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This page and project will pick up where the '77 F-150 left off. As cool as the F-150 would have been, it was still only a 2wd long bed. After doing all of the bodywork for the 2wd, it just seemed a waste to not put it on the 4wd chassis.
This truck is the typical '78-'79 F-250 which has the 400ci engine with the C6 auto and married NP-205 t-case. Now originally this truck came with the Dana 44, but the original owner was making too many warranty repair visits at the local dealer and talked them into swapping in the "Sno-Fighter" Dana 60 axle. With these goodies it was used heavily off road by the previous owner. Right after purchasing it, he installed Detroit Lockers in both Dana 60's. In October 2001 we purchased the truck and up until September 2011 the truck has sat behind our shop (as seen in the above photo) for almost a decade while parts were robbed left and right. First, the 8274 winch, aluminum 4bbl intake and headers were taken off immediately and used on other trucks. Then the lockers and D60 rear were used in the Chevy mud truck. Upon further inspection we found the front frame rails completely packed with dried mud. The mud held in water and further rusted parts of the frame. Add to that the fact the body was in the most rusted out condition we have ever seen, it was no surprise it was getting the body from the '77 and the Mickey Thompson Baja Claws that were purchased for the 4x4 van build!
After the decision was made to restore the truck, we had to source a rear axle to replace the robbed D60. This Ford was not getting a field plowing 14 bolt or even a Sterling, so a D70 was the best way to go. I found a 1984 Dana 70-U on Craigslist only 2 days after my search began.
The tag said 3.54 but the actual gears were 4.10 Too bad the ring and pinion have chipped teeth AND the carrier has gouges from a dropped pinion. I will be using 4.88 gears along with the 38.5" tires. Being one generation of body style apart, we bolted the axle into place just to check fitment.
Finally, after 10 years of storage, the truck was rolled to the front of the shop where the bed, cab and front clip were removed. The engine was trash as water got in the block since the cylinder heads were removed several years prior (we never planned on rebuilding the 400 anyways).
To run the 38.5" Baja Claws, I was going to need a good size lift for the "low-boy". I went with Skyjacker as they were the only company who offered a 6" lift. I installed the springs on the rusty frame to see how they worked. Surprisingly it did not seem like much was gained after mounting the skinnies back up.
Attention was now turned on the rust. Surface rust covered most of the frame, with the only real rot laying in the front frame horns where the front leaf spring hangers attached. This part of the frame was perfectly flat with no drain holes and allowed mud and water to rest doing what it does best to steel. Rot also did its damage on the cross member between the rear leaf spring mounts. It was literally paper thin in most areas and was also broken at some of the rivets due to the stress from the rock hard "homebrew" rear add-a-leafs. Also, 5 out of 6 body mounts are shot and will need surgery.
Now that the entire frame has been inspected, the front frame horns were the first to get repaired. I liked how the 99-04 Super Duty's used a beefy bolt on front spring hanger and wanted to incorporate that into this truck somehow. I ordered a set from my local dealer and during the 2011 Thanksgiving weekend the grafting began. First the frame had to be fully supported and leveled. Then the front clip went on to check fender clearance once more with the large tires and front lift springs installed. The front axle was supported and rotated until the desired castor angle was found. Our 1977 and '78 Ford truck shop manuals recommend between 3-5 degrees castor angle for safe steering. With the large tires, I set the angle right at 5 degrees. This will decrease once more weight is added to the front end. After the castor angle was finished, we now knew where the front spring brackets needed to be. The front eyes were only 1.5" lower than stock to achieve the proper castor angle without the use of shims under the leaf springs!
With the front end properly set, the torch and cut-off wheel were used to slice off the front frame horns.
The passenger side body mount had to be replaced, so we cut out new metal and welded it in. The 2" channel was used to keep everything in alignment while welding it in place. At the end of the day, it was gratifying seeing where the new metal was going to finish the frame rot replacement.
You'll notice I have swapped brackets from side to side as per their original location on the Super Duty. This was done for both clearance offsets and aesthetics. We are also mounting the brackets at a slight downward angle to allow water to drain out of the frame horns unlike the original Ford design.
The following weekend work continued on the front frame replacement. Little by little, the new metal had to be fit, checked and tweaked. Unfortunately the side mounting flange on the new spring hangers had to be sliced off. It will get welded back on later.
The time finally came to narrow the 4"x6" rectangle tubing to match the existing frame dimensions. My father had a neat way of moving one side of the tubing while still retaining the nice radius.
Once everything looked good, the new frame was tacked in place. This allowed us to find the hole centers on the spring hanger and make the necessary patch pieces to box in the tubing.
No pictures were taken of the individual patch pieces as this was tedious and tiring, so here is the final front frame. All welds were chamfered to allow maximum weld penetration as this is a structural suspension component!
The final piece to the puzzle is the reinforcement plates. This is needed as it is not recommended to rely solely on the butt-weld for all weight carrying capacity. So we added these side plates to help stiffen up the front section. Another piece will be added at the bottom of the frame once we get around to turning the entire frame upside down. The driver's side outside also picked up on the steering box bolts for more rigidity.
Finally it was time to put the truck back on its front wheels and the old front cab clip was set on the frame to check all clearances. The tubes that stick out past the spring hanger will get cut off once I figure out a bumper.
The following is a table made for my own personal info regarding the height gained from the different suspension configurations. All measurements were taken from the ground up to the topside front cab body mount.
|Configuration||Driver Side||Passenger Side|
|Homebrew front springs with stock skinny tires||30.125"||30.25"|
|Skyjacker springs with stock skinny tires||32.50"||32.875"|
|Skyjacker springs with Mickey Thompson tires||36.50"||36.625"|
|Skyjacker springs with Mickey Thompson tires with new Super Duty spring hangers||37.125"||37.375"|
Now that the front frame fix is finished, it is time to set the 460 mock block with trans and t-case in place for fitment purposes. I would assume most of the people out there with these trucks either have a 460 swapped in by themselves or know of someone who has, so now it is our turn. Everybody says they just fit right in so how hard could it really be? Find out below!
