Back in 2020, we wrote about this incredible 1977 Ford pickup that was being combined with a Lexus LS400. The Ford kept its frame, sheet metal, and other parts, but the entire drivetrain and even the interior were harvested from the Japanese sedan. The truck's most impressive feature, though, is undoubtedly its rear suspension, which we can finally see working now that the entire project is finished.
The build was completed by Tim Heerboth. The pushrod leaf spring idea itself was the brainchild of Heerboth's friend John Stecher. The duo started working on the project back in 2019. They decided to develop the system, which Stetcher coined the "Flexus Cantileafer" system, mostly because it could be built with parts Heerboth had laying around. That's the kind of creativity you don't mind exercising when you're not pressed for time and you buy the donor vehicles for pennies on the dollar.
"Basically, I picked up the '77 F100 for cheap. Got it running. Figured out the transmission only had reverse and the block was so full of lime and corrosion [that] it wasn’t salvageable," Heerboth told The Drive. "Then, [I] had a friend of a friend who had a Lexus LS400 with a title that had been triple signed, so [he] wasn’t able to get it legit. I picked it up for $600."
After he'd purchased them both, everything began to snowball.
In a nutshell, a lot of the parts that were bad on the truck were still in good shape on the Lexus. "We dropped the [Lexus] motor and trans back [in the truck] the transmission mount was in the same place as the original C4," Heerboth said. "It literally lined up like it was meant to. "
"The truck [also] had a one-piece driveshaft and the car has a two-piece. When I connected to the trans, the carrier bearing sat perfectly under the rear cab crossmember, so it would be easy to mount," he continued.
The LS400's dash also fits nicely inside the Ford's cab, and most of the electronic gizmos are still kicking, too. "Power windows, heated power leather seats, cruise control," it's all functional. "Even the power height adjustment for the shoulder belt works," Heerboth told me.
He calls the combination of the plush Lexus interior with the rough-looking truck "Rat-Luxe," which seems fitting. The 1UZ-FE V8 up front and the homebrew engineering going on at the back also gives it a special flavor. Check out how the rear suspension works during regular driving:
It's sort of like a Formula One car, except designed and built for a low, low price. The astute amongst you will have also spotted the shocks mounted above the actual rod ends that go down to the wishbones, an interesting place to mount them. The bed is gone, sure, but just look at it all. It's brilliant.
The leaf springs themselves were originally stock F-100 units, but they were replaced with F-150 springs later in the build process. Likewise, the Lowes-spec nuts and bolts Heerboth used to mock everything up were later changed in favor of higher quality replacements. Keep in mind, all of this was done simply to avoid buying new coilovers. The stock Lexus struts couldn't be used because they're 26 inches long, and likely would've extended over the top of the bedsides.
The truck still has a V8, and the addition of stacks not only simplifies the exhaust routing, but makes for a nice sound, too.
This mad science experiment of a vehicle is currently doing anything but collecting dust. It's so pleasant on the inside that Heerboth has already put 400 miles on it since it's been finished. Just the same, since it's a 1977 Ford pickup on paper, he has historical plates, which simplifies the whole registration process. Even if it wasn't officially a piece of history according to the state of Missouri, though, it would still be an amazing build. I'm very happy to see this pandemic-era project finally hit the road in all of its hacked-together glory.
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