Jim Smart
August 1, 2009

Les Werling can easily be described as eccentric because he has a unique imagination and the talent to support it. Check out his retro-replica car hauler, built to resemble the ones used 40 years ago by Shelby American and other Ford race teams. Most were Ford C-Series cab-overs with inclined beds for hauling race cars, tools, and equipment. That's the spirit in which this Trans-Am Boss 302 replica and Ford C-Series hauler were conceived and built.

The inspiration for this project began with a phone call. A gentleman in Northern California called to ask if Les, a former president of the Southern California Shelby Club, could check out a '70 Shelby located near him in Southern California. The Shelby turned out to be more work than the buyer desired, but the seller also mentioned a Boss 302 he'd found in a barn. In due course, Les wound up with the car.

Initially, Les wanted to perform a concours restoration, but imagination got the best of him. He decided to build a replica Trans-Am Boss 302 as a tribute to racing legend Bud Moore, who built and campaigned the '70 Trans-Am Mustangs. Then the idea hit to haul the car with something other than an enclosed car trailer behind a Power Stroke F-250.

When Les evaluated his options, only one rang true-to build a replica of the C-Series tilt-cab haulers Ford race teams used in the 1960s. It would not be a simple undertaking. He would first have to find a salvageable cab and chassis. After dozens of phone calls and many hours on the Internet, Les found this Ford C-Series tilt-cab, a former fire truck with low miles and a Caterpillar diesel engine. He had it shipped from Pennsylvania to Southern California and began the project in earnest.

The Boss Mustang overhaul began with detailed disassembly and cataloging all parts. Les delivered the matching-number Boss 302 engine to Smokey's Machine Shop in Oceanside for a rebuild to Trans-Am specifications. For authenticity, Les conducted extensive research. He will openly admit the car isn't completely authentic, but it's as close as he could get given resources and available knowledge. He had a Bud Moore-design airbox fabricated to go atop the Boss engine and looked high and low for the Bud Moore mini-plenum intake manifold and stamped steel valve covers with the appropriate breathers.

Les canvassed the continent for period pieces that make the cockpit as authentic as possible, with many located by contacting vintage Trans-Am race car owners and builders. Most of the sheetmetal components were fabricated, including the aluminum chin spoiler. A turning point came when he contacted Auto Power Corporation, one of the sources from the original Boss 302 Chassis Modification and Engine Modification book. Still in business today, Auto Power Corporation built the rollcage and performed other modifications. If Les couldn't find the correct sponsor decals, he had them made.

In a matter of two fast years, Les had his Grabber Orange Trans-Am Boss replica complete and ready for show. But Les admits that people pay more attention to the hauler. Ford built the C-Series from 1957-'90, which is why there are still so many of them doing pavement duty. The Ford-designed, Budd Body-built truck was easy to service and maintain. It turned on a dime and visibility was excellent from the driver seat. Over the years, the C-Series truck would be available with a variety of Ford and non-Ford engines, transmissions, and axles.

Les couldn't have chosen a better candidate for his car hauler project. In fact, there is even a reproduction parts industry catering to the classic C-Series tilt-cabs, with enthusiasts showing their restored C-Series trucks all over the country as everything from well-dressed fire pumpers to garbage haulers and delivery vehicles.

To adapt his C-800 to classic car show duty, Les looked to 3W Truck & Equipment Company to build the inclined-bed car deck with power winch and diamond plate. Although many of the tilt-cabs were powered by Ford FT-Series big-blocks, others were factory fitted with diesel engines. Les' C-Series is powered by a 634 cubic-inch Caterpillar diesel V-8 sporting 210 horsepower and 450-500 ft. lbs. of torque. Close examination reveals just 37,000 miles on this pampered and retired fire truck.

When Les attends car shows, he's surprised at the questions about his old Ford tilt-cab car hauler along with dozens of stories from others about these trucks. Like Mustangs, it seems everyone knows someone who has either owned or driven one.

"Old truck drivers love the car and never notice the truck," Les comments. "Yet people who are not car enthusiasts come by and tell me how much they love the truck and car." Regardless of where your passion lies in this Grabber Orange combination of hot car and super hauler package, most agree it is something they will not soon forget.