When it comes to off-road Ford trucks through the years two models stand out: the Highboy and the Raptor. The brand new Ford F-150 Raptor stands out in the market as one of the most desert worthy rigs out there. But long before leather and navigation became the norm on Ford trucks the company built what is referred to as the “Highboy”.
Pre-1977.5 F-250’s are often called Highboys, or as Ford called them “Factory High Riders”. They have a very tall factory ride height to accommodate their signature feature: a fully divorced transfer case. This means both front and rear drive shafts are the same length. Of course these distinctive trucks also have solid axles, something ideal for boulder bouncing and rock crawling. While simple and durable, leaf springs give the truck a stiff ride bounding up the hill.
Powering the old Ford is a carbureted V8 and 3-speed automatic. Keeping the engine from bogging on the steep hill proved quite the challenge as the carb struggled to keep the RPM’s in the power band. This trail reaches to near 10,000 feet above sea level, so air is at a premium.
The most difficult part of wheeling the old rig is the steering. Power ram-assist does a decent job keeping the wheels pointed in the right direction, but watch those fingers! Rocks constantly thrashed the wheel back and forth as it fought up the steep the grade.
Stepping into the first generation Raptor could not be more different. The big 6.2 liter V8 painlessly crawled up the Cliffhanger in 4-low. Comfortable cooled and heated leather seats and sophisticated independent front suspension provided an 0ff-road ease not found in the Highboy.
Modern technology greatly improved the hill climb. An electronic lockable rear differential and advanced traction control system kept power going to the wheels that could use it.
Surprisingly, the one area the old truck proves superior is ground clearance. A lack of running boards and low-hanging components greatly outshine that available on the new truck. Although the Raptor is equipped with larger 35-inch all-terrain tires, the 33-inch BFG’s on the Highboy proved sufficient.
While 40 years of technology (and rust) separate the two trucks, both made it up the challenging obstacle. The old Ford had to bound up some of the more difficult obstacles, where as the new truck simply crawled with locking rear diff engaged.
Check out our video below for the full adventure!