Ok so far so good. The 460 fit right in at least with only a slight smashing of the oil pan. This pan is rusted out anyways so I just smashed it to get it to fit around the front cross member. Some will argue I should be using a rear sump oil pan instead of the car/2wd truck front sump. My argument is: 1.) I already have the front sump pan, 2.) the front differential housing is no where near the oil pan given the amount of lift I have, 3.) ever notice the rear sump pans also have a slight "front sump" section? Well due to the nature of this design you can never get all of the old oil out during an oil change.
The heavy duty 460 conversion engine mounts finally showed up from Bronco Graveyard. I would recommend these mounts over the typical vulcanized rubber on steel plates the other guys sell. We all know this is the less expensive method and it works for a few years but they will eventually separate. Now with the recommended engine tilt set according to the shop manual, I knew there was going to be front driveshaft clearance problems with the transmission cross member. The solution was to cut a scallop out and using a piece of 4" pipe, weld it back in for full reinforcement. It turned out slick and provides plenty of clearance.
With the engine/tranny/t-case in place and the cross member satisfied, we still had the issue whether or not to use the midship gas tank. Apparently most 133" wheelbase 4x4 trucks only came with the one rear tank. Dual tanks were an option but very rare from what I have been able to dig up. With the decision made to use both tanks, we needed the brackets to mount the tank. And of course since the only brackets we had access to were from the 2wd F-150, the rivets had to be cut off and new holes drilled in the F-250 frame. Then there was the issue with the transfer case. The 2wd tank is long and narrow while the 4x4 tank is shorter yet taller. After a few days of unsuccessful searching, we came to the conclusion nobody makes a replacement 4x4 midship tank. So our only choice was to cut off a portion of the new 2wd tank. If anyone knows where to get a new 4x4 midship tank please let me know!
Chopping off 9" of the tank's front portion cost me about 3.5 gallons capacity which brings the 22.5 gallon tank down to around 19 which is the same as the rear tank. We used a piece of galvanized sheet steel roughly the same thickness as the tank itself, cut it to shape and then rolled a flange lip to weld to. Dad welded this using the oxy/acetylene torch.
After the tank was fully welded, a cup of diesel fuel was added to check for leaks. A few nights of the tank resting on end without any wet spots proved it was worthy!
Now that the gas tank and mounting brackets were
complete, we found a late model van with disc brakes in a junkyard over
Christmas weekend 2011 and just couldn't pass them up!
So began the:
Dana 70U rear disc conversion and rebuild!
While the rear axle was being rebuilt, I still found time to finish dismantling the frame. The 460 mock engine, tranny and T-case were then removed. Lots of reference pictures were taken, then the front axle, springs and all remaining brackets and crossmembers were removed so just the bare frame rails remained.
Here are the bare frame rails ready to be sandblasted. We also decided to weld in all of the useless holes that make the frame look like Swiss cheese!
Obviously with the front axle now removed, we
were looking at what it was going to take to rebuild the front Dana 60 other
than time and money.
So here is the:
Dana 60 Sno-Fighter rebuild
Work continued on the frame by removing ALL brackets to thoroughly clean the rust buildup of 34 years. More rust than usual was present in certain areas of the frame where it was chambered and boxed. Without a drain hole, water and mud easily collected between the frame and rear shock mounts causing the majority of the worst scale rust. The leaf spring hangers were not much better so we torched off the rivet "heads" and used the air chisel to remove the rivet "tails". Always use eye and ear protection when doing this!
Now that the frame was fully stripped, we used a piece of copper pipe smashed flat to serve as the backing while filling in the useless holes. It is important to clearly mark which holes are needed and which are not! We only goofed twice!
At some point in time the bed was moved further rearwards. I can only imagine this was done to keep from smashing the cab while off-roading. From the looks of it, a torch was used to wallow out a crude hole. I was not happy with this so again we used copper backing and copper pipe to form a mold for the weld filler. It worked out pretty slick!
The next item up for fixing was the sloppy rear section. A shabby welded on hitch bumper and too many mud-hole snatchings left the rear section in desperate need of help. The torch was used to shape the metal back into factory form. Then we made our own end plates to box the top, bottom and sides of the frame together. The original attempt was lame.
Finally the last order of business was the front frame section which is still incomplete. Now that the frame was turned upside down we could finish the bracing where the new horns were added. This is a must since the bottom of the frame is in tension and should not solely rely on the butt weld and side plates.
More welding and grinding shots. For most of the holes we just used the copper backing plate while the front larger holes required a plug.
With frame filling now complete, the next hurdle was cleaning and prepping for paint. The last two frames were simply cleaned with a wire wheel and rust remover. For some reason slight rust bubbles have found their way back through the paint. What's more strange is neither of them have been subjected to rain or off-road conditions! So this time I was going to take another approach- sandblasting!
After sandblasting, the frame needed just a slight bit more attention before priming. I bought a Curt receiver hitch and figured now would be a good time to drill the holes for mounting while the frame lay upside down rather than drilling upside down at a later date. I also replaced the front-rear leaf spring hanger brackets as they were just as rusted out as the rear-rear after taking a closer look at them. I found RockAuto to be a great place for these items and would recommend them to anyone! The only catch is Ford does not make the original style 4-bolt brackets that came on these trucks. Nor could I find them aftermarket, so I looked at my dad's '97 F-350 and settled on them. I knew they had two extra bolt holes but did not know if any of them would align with the old brackets until they showed up. We laid them on top of each other and surprisingly the bottom two were a match. The main leaf spring hole was also a match with the correct drop depth. The top mounting holes were slightly off so we chose to weld, grind and re-drill the holes in the frame. These new brackets are also thicker steel than the originals. I just wish they were not made in China!
More shots of the leaf spring hangers:
Here are some shots of the final holes being drilled for the receiver hitch. Class 4 should do fine for this truck!
We were now finally ready to prep for primer. A light coat of Ospho rust remover helps etch the steel. After the rust remover does its magic, a light scuffing with sandpaper ensures a good "bite" for the primer. Lastly a wipe down with a dry clean cloth to remove any dust and the classic red Rustoleum primer is applied. This time rattle cans were used instead of the quart can mix.
