Courtesy of Auctions America
This 1976 Ford F-100 was built by Charlie Haga and accomplished Class 8 victories in the 1977 Baja 500 and Baja 1000. Haga built the truck for Frank “Scoop” Vessels in 1976, and the ’77 Baja 500 was an important race to Vessels due to the introduction of BFGoodrich Radial tires for the first time in the off-road racing world. Vessels played a role in the development of the first generation of these tires and looked to benefit from this improvement. The F-100 is equipped with a 404-ci Ford V8 engine paired with an Art Carr-built Ford C6 transmission and a Chrisman rear end. This truck’s engine was propane-powered when it raced. The IMPCO Company did this to demonstrate the versatility of the fuel. Equipped with many components including Rough Country shocks, custom brakes, American Racing wheels, BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires, and F-250 spindles with knockoff hubs, this truck is not your normal F-100. It was displayed at the 2006 Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, where Vessels was inducted for his contributions to off-road motorsports. Sold on bill of sale.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1976 Ford F-100 Off-Road Race Truck
Years Produced:1976
Number Produced:225,154
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:$35,000–$40,000
Tune Up Cost:$500
Chassis Number Location:Driver’s door and passenger’s-side frame rail
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:Ford Truck Club
Alternatives:1973–80 Chevrolet C10, 1972–80 Dodge D100
Investment Grade:C

This truck, Lot 2018, sold for $41,250 at Auctions America’s California sale in Burbank, CA, on August 1, 2014.

The natural progression of car collecting has swept trucks and off-road vehicles along in its wake. This is good, because particularly in the Southwest, desert exploring and racing has been an important part of motor culture for over 60 years. And no event was more significant for the genre than the original 1967 Mexican 1000, which ran from Tijuana (just across the border from San Diego) southward to La Paz at the tip of Baja California.

The event ultimately led to the term “Baja” becoming almost synonymous for “tough.”

Nearly twice as long as the Indy 500, the original event (later renamed “Baja 1000”) subjected cars, trucks, buggies and motorcycles and their pilots to around-the-clock physical torture. I can attest to this personally, having ridden in a support truck in the Baja 1000, and also riding shotgun in the SoCal desert in a Baja 1000-winning Trophy Truck. Every few seconds I thought we were going to crash in a big way. That’s nerve wracking for a half hour; imagine it stretched out over nearly 24 hours.

Not quite famous

This two-wheel-drive Ford was not one of the original late-’60s Baja race trucks, nor is it as famous as vehicles like “Big Oly,” the Olympia Beer-sponsored winged Bronco that Bill Stroppe built for himself and Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones to race. However, its class wins in both the ’77 Baja 500 and Baja 1000 establish it as a genuine historical piece. Also, compared with the 1968 Chevrolet C10 Mexican 1000 race truck owned briefly by Steve McQueen that Mecum sold for $60,000 at its Santa Monica sale in July 2013, this truck seems like a relative bargain.

The restoration appears thoughtful and authentic, and today this truck can carry right on as a desert toy — a tool for getting you where uppity folks in their Mercedes MLs may dare not go, or perhaps even enjoy such “dirty” road events as British Columbia’s Spring Thaw. Then and now, versatility creates big appeal for trucks. And you certainly won’t be able to abuse this one any more than Vessels did in the day. A minor historical point is its role in proving the merit of off-road radials, although no one but a Baja or tire geek is likely to care.

Photos raise questions

There are a few noteworthy issues that may have held bidding back here.

Significantly, the truck does not bear much resemblance to the period race photos provided for the auction. In these, the original race truck has a smooth Styleside bed, whereas the truck on offer has a Flareside bed. The photos also suggest the original race truck had a longer wheelbase and/or bed than the truck offered for sale.

It’s hard to imagine how this discrepancy would not be noted in the literature, so we’re left wondering. One possible explanation is that the original truck, hammered and bent as off-road racers often were, eventually was rebuilt to a different specification. The bed style and wheelbase that originally worked in Baja’s Class 8 may have been a detriment and thus were later modified in closed-course races, and thus they were likely modified. Having a bill of sale instead of a regular title didn’t help.

Such things happen with race cars all the time, leaving the owner to decide on a “point in time” target for the restoration. However in this case, the photographic discrepancy — and the lack of any explanation in the sales materials — didn’t help build value. Unless you knew the truck and ownership history personally, you’d be excused for resisting any serious hand-waving on the day. And on top of it all, this just wasn’t a well-known race vehicle, and that counts for a lot.

All of this may explain why an otherwise nicely presented race truck traded for just 69% of the no-more-remarkable ’68 Chevrolet C10 racer that Mecum sold in Santa Monica last year. But the real surprise is that even with its McQueen connection, that Chevy brought only 84% of the price of a restored Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser that Bonhams sold for $71,500 at Scottsdale in January 2014 (Lot 143).

On the basis of these few sales, it appears that at present, even a combination of Baja race provenance and marquee-name ownership is no match for a quality restoration of a well-regarded but ordinary production model. Given the mud, sweat and tears that such race trucks have endured and survived, that’s kind of sad. But it is what it is, and I reluctantly give the win to the seller on this one.

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.

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