What Is a Ford Highboy?

What Is a Ford Highboy?

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Meghan Drummond

Ford Highboy isn’t a term that you’ll find in any official Ford literature. But in Ford truck enthusiasts, you’ll hear it frequently.

So, what actually is a Highboy?

A Highboy (sometimes Hi-Boy) is an F-250 made between 1967-1977 with 4WD. Because the driveline required a divorced transfer case, and because it sat further back, a longer front driveshaft was needed. This meant more clearance was needed, and so the F-250’s front end sits up higher. It would have looked like a factory-style Carolina Squat, but Ford used a lift block to raise the rear 4-inches. The result makes the Highboy trucks look as though they have a factory-installed lift kit.

Despite their high center of gravity, these pickup trucks’ unique and stylish looks have made them highly sought-after collectibles. While stylish enough to earn praise at any car show, the 4x4 pickup also has enough off-road prowess to earn its keep.

A dark green Ford Highboy, shown in the mud

But there’s no lift kit?

Despite rumors to the contrary, Highboys do not have a factory-installed lift kit. Just some extra equipment in the front and a lift block in the back. While many lift kits include a lift block, it’s lifting just the rear, while lift and leveling kits also include equipment for the front. All of the lift in the front of the Highboy comes from extra equipment related to the transfer case.

Highboy Factory Equipment

Considering the desirability factor that Highboys have attached to them, you might expect for them to have unusually good factory equipment. But in fact, most of their options were about the same as the other F-250s of the time.

Highboy Transfer Cases

Highboys were available with either a Dana 24, NP205, or NP203 transfer case.

The Dana 24 came on the earliest Highboys, but was being transitioned away from in 1972. There are a lot of good things to say about the Dana 24s, which were made of cast iron and had a pretty tough case. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very widely used transfer case, which makes replacement parts hard to come by.

The NP203 and 205 were both offered from 1973-1979. While the NP203 is a full-time transfer case that uses differential gears, it can be manually locked out to create a part-time case. The NP205 is a part-time transfer case that’s advertised as heavy-duty.

Of the three, the NP205 is seen as the most desirable. Its heavy-duty status was well-earned, and off-roaders have commented frequently on its ability to take a beating and keep operating. It’s also surprisingly light, offering a full 40 pounds of weight savings in comparison to the NP203.

Many Highboy owners with Dana 24s ultimately decide to make the swap to the NP205 transfer case. The 4-stud mounting pattern is the same, making them an easy swap.

Illustration shows a divorced (standalone) transfer case with the input shaft and output shafts

Highboy Engine Options

Highboys were available with three engine options: 240 CID I6, 300 CID I6, and a 360 CID V8. Here are the base specs on these engines. Because the way we calculate horsepower changed in 1972, the quoted horsepower values differed through the years, but the engines never changed.

It’s very rare to find any Highboys with the 240 CID engine. Most will have the 360.

Highboy Engines
Feature240 CID I6300 CID I6360 CID V8
Engine Code A B Y
Horsepower 150 hp @ 4,400 RPM 170 hp @ 3,600 RPM 208 hp @ 4,400 RPM
Torque 234 lb-ft @ 2,200 RPM 283 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM 315 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM

Other Engine Options?

There are rumors of Highboys being found with other engine options. This isn’t really very surprising. Mustangs have been found with parts from a variety of other vehicles in them, and custom orders were common. Just because you have a different engine doesn’t mean you don’t have a Highboy.

Highboy Axle Options

Most highboys will have a Dana 44 front axle. But some may have Dana 60s as well, since that was a factory option.

Open knuckle axles were available exclusively in 1977.

Highboy Equipment Limitations

Because of the narrower profile, higher center of gravity, and other “quirks” of the Highboy, there was some equipment that was unavailable with this option. You couldn’t order the remarkably popular “Camper Special” for example.

You could however still select from a Styleside or Flareside bed. All color options were still available.

For trim packages, you still had a full lineup of options. Custom (base), Sport Custom, Ranger, and Ranger XLT were all options and the presence or absence of any trim doesn’t distinguish a truck as a Highboy.

You could even get crew cab F-250s! They just weren’t very common. (And were pretty ugly). Super cabs on the other hand were not an option.

All Highboys do have one controversial equipment option. Because of their narrow frame, they couldn’t accommodate a rear gas tank. So, they all have in-cab gas tanks. These were eventually outlawed, and aren’t really the safest option.

Sky blue F250 Highboy shown in Ford Brochure

The “Unicorn” Highboy

If you’re looking for a Highboy with the best possible equipment options, then you’re looking for a 1977 Ford F-250. The last year for the Highboy, they were only made for half the year. But this year, and only this year, you could get a Highboy with a 360 CID FE engine, disc brakes, and an open knuckle axle.

These are very difficult to find, and it’s definitely easier to find an earlier Highboy and convert it to disc brakes on your own.

Highboy Production Numbers

It’s very difficult to establish production numbers for this period of time. These are the years where we can estimate pretty closely the number of Highboys produced in each style. Stylesides were definitely always leading in popularity, and by 1975 became the only option.

That makes them a lot easier to find on the used market as well.

Highboy Production by Year
1967 915 3,836
1968 Not Found Not Found
1969 973 10,286
1970 Not Found Not Found
1971 635 16,164
1972 2,619 21,654
1973 Not Found Not Found
1974 645 34,618
1975 N/A 47,226
1976 N/A 62,873

From Highboy to Lowboy

What’s the opposite of a Highboy? Starting mid-1977, the divorced transfer case was phased out. With a married transfer case, the front of the F-250 fell to reasonable levels and the 4-inch lift block was no longer needed.

Because the body styles look the same, late ‘70s F-250s are often called Lowboys. If you love the look of a Highboy but haven’t been able to find one, then consider buying the best year and equipment you can find and adding a lift kit. This will help you replicate the iconic Highboy style.

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Source: What’s Stronger? Mated or Divorced NP205, Ford Truck Forums | Production Numbers, Fordification | The Ford Highboy F-250, Blue Oval Trucks | What Is a Ford Highboy, MotorTrend | Ford Highboy Definitive Guide, Ford Trucks

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