A split rear window gave Ford's extended cabs a stylish appearance from the mid-'80s to the early '90s. The extended-cab's rear seat provides the extra room for those times when you carry extra passengers but folds down when the need arises to carry more gear. The wheelbase is shorter than the four-door pickup to make it manageable in town, and yet, it's long enough to be a good tow vehicle. There's only one problem - if you need a dualie to carry heavy loads but still want a 4x4 extended cab, you only have two choices: give up the split window style and buy a late-model truck or build it yourself, because Ford never manufactured that combination. And that is exactly what Rick Russell from Chino, California, decided to do.
Few people spend as much time in the dirt as Rick who travels around the country producing Off Highway Adventure Videos, Sidekick Off Road maps, attending off-road events, and producing TV shows. He needs a 4x4 truck to carry a self-contained 11-foot Lance Camper and to tow his CJ-6 into the backcountry. Rick also uses his truck to assist professional photography crews, capture the perfect off-road photo for advertisements, tug stuck vehicles, and design off-road routes for new 4x4 vehicle releases. And after all that 'wheeling, he still wanted a cool 4x4 truck for an everyday vehicle.
Rick's project vehicle began life as an '85 F-250 4x4 extended-cab pickup with single rear wheels, a C6 automatic transmission, and powered by the stock 6.9 diesel engine. The two previous owners had logged 188,000 miles on the odometer, but serviced the vehicle at regular intervals. "If the truck will run another 100,000 miles, I'll be happy," Rick told us.
Converting the single wheel rear axle to dual wheels was easy with a kit from Continental Accessories in South Bend, Indiana. The kit's steel extenders were bolted onto the existing Dana 70 wheel studs, a machined aluminum spacer slipped over the steel extenders, and the dualie wheels were simply bolted on. The stock Dana 70 rear axle has an excellent track record for being bulletproof. It just needed to be wider. Rather than using standard 6-inch-wide wheels, B&W Wheel in Fontana, California, built a set of dualie wheels 8 inches wide. This allowed the larger Goodyear 265/70R16 tires to be run without rubbing together. The extra tire width looks good and works well in the dirt and sand at lower air pressure. Rick felt the all-terrain tire design of the Goodyear AT/S tire was a good compromise between highway and off-road use.
The next step was finding a dualie bed. Although M&L Truck Body in Orange, California, could build just about any type of truck body you can imagine, Rick opted to have M&L bolt on a used dualie pickup bed that he bought for $400. Generally, buying the complete dualie bed is less expensive than buying dualie fenders. With dual wheels and the used bed mounted, the truck was driven to National Spring in El Cajon, California, for suspension mods. After explaining how he intended to use the truck, National Spring suggested a 2-inch lift kit as the basic upgrade, which included additional leaf springs for both axles, eliminating the factory rear block. The extra springs provided plenty of tire clearance and helped the truck carry additional payload, but it did not provide enough load capacity for an 11-foot Lance Camper. The solution was a set of custom overload springs that supports the extra weight when the camper is loaded. When the camper is not on the truck, the overloads are not engaged, thereby keeping the truck at a reasonable ride height. Black Diamond shocks were installed to help keep the vehicle stable under all conditions.
The next step was paint. Similar to most Ford trucks from the mid-'80s, the paint was peeling and needed to be stripped off before it could be repainted. DEVCO in Redlands, California, blasted the body with crushed walnut shells. Compared with sanding, this is faster, less expensive, and doesn't harm the metal surface. After the old paint was blasted off, the body was smoothed out, primed, and painted a unique blue, similar to the new Ford colors. A local hot rod graphics painter, Art Schartel, painted graphics.
A front bumper - and its components - is a difficult project in itself to install. Rick's criteria was simple; the front bumper must be strong enough to support the use of a winch, it must be able to withstand a hard pull when the truck gets stuck, and the bumper must contribute to the overall appearance of the truck. Wayne Hansen of Hansen Enterprises in Salinas, California, had several standard one-piece bumpers to choose from; a bumper with features from several different bumpers was selected to cradle a used Warn 10,000-pound winch and a set of IFP Model JO-1 lights. The IFP lights have both a driving light and a foglight in the same 6-1/4-inch housing, thus keeping the bumper looking clean.
Once the exterior took shape, Rick's attention moved to the interior, where the plastic door panels were peeling, the dash was cracked, and the front seat was broken. D&R Trim and Accessories in Redlands, California, faces these kinds of problems everyday, and fixing them is easy. To begin with, D&R re-padded and re-covered the seats with a pattern similar to the original Ford material. Then they covered the faded and peeling plastic interior panels with a matching material. The headliner, the sunvisors, the new carpet, the new kick panels, and a custom dashcover gave the truck's interior a finished look. The quality of time spent riding inside the cab was improved with the installation of an Alpine stereo with a CD player, a side-band CB radio, and a Kenwood 2-meter/440 Ham radio.
The project truck took nearly two years to build. During this time, the truck was driven more than 40,000 miles, making several trips across the county. Rick said it was clear from the beginning that the truck was underpowered. The long-term solution for more power is to replace the 6.9 diesel with a Power Stroke diesel from a late-model Ford truck. As a temporary solution, Rick installed a used Banks Turbo. Banks Engineering in Azusa, California, installed the turbo along with its custom exhaust system. The combination of the turbo and exhaust system nearly doubled the truck's torque. When the truck was fully loaded, it gained 18 to 20 mph on hillclimbs with the same fuel consumption. Although it can always use more power, the project truck advanced from embarrassing-to-drive status to respectable speeds on hills.
Also mounted in the engine compartment is a 1/3hp DC air compressor from Currie Enterprises in Anaheim, California. The air source was routed to the front bumper and capped with a quick disconnect fitting for ease of use. A tire repair kit, 25 feet of coil hose, and extra valve stems were also added to the tool kit. Rick said he always works on a vehicle with the tools that are stored in the vehicle. That way, he'll be sure to have what he needs when he's in the backcountry.
Although the truck met all of Rick's expectations, he doesn't think it will ever be finished. He already mentioned the desire for a Power Stroke diesel and has already ordered a reverse-cut Dana 60 from Foothills 4x4 in South Carolina to replace the IFS frontend, an underhood welder from Premier Power Welder, and Detroit Lockers for both axles of the truck. "I have built a unique vehicle that fits my lifestyle on or off the highway," said Rick Russell, and we agree.