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Caterpillar F-150

Posted in Project Vehicles on March 1, 2002
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Photographers: Christian Hazel
p139933 large+Ford F150+Front Passenger Side
No CAT 3406C engine under this hood, just a stock ’77 Ford 400M dressed with an Edelbrock intake and 600-cfm carb breathing out through a set of cast-iron exhaust manifolds. Justin hasn’t tried to squeeze earthmoving power from the old 400. Instead he’s babied it with lots of preventive maintenance and spoiled it with a K&N filter and a Pertronix electronic ignition conversion. The engine has rewarded Justin with consistent power and smooth operation, but just in case it goes belly-up, the coil spring strut tower that spans the engine compartment can be removed from its urethane mounts with four bolts to facilitate an easy engine swap. No CAT 3406C engine under this hood, just a stock ’77 Ford 400M dressed with an Edelbrock intake and 600-cfm carb breathing out through a set of cast-iron exhaust manifolds. Justin hasn’t tried to squeeze earthmoving power from the old 400. Instead he’s babied it with lots of preventive maintenance and spoiled it with a K&N filter and a Pertronix electronic ignition conversion. The engine has rewarded Justin with consistent power and smooth operation, but just in case it goes belly-up, the coil spring strut tower that spans the engine compartment can be removed from its urethane mounts with four bolts to facilitate an easy engine swap.
Bulldozer crawling and feline speed versatility are possible thanks to a B&M shift-kit–equipped C-6 transmission bolted up to an Off Road Design Gen II NP203/NP205 Doubler. The Gen II Doubler combines the gear reduction of a NP203 with a NP205 transfer case to give a low low-range of 3.96:1 in a shorter package than the original Gen I design. Keeping the belly of the F-150 flat for rockcrawling was a major concern for Justin and Dale, so the drivetrain was mounted high in the framerails on two owner-fabricated, square-tube crossmembers that also act as the radius arm mounts and incorporate a driveshaft safety loop. Bulldozer crawling and feline speed versatility are possible thanks to a B&M shift-kit–equipped C-6 transmission bolted up to an Off Road Design Gen II NP203/NP205 Doubler. The Gen II Doubler combines the gear reduction of a NP203 with a NP205 transfer case to give a low low-range of 3.96:1 in a shorter package than the original Gen I design. Keeping the belly of the F-150 flat for rockcrawling was a major concern for Justin and Dale, so the drivetrain was mounted high in the framerails on two owner-fabricated, square-tube crossmembers that also act as the radius arm mounts and incorporate a driveshaft safety loop.
Front and rear Dana 60s run affordable Lock-Right differentials and 4.56 gears. The front axle was swiped from a junkyard K30 Chevy and was modified to accept the Ford radius arm mounts and the custom crossover steering. The original passenger-side leaf spring perch was left intact and makes for a solid location to mount the required track bar. Suspension height was kept D-90 dozer-low with 2 1/2-inch James Duff coils mounted in buckets that were lowered 1 1/2 inches for a 4-inch total front lift. Front and rear Dana 60s run affordable Lock-Right differentials and 4.56 gears. The front axle was swiped from a junkyard K30 Chevy and was modified to accept the Ford radius arm mounts and the custom crossover steering. The original passenger-side leaf spring perch was left intact and makes for a solid location to mount the required track bar. Suspension height was kept D-90 dozer-low with 2 1/2-inch James Duff coils mounted in buckets that were lowered 1 1/2 inches for a 4-inch total front lift.

The only thing Caterpillars and CATs have ever had in common is an unmistakable shade of industrial yellow paint that’s come to symbolize shear strength and durability in machinery and engines. Justin Barnes and Dale Wheeler out of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, must have built their CAT F-150 with some of the same ideals in mind to come up with this fullsize rockcrawler. A stout drivetrain, a cut body, and 42x15-16.5 TSLs follow the trend in low lift/big tires that adds up to just the kind of pickup Caterpillar would build if it was in the light truck business. When these guys were done with the four-month buildup, a coat of the legendary yellow paint seemed appropriate for their creation. OK, the stuff’s really cheap too.

Justin and Dale had the entire 4WOR staff checking out their rig, trying to find the one thing that made it stand out. We failed because there isn’t any single thing that makes this truck cool. Rather, the beauty of this truck is its absolute simplicity and the attention to detail: rear shocks that are mounted on top of the axletubes for ground clearance, clean wiring, a smooth undercarriage where the drivetrain and exhaust have been tucked up nearly flush with the framerails, and more.

The interior has been left uncluttered, with just two Jazz racing seats and a Tuffy console with a Lokar shifter for the C-6 transmission. Plans call for a full rollcage and some more body trimming. That’ll mean a few more coats of the powerful yellow paint, which is good because Caterpillar would never stand for the gray graphics added by the Moab rocks.

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