This 1976 Ford F-250 was found in the side yard at Chuck's Glass in Huntington Beach, California. That was in 2011, but I'd known of the F-250 since the 1980s back when Chuck and my dad belonged to the Huntington Beach Gun Club based out of Huntington Beach's police pistol range. My dad passed away in 2003, but I'll never forget hearing him speak of Chuck's 1968, 1972, and 1976 Ford F-250 glass trucks, and what nice shape he kept them in.
The closer I got to the blue 1976 F-250, the cleaner it looked. It had original paint and there wasn't a dent in the body, or even inside the bed. I asked Chuck what his plans were for the Ford and he said he was going to junk the truck. I couldn't believe he would scrap such a nice truck and asked why. Chuck explained the Ford had been parked ever since he drove it home from an oil change where the shop forgot to put the oil back in it. Chuck said on top of hearing a knock in the engine the truck was a 1976 year model and he didn't want to have to deal with passing a smog test.
Anyone living in a state where a smog test is required knows it can be an extremely frustrating experience. My first run-in with an ignorant smog device inspector was in 1970 when I drove a bone-stock 1967 Chevy SS427 Impala from Michigan back home to California and had to get California plates. Back in those days all that was required was a visual inspection and PCV test. The state-licensed smog ignoramus took one look at the stock 385-horse 427 engine and accused me of doing an engine swap. It took another two stations before I found a smog guy who knew anything about cars. Not a lot has changed since then, the state continues to require a visual inspection, and one is still at the mercy of whoever is doing the visual inspection before the smog test can proceed.
The main focus of this article is how to install Hedman Elite headers and induction on big-block Fords that need to remain smog-legal plus gain a little horsepower and fuel mileage in the process. In addition I'd like to inspire CLASSIC TRUCKS readers to look into non-exempt trucks. This is an untapped source of slightly later-model classic trucks that can be had for considerably less money. Beyond California's borders there are numerous states that enforce vehicle emission laws. To learn the smog requirements for your state please visit www.semasan.com.
Getting back to my 1976, fortunately the factory smog equipment on the truck has never been tampered with, and because the GVW (gross vehicle weight) is over 6,000 pounds it wasn't originally required to have a catalytic converter. In 1975 all cars were required to run a catalytic converter, but trucks over 6,000 GVW weren't until 1979 (1978 in California).
Preparing a 360-inch Ford engine with some miles on it to pass smog can be a hassle, so we're going to install a pair of Flowmaster catalytic converters to hedge the bet. In the mid-1970s, factory-installed catalytic converters were heavy, extremely restrictive, and parasitic loss was substantial. The new Flowmaster cats are one-quarter the size, much lighter, and flow as efficiently as high-performance mufflers. In this month's edition we'll cover installing a set of smog-legal Hedman headers, and pay special attention to any repairs that should be handled while things are easier to access. In next month's issue we'll hang the exhaust system from the cats back, freshen up the cooling system for summer, and then go pass a smog test.