Rob Bliss in Geebung came up with them, taking a half a day to make the left one and 1.5 days for the right!
“Fitting is a bit tricky, as you have to remove the starter and steering box shaft, disconnect the engine mount and jack the right hand side of the motor up to get the pipes in, but it all works,” Ross said. “They have been ceramic-coated and the pipes are mirror stainless, mandrel bent. The mufflers are ‘bi-modal’ so at they can be quiet ‘on command’. Alternately, the baffles turn to make the whole system straight through with quite an interesting roar.”
But the Apache wasn’t done with its surprises. After modifying the engine mounts to suit the revised driveline, it was found the bonnet wouldn’t close! Paul at Hughes Stepside provided the answer in the form of a front-tilting bonnet – a common addition to the F100s they work on. This had the added advantage of not requiring the usual crossbraces of a rear-hinged bonnet, thus freeing up a bit more underbonnet space for the air cleaners.
Ross made a point of advising that while the finished Apache’s driveline package would embarrass a lot of opposition getting away from the lights, he’s reached the age where he doesn’t need to prove it anymore. The rego plate of “Y-TRI” makes that plain.
“Supposedly maturity has some advantages,” Ross said. “So to all young hot heads – ‘Y TRI’. I know I could beat you if I wanted, but I couldn’t be bothered!,” Ross laughed.
The motor was only about 2,000 kms old when we contacted Ross to talk about this project, and was already returning 18.5mpg on the highway.
Moving on the interior, Ross found making his vision of the Apache’s insides presented a challenge, too, but this was around the gauges and switches, which were part of a larger, more complex problem with the electrics. An old Jaguar provided the bucket seats, which were trimmed in ivory leather by Queensland trimmer, John Brady, who also did the matching dash, centre console, door trims and suede headlining. Gauges are all Smiths. Ross toyed with the idea of a set of VDO Classic gauges, but they couldn’t supply the complete complement of seven, so it had to be Smiths. Ross owned a car in the ‘80s with a full set of similar Smiths 2-inch dials, so he knew they’d look good.
“The only hiccup I encountered with the gauges is I had to bypass the amp gauge, as I was getting too much voltage drop,” Ross said.
Moving onto the electrics, this proved to be one of the most time-consuming parts of the build. All the original wiring was removed and a new harness made from scratch, which had to accommodate some modern goodies like a reversing camera, air con, electric windows, Bluetooth connection, sound system, DVD and GPS. Ross also set up a complex series of console toggle switches to control things like the fuel pump, ignition module and starter, as well as the usual lights, stereo isolator, etc., with the glovebox replaced with a comprehensive relay system to control it. Hiding most of the wiring added to the time involved in this part of the project, too.
Ross said most of this was laid down and wired up while the Apache was still a shell, so everything had to be done right the first time around, as having to alter or re-route the hidden wiring would’ve added a lot of time – and grief – to the build. With everything finished, it only became apparent when Ross was strapped into the driver’s seat that none of the switchgear could be reached. Whoops!
“I couldn’t reach any of the toggle switches needed to start the car, let alone use things like wipers and lights,” Ross said. “It was a huge effort to change everything and why no-one had spotted the issue before doesn’t warrant thinking about!” Ross groaned, but he can laugh about it now.
Chosen colour for the exterior was Midnight Blue, which Ross saw on a Landrover Defender. As with all dark colours, the deep blue paint would show up any flaws in the body, so a lot of prep was done by Ross, and the boys at Hughes Stepside, before the paint was laid on by Gympie Paint & Smash.
“I stayed away from pinstripes and flames, as I wanted a fairly sedate daily drive without too much bling,” Ross said in describing the ‘low-vis’ appearance of the exterior. The wheels are Dragways – 15 x 7 fronts and 15 x 8 rears - with higher profile rubber for a smoother ride. Overall, Ross describes the car as riding like a modern car, with compliant suspension, precise steering and good (power assisted) disc brakes all round. Given his health, having a custom that was as comfortable, reliable and usable as an everyday car was important. It took just over two years to achieve it, but Ross was incredibly impressed with the finished result. Having found out more about this project, we’re pretty impressed, too.
Ross extended a big thanks for this project to Paul Gerard at Hughes Stepside Bodys who did the bulk of the work, as well as Ross Brown of Brown’s Engineering (engine), Rob Bliss (exhaust system), John Brady (trimming), Gympie Paint & Smash (paint) and Brian Hughes Automatics (transmission).
WA | 108,219Kms
VIC | 35,000Kms
WA | 32,000Kms
WA | Kms
WA | 220,000Kms
Become a Fully Qualified Auto Mechanic
Work as a professional or on your dream car
Blanchardstraining | 06/05/2013
14/09/2013 07:00 AM - 14/09/2013 05:00 PM
16/11/2013 07:00 AM - 17/11/2013 05:00 PM
The Hall Polcrosse Grounds Victoria Road, off the Barton Highway in Hall.
25/10/2013 07:00 AM - 27/10/2013 06:00 PM
Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne
12/10/2013 07:00 AM - 13/10/2013 05:00 PM
Main St, Parkland Dookie
08/09/2013 09:00 AM - 08/09/2013 02:00 PM
Rocklea Showgrounds Brisbane