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2002 Ford F-350: A Rockcrawler And Overlander In One

Posted in Features on September 6, 2017
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When you think of a work truck, generally the image of an older, all-white standard or extended cab truck decked out with tools and equipment specific to a job comes to mind. With “Betsy’s Regret,” an ’02 Ford F-350, you’d be pretty close, though this truck isn’t your typical construction site work truck.

John Mears is the owner of Betsy’s Regret, and he is a rockcrawler of a whole different sort; he is a geologist. Working for private mining companies, John often heads out into the great, unknown wilderness to take rock and soil samples, conduct mapping and surveying, and even road construction. These trips take him to extremely remote areas for weeks at a time. His rig has to be able to get there and back, all while carrying his gear, both camping and work related.

We had the opportunity to ride with John on a Fullsize Invasion trail run while at the 2017 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. While running down Gold Bar Rim trail in his Super Duty, we coined a new term. We talked about how the truck was obviously an overland expedition vehicle, and since we were traveling over Jeep-sized boulders it was also a rockcrawler. Betsy's Regret was a whole new breed, so we smashed the words together like they were a celebrity couple: rocklander.

Prior to owing Betsy’s Regret, John had built an ’01 F-350, named Betsy, as a Baja chase truck and it served him very well. John thought he was ready to move on, and so he sold the truck. He regretted it immediately and quickly bought the F-350 you see here. Over the years, Betsy’s Regret has been sold off twice, and then bought back twice. John believes he’s done letting her go.

The ’02 Super Duty was built for an eight-week-long run through Alaska and then Montana. The trip was demanding and included high water crossings that required the truck to be designed with water intrusion in mind. Most everything is manual. Windows, locks, and even the transfer case had to be able to survive. All of the breather lines were extended and come together at an ARB differential breather filter near the top of the cab.

The interior carpet was ditched in favor of a rubber floor mat, and a TJM snorkel was installed with a K&N intake system to keep the 7.3L turbodiesel engine breathing easy all the time. The 7.3L Power Stroke was a very important selection. John often can’t get diesel fuel on these long trips and he ends up running on jet fuel. “That's one of the reasons why I like to run the old 7.3,” John explained. “It can run on just about anything. When we have to, we will mix Jet A with trans fluid and it’ll run all day long.” Some of the long outings will have aerial support. The helicopters must have jet fuel but diesel generators and trucks like this one can adapt. It is a lot easier to bring one fuel type and not have to stress about accidentally putting the wrong fuel in the helicopter.

Betsy’s Regret was designed to survive extended periods of time away from civilization, carry all the gear, and make it home in one piece.

The severe duties that Betsy’s Regret endures require some strong body protection. Up front, there is an ARB Bull Bar with a Warn M12 12,000-pound winch with winchline.com-sourced synthetic rope. Custom-built rock rails and rear bumper help the long wheelbase truck from becoming wrinkled when all its weight wants to meet an obstacle on the trail. The bed rack was also custom built and has mounts for lights, a Hi-Lift jack, Pull-Pal, and dual spare tires. Additionally, the cage was built to support a rooftop tent with the weight of occupants and to fit underneath a camper shell.

The front suspension is elevated by a set of BDS Suspension 8-inch-lift leaf springs and necessary brackets while the rear suspension uses 6.5-inch BDS leaf springs. Both the front and rear of the rig benefit from Pro Comp monotube reservoir shocks, with dual shocks at each wheel in front.

To help steer the massive 40-inch Toyo Open Country M/T tires on Method Wheels Double Standard beadlocks, John made sure the truck had a PSC Motorsports hydraulic-assist system. Both front and rear sway bars were removed to ensure the suspension had all the articulation it could muster.

The factory rear axle was beefed up with a set of Nitro Gear & Axle chromoly axleshafts and 4.88:1 gears, and an ARB Air Locker. Up front, the factory axle was ditched in favor of a Dana 60 from an F-450. The front saw the same treatments as the rear with Nitro Gear & Axle chromoly ’shafts and 4.88:1 gears, and an ARB Air Locker. Dynatrac’s Free-Spin hub conversion kit was installed with the Nitro Gear & Axle Front Drive Slug Kit. Both front and rear driveshafts were swapped in favor of custom-built units from Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts.

Betsy’s Regret was built to take a pounding and still get home. With the factory 36-gallon fuel tank and 80-gallon auxiliary tank, it has a long range. The truck started off as a government surplus truck with around 70,000 miles on the odometer. It now has 250,000 miles on the clock, most of which were off-road. “I’d jump in this truck tomorrow and head to Alaska without hesitation,” John remarked.

Because the wheelbase is so long, it was important for John to set the truck up with strong rock rails. The custom-built units are welded to the frame and are beefy enough to protect the heavy truck’s rocker panels from damage.
John’s truck needed to be able to carry all sorts of gear. The custom-built bed rack holds a Hi-Lift, Pull-Pal, multiple lights, and can support a full rooftop tent system.
The truck rides on 40x13.50R17LT Toyo Open Country M/Ts wrapped around Double Standard wheels from Method Wheels. The factory hubs were tossed in favor of a Free-Spin kit from Dynatrac with Nitro Gear & Axle Front Drive Slug Kit.
The factory front axle was removed to make room for a Dana 60 from an F-450. Each front and rear differential is loaded with a 4.88:1 ratio gearset, ARB Air Locker, and Nitro Gear & Axle chromoly ’shafts. Steering pressure is increased with a PSC Motorsports hydraulic ram system.
The extra length behind the rear wheels of a Super Duty can be a bit of a drag, but a beefy custom-built rear bumper helps solve tail dragging woes. Sharp-eyed readers may notice the bed doesn’t match up to the ’02 truck. This is the third bed that has been installed on the truck due to various run-ins with nature; it’s from an ’11 F-350.
Betsey’s Regret may not be the prettiest gal at the dance but she certainly has the moves on the dance floor, especially if the dance floor is a remote trail out in the middle of nowhere.

At a Glance

General
Vehicle: ’02 Ford F-350
Owner: John Mears
Stomping grounds: All over the place

Drivetrain
Engine: Ford 7.3L Power Stroke turbodiesel
Transmission: 4R100 automatic
Transfer case: NV273F
Low range ratio: 2.72:1
Crawl ratio: 35.97:1
Front axle/differential: Dana 60 from an F-450, Nitro Gear & Axle chromoly axleshafts and 4.88:1 gears/ARB Air Locker
Rear axle/differential: Sterling 10.5-in, Nitro Gear & Axle chromoly axleshafts and 4.88:1 gears/ ARB Air Locker

Suspension
Front: 8-in-lift BDS Suspension leaf springs, dual Pro Comp monotube reservoir shocks
Rear: 6.5-in-lift BDS Suspension leaf springs, Pro Comp monotube reservoir shocks
Steering: PSC Motorsports hydraulic-assist

Tires/Wheels
Tires: 40x13.50R17LT Toyo Open Country M/T
Wheels: 17x9 Method Wheels Double Standard

Miscellaneous
Lighting: Lifetime LEDs on front bumper, Hella and off-brand LEDs on bed rack
Armor: ARB Bull Bar, custom-built rock rails and rear bumper
Cool stuff: Custom-built bed rack, ARB Fridge Freezer as center console, 80-gallon auxiliary fuel tank, TJM snorkel, Warn M12 12,000-pound winch with winchline.com-sourced synthetic rope

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