Tony Cannon’s 1978 Ford F-150, “Wreakin’ Havok”

Bigger is always better, and no one practices that like Tony Cannon. Part and parcel of this assertion can be seen in his incredible build involving a 1978 Ford F-150. As large as it is old, the pickup is a monster truck that we can’t help but explore.

We fell upon this truck on Tony’s Instagram, where he regularly keeps the world updated on the progress of the build, called “Wreakin’ Havok.” Tony has owned the truck since he was 16, from its humble beginnings as a $600 curiosity to its current car-crushing appearance.

Wreakin’ Havoc is the truck’s name, and epic wheelies are its game.

Its highly unusual drivetrain layout, high stance, and alluring color were all reasons to want to know more. We reached out to Tony to get the full scoop.

Background of the Build

For paint, Tony went with an interesting choice. “This is Dodge Viper GTS blue pearl from 2009-13,” he said. “I went through tons of paint charts to find a blue that caught my eye.”

Many off-roaders buy a vehicle with a purpose in mind; others buy vehicles just to have them. Still others find inspiration along the way and start a build on something they already had. For Tony and his F-150 – called “Wreakin’ Havoc” – the journey has been a fun one.

I wanted to do something radically different with it. I wanted to push the envelope on its wheelie capabilities. – Tony Cannon

“This F-150 was the one that started my love for trucks,” said Tony. “It started the whole craze for me. I bought the truck for $600 when I was 16, and now it’s on its third build.”

The point of this third build, as Tony explained, was to do something radically different. “I wanted it to do manageable wheelies, maybe four or five feet up in the front,” he said. “I wanted to push the envelope on its wheelie capabilities.”

To do this, and do it right, Tony went in an unconventional route for a truck build. He decided to place the engine in the rear, thereby placing most of the weight in the back. Certainly, this was the right approach given the end goal in mind.

Two 2.5 ton axles with a 6.72:1 gear ratio send power to the massive 54-inch Baja Claw tires. “With all four wheels locked, the truck wants to do nothing but go straight,” said Tony.

Highlights of the Build

Powering the project is a big mother of an engine. “It’s a 521 cubic-inch Ford V8, with fuel injection and a BDS 6-71 blower,” said Tony. “I had Enderle design the custom injection hat, which took a lot of work. I used Super Cobra Jet aluminum heads and hand-built the headers, since there was nothing on the market. Cooling is from a custom Griffin radiator and two electric fans.”

Perched in what would otherwise be the bed of the truck, Tony used plates to install the engine instead of mounts. “I had to figure out how high it would sit,” he said. “It took me two months of me working on it, designing how it would fit back there.”

The SCS transfer case is the fulcrum of Wreakin’ Havoc’s drivetrain. Since it’s reversed, it counteracts the motor’s rear-facing position and corrects the rotations to the axles. What’s more, it also has quick-change access. “I can gear-reduce the truck to any attitude I want,” said Tony.

The motor gets it power to the wheels in a rather roundabout way. It starts with a custom-built C6 two-wheel-drive transmission. From there, it routes to a reversed SCS transfer case. “All of the reversing is done in the transfer case, not the axles,” clarified Tony. “There’s nothing really custom on the motor and gearbox; they could be mounted normally. The transfer case is the point that flips everything around.”

From the transfer case, the load splits into two 2.5-ton Rockwell axles with 6.72:1 gear ratios. “The ratio plays well with the 54-inch tires,” commented Tony. Chromoly axle shafts with 300M steel offer lots of strength to work with.

The star of the show is a 521 cubic-inch Ford V8. It's supplemented with a 6-71 supercharger, Super Cobrajet heads, and an Enderle custom injection hat. As far as power goes, Tony guesses he makes 1,000 horsepower and 800 lb-ft of torque. He's debating whether or not he wants to do nitrous. "I'm going to get the motor dialed in and then probably run dual nitrous bottles on the prerunner bars coming out of the back," he said.

As for differentials, Wreakin Havoc has spools front and rear. “The front axle can unlock one tire with the hubs, but the rear is all go,” said Tony. “With all four wheels locked, the truck wants to do nothing but go straight!”

Braking is done by Wilwood four-piston calipers, as opposed to the pinion brakes often seen on monster trucks like Wreakin’ Havoc. Tony went with the former, as he likes the versatility. “The downside of pinion brakes is that they’re off-road only,” he said. “They can’t handle normal driving, or else they get glowing hot. I wanted the F-150 to be more universal than just purpose-built.”

What’s it like to drive this F-150? “It is 100-percent wheels up,” said Tony. “I have to be extremely careful when driving it. My next goal is to figure out how much weight to put on the front. It’s scary, ’cause right now it just wants to stand up in the middle of a turn!”

Onto the wheels – these are custom-made units from Holden On Motorsports. “I drew them up and Holden On made them for me,” said Tony. Wrapping around them are 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claws, which replaced 46-inch versions as Tony deemed them too small. “They’re really good tires,” he said. “They hook in really well in the mud, and have some seriously aggressive sidewalls.”

Hooking in is all well and good, but what about steering? For this task, Tony went with an all-hydraulic setup. “It’s called orbital valve,” he said. “Hydraulic lines come down on either side and force the hydraulic ram to go left and right, known as a double-ended. I’ve seen it on monster trucks, which is where I took a lot of my cues from.”

CNC Overtime nitrogen shocks are the only suspension components on Wreakin’ Havoc. Tony can change the truck’s height by adding or depleting the amount of nitrogen in the shocks, as well as by manually adjusting the shocks’ upper mounts.

Keeping the F-150 aloft are CNC Overtime nitrogen shocks with external reservoirs, supporting a four-linked front and rear chassis. They have 20 inches of travel, and do all of the suspension work, as there are no springs anywhere on the truck. “I can raise or lower the truck by one foot, depending on the nitrogen levels,” said Tony. “There are also adjustable rails for the shocks’ top mounts. These give me a foot of adjustability all on their own, but there was a learning curve with figuring out how to use them.”

Last but not least, the interior is a customized haven. It has a full roll cage built by Tony and his team, as well as an aluminum dashboard. The seating arrangement puts the driver in the middle, with the passengers on either side. The Bluetooth stereo features six 6-inch speakers and two 12-inch subwoofers, along with two amplifiers; Wreakin’ Havoc can bellow and roar for miles around, and the sound system matches that ability.

The truck's interior features a full roll cage, aluminum dashboard, and a Bluetooth stereo with six 6-inch speakers, two 12-inch subwoofers, and two amplifiers.

Regarding future plans, Tony has an oddball idea involving sled pulling and a Ford Focus. “I want to strap down a Focus to a ramp that’s mounted to the truck,” he said. “It will give the truck enough weight up front so it can tow out back. The amount of weight isn’t the thing, it’s that it comes from a compact car.”

We salute Tony and those who helped him bring Wreakin’ Havoc to life. The truck is a veritable monster that we wish we could get some seat time in. To see more, go ahead and check out Tony’s Instagram.

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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