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Pampered But Thirsty: 1979 Ford F150 Trailer Special

If you have a car with a real engine as God intended, then you are probably upset about gas prices.  Nobody likes to pay more for the fuel that powers our daily driver and our weekend toys.  Remember when your mother told you that there is always someone out there worse off than you?  In the case of fuel consumption, she was right.  Take a look at this incredibly well preserved 1979 F150 for sale on craigslist in Phoenix, Arizona.  This almost always garaged F150 has the desirable trailer special option and a very thirsty 460 cubic inch V-8 under the hood.  Do you think the seller would knock a few hundred off the $16,000 price tag to fill up the tanks for the ride out of town?  Thanks to the awesome T.J. for the fuel inefficient tip!

The story on this truck is pretty interesting.  The seller is the son of the original owner, and that original owner was fanatical about keeping the truck in pristine condition.  An example of this would be the seats.  They were uncovered when the truck was purchased and driven home.  From then on, they were protected by a cover.  The truck was also garaged any time it wasn’t on the road.  The seller brags that the only time the truck saw sunshine was when it was being used.

The condition of the truck is amazing for a 43-year-old truck with 90,000 miles on the odometer.  We are told that there is not a speck of rust anywhere by the seller.  What we are told without outright saying it in the ad is that the truck must have been off the road and in storage for a while.  The tune up discussed in the ad consisted of replacing the fuel pump, plugs, and wires.  The carburetor was also rebuilt, and we are told that it is a Holley carb.  This was probably not stock for the truck, which comes equipped with a 460 cubic inch big block V-8.  Interestingly, the 460 could only be purchased with a 4X2.

We sadly do not have pictures of that big engine, but we do have pictures of the package badges on the truck.  There are badges that state Explorer and Trailer Special.  The Explorer package basically consisted of badging, a stripe package, and upgraded wheel covers.  Ordering the Trailer Special package triggered the installation of heavy-duty parts tailored for, of course, towing heavy trailers.

In the picture above we see the previously mentioned always covered seat without its cover.  It does look to be brand new, and the cloth inserts are free from the rips that usually took place after sunlight broke down the fibers in the cloth.  It also appears that this truck had carpet instead of the standard black rubber mat that lesser F150s left the factory with.  We can also see that the truck still has its factory AM/FM radio, and it may have air conditioning.  The ad, sadly, does not tell us and we are still longing for a look under the hood.

Obviously, this is a well-cared for truck with a lot of desirable features.  It also has the torque monster 460 V-8 with an automatic transmission.  While you probably couldn’t find a better towing rig than this in 1979, in 2022 a cross country trip pulling a camper with this truck would result in a fuel bill that would break most travelers.  As a collectible, it would be pretty much irrelevant though, and that is likely what the next buyer will purchase it for.  It would make an awesome display if you paired it with a restored Airstream of similar vintage.

Have you ever owned a truck with a big block?  What kind of fuel mileage did you usually get?  Please tell us about it in the comments.

Comments

  1. Martin

    Nice truck! It should have AC since there are air registers located in the dash.

    Like 8
  2. Todd Zuercher

    The 4 barrels on the 460s were Holleys so I’m guessing this is the correct one. The pics don’t look like Phoenix in the background to me and the little map in the ad is from somewhere else.

    Like 4
    • Scott L.

      Map shows southern Idaho.

      Like 2
  3. Sam Shive

    My dad had a 78 with a 400 in it. It Sucked (GAS) 8MPG in town and around 10 on the highway.

    Like 5
  4. Big C

    If you’re worried about gas milage on your classic car or truck? Get into stamp collecting. You’re in the wrong hobby.

    Like 37
  5. Brad460 Member

    I’ve owned several of this generation F150, 2 of which were 460 powered. Mileage depends a lot on what axle ration is present. Both of mine had 2.75 gears so highway cruising was a rather relaxed affair. 12 to 13 on the highway was possible and 9ish around town.

    I was told the 460 wasnt installed in 4wd pickups due to oil filter clearance issues with the front driveline.

    The stock 78 and 79 460s were very sleepy in factory guise. Changing the timing curve and advancing the cam timing makes then up a fair bit.

