Feature VehicleNews

This Spirit Racing F250 Prerunner Means Business

Old body style Fords of the 90s have become an essential American icon truck as a little bit of nostalgia pulls on our heartstrings. But for a good reason, the truck is a timeless design that ever so seemingly ages well as the years go on. Luke Gibson had no idea what a cult classic his 1996 Ford F250 would become. Like everything else, seemingly what started out as just a truck to haul his friends around in the desert quickly snowballed into a big block, four-linked, and caged prerunner he would build in 2006. Since the original build, he has had countless trips down to Baja putting his truck to work with nearly 14,000 miles through the desert. 

We recently had the chance to meet up in Baja with him and spend a day on the trails in his full-size F250. While we were down there, we used onX Offroad to plan our route on the 2021 Baja 1000 Course; this allowed us to mark waypoints, find the nearest gas stations and download offline maps. It was easy; we logged in to the app online and uploaded the racecourse GPX file, and it automatically synced to our phones and tablets. 

Luke’s truck started life as a 1996 Ford F250 Diesel with 30,000 miles that he purchased in 2006, and his original goal was to build a full-size mild off-road truck that would have enough space to haul all his friends around. It turned into something much greater than a mild build when he dropped it off with the guys at Spirit Racing and Development out of El Cajon, California, and in 2009 it was finished. 

Starting with the engine, they ripped out the 7.3 diesel and put in the Ford Big Block 521ci V8 making a little over 600 horsepower through the John Wood E40D transmission. It sends the power through the back to a Chrissman Trophy Truck rear end and a Dana 50 in the front with custom hubs built by Spirit Racing. For the suspension, they built custom front twin traction beams to retain the usability of four-wheel-drive with King coil-overs and bypasses, allowing 21 inches of front travel. 

The rear is where the party is with details upon further inspection, such as aluminum paneling next to the spare tires, which doubles as secure storage. Underneath, there is a custom four-link suspension; King coil-overs and King Kong bypass shocks all help soak up the big bumps while hurdling this massive truck through the desert with all 30 inches of travel. But it isn’t going through the desert very efficiently; its total fuel range is about 225 miles with its 75 gallons of fuel averaging 2 – 3 miles per gallon. No one should be surprised here – it weighs a lot and is almost 20 ft long, but that miles per gallon should be converted to smiles per gallon.

Like the rest of the truck, the interior is no exception to build quality. A full roll cage, race seats for five, and upholstery help tie in the build and set it apart. But what really makes it a luxury Prerunner is the dual climate air conditioning, so you could be bombing through the 104-degree desert at 100 miles an hour and not even sweat it. 

This truck is no slouch; it may look big and heavy (because it is), but having experienced a whole day in Baja on the Baja 1000 racecourse, this truck means business. Luke has put about 14,000 miles since he initially built it and plans to keep it for many more years to come. Some of the more recent upgrades were moving from 37-inch tires to 40s and a fresh paint job. But an upgrade he is looking to do next is to convert the engine to fuel injection with the hope of more power and maybe one more MPG. This truck is a work of art – the attention to detail Spirit Racing put into this build is incredible, and we hope we get to see it again in the desert soon enough. 

Specs:

Chassis: 1996 Ford F250 Built By Spirit Racing
Body: Autofab Fiberglass
Weight: Heavy
Engine:  Ford Big Block 521ci V8, Ford Motorsport Super Cobra Jet heads, Eagle crank, Holley 850 carb, 
Cooling: Rear-mounted radiators and cooling fans
Lights: ACRO HID lights, Hella Rallye 4000 HID lights
Transmission: Borg Warner 4407 t-case, John WoodE40D
Tires: 40×12.5r17 BF Goodrich KR2
Wheels: KMC 
Front Suspension: Twin Traction Beams Built By Spirit Racing Dana 50 21-inches of wheel travel
Rear Suspension: Four-link built by Spirit Racing 30-inches of wheel travel
Communication: PCI Race Radios
Steering: Howe Performance hydraulic assist, Spirit crossover setup
Brakes: CNC six-piston calipers, 14-inch rotors
Seats: Mastercraft
Interior: Spirit Dash, Kenwood radio, Mastercraft seats, Auto Meter, Art Carr,

Bonus Images:

Rprice

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Would like to see more detailed pictures, something that the feature vehicles section has been lacking for the last few years.
 

