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Trail’s End: November 1991, Isuzu Diesel-Powered ’77 F-250

Posted in Features on December 16, 2016 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Four Wheeler Archives

This ’77 Ford F-250, which we featured in the Nov. ’91 issue of Four Wheeler, looks dated by today’s build standards, but if you overlook ’90s-era stuff like the triple-tube rear bumper, abundance of chrome, and red windshield wipers, it’s still a fascinating rig with some unique ideas almost three decades later.

The story behind the truck was interesting as well. When we photographed the truck, it was owned by John Small of Cohasset, Massachusetts. Prior to that, John’s grandfather owned it. When John acquired the truck it had been a “rusted lawn ornament” for years. The truck had “no rear body, doors, or much else.” Even though John was a lobster fisherman by day and a police officer by night, he found time to rebuild the truck using new and used parts.

One of the truck’s most unique features was the Isuzu 235ci four-cylinder diesel engine. John swapped the stock gasoline V-8 for the diesel I-4 for the express purpose of decreasing fuel costs. He told us that after completing the swap his fuel bill dropped from $3,000 a year to less than $1,000. “The engine swap was not simple. John and his grandfather Herb Jason had to fabricate motor mounts, brackets, and modify the exhaust system for the diesel. Other necessary drivetrain modifications followed. These included a fabricated adapter plate for the transmission as well as drilled-out clutch pivot points adapted for the diesel engine,” we wrote. John retained the Ford’s four-speed manual transmission, NP205 T-case, Dana 44 front axle, Dana 60 rear axle, and 4.10:1 axle gearing.

The trailer was unique, to say the least. John needed a trailer for hauling his lobsters to market, so he mounted a ’77 Ford cargo bed onto a ’79 F-250 4x2 frame. He found a hydraulic piston on sale and then he designed his own hydraulic mechanism. But that’s not all. “The hydraulic pump from an old snowplow was outfitted, chromed, and mounted to the bed. John also installed a 15-gallon auxiliary fuel tank in the trailer for his truck. The fuel is moved to the truck via a chromed electronic Holley fuel pump and a quick-disconnect hose. With the flick of a switch, John can refuel his truck without stopping. Also, he installed a GM 45-amp alternator to the existing driveshaft so the turning of the wheels gets the alternator going- the juice is stored in a battery mounted on the trailer. The power from the battery runs the hydraulic pump, Stewart-Warner voltmeter and fuel gauges, the running lights on the sides of the trailer, and the Holley fuel pump to move the fuel into the truck,” the story said.

So there you have it: a ’77 F-250 with an Isuzu diesel engine and a tilt-bed trailer that generates its own power and provides on-the-fly fueling to the tow vehicle. That combination is something to talk about even after all these years.

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