The gas tank still needed to be fit in place in order to mount the final side bracket. Now was a good time to do it since the frame was once again upside down.
Remember the rust on the cab mounts from earlier? The rubber bushings trapped water due to their spongy design and helped rust out the mounts. Bronco Graveyard sells weld in washers just for this problem. I figured I would give this a try and so far I only have one complaint: the inner hole is not large enough for the aftermarket poly bushings (I got these from BG as well so they should know what size they need to be)! We had to enlarge the hole to get the Energy Suspension bushings to go through. These washers are twice the thickness of the brackets so we made them flush with the topside to keep from raising the body.
Again here is the PITA process of cleaning the leaf springs. This time it was harder then last time due to the tar like coating they applied after assembly. At least the van springs were just cheap paint that flaked off easily.
Work still continued on the frame to get it ready for painting. Since we sandblasted the entire frame down to bare steel, there was no sense in using POR-15 or anything similar for "rust" protecting since there is no rust! Good 'ol Rustoleum red primer on the frame rails once again. Then we used body filler to fill in any remaining divots. It would have been way too time consuming to fill in each divot so instead we just slapped the entire rail with filler and sanded smooth.
After all the sanding was complete, another coat of primer to seal the deal.
The next morning, all of the frame's brackets were painted black on the inside and assembly began. Later, once all of the brackets are installed, the entire frame will get sprayed with black enamel. Also since all of the rivets were torched off, I needed a lot of bolts to put everything back together. www.boltmax.com was a great place to purchase in bulk. All brackets, crossmembers and mounts were attached using 7/16-14 x 1-1/4" UNC Grade 8 bolts and washers. For the nuts I used Grade G locking flange nuts as this took the place of both a lock washer and a flat washer. Plus the flange nuts look more like OE!
Rustoleum Semi-gloss black enamel was then sprayed on.
With the rear axle now completed, it was bolted under with the stock skinnies for the time being.
Same process as before but now to the front springs. Luckily these were not as badly coated as the rear, but still a real PITA to clean!
Here they are primed red.
The rear fuel tank was removed from the 2wd chassis and installed into the 4wd.
The 460 engine was also removed from the 2wd chassis but placed back on the engine stand for a little detail work. It needed repainting and some of the accessories are being changed over to the 4wd style. Please ignore the hideous $17 eBay valve covers. I don't know what I was thinking 6 years ago!
Before the engine could go in, the front axle and springs still needed to be installed. Poly bushings were used unlike the rubber the rear has.
We left the spring hanger bolts loose and figured now would be a good time to roll the front axle under before it gets too heavy later once everything is installed.
New U-bolts were used and they were quite a bit longer than they needed to be. I doubled up on some grade 8 washers and called it a day.
The tie rod was cut to length and tacked to the tube inserts.
Finally, after several setbacks, the Dana 60 was back in and finished.
Next we focus on the transmission and transfercase. The transmission will be left alone as the previous owner just rebuilt it before selling the truck to us, however we will be rebuilding the New Process 205 here at home. Here are the gears after the first cleaning. They had some rust on the teeth but nothing the wire wheel couldn't clean up. The sandblaster also cleaned up the aluminum and steel parts as well as the case itself, however this is not the original case from the truck. Years ago I bought a 1979 NP205 for another project that never happened and when I got to looking at it again, the '79 case was in better shape than the original '78. The only difference that I could see is the '79 case is made in Canada! The pic on the right are the gears after the second cleaning now awaiting the rebuild kit.
Here are more shots of the Canada case. You'll also notice the inside was painted gloss black.
Unfortunately no pics were taken while rebuilding the case as there really wasn't a need with all of the info already available on the web. It was simple and quick rebuild so we could move onto the next task. The only real upgrade this unit received are 1410 yokes at each end.
Next up, the transmission was first degreased, then sandblasted, then finally glass bead blasted. A new input seal, modulator valve and fancy B&M aluminum finned deep sump oil pan. Of course no surprise the pan did not fit properly on the pan rail and had to be "massaged" slightly. Then after test fitting the pan, it still would not go on after the filter extension was installed. So it was removed and also "massaged". Finally after three or four rounds everything was buttoned up.
I did not want any transmission trouble later on so I ordered a rebuilt torque converter for assurance from Oregon Performance Transmissions. I chose the lower than stock stall speed to go along with the 460. I just don't know if I mind the color!
On Saturday afternoon, we got the engine, transmission and transfercase landed in their new home. The heavy duty engine mounts worked great up front but out back we discovered a serious problem when installing the transmission mount. The new B&M pan was too deep and hitting the crossmember. I was about to throw in the towel and put the original back on when my father talked me into performing surgery and making it work. I'm glad I listened to him because we have something again that most others do not. Anyway the four best tools came out to play again- cut off wheel, torch, MIG welder and angle grinder. We trimmed the front section off and welded in a reinforcement rib underneath. The intermediate mount was also shaved off on the front side and now operates in a cantilevered fashion. The final outcome turned out great and is super rigid.
With the engine back in place, it was time to focus on brake lines, fuel lines and exhaust. We figured exhaust would be the best place to start as the brake and fuel lines can be routed last. Unfortunately the exhaust is turning out to be very challenging as this is not only a conversion engine but also using 2wd headers in a 4wd chassis just adds to the mess. True there are several companies who make conversion headers (they are all well made but expensive) I figured might as well just use what we have. Plus the 2wd Hedman headers we bought have 14ga. primaries while all others are 16 and 18ga.
Here we start on the driver side as this was the much easier of the two. It only needed one primary massaged. We removed it and basically just re-tweaked it.
The following day we picked up where we left off removing the front most primary. Piece by piece cutting, fitting, twisting and trimming and it was back together. The high heat coating kept the weld from leaving the work area which actually made for nice narrow welds. The acetylene torch was used instead of the MIG in order to get into the tight places. Seven welds from six pieces just to move one tube! Later the welds will get grounded smooth and both headers will be sandblasted in preparation for the final "hot-coat" coating they will receive.
