When it comes to finishing a build, the majority of us don’t like to admit that these projects are truly never finished. We continue to pour our heart, soul, and finances into the chassis’ aesthetics, handling, and of course engine performance. We tiptoe the line between race-only and having a dependable cruiser that can be driven anywhere. This mental tug of war can pull us too far in one direction, but sometimes a perfect balance will appear. In the case of one particular 1968 Ford F-100 Ranger, that perfect balance has been met time and time again, only to be made even better each round.
What started as a simple way to hang out with friends and visit the drag strip on occasion, has now turned into an obsession of creating a perfectly balanced ride. A house painter by day and an automotive painter by night, Lamar Peppers has evolved a side hobby into creating amazing paint jobs on friends’ vehicles. When Peppers began to think about a classic truck of his own to build, he knew he had the skills and friends to make his dream truck come true. Peppers had always been an automotive enthusiast, but never one with performance in mind. This truck was going to change that and his mind shifted towards creating a truck with the power to backup its stunning looks.
I originally wanted a dependable cruiser that I could take anywhere. Lamar Peppers
Peppers would find his starting point in Tallapoosa, Georgia as a faded red work truck entered the market. The 1968 F-100 Ranger, which had seen better days, had the potential that he was looking for. The skeleton of this once well-used truck would require a few donor pieces to even make it complete, something Peppers had no problem sourcing. He quickly went to work locating a passenger side door, fender, and hood to complete the shell.
Once he returned home with his new found project, he immediately went to work and stripped the chassis down to the bare frame. The truck then made a stop at Moore Fabrication in Fayetteville, Georgia to have the frame partially boxed and crossed braced. To accommodate the lowering of the truck, the frame was notched in the rear. A Checkered Racing Mustang II front end combined with large front and rear sway bars were installed to provide stability through high speed cornering. The rear received a Checkered Racing four-link rear suspension setup that would allow Peppers to make the hard launch he desired at the drag strip. QA1 coilovers were then installed on all four corners to round off the setup and provide the adjustability to dial in the suspension.
Now that the suspension was handled, Peppers could focus on what he does best: paint. A fresh coat of Brittney Blue paint was sprayed on the cab and body. To prevent any oversaturation of color, Peppers offset it with a shade of off-white that would coat the cab’s roof, embossed Ford tailgate, and trim pieces. On the inside of the cab, Peppers installed an aftermarket steering wheel and a Boese cluster with American Muscle Auto Meter gauges as well as a painted dash.
Peppers wanted full control of the chassis from handling to shifting, so a Hanlon Motorsports-built TREMEC TKO-600 was ordered. The TKO-600 was known to handle abuse, but after Hanlon was finished, the transmission was near bulletproof. A Competition Clutch twin-disc clutch was installed to transfer power from the future engine to the transmission before entering the Ford Explorer 8.8 rearend. A Ford Performance rear differential cover was installed to prevent any fluids from escaping, as the engine of choice was sure to twist the rear. A pair of Yukon axles with c-clip eliminators were installed and would be the final point before the power made its way to the 295 series tires.
The truck was bought as a roller and left Peppers with the difficult decision of which engine he wanted to install. He started off with a simple small-block 302 setup, but decided he wanted the extra cubic-inch and jumped to a 9.5 deck 351 Windsor. After a few passes at the drag strip, Peppers knew these antiquated stock V8 engines were not going to cut it. After all, the Windsor barely broke into the 8-second ⅛-mile range and didn’t provide the thrill he was seeking.
After some thought, he decided on a Coyote engine that had been plucked from the heart of a 2014 Ford F-150. While the majority of Coyote swaps are complete without any power adder, Peppers decided to listen to the voice of his tuner, Brandon Conner at Attitude Street Cars. Shortly thereafter, Conner was installing a 2.9L Whipple Supercharger, updating the fuel system from Aeromotive products, and fully tuning the truck. The result was a healthy 652 horsepower with 502 lb-ft of torque. The perfect setup for a F-1o0 Ranger that only weighs 3,797 pounds.
The F-100 Ranger is always changing, but that’s what keeps it interesting.
The truck is at a comfortable point now, but knowing how many revisions were made to get here, I have a feeling it won’t last long. So, the chances are if you locate Lamar Peppers’ F-100 Ranger at LaGrange Drag Strip or Atlanta Motor Speedway on a Friday night the truck will have probably changed yet again and you’ll have to spot the differences. While you’ll be left guessing what has changed, one thing that will remain the same is the streetability with a dose of power to back up the good looks. To that, we salute you Lamar Peppers. You’ve stayed true to your original intentions and acknowledged that these projects truly never end.