Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A black 2021 Ford F-150 is shown driving on a dirt road to view a used Ford F-150 for sale.

Racing Your Ford: Can a Used F-150 Be a Track Toy?

You live life a quarter-mile at a time, always pushing every cylinder to its limit, exhausting every drip of oil, extinguishing every centimeter of your brake pads. In your downtime, you also always make room for family…Oh, wait, I think that’s someone else? In any case, you may have a hobby of taking your favorite car to the track and want it to be the best on the quarter-mile. But you’re on a budget, and you’re a truck driver. Maybe it’s time to really dig in deep and explore pushing a Ford beyond its limits while also using it as a daily driver?

If you’re looking to replace your current vehicle and maybe get a used F-150 for work, utility, or travel purposes, but you also want a race machine, then you’re likely in a conundrum. Because how often will you find a used Ford F-150 for sale that is already kitted out for racing on the blacktop? Not often, unless you find a private seller who is likely having to sell off their pet project to get something a bit more domesticated.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad. Even a basic used F-150 can still be pushed beyond its limits. You can even take it to the next level by making a few changes and altering its performance profile with some simple tweaks. In some cases, a little spit shine and a tire swap can do the trick. In other cases, you may have to put in a little more blood, sweat, and tears to get single-digit seconds on the quarter-mile scoreboard.

Buying the Right Used Trim

If you’re thinking about hitting the tarmac with the express purpose of burning rubber in your F-150, believe it or not, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get a used truck ripe and ready to rip up the road. In fact, the right trim is actually going to be the cheapest trim. You might be scratching your head on that one, but just follow me here.

The best stock model of a used F-150 is going to be the entry-level model. That’s right, the XL. Why? Because if you can find a used XL without any of the bells and whistles, you can save a lot of cash. What’s more, is that you’ll want to find a used XL with a standard bed and regular cab if possible. Why? Because smaller is better if you’re planning on doing any racing in your truck. The less weight you have to move, the less work the engine has to do to get the truck moving fast.

A regular cab XL with a standard bed is all net positives for truckers with a penchant for speed, and that is the cheapest configuration you can get, especially since most drivers are shopping for higher-trim crew cab models. Now the obvious trade-off here is that if you really do need a general-purpose truck that you only want to occasionally race, then you might need to opt for a larger cab and bed. You’re obviously giving up the weight advantage of the base model, but you will gain more functionality when it comes to towing, hauling, and if you need the truck for additional passengers.

You can post some pretty good times on a standing quarter-mile run with the right kind of stock configuration. If you’re more of a road course kind of trucker, or dirt truck racer, the XL still works out well for the aforementioned reasons. The right powertrain combination with the right tires on a used XL regular cab with a short bed, and you have yourself a good foundation for building something awesome. You don’t have to spend a whole lot to achieve impressive gains, as showcased by the already impressive numbers you can put down with a stock F-150.

Performance Gains Without the Costs

Having the right bodystyle and trim is one part of the equation, but your biggest determining factor for performance gains is going to come from the powertrain itself. Having the right power plant under the hood is the difference maker between turning a utility truck into a part-time race truck or just frying your engine and ending up with a dud. Luckily, if you’ve been shopping for a used F-150 for sale with the intent of putting some racing miles on it, there are a couple good choices available.

Many racers opt for an F-150 with the 5.0-liter Coyote V8. In fact, a modified 2020 F-150 posted good times on the drag strip with only three significant changes to make it a competent drag racer. That’s right, just three changes. What were they? Performance tires (obviously), an intake manifold from a 2018 Mustang, and a performance cold-air intake from JLT. Massive gains for low costs. In fact, if you shop around, you can find all of that for under $1,000. Of course, the higher the quality of the parts you use, the more performance gains you will achieve.

There is another thing to consider…Ford has multiple engines available across the F-150 line-up, so picking the right used truck with the right powertrain can also net you better performance without having to spend more money on upgrades. A good example of this is finding a used F-150 with either the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 or the turbocharged hybrid PowerBoost. Why? Because they offer the best overall performance out of the box and in the right configuration, you have a very powerful racing truck with very little need for many upgrades.

If you wanted some great output from an F-150 on the track with minimal effort, a PowerBoost is a great way to go. Against other trucks, it can very easily wipe the tarmac with them. However, against stiffer competition, you will have to do more than just go in stock. Tires and a tune can make a massive difference in overall performance output, and finding the right setup can make all the difference in turning your daily driver into a racing machine.

Accessorizing on a Budget

Not every upgrade to your used F-150 is going to require disassembling the entire truck and putting it back together again. Some of the best upgrades available for any vehicle when it comes to performance are engine tunes. Having the right tune can make all the difference, especially with a few supporting modifications. Depending on the vehicle in question, you can find tunes from some places that can net you anywhere between 50 and 100 additional horsepower. That’s extremely impressive.

Shopping around for the right kind of tune can be its own little adventure, but the right package for the right price means doing very little under-the-hood work for a lot of gains. There are also various outlets that have tunes specifically made for the EcoBoost and Coyote engines found in many used Ford trucks. If you are shopping around for a used Ford F-150 for sale from a local dealer, private seller, or online auction and are worried about whether you could get a tune for it, don’t be. There are plenty of tunes available for the thirteenth and fourteenth-generation F-150 models on the market today, but it is important to shop around for the right setup so you don’t blow out your engine.

Also, if racing is a passion of yours and you want your truck to look the part, there are plenty of aftermarket and OEM accessories you can get for a used F-150. From decals and tonneau covers to sport bars and splash guards, there are some awesome accessories available. Spoilers and body kit packages can help with aerodynamics, while fender protection and deflectors are great for off-road racing. Accessorizing with the right exterior and performance upgrades can go a long way in turning an older used F-150 into a modern-looking track competitor.

Practical but Powerful

How viable is a used F-150 for racing on the blacktop? Very viable. You just need to pick the right used model that will net you the performance gains you seek with some simple tweaks and upgrades. You also need to keep in mind that your truck may still need to be used for practical purposes. The F-150 is one of those rare vehicles that can balance utility and speed quite well, even if you’re shopping on a budget. If you find the right model for the right price with the right powertrain, you can very easily turn it into a drag racing, off-roading, or mudding champion with a little persistence, hard work, and the right kind of performance upgrades.

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