Jay Ligon is a hardcore hot rodder, building and rebuilding cars and now race cars. His latest project started out as a street rod. About 12 years ago, Jay built a cherry ’34 BBC-powered Chevy pickup truck that was inspired by the famous Tubester pickup in Street Rod Magazine. When Jay completed the task, he found other projects to occupy his time. That is, until seven or eight years ago when the bug to go racing got a hold on him. That was also about the time that Butch Littleton came along. Like Ligon, Littleton is a machinist, welder and a tinkerer who shares a passion for drag racing.
After the two guys got to know one another, they decided to build a race car—a race truck, actually. It wasn’t long until they had the little ’34 done over with a roll cage and a beefier racing suspension. They also added a two-stage nitrous setup and went racing. While the race truck was very cool and popular with the fans, it wasn’t fast. The all-steel racer simply weighed too much to be competitive.
To the Drawing Board–Version III
Five years ago, Jay welded up a full tube chrome-moly chassis with a 113-inch wheelbase patterned after an Altered up front and connected it to a conventional back half that met 25.1e specifications. For the suspension, he used Santhuff double adjustable rear shocks and Strange front struts.
D&L Performance was commissioned to build a new supercharged engine. Starting with a Dart Big M engine block, Crower blower crankshaft, R&R aluminum rods and Arias pistons. A set of Dart 360 solid heads with a T&D shaft rocker system and Manton push rods came next with SCE .040 head gaskets. Then a Littlefield 14-71 blower and a composite three-blade injector hat, an Enderle 990 fuel pump and K-valve were mated to a BDS blower intake. A burst panel and down nozzles were all bolted together as a single unit on top of the 526-ci alky motor. An MSD Mag 20 with an 8973 controller handles the ignition work. Custom-built 2 1/4–inch zoomie racing headers with SCE manifold gaskets take care of the exhaust. A Titan wet sump oil pump and a Dan Olson 13-quart oil pan holding Brad Penn Straight 50 weight oil maintain oil pressure.
Jay and Butch put a Mike’s Monster Glide and Continental converter behind the engine, and a custom-built fiberglass driveshaft connects the driveline and the rearend. The differential is a Larry Jeffer’s CM Fab 9 with a 4:86 gear. Strange 40-spline, gun-drilled Live Axils transfer power to Weld 16-inch double bead lock rear wheels shod with Hoosier 33 x 17-16 inchers. They also use Weld 15-inch wheels with Hoosier tires up front.
While this improved the truck’s stability and made it (somewhat) easier to handle and go faster, the 2,950-pound truck still was not where they wanted it to be. So, last year they did want any logical racer would do: They rebuilt it—again!
A New and Vastly Improved Rebuild–Version IV
During this past winter, Jay had Alien Hot Rods of Iowa Park, Texas, create a custom fiberglass cab to look exactly like the steel cab Jay and Butch had built. Ligon and Littleton also reengineered the fuel cell to fit behind the new fiberglass grille shell. Most importantly, they reengineered and replaced the back half of the chassis and eliminated all unnecessary weight from the truck. A new oil blow-by can was designed and they had the US Army Truck repainted in its original theme colors by Darren Baber, owner of Sudden Impact Customs in Burkburnett, Texas. Following all the work, the truck had shed 400 pounds!
Back to the Track
When Jay, Butch and Joey Davis took the truck to Texas Motorsport Park for the first race of the 2013 season, they were in for a big surprise. On the first qualifying pass, the truck rattled the tires and darted across the track, almost hitting the wall. Ligon made it into the field with an early shutoff 4.71. Tire shake struck again in the first two rounds of eliminations, but in spite of that they made to the finals where they lost to Galen Smith’s Texas Bounty Hunter ’57 Chevy. Rewarding? A little, perhaps, but not at all satisfying. They needed to do something and do it fast.
A few days prior to their next outing at Houston Motorsports Park this April, Ligon says, “I’m not sure what we’re going to do to stop the shake, but one way or another, we’re going to get down the track this weekend. I don’t know, I guess we’re going to add some weight and see what happens.”
What happened was the unexpected: They did their burnout and stalled the truck, which never occurs. By the time the problem was identified, it was time for their second qualifying pass.
On that lap, the car in the other lane performed an addition burnout, which threw Ligon off of his routine, causing him to two-step the accelerator and leave early. Once through the gear change, he again experienced tire shake, and recorded a 4.61. Although still slow, it was a clean pass. Unfortunately on the final qualifying attempt, the tires broke loose at the hit of the throttle, ending their night.
While they still have the traction issue to overcome, Jay, Butch and Dave were happy with the way the truck performed overall. He’s confident they will have the issues sorted out, possibly by the late April DRO Race at Kennedale, Texas. “When this race truck is running right, my grandmother could keep it going straight, right down the middle of the track. And we are close to it handling that way again. I’m excited!”
As with most racers, Jay would like a major sponsor so that they could attend more races and to help with maintenance. He is happy with and very appreciative of his current backers, McGinnis Welding Supply, S&T Steel and D&L Performance all of Wichita Falls, Texas and RPM Performance of Oklahoma City.
Photos by Jeff Burk and Joe McHugh