When QA1 decided to address the glaring gap in aftermarket support for the Ford F100, proving its products work well on both street and track were crucial. So, with intentions to test a truck in a variety of trying situations, QA1 dedicated this 1972 Ford F100 longbed to the development of QA1’s full coilover suspension. This test mule hasn’t been wildly modified, but a little retrofitting, a very capable driver, and some on-track refinement has shaped it into a surprisingly fast machine with plenty of unexplored potential.
The rust-free F100 hasn’t been changed much since QA1 purchased it from a Plano auto restorer, though the standard 351 is no longer “standard.” Currently, it’s a Ford 410ci wtih Edelbrock Windsor aluminum heads, COMP hydraulic roller camshaft, Holley 750 carburetor, MSD ignition, 500 horsepower, and 500 lb-ft of torque. That power is sent to an AOD automatic, QA1 carbon fiber driveshaft, and then to a Quick Performance 9-inch rear.
The motor, despite its power, is still civil enough for road usage—and that fits perfectly with the ethos of the build. Rather than make it a highly strung engineering exercise, it was decided that the truck had to be usable. “QA1’s Marketing Manager, Dave Kass, was discussing the growing followers and contributors to their #goDRIVEit campaign, in which they encourage enthusiasts to get their classics, hot rods, trucks, and muscle cars out to drive and enjoy. Already a sponsor and participant of the Motor State Challenge, QA1 began bouncing around ideas about making a #goDRIVEit class as part of the event and acknowledging those participants who ran the event ‘old school.’ That is; drive your vehicle to the event, compete with it all weekend, and then drive it home,” said Scott Wahlstrom, director of marketing for Motor State Distributing.
Kass had done just that a few months prior with his vintage Chevrolet C10 pickup: a vehicle which can take its owner to the track in some comfort, perform well on the road course, and return home without headache. The media on the C10 earned fanfare from the customers, and soon, QA1 was inundated with requests for Ford F100 modifications. “After we accepted the limitations of the I-beam suspension, we were forced to build an elaborate suspension system to modernize the F100,” says Dave Goldie, project manager at QA1.
With double A-arms, power rack-and-pinion steering, and a torque arm rear, they figured that this F100 would be able to perform even better than the C10 before it. It cut its teeth in spirited drives and a Power Tour in 2019, but this year, QA1 decided to put it against the clock in a more exacting environment.
The Motor State Challenge is a significant step up from the Power Tour in terms of competitiveness, but it still manages to retain some of that warm ambiance which attracts all stripes of gearhead. Over the course of the last three-day event in July, drivers cruised casually, dined, drove GingerMan’s road course in anger, and then experimented in an autocross-esque layout known as Tracksprint.
To give the truck a fair shakedown, QA1 brought in Marshall Fegers: a seasoned and respected dirt-track racer to take a stab at time trials on the paved surface. Before he could exercise his talent on the track, or even relax among like-minded hot rodders on a casual cruise, Fegers had to take the truck on a 615-mile trek.
The 9-hour trip from Minneapolis to GingerMan would’ve been exhausting if it wasn’t for the additions made to the truck. The QA1 MOD1 Series shocks, torque arm setup in the rear, and tubular front suspension—all off-the-shelf items—lent a crispness and transparency which made it feel far more civil, predictable, and reassuring than one would expect from a truck of this vintage. Crucially, the suspension could be adjusted to suit the setting. “Driving that far without cruise control or radio was a little rough, but after I removed a little compression from the MOD1 shocks, the trip was pretty relaxed,” reports Fegers.
The first day of the Motor State Challenge is dedicated to a cruise and a bite. This is more than a rolling meet-and-greet for members to form some sort of camaraderie. The purpose is to demonstrate that these vehicles are versatile. In other words, no rolling saunas or filling removers—they must be streetable. Predictably, the F100 passed with flying colors, which would serve as some motivation for the real challenge the following day.
After adding some bump at the front end and taking a few a semi-conservative laps around the 2.21-mile GingerMan Raceway, Fegers found the F100 much more amenable than he’d expected. So much of this was due to the Mustang-style rack-and-pinion steering and suspension modifications up front. The tubular front suspension’s carefully considered geometry provided the right Ackerman and feel for quick, predictable turn-in—a quality he valued through Gingerman’s blind entries and late-apex corners.
This suspension utilizes a few trick items to trim weight and save space. Integrated ball joints in the control arms, adjustable coilovers, and a bolt-in tubular design make installing the suspension and wider wheels simple. In fact, the full width of the front end is 3.75-inch narrower than a Crown Vic’s front suspension, so large wheels and tires will fit without much effort.
The powerplant played a role, but Gingerman is a course with long corners and heavy braking zones. The balance required a minor adjustment—but only in an increase in compression at the front. The Wilwood brakes—six-piston calipers in the front, four-piston calipers in the rear, and 14-inch rotors all four corners—helped decelerate the truck, though Fegers admits, “braking was the one area where this still felt like a truck—the distances were a little longer than I wanted. That said, the brakes took a beating gleefully. We added temperature stickers to the front rotors, and we didn’t even activate them the whole day.”
Around those brakes are a set of Rocket Racing Attack Series wheels wrapped in Nitto NT555 tires. Measuring 18×10-inch and 18×12-inch front and rear, respectively, these provide a decent footprint, but the Nittos’ soft sidewalls limited Fegers slightly in the faster, longer corners. There, the bolstered set of bench seat didn’t quite provide the lateral support he was after, but that didn’t stop him from dancing the truck’s rear out of the faster corners while supporting himself with core strength and little else. There are certain skills one learns in dirt-track racing that easily apply to road racing a torquey truck.
Though the squishy NT555 tires weren’t suited to the road course, the F100’s communicative rear end compensated for some sidewall flex and gave him enough reassurance through the fast stuff. QA1 engineered a unique torque arm design that maximizes performance without the inherent binding issues of other systems, all while achieving a 4- to 7-inch drop. The Panhard bar, torque arm, trailing arms, bracket mounts, and shocks are all adjustable, and they are truly independent of each other.
Even with the options at his disposal, Fegers felt comfortable, and decided not to tweak the rear at all. “I could feel the torque arm planting the rear tires under throttle, so exiting corners was a cinch. Only a few times did I have to ‘dirt-track’ my way out. Honestly, I forgot I was driving a truck out there,” he raves.
QA1's '72 Ford F100 attacks GingerMan—evidence that trucks can handle.
Posted by Turnology on Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Though hampered slightly with longer braking distances and a low power-to-weight ratio for the field, the F100 was passing modern Corvettes left and right. By the end of the third day, he was able to whittle his times down to an impeccable 1:50—just a couple seconds slower than a well-driven C8 Corvette making an appearance that day.
“I left a little on the table,” he admits gracefully. “With better bolstering or a true racing seat, a transmission that can handle the temperatures, and tires with a stiffer sidewall, this truck should be able to lap in the 1:45-range,” he predicts.
A vintage truck is a rare sight at events like this, so naturally, Marshall’s impressive performance attracted some attention from both the fans and the organizers. “If you are a fan of short track, dirt late model racing, you’re familiar with the name ‘Fegers.’ To say that Marshall is not accustomed to turning right and racing on pavement is just plain wrong. It did not take him long to adapt to turning both left and right, and I think by the end of the weekend, we made a new fan of road course racing and track sprints, judging by the smile on his face,” lauded Wahlstrom.