Here is the passenger side which will be a struggle the whole way through! All tubes were cut off and the flange angle is going to change as well.
Just like the driver side, the primaries had to be crafted one tube at a time. I ordered a set of 1.75" 16ga. "builder tubes" from Speedway Motors as more tubing was definitely going to be needed. Figure, trace, cut, trim and tack. Repeat again and again!
Now that the first tube was tacked in, it was easier to create the other tubes as the collector was now rigid.
Then went on the third and fourth tubes.
The tubes were then removed after a brace was tacked in to keep anything from moving. The purpose of removing the tubes was for ease of welding them fully. That way only the end pieces had to be welded as an assembly. Plus it made it easier to grind the welds down.
Of course, some imperfection was to be expected. Something twisted slightly after the final welding and one of the tubes was now touching the frame rail. No biggie, just trim it more as the original owner did to fit headers on the 400! Then more complications as the collector was now too close to the shackle. So we lengthened it one inch and welded it back up.
Final shots of the completed 2wd to 4wd headers!
Next comes the fun task of building the rest of the exhaust system. 2-1/2" 16ga. tubing was used the rest of the way out along with a stamped steel X-pipe for cylinder bank pressure equalization. Also more parts were robbed from the van: Flowmaster 40 series mufflers as I did not feel like purchasing more! Out back nothing fancy, just business as usual with scalloped dumps after the rear axle on the passenger side. A pair of collector flanges were used after the X-pipe to facilitate installation/removal. Three exhaust hangers total makes for a very rigid system.
The pipes were removed and all the welds ground smooth and painted while the headers were off getting a ceramic coating. I do not want to ever rebuild these headers again so to prevent them from rusting out, getting them ceramic coated was the only logical choice. Once they were back in our hands, the reassembly began. Our black cat seemed interested. Copper gaskets from Summit were used instead of the leaky paper style. The exhaust is now finished.
You may have noticed some of the exhaust pics show stainless steel fuel and brake lines. While the exhaust was being fabricated and waiting on parts, we also unrolled our coil of 3/16" and 3/8" stainless steel tubing to begin fabricating our own brake and fuel lines. The originals were bent and rusted through with pinholes. True we could have purchased pre-bent lines, but that would not be exciting and remember we welded up all the existing frame holes! This gave us the option of routing the lines safely out of the way.
First, the braided steel brake lines were landed.
Then starting at the rear, the rear fuel tank was plumbed first as was the diverter valve. Then the adjustable proportioning valve was added in as we gutted the original combination valve for the disc brake conversion.
Finally came the branch over to the passenger side. Here you can see the fuel line also landing at the fuel pump. Don't worry, the plastic Adel clamp by the exhaust has been swapped out for a stainless version to keep it from melting.
The power steering box was probably the last large remaining item that needed to be rebuilt. We have rebuilt Saginaw boxes in the past and had good success but after hearing about Red-Head Steering Gears out of Seattle, WA I decided to just let them rebuilt the unit. It was about the same as buying a rebuilt unit at the parts store but they do extra things that the parts store rebuilders do not such as oversized recirculating balls and oversized seals after cleaning up shaft surfaces. First we took the unit apart before shipping it out to make sure there would not be any surprises lurking inside. All looked good!
I'm just not sure I like the "red head"! Here it is a week later bolted back up.
With the exhaust, brake and fuel lines finished, attention was turned to the accessories. The alternator had to be relocated due to the different crossmember arrangement. L&L products sells a nice kit to do just this but we figured on making our own set.
Next up was the power steering pump. To my knowledge, all trucks received the Ford C2 pump (of this era) while vans and cars received the better Saginaw pump. Well of course we cannot leave anything alone so we grafted a Saginaw pump in place of the C2 pump. When finished the result will be a better operating and sounding (no typical Ford whine) pump that is more compact and longer lasting (no aluminum and plastic parts!). We bought a pump and pump bracket from an Econoline van but had to fab the mount that holds the bracket to an existing mount under the air conditioner bracket and cylinder head.
The hoses were a tough call as the Ford box with Saginaw pump had non-matching flare fittings from a factory hose perspective. We looked at many applications to try and get one that had the needed flare ends but the solution was to use the original '77 C2 hose and cut off the flared end, reshape the metal tube and flare the correct end to match up to the Saginaw pump. We ended up sacrificing an entirely new Saginaw hose (top hose in pic) just for the flared end (little did we know) before we learned the auto parts stores carry individual tubing flares in the back!
Another addition was to wrap some of the driver side downpipe with heat resistant header wrap to keep the temps down around the transfer case.
Now the moment everyone has been waiting for- lowering the bed and cab onto the frame! It looks like a truck again. Sadly though this is only for mock up of the cab shims on the body mounts so both the bed and cab will be coming back off. Our two-post lift came in super handy lowering both items on the frame. We did not have this luxury back in 2006 when we did the same test fit on the 2wd chassis.
It barely fit underneath the shop overhang roof! You may notice in the pics below the use of a 3" body lift spacer under the cab. This was a major setback as I did not want to use any body lift, however the issue arose when lowering the cab onto the chassis and was hitting the transfer case! There is a large crossmember underneath the cab which reinforces the seat mount sections and must be slightly different. We are not sure if this is due to a one year model difference or if it is a 2wd/4wd difference. I am still determining the best way to lower the cab so there will not be (as much) of a body lift needed (we did not need the full 3"; we just had them laying around from another truck).
With the truck now under the shop overhang, work continued on other miscellaneous items such as the transmission cooling lines. More stainless steel tubing was used as we never want to replace these again! Heat wrapping was used around the areas that may get warm being closer to the headers. My father also made these slick tubing brackets out of aluminum to hold the lines securely in place.
While the cab was on the frame we figured now would be a great time to mount the doors and install the new door weather stripping. We also cut the hole in the floor for the 4wd shifter as this was a 2wd truck.
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take the upper end of the 460 apart to check for rust or other debris as it has sat for 7 years after coming back from the machine shop. I also wanted to replace the intake manifold gaskets as the valley end gaskets were cracking.
