A piece of off-road racing history was recently auctioned to raise funds for the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, which is housed in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
The Class 8 F-100 Baja-winning 1976 Ford F-100 Frank “Scoop” Vessels, who is enshrined in the hall, was estimated to sell for upwards of $100,000.
The truck helped revolutionize off-road racing. BFGoodrich used this F-100 to test its first-generation off-road radial tire. Previously, off-road tires were agricultural-based bias-ply designs — not optimal for high-speed durability and control. “Scoop” Vessels and his 1976 F-100 proved that radial tires were the wave of the future by capturing the 1977 Baja 500 Class 8 win on the new BFGoodrich Radial All-Terrain T/A. Vessels also won class honors in the Baja 1000 that year on the new BFGs.
The truck was built for Vessels in 1976 by Charlie Haga. Not only was this F-100 the first to win an off-road race on radial tires, another technological tidbit is that it ran on propane: The F-100’s 404-ci Ford V-8 was converted to an Impco LPG fueling system by Don Bass. Propane’s density is consistent, solving the fuel-starvation issues inherent in normal carburetors when off-road vehicles encounter uneven terrain and altitude changes. (Fuel injection wasn’t viable at the time.) The F-100 currently runs on gasoline.
Behind the Ford V-8 is an Art Carr race-prepped Ford C-6 automatic. The rear end was built by Jack Chrisman. Other period components include Rough Country shocks, custom disc brakes, American Racing wheels, BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires, and F-250 spindles with knock-off hubs. This truck was refreshed for display in 2005. It was recently housed at the Petersen Automotive Museum following a multi-year appearance at the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Driver Frank “Scoop” Vessels’ off-road racing career spanned three decades. Debuting as SCORE’s 1972 Rookie of the Year, Vessels went on to capture 30 major victories and four points championships. SCORE (Southern California Off-Road Enterprises) named Vessels “Offroadsman of the Year” in 1978.
Born into the founding family of Southern California’s Los Alamitos Race Course, “Scoop” got his nickname from cleaning horse stalls as a youth. Later, his corporate connections helped attract sponsorships and international media attention to off-road racing. Vessels also helped launch the NASCAR Truck Series and served as president of the American Quarter Horse Association and California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
Frank Vessels was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007, a club that also includes Steve McQueen, James Garner, Parnelli Jones, and Mickey Thompson.