    Not being satisfied with that, I fully restored my last 79 F150 Lariat to completely stock appearance but built a 545CI 460 based stroker with the usual go fast goodies I including trick flow heads, headers, custom ground cam, aftermarket intake, eagle rods, etc. On the dyno it made 591 hp, 670 torque and the torque curve hit 600 at 2000 rpm.

    Needless to say I would have been thrilled with 8mpg after the changes. Didnt care though as it was what I wanted. Acceleration was very brisk and with the 2.75 gears the 2nd to 3rd shift happened right around triple digit speeds. Obviously didnt even attempt to go much over 110 as concerns with brakes, tires, suspension etc not really being engineered for those speeds. Was a lot of fun though!

    Still love the styling on this generation f series, particularly the 78 and 79.

    Like 10
    • DEON MILES

      FYI….We owned a shortbed ’79 Lariat 4X4 with a factory 460 in it.

      Like 0
  6. gaspumpchas

    Fuel comsumption on those 460’s truly is brutal, we had one in our shop truck, i took it for a parts run one day and used a quarter tank of liquid gold. Good luck with this one.
    Cheers
    GPC

    Like 3
    • Kenny Anderson

      I think gas mileage for any of the full size F series trucks were about the same no matter what Ford engine you had. Mine was a 79 F-250 4×4 with the 351-modified and the BW T-18 4-speed with Dana 60 limited-slip axles front & rear. It was special ordered by me with every possible option and then some, my dad worked for Ford for over 40 years at the time and knew some big-wigs at corporate so my truck got special treatment on the assembly line. Options included the factory “snowplow prep package” which gave you extra heavy duty gouges, power steering cooler, heavy duty 70 amp alternator, roof clearance lights intermittent windshield wipers and a heavy duty F-350 suspension with the big Dana-60 limited slip axles front and rear. I added a hot cam, Edelbrock Performer alum dual plane intake with a Holley #3310 750 4 bbl. carb. I also added Doug Thorley fenderwell headers going into stainless steel Sonic-turbo mufflers with chromed exhaust pipes and ending infront of the rear tires with 4 “Zoomie” collector pipes curving up from the fenders. Looked awesome and sounded badly. Unfortunately it got 10 mpg uphill, downhill, sideways, you name it as long as I kept my foot out of it which wasn’t too often. I only drove it on the weekends or plowing snow for the first 4 years then only to carshows after my add-on mods. My daughter has it now as I can’t drive it anymore due to a right leg injury awhile back. It only has 39K original miles and has been garage kept all its life.

      Like 9
  7. Nigel

    Remember growing up. My old man had a ‘77 Dodge Adventurer. It was 2wd and designed for towing as well. I remember the elderly gentleman who owned it before. Took out the factory 360 and replaced it with a 426 Hemi. It towed great and was fast as hell. The smiles per gallon were worth the no miles per gallon lol.

    Like 6
    • Michael Berkemeier

      Okay, Nigel…lol. Just FYI a 426 Hemi was a race engine. It would’ve gone about 30 minutes towing something until someone grenaded it. They were maintenance nightmares with constant valvetrain adjustments, ignition servicing, and not to mention dual 4bbl Carters.

      So, either your memory is fooling you or, the “old man” was telling a fish story.

      Like 2
      • B302

        As someone who worked on and maintained some back in the day, the street hemi of 1970 and 1971 with hydraulic lifters was not bad at all as a street motor. In fact, the solid lifter cars were not too bad for the time. The FBI bought two1966 Hemi-powered Dodge Coronet four-door sedans for towing and field operations.

        Like 4
      • Russell Ashley

        Michael, google “street hemi” to read about the engine. I wish I had bought one.

        Like 2
  8. douglas hunt

    I had a 79 short bed with a 302/auto…..was my dads and he sold it to me needing everything, I rebuilt the 302 with a rv cam and Edelbrock intake /carb found a clean short bed at a truck breaker and when we got to it, it was a dual tank bed. So I found a tank out of a parts truck, got the dash switches / tank/ straps/ and solenoids….got it all refurbed, while bed was off putting it all in, was made an offer I couldn’t refuse, so it went to a better place since my job was keeping me way to busy to finish it.. Had a 390FE in dad’s old garage on a engine stand to eventually swap in, didn’t check on it for a while, and my brother dropped it on the garage floor, and stole my engine stand, letting the 390FE sit on the ground and it eventually rusted the oil pan………….there went my future Cobra kit power :-(

    Like 3
  9. srintimidator3 Member

    I currently own a 82 Chevy C20 that I bought specifically because it came factory with a 454 BB & 400 trans with all heavy duty cooling options & 4:11 gears. Have never checked the mileage but I know it sucks, engine & trans have all been reworked with a ton of mods & is also sporting a gear vendors o/d so will cruise at 75 @ 2300rpm. Mileage still sucks but man is it fun to drive & I get compliments on it every time I drive it!