The manifold was sandblasted and painted with Rustoleum appliance epoxy colored in stainless steel. This paint will not chip, fade, peel or dissolve from heat, gas, oil or anti-freeze. Surprisingly the valley and cylinder heads were super clean. Fel-Pro intake gaskets for sealing and ARP stainless steel 12 point intake bolts hold it all down without worrying of corroded bolts after 6 months.
Finally it was time to do something about the hideous valve covers! The only valve cover I think that's decent without getting too close to the vacuum booster is the one that are no longer available- Holley. The 429-460 covers have not been produced for quite some time, so I had to buy used- eBay of course! Some people prefer the polished look but I really like the black crinkle paint. Our covers were cleaned then completely painted. Then the raised surfaces were scraped off, cleaned and polished. Some clear lacquer was used to seal up the aluminum to keep corrosion from forming.
For gaskets the cheap cork type just weren't going to cut it so on went a set of rubber coated multi layered steel.
Some final shots after washing the frame from two pollen seasons.
We still had the issue of body mounts to figure out. Rather than try to reuse the original style steel hardware (or purchase new kits elsewhere) we decided to make our own. Starting with a new Pro-thane body bushing kit, we had to drill out the center hole slightly larger for use with our new tube insert. Like the original design, this keeps the assembly from compressing too much. Then large flat washers were made to sit above the large top mount and below the smaller lower mount. Finally the cab was lowered onto the frame for the last time.
Thanks to the 2" body lift spacers, there is plenty of clearance between the firewall and cylinder head/valve cover.
Next went on the inner fenders, outer fenders, radiator support and hood. This was quite a challenge as these old trucks have tons of available adjustment so just picking a decent starting point was difficult.
Since the bed remained outside (under tarp and blankets) the moisture unfortunately caused some pinhole sized rust spots to form. Thus a second round of bodywork was given to the bed. It was sanded down and touched up and then resprayed all over.
Attention was then turned again back on the cab. We knew we needed to get it ready for painting but this required much interior assembling so that the dash and glass could go on right after the color. First we had to resolve what to do with the tin-can sound! Summit Racing had a clearance sale on Dynamat so we figured we'd give it a try. It went on quite easily with dry cloth, wallpaper roller and heat gun! Since (18) 18"x32" sheets were purchased, we decided to apply as much as possible and even did the roof and firewall. The doors were also given the treatment and the front fenders may get it next!
To finish up the Dynamat along the firewall, the brake and gas pedal were installed. This concludes the installation of the Dynamat!
With the brake pedal assembly installed, it was now a good time to install the vacuum power booster and linkage. Up through 1979.5 these trucks utilized the fulcrum linkage bar to reduce the required pedal travel. After 1979.5 this was done away with as Ford went to a more conventional pedal-to-booster setup. Since we have added large dual piston rear disc brakes and the larger 460 engine, it was decided to install the smaller diameter dual diaphragm unit from a '78 F350 2wd (the '79.5 booster will not work because of its longer push rod since it does not use the mechanical link) simply to gain more stopping power and increase clearance around the valve cover. In the below pictures are the black pancake style F150/F250 booster along with the linkage and brackets. We received a rebuilt F350 unit from the local auto parts store and cleaned and painted it silver.
For the master cylinder (MC), a unit with equal sized chambers was preferred due to the massive rear dual piston calipers requiring more fluid thus an MC from a 1978 Lincoln Continental was used. We had much difficulty locating this unit as not all Continentals received 4 wheel disc brakes. One particular auto parts store kept sending us the disc/drum MC which I did not want to use due to its small rear chamber and 1" piston. This Continental MC has the larger 1.125" piston but unfortunately had the ports on the engine side rather than the fender side. No worries as there is plenty of space around the unit for the final brake line connections. Before the car MC would bolt up to the truck booster, the mounting ears needed some slight massaging as the truck booster stud spacing was wider than the car's MC. Other than that, the plunger and rod were exactly the same dimensions! The brakes and all related components are now finally finished!
The above pictures were taken January of 2014 and unfortunately no progress was made until June 2015. Finally it was decided we were only kidding ourselves thinking we were going to fully paint the truck, so I called a few auto body shops around town and found one willing to finish the primer prep and shoot color and clearcoat for a reasonable price. Others wanted more $$ and to have the cab taken off since it was too tall for their spray booths or they were just simply too busy as they told me 3-4 months. To my surprise, the auto body shop sent me "progress" pictures and even had a spray in bedliner (similar to Rhino and Line-X) at no additional cost! Talk about service, they even came out to our house with a roll-back to carry the truck off so we would not have to rent a trailer! The color is 1999-2000 Superduty "Bright Amber Metallic" (Ford code BN-6897) which is the same color we used to paint the inside of the cab back in the F150 days.
At the body shop this was the beauty we saw while awaiting the roll-back to take the truck back home. We used our trusty '97 to haul the bed by itself to speed up the delivery process.
Back home a whopping 6 days later, we are now "over-the-hill" and can begin installing more items. We immediately started prepping for the glass to be installed.
Next, it was time to install the windshield and rear glass. I tried to get a "matching" Carlite windshield, but unfortunately none of the local suppliers could locate one. They probably have not made one in many, many years so I had to settle on a PGW instead. I will admit it is very nice and glad to see it has that typical "70's" green solar tint shade to it which matches the side and rear glass. There was no way I was going to attempt installing this myself so we had a local professional perform the installation. The rear glass was sourced many years earlier from a mid-80's F150 in a junkyard. Luckily the shape of the rear glass is the same all the way through 1997 which made finding one very easy! It was a no-brainer deciding on a solid rear window instead of a slider as all sliders eventually leak which is what most likely caused the majority of the cab rot behind the seat. Of course, before the installer arrived, we used a glass polish kit from Eastwood. It was much easier using the large electric buffer instead of the cordless drill. The silica compound actually did get out most of the small scratches and scuffs but the deep gashes still remain. Character is the excuse I will use I guess.
