I hate to overuse the term holy grail (actually, I don’t), but one look at this single-owner, diesel, manual, 1999 Ford F-250 and you’ll agree that it has to be one of the coolest modern heavy-duty trucks on the road. And an amazing find for the new owner, Nick Carl.
With the departure of the Daimler-sourced G56 six-speed in the 2018 Cummins-powered heavy-duty Ram, there are now zero heavy-duty pickup trucks available with manual transmissions in the U.S., and that’s a shame. Because man, is it nice to row through gears in a big, torquey pickup.
The good news is that there are still a few gems to be found on the used market, though they’re rare and often in rough shape. That’s what makes this F-250 so special.
Nick Carl, who is from the Albany, New York, area, was on the hunt for a 1999 - 2003 7.3-liter diesel, manual Super Duty to pull his SCCA B-Spec Kia Rio and and Ford Fiesta racecar. (Pictured below, the Kia was actually built for Kia by the brand’s racing partner Kinetic. You can read more here. Carl claims his is the only one of the handful made that survives to this day)
A member of the CFR Motorsports race team, Carl says he found the truck you see here on Cargurus. “It was posted 30min prior to me randomly searching for a 7.3...couldn’t of been more [meant] to be lol” he told me over Facebook Messenger, going on to write “it was located in its same town it was ordered in of Phoenixville PA” roughly 2.5 hours from his rendezvous location with his mechanic, who joined Carl for the trip.
“Backstory with the truck is it is a 1 owner (until me as of last week), special order from a gentleman in his mid 60’s at the time of order,” Carl told me, proudly. “zf6 [manual transmission]... 7.3 [turbodiesel].”
And mileage? 45,000.
Yes, only 45,000 miles on that unkillable 7.3-liter diesel bolted to an also-unkillable ZF six-speed.
Apparently the truck is in as good of shape as the photos suggest. “It was garage kept, never had a plow and was bought to tow a homemade boat from the original owner. Ended up being used to get Christmas trees and transport a kayak lol.”
It seems the truck has never been undercoated, and though that means there is some surface rust, Carl tells me there’s no scaly corrosion. “You can still see the factory black frame in spots and where the surface rust is staring to creep in, it still has the factory frame stickers on it,” Carl told me.
The machine is absolutely stunning. Woodland Green is an excellent color, the tan interior — which includes tan seats, dash, door cards, carpeting and other trim — is lovely (especially since the truck has a split bench), and of course, there’s the manual transmission hooked to a 235 horsepower turbodiesel that makes 500 lb-ft of torque. Five hundred.
That ZF S6-650 manual transmission, by the way, is the same one that GM used in the last manual heavy-duty trucks it offered in the U.S. It’s a beefy German transmission with an aluminum case (the bell housing is part of that case) and an integrated oil pump that sends transmission oil to an external cooler. This keeps the gears properly lubricated even in high temperature, high-load situations, but it’s different from what you’d find in the vast majority of cars, whose manual transmissions don’t have dedicated heat exchangers. (Generally, they’re cooled by airflow around the case).
It’s an awesome transmission, bolted to an awesome engine, bolted to an awesome extended-cab, long-bed, green truck with an awesome tan interior that has an awesome bench seat. Oh, and it has four-wheel drive with manual-locking hubs (okay, they are technically automatic hubs with a manual feature, but still). Awesome!
As you can see in the paperwork above, this 45,000-mile truck had been custom-ordered by its only previous owner, someone who clearly had excellent taste.
Carl says he plans to iron out the few dings on the body and then get this F-250 into showroom “or better than showroom” condition. Though Carl had been looking for a manual 7.3 Super Duty, he told me: “Never figured I would find one in this kind of shape with these miles and all the paperwork.”
Neither did I. The fact that this truck exists is a blessing to us all, and to those lucky racecars that will receive the beast’s tugs.
This holy grail F-250 wasn’t that cheap at $16,000, but with so few miles on such a stout powertrain and drivetrain, I’d definitely choose this machine over any new heavy-duty truck, and I’d probably save at least $30,000 doing so.
Correction Dec. 3, 2020 2:43 P.M. ET: The Ram’s manual is from Daimler, as I wrote in my review. For reasons unknown, I initially wrote Aisin. I regret the error.