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Latest Upgrades to Our 1977 F-150 to Take on Baja

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 21, 2017
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The old bench seat we had in our 1977 Ford F-150 was perfectly adequate for Cheap Truck Challenge. After the event wrapped we had it recovered with denim and it was fine for slow-speed rockcrawling. The bench was even useful in that you could just slide off it and drop out of the tall truck. After using the truck for chase duties at King of the Hammers and traveling over whooped roads at a snail’s pace while bouncing up and down in the cab, we knew that a seat upgrade was in order.

This situation was made even more pressing when we didn’t have time to upgrade the suspension on our Ford for high-speed use prior to chasing the NORRA Mexican 1000 down the Baja peninsula. When we say “suspension seats” we mean just that: the main suspension component of our old truck. Despite the time crunch, PRP Seats didn’t flinch. In fact, the company built us a custom pair of suspension seats and had them on our doorstep in just two weeks. Once the seats were in hand we headed to Samco Fabrication, where Victor Carrasco whipped out some custom mounts.

PRP Seats has the suspension seat process down to a science. You pick the materials you want for the front, sides, back, and piping and it takes care of the rest. We were particularly impressed with how quickly the company was able to ship out a custom-made product, but producing the seats in California rather than overseas increases the quality and decreases the lead time.

While that covered the interior of our F-150, we needed to add some lockable storage before heading south of the border. The regular-cab configuration doesn’t leave a surplus of lockable storage for camera equipment, tools, spare parts, or camping gear. We wanted a non-shiny, lockable box that sat flush with the bedrails. Lund International makes a wide variety of different toolboxes, including a Challenger box that met all of our criteria. Next stop Baja!

The term suspension seat comes from the liner suspended between the steel frame. Parachute cord secures the suspension liner to the steel frame. Next, multidensity foam is added before the cover is fitted to the seat.
We were a little concerned that the light-colored tweed on the PRP seats would get discolored easily. We applied Scotchguard to the seats prior to installing them and had no issues with them getting dirty, even after living out of the truck for a week.
Full disclosure: We stole the idea for the split bench from former staffer John Cappa, who did the same thing in his GI Gyp project for our sister magazine Four Wheeler. This configuration provides the driver with increased support while retaining the classic look and feel of a bench.
Vic Carrasco at Samco Fabrication started by taking measurements off of our factory bench. He was able to retain the sliders from the stock seat with the PRPs. This allows us to move the seat forward for shorter drivers, and also to access the Trail-Gear fluid carriers mounted behind the seats.
The guys at Samco Fabrication build and prep desert race trucks, so our seat mounts were no challenge. Carrasco built a frame out of 1-inch box tubing and TIG-welded it together. From there he was able to add the seat sliders and tabs for the seats themselves.
Prior to mounting the seats, Carrasco checked a variety of different parameters, including head clearance around the cage, seat alignment with the steering wheel and pedals, and seat angle. These steps might seem trivial or time consuming, but they make the difference between a vehicle that is comfortable to drive all day and one that is a chore.
Wood blocks were placed under the seat as a convenient way to adjust the height and angle of the seats prior to adding tabs to the seat frame. We ended up with the PRP seats reclined at a 15-degree angle, which is comfortable on extended drives and still upright enough for good visibility.
After determining the optimum seating position, Carrasco cut out paper templates for the tabs and then cut them out on Samco’s plasma table. The seats bolt into place so they will be easy to remove, such as if we need to run wires through the cab.
The final step was adding a crossbar to the rollcage in our Ford. This bar was used to mount PRP five-point harnesses that safely hold us in place during spirited driving off-road.
Carrasco bent the tubing to hug the cab of the Ford, maximizing our limited interior space. Meanwhile Sam Cothrun TIG-welded the crossbar into place. TIG welding is more time consuming and requires tight tolerances, but it doesn’t produce the same spatter or concerns about burnt interiors that MIG welding does.
PRP’s 5.3 (five-point, 3-inch-wide) harnesses are SFI rated. We figure if they are good enough for racing they are certainly good enough for our recreational use. PRP offers harnesses in a variety of configurations (four-point, 2-inch-width, and so on) in six colors to fit any application.
The shoulder straps just wrap around the harness bar that Carrasco added. Our old lap belts used clips though, and the new PRP harnesses bolt into place. Samco’s solution was using these countersunk Allen bolts with the existing hardware we had in the truck.
We really appreciated the sewn-in shoulder pads on the PRP harnesses. They kept us comfortable even when covering hundreds of off-road miles. The adjusters on the harnesses are also easy to operate, even with gloves on.
PRP’s interactive website lets you choose from a staggering array of options to create a seat as unique as your rig. The choices might seem overwhelming at first, but the ability to see what the finished product will look like prevents any confusion.
The tapered design of the Lund Challenger box was a perfect fit in front of the wheelwells on our shortbed truck. There is nothing shiny about this truck, so we appreciate that Lund offers both polished aluminum and black powdercoat finishes on its Challenger boxes.
To mount the Lund Challenger box, we simply drilled four holes in the corners and bolted it down with Grade 8 hardware. Our Ford has a rear fuel tank from LMC so there were no space constraints under the bed. We also added footman loops inside to lash down our gear and keep it from moving around.
The Lund Challenger box uses stainless paddle handles and securely locks our gear inside with a heavy-duty piano hinge. Twin gas struts raise the lid once the handle is pulled, which is a useful feature when your hands are full of tools.
We loaded up a plastic tote with fluids, spare parts, and recovery gear and strapped it inside the Lund Challenger box. There was still enough room for our tool bag, Powertank, a spare air filter, and most of our camping gear.

Sources

LMC Truck
Lenexa, KS 66219
800-562-8782
www.lmctruck.com
Lund International
Buford, GA 30518
775-856-4100
www.lundinternational.com
PRP Seats
Murrieta, CA
800-317-6253
www.prpseats.com
Samco Fabrication
800-241-7219
http://www.samcofabrication.com

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