In a devastating turn of events, the renowned 1949 Ford F-1 race truck, which had previously shattered Pikes Peak’s diesel record, was involved in a severe accident during the 2023 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Despite hurtling 175 feet off a cliff, the remarkable pickup ensured the safety of its driver, who miraculously emerged from the crash without any injuries.
A Record-Breaking Legacy
The iconic Ford F-1 was entered by Scott Birdsall, the same driver who had propelled the 71-year-old pickup to a diesel record victory in 2020. Employing massive tires, substantial downforce, and an immensely boosted Cummins diesel engine capable of producing an impressive 1,400 horsepower with over 100 pounds of boost, Birdsall triumphed with a remarkable time of 11:24.065. Unfortunately, his opportunity to challenge his own record at the 2023 race was abruptly cut short due to a mechanical failure that sent him hurtling over the cliff.
A Terrifying Plunge
Recalling the incident on his Instagram post, Birdsall stated, “During the 101st running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Smokey had a complete brake failure. I went to settle into the corner, and the brake pedal went to the firewall with zero effort. I tried to turn in and scrub speed in the ditch, but there was too much momentum, and I went off very quickly.”
The pickup truck soared approximately 175 feet down the cliff, landing upside down before rolling over eight or nine times and finally coming to a stop in a snowdrift. Miraculously, Birdsall emerged unharmed but winded. He extricated himself from the snow, unbuckled, and courageously began climbing back up the mountain to seek assistance from the safety crew and medics. Grateful for their prompt attention, Birdsall expressed his sincere gratitude for their professionalism and care.
The End of an Era
Tragically, the crash left the historic Ford F-1 completely destroyed, leading Birdsall to mourn its loss on Facebook, stating, “The truck is gone forever.” Adding to his disappointment, the 2023 event saw two other diesel competitors surpassing his previous record. A Powerstroke-powered Nissan GT-R and a diesel-powered Radical prototype, driven by Gregoire Blanchon, achieved a new diesel record of 10:25.071, nearly one minute faster than Birdsall’s time.
This 1949 Ford F1 raced up Pikes Peak yesterday. Unfortunately it had total brake failure and went off the edge & flew about 175 feet and then rolled 8 or 9 times. Scott Birdsall got himself out of the truck and had no injuries! Old Smokey is totaled. pic.twitter.com/DLJzNOCWiO— Stephen "Pete" Peterson (@cospringsrunner) June 27, 2023
A Testimony to Resilience
Nevertheless, the fact that a more than 70-year-old pickup truck held the record is a testament to the exceptional nature of “Smokey.” It highlights the fierce competition and relentless pursuit of performance on Pikes Peak, where the battle among participants is far from settled. The mountain continues to serve as a demanding proving ground for automotive excellence, where triumphs and setbacks shape the legacy of those who dare to conquer its treacherous slopes.