Sheepdog

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Montana Plate
I heard the CHP has been cracking down on the Montana LLC thing, setting up a hotline to report offenders and impounding vehicles.

But I would be even more concerned about that kind of illumination catching the attention of the CARB and the EPA at that point.

For me personally, it's just not worth the risk.
 

Tube ride

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DCD1B02B-7D5E-43AE-A01A-E556EC108B0C.jpeg
 

Kyle D

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Is that a California license plate...on a gasoline-powered 1996 vehicle...with a diesel VIN...and no emission systems?
What is the end expectation of asking this question? Bringing the focus where it doesn’t need to be IMHO. Beautiful truck, don’t care about why they did what they did with it.
 

Dezertpilot

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How about some Tech on the Hub/lug/wheel setup?
4 lugs holding the wheels on per corner sure is interesting. I'd love to hear more on this as well.
 

green787

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What is the end expectation of asking this question? Bringing the focus where it doesn’t need to be IMHO. Beautiful truck, don’t care about why they did what they did with it.

But it's kinda like a friend I had that had a beautiful custom home and a trained Red Tailed hawk.... When the newspaper did a special in the home section, the next day Fish & Game came and took his hawk away......
 

Sheepdog

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But it's kinda like a friend I had that had a beautiful custom home and a trained Red Tailed hawk.... When the newspaper did a special in the home section, the next day Fish & Game came and took his hawk away......
Yeah, I don't know if it's such a good idea to advertise it to the whole world by featuring it in an article on the internet.
 

mgobaja

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4 lugs holding the wheels on per corner sure is interesting. I'd love to hear more on this as well.
The trucks builder did this on his stock full that they campaigned in the late 90's early 2000's. Run 8 studs, 4 were guide pins, 4 were threaded for lugs. So the load was still carried by 8 studs, but sped up tire changes just a bit. This was before electric impacts became common on vehicles. It worked great, and allowed him a couple of championships and the Baja 2000 with a 16th Overall finish at that race ( in Stock Full ). Everthing Jeremy at Spirit does is intentional and well thought out.

Here is the set up on that Stock Full - https://www.off-road.com/aimages/articlestandard/ford/292006/358829/002s.jpg
 
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jon coleman

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as long as you install an engine equal or newer to year truck& retain trucks original smog ( this one Has no smog to begin with)i believe its good to go
 

Sheepdog

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as long as you install an engine equal or newer to year truck& retain trucks original smog ( this one Has no smog to begin with)i believe its good to go
In 1996, the 245-horsepower 460 "Lima" engine was OBD-II and had closed-loop EFI with full emissions systems (EGR, secondary air injection, single exhaust with catalytic converters, etc.). The article says the 600 horsepower 521 engine in the truck has a Holley 850 carburetor, which is obviously not closed-loop or OBD-II compliant. If it was legal, it wouldn't be registered under a Montana LLC.
 

jon coleman

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In 1996, the 245-horsepower 460 "Lima" engine was OBD-II and had closed-loop EFI with full emissions systems (EGR, secondary air injection, single exhaust with catalytic converters, etc.). The article says the 600 horsepower 521 engine in the truck has a Holley 850 carburetor, which is obviously not closed-loop or OBD-II compliant. If it was legal, it wouldn't be registered under a Montana LLC.
the truck was diesel, no obd stuff , loophole?, Montana LLC sounds good to me👍
 

Rprice

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No guess not. Your vehicle features leave alot to be desired.
Seems a little rude. Look back 10 years to some of the feature vehicles? Pictures of welds, up close macro pics, trick racer shiz…. This reads like a peterson 4 wheel lifestyle piece. My ornery self wants to see the “fabricator” work. Not the story…
But keep writing, im not putting out content so phuc my opinion.