It was finally time to install the window belt weather stripping and seals that were still in their original packaging from 2004. They fit right in as if they were just purchased. The glass received the same Eastwood polish treatment as the rear window but the heavy scratches are still present. Vent windows are the original '77 units with new seals and quarter lock. The doors have a very distinct "heavy" sound when they latch shut now.
Also needed was a complete new set of door locks and ignition cylinder/tumbler set. Three trucks later, there was not a good set worth reusing. All of them were pretty sloppy so making new keys to fit worn tumblers just didn't seem like a good idea. Scott Drake made these nice replacements. Door handles are the original '77 units as well that were in surprisingly good condition.
With the cab now sealed up with glass and rubber, we knew at some point very soon the large tires were going to need to go on (because we could now roll it outside and not fear it getting rained on; typical Florida afternoon thunderstorms!) so we could determine the proper rear lift block height. Remember, we have 6" lift springs all around but the custom front frame section raised it even more thus we knew a rear block was needed; just never knew what size. We mounted the bed on top of the 2" body spacers so we could get a good edge to reference from front to rear.
Sadly the time spent with the big tires was short lived. At this moment, the rear squats 4" lower than the front. Plus, we now realized the front springs were just way too stiff to offer a comfortable ride. We ended up taking three of the six leaves out to see if the spring rate improved any. Sadly, more problems were created in that the springs were now too mushy and are squatting more in the front from the truck's weight and we lost roughly 1.25" thickness from removing the three leaves! The solution was to reinstall the next longest leaf (to provide some lift) and to install a 1" spacer up front between the axle and the spring pack (notice I am using the word spacer and not block- think of it as a thick shim). This also necessitated the need for new U bolts as the set I previously purchased were too long and when cut off did not offer enough threads (the reason for the double stacked washers). The new U bolts are the proper length and have the right amount of threads. Blocks are made by Top Gun Customz and are the only ones I could find at the proper 3" width for Ford springs.
For the rear we determined a 3" block is all it needs. Again Top Gun Customz are used as they have a proper 3" wide block to fit a Ford spring (all the cast iron units I found are Chevy/Dodge 2.5" wide "universal" type fit). In addition to the block itself, I bought some rear axle spring clamps from a 2011+ Superduty off Ebay. These have the U bolts that point downwards similar to the front design. They came with the bottom clamp and the top spring plate. I just had to buy the correct length U bolt specific to 2011+ Superduties as they are neither a round or square design but rather in between.
Here is how the truck sits now with all the suspension finally finished. We had to use a sheet of plywood under the front tires since they are not the same size as the rear.
Back inside, more wiring and other items must go in before the dash.
Dash with new trim pieces and glove box door. Originally I didn't know I would later dislike the "all color" appearance of the passenger side of the dash. Looking online at pics of similar trucks revealed many that had black colored glove box compartments. Maybe this was a Ranger-XLT thing as the '77 truck actually had the black glove box color scheme. We masked off and sprayed the glove box portion black. This will contrast much better with the driver compartment which has all the black gauges and such.
Underneath once more, I decided it was time to throw on some shocks. The original front style (upper stud/lower stud) was not long enough given the 6" springs and added spacer. The original rear style (upper stud/lower eye) was also not long enough. I knew the rear would be a challenge since I had swapped out the upper shock mount years ago (to an eye style) but it was more aggravating that the fronts were not available by the maker of the suspension lift! Turns out, the rear was super easy as we looked up a 2006 Superduty 4wd and for the front, the rear of a 2004 F-150 4wd was a perfect fit! For the front the only catch was that some day I knew I may be upgrading the front axle and did not want to go welding custom brackets onto the original Dana 60. So we bought some generic shock tabs off Amazon in order to convert from stud to eye type for which they simply bolted in place of the original stud.
Next up it was finally time to start tackling some of the side trim and front grille which was in very good shape, but was going to need the full treatment: remove anodizing, polish, then re-anodize. The grille was polished by a third party while we polished all the side trim pieces. There was a local anodizing shop in town that did all the anodize work for "beer money".
The grille was in very good shape for its age but we didn't like the "gaps" in the front where the original frame rails ran through. Having a body lift and custom front frame horns was going to make this look even more strange once all put together. Father to the rescue again! He decided to rivet a patch piece in place. We decided not to polish this area since it may be behind the bumper so we just sprayed it with the black textured paint. The final product: even more rigid and gorgeous than the original!
The side pieces could finally be mounted but the grille had to wait until we were finished with the radiator, condenser, hoses, headlights, etc.
Since the side trim was on, it was a good time to mount the fuel doors, install the mid-ship fuel tank and run the new rubber fuel filler hoses.
Now it was back to the front to figure out a radiator. I really didn't want to pay $300+ for a rebuilt original style radiator. It just didn't seem like the right thing to do under the hood considering what other "mods" were going to be nearby. I settled on a 3-core aluminum unit that was "supposed" to fit this truck. Turns out, this aftermarket aluminum radiator was not designed for the trucks with the extra cooling package. This meant we needed to modify the brand new rad and make a custom mounting bracket for the driver side! Then if that wasn't enough, the condenser needed spacing outwards in order to clear the new rad which we later determined interfered with the grille! Got all that redone just to find out the added transmission cooler now interfered with the grille insert! Lost about two weekends of working on everything until we finally got it right! During this time we were also installing the "Sanden" style A/C compressor since we decided to ditch the heavy, inefficient, unappealing York style comp pump. The kit came from Classic Auto Air and is designed to use the factory condenser and evaporator and came with everything needed (except the liquid line). All we had to do was cut our lines to the proper length and send them back to CAA for which they performed the hose end crimps and paid the return S&H!
Father was not liking the idea of not running a fan shroud. Since we had an aftermarket rad, none of the factory shrouds were going to match up to the size, shape and offset. The solution: custom make our own! Fiberglass resin and matting placed over a foam mold trimmed to the shape and size needed. You won't find this one for sale anywhere!
The finished radiator, hoses, A/C, shroud and transmission cooler.
Sadly, no pics of the beautiful Borgeson steering shaft were taken other than these just before final installation:
Finally, the grille, headlight buckets, headlights, hood latch mechanism and other items finished the front end (minus bumper). Of course this would not be without casualties as the nuts were rusted out of the light bucket and required brazing new nuts in place.
