It should come as no surprise to Ford truck lovers out there that anyone who has owned a show-quality '71 Bronco with a matching Bronco-bed trailer and a wild V-8 Ranger 4x4 pickup, such as this writer has, would decide to build another Ford. And since everyone in the country seems to be concentrating on buildups of new Ford Super Duty and F-150 trucks, the decision was made to not run with the pack -- dare to be different so to speak -- and build up an older-style Ford.
Now if you're going to be different you can't pick just any old Ford truck. That's why a rather rare, '73-'79 body-style, F-250 4x4 crew cab pickup was decided upon, and eventually a '75 Ford F-250 4x4 crew cab pickup was located for the buildup after a lot of searching. This truck came from the factory with dual doors and a 148.3-inch wheelbase. The standard F-250s and longbed F-100s of the era all had a 133-inch wheelbase. These early crew cab trucks were available by special order only and were usually used by companies as work trucks. This truck was no exception -- it started life as a Spartan work truck that had seen more than its share of punishment from the crews of an Arizona mining company.
With no power brakes or power steering and four-wheel drum brakes, the truck was less than fun to drive when new. In its well-worn condition, just getting the truck home was an interesting experience. The NP205 T-case whined, the NP435 transmission shifted like a box of rocks, and the rearend howled all the way home. On top of this, the worn-out manual steering and brakes made steering and stopping more a matter of providence than of performance.
Once the F-250 was safely at home, it was stripped down to the frame, and the ground-up restoration and modification began. The project objectives were to build a truck with a vintage look that was high-tech under the skin. First, the frame was cleaned, stripped of all unnecessary brackets, and unneeded holes were filled. Then, planning began to upgrade the truck with a custom-built, four-coil suspension system. Four coil spring buckets, matching shock towers, and Superlift coil springs for a '79 Bronco were obtained for the project as the basic starting-point components for the new suspension.
Since the axles are connected to the frame via the suspension, they must, of course, be included in the planning of any suspension install or upgrade. The original rear Dana 60 was replaced with a late-model Dana 60 HD unit that was upgraded to include a Detroit Locker, heavy-duty axles, and the larger brakes. Also, the original closed-knuckle frontend was replaced with an open-knuckle disc brake Dana 44. This change increased the truck's turning and stopping ability. The frontend was upgraded with a Detroit Truetrac limited-slip, and both axles were fitted with 5.38:1 gears. The worn-out manual steering was updated to a 1-ton power box and pump.
Modifications to the frame and axles were required to accept the '79 Bronco coil spring buckets and towers in the front and rear. These were installed on the frame and axle-housings along with brackets for the custom 5-foot-long radius arms, made from 1-1/2-inch round heavy-wall tubing. These arms were gusseted and plated for strength. The new radius arms are so long, they almost meet in the middle of this extra-long Ford truck. Daystar bushings were used on the radius arms, and custom rod-end drag links were built to control lateral movement of the suspension. Now, a custom suspension isn't something that you do in a weekend -- many months were spent measuring, making prototype parts, and checking fit and suspension travel before the completed system was ready for the road. Once the frame and suspension work was completed, the suspension arms were painted red to match the paintjob the body would be getting later. The frame was painted Rust-Oleum gray for easy touchup.
Of course, you can't set spring heights correctly without the weight of the driveline in the chassis, so those components had to be assembled before the final suspension setup could be completed. The original NP435 granny-low four-speed manual was replaced with a Ford C6 auto that was rebuilt with additional bands, heavy-duty clutches, a shift kit, and a heavy-duty torque converter. The stock divorced NP205 T-case was replaced with a rebuilt, married version of the NP205. The new 205 T-case was mated to a Gear Vendors overdrive unit and outfitted with a driveline parking brake kit. On the highway, the Gear Vendors overdrive unit provides a 22-percent reduction in rpm. This equates to changing the differential gearing from 5.38:1 to 4.20:1 with the push of a button. All this was bolted to a rebuilt Ford 460 V-8. Bill Matthews, a Ford factory-trained technician, used his expertise to improve the power output of the 460. The block was bored 0.010 over, and new pistons, rings, an RV cam, and anti-pump-up lifters were installed. The motor was blueprinted and balanced too. In addition, a set of '69 factory Ford 460 high-performance heads were rebuilt using Summit Racing guideplates, Boss 302 screw-in moly rocker studs, and 7/16-inch aluminum roller rockers. Harout Markarian and Hans Linter provided the technical assistance to get the early heads to work with the late-model block.
A Carter AFB carburetor was mounted to an Edelbrock Performer manifold and topped with a K&N Xtreme air filter. Hooker Super Competition headers replaced the stock exhaust manifolds and were connected to dual Aero Chamber mufflers. A Mallory Unilite distributor and high-output coil work in conjunction with Summit Racing 8mm wires sending voltage down to the Motorcraft plugs to light the fuel charge.
A custom-fabricated, full-cab rollcage was made using 2-inch, 0.120-wall steel tubing, and the dash was refaced with brushed stainless steel overlays. The dash was then fitted with Auto Meter gauges. A Tuffy Security overhead Jeep console was modified to fit the cage in the Ford and fitted with a Cobra 29 CB and Pioneer stereo. The original heater/defroster was replaced with a Ford factory A/C system, and a N.O.S. Ford wiring harness for a '76 pickup was installed.
On the outside, the customizing includes a later-model grille shell from a '78 Ford truck with a custom tube grille featuring floating Ford letters in the middle of it. Three-inch double-tube bumpers from Cheyenne Bumpers were installed front and rear. A Warn XD 9000i winch was installed on the front bumper, and a 2-inch receiver hitch was added for good measure. The rear bumper was outfitted with a custom swing-away spare tire carrier to fit an oversize spare and a swing-away basket for carrying fuel cans or an ice chest.
As with most everything else on this truck, the author did the paint and bodywork himself. The scalloped paint scheme and graphics are designed to make the truck look as if it is moving even when it is parked. Even the holes in the Eagle Alloy Series 589 wheels were painted. Wrapped around the sharp-looking wheels are 38.5x15.50x16.5 Dick Cepek Fun Country Radials.
After several years of work, this early Ford is now ready for road and trail. The custom suspension provides a very smooth ride on and off the pavement. Bumpsteer is minimal, and the truck has excellent tracking on the highway. There is virtually no axlewrap when blasting the dunes, and wheelhop is pleasantly absent. "Project Tall Cool One" is truly a classic Ford with modern amenities, not to mention class and style.