    Like 0
  10. Keith

    Had a little later F250 with the 460. Didn’t seem to matter whether it was loaded, towing, empty, up hill, down hill, in town or on the freeway 8 to 10 mpg was as good as it gets. Ever wonder why there are so many more lower mileage big block Ford pick-ups around than Chevies? Owners found out pretty quickly, only drive it when you have to!

    Like 5
  11. nlpnt

    It’s a very unusual color combination even back in the day when cars came a la carte. (Oxford?) white with beige roof, brown stripes and blue interior. Plain white trucks could be had with any color interior, of course, but usually any exterior trim on a white one would be matched to the interior color (except the F O R D on the tailgate which was always red, Toyota and Datsun did the same thing for years – GM and Dodge always seemed to use black painted tailgate letters on white trucks).

    Like 1
  12. CenturyTurboCoupe

    Four barrel Holley was factory correct for the 460.

    Like 1
  13. Bill

    Had a 79 highboy with a 490. It was our farm truck, 9 miles to a gallon was a good day.

    Like 1
    • Kenny Anderson

      Ford never made a 490 so I assume it’s a typo and you meant 460. Also the last year for the Ford “highboy” was 1977. A common mistake. BTW, i special-ordered my truck. Someone here said you could only get the 460 motor in a 4×2 configuration. I beg to differ. The 385 series 460 WAS available in a 4×4, but only with the C-6 automatic tranny. Mine would of had the 460 but I wanted the 4 speed for snow-plowing purposes so I had to go with the smaller 351/400 motor so I went with the Borg-Warner heavy duty T-18 4 speed and stump pulling torque Dana-60 axles front & rear with limited slip and 4:10 gears. So after 3 years I removed the plow and the truck sat in my parents heated, concrete floor garage on a 10’x20′ carpet remnant i bought from Olson carpet at the same time my parents got new carpeting for the house so I got a super deal on the remnant bought at the same time. I remember my parents thinking I was crazy laying house carpeting down in the garage under my truck but it paid off in the long run. The underside is as clean and rustfree as the topside is even almost 40 years later.

      Like 0
  14. William Byrd

    I had a ’77 F150 XLT with a 351M. I was looking for more power to pull my race car so I pulled a 460 from 73 Tbird and proceeded to build it similar to early 429 police interceptor specs. With an Edelbrock SP2P intake manifold and a 625 cfm Carter carb, rv cam, headers, and large diameter duals, it had instant throttle response and could light the tires up at will. The C6 was beefed up with a shift kit, clutches and torque converter. I changed the 2.75 gear for a 3.25. Interesting enough, my mileage actually improved over the original 351M if I kept my foot out of the gas. It was dicey driving on wet roads and hopeless for the few ice situations here in Louisiana. Wish i had kept it.

    Like 0
  15. Guggie 13

    Ni ce truck built to work or tow , had several , none with the 460. 302, 390, 400 , all great motors !

    Like 0
  16. R.J.

    Our company maintains a fleet of 50 +/- 1/2 and 3/4 ton Chevrolets and some Fords, now a few Ram units. We had a F250 out west the 460 and 5 speed 4×4 with a big sign on the dash “check oil!” i asked how often and they told me every fill up…. so once a day. Of course by that time it had 300+ thousand miles on it!

    Like 0
  17. Chris

    Had five F series fords. A 72 F-100 3-speed with a 240 inline 6 which was junk, then a 70 F-100 302 3-speed which I swapped out for a T-18 4-speed for trailers, then a 75 F-250 Super Cab w/ 360 C-6, theme an 80 F-250 4×4 with a 400 C-6, then a 91 F-150 w/ 300 inline 6 and C-6 that I kept for 20 years. Then I bought a new 2012 Silverado after they ruined Ford trucks. Love the Silverado and will be ordering a new one soon with the baby Duramax and 10 speed. I also had a new 82 S-10 for two years.

    Like 0

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