Looking good! Now it is obvious why we installed the patch pieces in the grille!
Attention was now turned back inside to finish up dash installation. The dash pad gave us fits since it was not properly made and we didn't know this 2.5 years ago when the unit was purchased! Again, a great shout out to the Bronco Graveyard team who helped get this resolved (replaced entirely) with DashesDirect.com who is the maker of the dash pad. They do indeed build a quality product but mine was just not inspected close enough before being sold. Just to give an idea what was wrong, first the foam backing was too lumpy which caused waves on the top side when mounted, second the middle stud pulled through the foam due to not enough foam (or tack weld) being present to hold it in place and third, the passenger side corner around the glove box trim was not curved/molded correctly and caused a crease to form on the top side when mounted. The new pad addressed all these issues and exceeded my expectations!
Moving to the doors, we previously had the speakers mounted from the outside of the door along with the foam cups to create a sealed environment for the speaker. When the door panel was set on, the tweeter was interfering with the door panel. These door panels are Dennis Carpenter original reproductions so we "assumed" that the problem did not lie with them. The only solution was to mount the speaker from the rear of the door. This created a new problem as the speakers were not designed to be mounted from the rear. So, the speaker hole had to first be enlarged, then some mounting rings were created in order to serve as both a nut and a continuous sealing surface for the foam cup. Now the speaker is recessed enough not to interfere with the door panel. Then went on the carpeted kick pad.
Up top, the headliner was next. We ditched the cardboard version in favor of an ABS version. Father applied a foam-backed felt fabric from the craft store to finish it off. The mounting trim was sandblasted and primed years ago but was recently painted black to match. Stainless steel screws hold everything up in place. Yes, please ignore the "pink" spots in the paint. We didn't spray enough color on before the clear went on. You cannot see this without the flash! Lastly went on the black sun visors.
Continuing on, dad came up with a slick way to dress up the rear of the cab. There is now wood in this truck! The slats are held in by construction adhesive and in between is more automotive insulation that is spray glued in. Then aluminum sheeting was folded and cut into place and then covered with the same fabric as the headliner. We didn't want all the stainless screw heads showing so they were covered with black plastic buttons. The floor carpet is just resting in place for now. It needs to be trimmed as it is too large in several places.
A few more items outside such as secondary springs on the hood hinges to help keep it open (thanks to the added weight of a few LED lights, more insulation and a custom "hood mat"). Fender block off plates in the bed's wheel well opening were then crafted from more ABS plastic (the originals were shot and nobody offered quality replacements).
Got a nice Bosch AGM battery to start testing all the electrical system. Strange things were happening at first (no shorts or burned circuits thankfully!) until dad realized he crossed all but two of the wires on the steering column harness when it was rebuilt (some 10 years prior)! Luckily no damage occurred and after correctly placing them in the connector, all was well! All lights, blinkers, safety switches, etc. worked as they should. Before the carb could go on for good we ordered a Summit phenolic carb spacer mainly due to the fact that the lower linkage was interfering with the Weiand intake (and we were not going to remove the intake to grind a notch out of it).
Now for the moment we have all been waiting for after 12 long years! On Saturday morning (8/13/2016) engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid and gasoline were all added and checked for leaks. After no leaks were found, we primed the engine's oil system with the drill and verified the factory oil pressure gauge was working on the dash. Problem #1: the aftermarket battery tray was not letting the battery sit flat (it was teetering). After enlarging the mounting holes and letting the weight of the battery square it up on the fender, this was fixed. We then installed the DUI distributor (in and out a few times to find the correct initial timing) only to find problem #2: that the housing is interfering with the recommended coolant outlet neck! Some grinding on the cast iron outlet neck and some black paint and now the dist. seats all the way into the block. Problem #3: the special DUI LiveWires that I bought are not the correct length as per the cylinder number labels! This meant dad had to place the wires one by one so that they would fit. We will be cutting off the number labels later. Problem #4: we were not getting fuel to the carb. All lines were clear and we had fuel up to the mechanical pump. We painstakingly removed the fuel pump and bought a new unit and then painstakingly reinstalled it. We think this was just a simple overlook of not having the gas tank cap removed when trying to pull fuel all the way from the tank (using a vacuum pump; not the starter!) but we will never know as we theorized this after the new fuel pump was installed. Now it was 6:00pm Saturday night and we were tired. Problem #5: Sunday morning we noticed a leak at the rear of the power steering pump. We decided to let it go in the hopes that it would "fix itself". Two taps on the starter and the 460 came to life running at a fast idle! Letting it run for about a minute at high idle we heard the PS pump belt squealing. About another minute of running and it got quiet so we opened the reservoir cap to check the level. Sure enough it had dropped as fluid was being pumped into the lines and steering box. As we were adding more fluid, the belt squealing returned only this time much louder! We shut down the engine after only about 2-3 mins of initial run time. Problem #6: we took the drive belt off the PS pump in the hopes of bypassing it and noticed the pulley was hard to spin by hand. We figured we would deal with it another time. Restarted the engine a 2nd time for which it ran about 30 seconds and then died. Plenty of fuel and battery. Checked ignition wires, relay module and the fuse feeding the dist. and found the 35A fuse blown! Problem #7: dad forgot to attach the live 12v wire that runs the electric choke for which it simply touched something metal (carb, intake, who knows)and thus caused the short burning out the fuse. Restarted engine a 3rd time and all was well until I noticed that the water pump pulley was not spinning the same rate as the white lettering on the belt whipping by. Problem #8: with the main power steering belt removed, the remaining A/C belt did not have enough "traction" (drive contact) to rotate the water pump and heavy steel fan (especially considering the fan clutch was locking up due to the thermostat now being open). We shut down the engine again with only 3-4 mins of total break in time now on the clock and could not continue without the PS pump belt which mostly drives the water pump. Drove to the parts store, got another PS pump, swapped the "ham" can and reinstalled. Sure enough, the new pump had the same small leak out the rear of the unit. Very frustrating! Restarted engine a 4th time and noticed the new PS pump had the famous "Ford growl"! About 2 mins later just as my brother mentioned it might be a good idea to cycle the steering wheel back and forth to get the air out of the lines, the pump made a horrible screeching sound! We panicked and killed the engine again. Problem #9: thinking we fried the new PS pump, we loosened the belt and noticed it still turned freely but was low on oil and had developed foam inside the reservoir. Added more oil then restarted a 5th time while on idle for about a minute all while turning the steering wheel to work out the air. Once the pump got dead silent we increased the speed to finish the cam break-in period of about 20 minutes. After that, we let it idle for a few minutes to cool down before shutting it down.
After letting the engine cool down for about an hour, we then checked all the fluids, tightened the belts again and restarted the engine on idle and set the final timing. Now the engine was sounding very good and it was just 2:00pm! Next we checked the float levels (were perfect right out of the box) and then adjusted the idle mixture one last time. Then went on the air filter and housing. We ran it a few more times the rest of the day and concluded we did not hurt the engine having it sit for 12 years after being rebuilt in the Florida humidity! The engine runs very smooth (RV cam) and doesn't smoke any oil or make any strange noises.
Here are the pics from the Saturday and Sunday startup:
Click here for a video after the 1st start at high idle! Click here for a startup and idle after the break in was complete and the final timing was set. Click here for a better sound of the exhaust with two revs!
With the engine now running, it was time to start finishing whatever items we could. This meant hopping between exterior and interior items whenever we had them ready. First up was to finish the steering. The same tubing and rod ends that were used for the tie rod were used to create a drag link. Then the large tires were thrown on to check clearances.
One more major interior item was needed before going for a ride: a seat! The seat bottom has rotted out years ago but the seat back was still in good shape. Rather than replace the entire unit from something more modern, we just replaced the bottom and added the classic "70's" velour upholstery. The foam had to be trimmed slightly to fit this vintage frame (there were stiff spring sections to help distinguish the three separate seating sections) and since I'm not exactly a small guy I did not want my weight to have the foam cutting through the springs so we added in a piece of sheet vinyl.
The seat back got a similar treatment until we found that the original foam had shrunk slightly so an additional layer had to be added. This helped tremendously taking up the slack and allowed the upholstery to have to "squeeze" over both foams for a tight fit. That "snug fit" needed some relaxing so it was placed out in the sun for an hour and then went on the hog rings and finally the rear cover.
It was not too troubling to get the completed seat in the cab. Once in, it looked like an original ad from the 70's!
Back down below, the front sway bar end links needed to be lengthened. We found some tubing just the right size and welded them to the original links and added new poly bushings.
Just had to install the large tires once more and we could finally take it for a spin. It rides relatively well given the nice seat foam and large tires however it still rides like an old truck: stiff springs!
From these few test rides, it became clear that with cross over steering and tires this large, a track bar was going to be needed. The only issue was where to mount it. We knew it had to be roughly the same length and angle as the drag link, but first a mount on the passenger leaf spring had to be fabricated.
Next, we had to make the mount on the driver side frame. Picking up off some of the engine mount bolts would utilize some of the frame's boxed section.
Father again came up with a slick way to allow the track bar to be adjustable. With all the Chevy parts we have laying around, we used a TRE and welded a sleeve into it that will hold a poly bushing from a rear leaf spring shackle.
Testing the new track bar was as easy as having the weight of the truck on the tires and quickly turning the steering wheel to see how little frame shift was now present. This meant most of the drag link force was now being applied to the knuckle (and tie rod). Sadly, it was after this success that we discovered rust "veins" starting to appear all over the passenger side fender, cab, door and bed side. This was the side that was closest to the rain and moisture when it was parked under our shop for several years. Apparently, the combination of us using a lacquer based primer 10 years ago and the paint shop not prepping the surface properly resulted in the rust veins forming 18 months after it was painted/cleared. We decided to take the truck apart again and take it back to the body shop to have them strip all the paint down to (mostly) bare metal. They knew they were just as guilty as we were for using the wrong primer so they worked quickly to get it turned back around to us. The color quality of the 2nd paint job seems to be of much better quality than the first time around.
This time however, we had the perfect opportunity to wash the frame and underside as well as touch up any missed bolt heads with black paint before "final" assembly.
Another item that had to be fabricated were a pair of side step rails. I am not a fan of step bars that bolt through the cab floor, plus there are no aftermarket solutions for this old of a truck so I knew we were going to be fabricating something off the frame rails. I wanted something that could be stepped on to clean the windshield as well as to jump inside the bed which meant they needed to be about 6 feet long. We confirmed it was possible to mount the rear set in the same position as the fuel tank support while the front set could be mounted off the transmission crossmember. We just had to come up with a way to tie the brackets into the rails.
Once the rails were primed and painted, we planned on installing them and then the bed all on the same day since we could make use of the two post lift. As with most trucks, the bed went back on very easily along with just a few other items.
Father was able to reinstall the drip sheets, door handles, locks and fuel doors.
Attention was then turned to the tailgate. This was especially exciting since this item has not been touched since the day it was removed from the truck all those years ago. The latches and rods and handle were installed as well as the trim piece. The door panels were also installed (again).
Now was a good time to start cleaning up the rims and tires. The rims needed a lot of sanding to bring back the nice 70's satin look (I did not want a mirror polish). I also wanted the spokes and backside of the rims painted black to help set off the color scheme. We think they came out looking well without spending a lot of $$
We mounted the wheels back on and test drove the truck some more. The power steering is feeling weak when the engine warms up at idle and the PS pump has a slight leak. Will have to fix this later. With the nice tires on, we drove the truck back to the body shop for its final wet sand and polishing. We also checked lock to lock clearance around the step rails. There is more space between them and the tire than the rear of the fender so they should be fine.
After getting the truck back from the body shop, it needed a good wash and wax to really set off the clear coat after wet sanding. Then went on the rear bumper, trim plate and tail light rings. Nothing but an antique FL blue plate for this old gal!
This page was last updated: 04/03/2017. Come back soon!