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How to Prep a Truck Bed for LINE-X Coating

Project Big White continues with a thorough cleaning of our 1995 Ford F-350’s cargo area.

KJ JonesAuthor

We admit it has been a very long time since we published an update on the status of Big White, the 1995 F-350 dualie in our fleet and subject of several tech reports on cool modifications for old-bodystyle (1994-1998) Ford pickup trucks.

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The hobby is now in a space where older diesel pickups—we'll say, pre-2010—are gaining popularity, with seriously older rigs that are exempt from emissions regulations being even more coveted. As a 1995 rig, Big White is in the sweet spot when it comes to emissions rules. It is a non OBD-II vehicle, and it's not subject to the smog inspections or hardware mandates that other diesel pickups must pass and adhere to.

However, the one thing about the F-350's 7.3L Power Stroke engine that some enthusiasts feel is a downfall is the fact that it is not the best platform for performance or hot rodding compared to the same year's 5.9L Cummins or 6.6L Duramax engines found in Dodge Ram and GM trucks. The 7.3L is a solid, reliable workhorse that will run for a long, long time (if it is taken care of), though. That sentiment isn't disputed by anyone.

Quite a few mechanical upgrades and suspension modifications have already been performed on Big White, and you can review them or bring yourself up to speed with everything by reading the associated articles that accompany this report.

At this time, we're lighting the project's fire again with cosmetic changes, appearance upgrades that we hope will bring the old rig into the contemporary space, tastefully and without too much expense. As our effort moves forward, our ultimate plan is to transform the white truck to metallic blue (with a combination of gunmetal gray and black accent graphics), using materials (vinyl) from Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions in a design that is being created and applied by Michael Smith of Raceskinz in Simi Valley, California.

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The new color will be complimented by fresh "clear" lights all around (headlights, taillights, cab lights, fender markers) from Complete Performance/CP Addict, as well as many of the OEM-style, NOS, or the company's own replacement accessories and trim pieces for OBS Ford trucks. Also in the makeover plan is new footwear, featuring Mayhem Wheels' 17-inch Monstir dualie rims, and Toyo Tires' all-new Open Country H/T II tires.

Before the wrap is installed, Big White's 8-foot bed will be dressed with LINE-X protective coating. It is actually a big upgrade for the old truck, and we strongly recommend performing similar treatment on rigs of any vintage. LINE-X of Huntington Beach, California, is supporting our effort, and manager Nat Beckett is a valuable source for information about the coating process and consultation on what the best services are for various applications.

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While our 1995 Ford F-350 is a worker, used for towing, hauling, daily commuting, etc., that doesn't mean it can't look nice. The LINE-X coating is replacing a super-low-budget, homemade wooden bed protector, and it will give the bed a clean, uniformed, durable finish that also will help prevent scratches and dents in the bed caused by engines, transmissions, and anything else that Big White transports.

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Similar to painting a vehicle, preparing a truck for vinyl wrapping is important. That also applies to LINE-X bed coating. So our first task in this rejuvenated project series is cleaning the bed, which includes removing a Truck Trunk storage box and a 30-gallon auxiliary fuel tank. We're replacing these items with a Transfer Flow universal storage box/70-gallon tank combination that, with the old pieces gone, will reclaim more than 20 inches of bed length.

Saul "The Surgeon" Gutierrez and Joel Flores of Gear Driven Automotive in Northridge, California, are assisting us in all aspects of the makeover, providing valuable workspace and assistance that will help us finally complete the project. The following photos and video detail the cleanup, as well as test-fitting and drilling holes for mounting the Transfer Flow unit, fuel lines, etc. All of this must be done before the LINE-X coating is applied, as Nat says it is very difficult to drill through.

Cleanup Starts with Sweeping

Saul and Joel handle the bed cleanup by removing the Truck Trunk, 30-gallon fuel tank, E-Track tie-down setup, and two form-fitting pieces of plywood that served as a bed protector for many years. Opening the storage box revealed many items that were long forgotten about. Going forward, the new Transfer Flow system will be relegated to storing only essential pieces like a floor jack, various tie-down straps, a toolbox , fire extinguisher, oil, coolant, etc.

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Using a broom with flexible bristles, Joel thoroughly sweeps the bed to remove all of the dirt and debris, especially in the rearmost area (which was blocked by the Truck Trunk), which had accumulated over many years. Near the edge of the bed, it's important to be sure the gap between the floor and tailgate is cleared.

Drill (or Fill) Holes as Necessary, Test-Fit Bed Accessories

Nat instructed us to drill, or close (by welding) any necessary or unnecessary holes in the bed before bringing the truck to LINE-X. Performing bodywork at this time (knocking out dents in the floor or fenders) is also a good idea, as the coating material basically follows a bed's profile and doesn't fill in or puddle any low spots.

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After sweeping the floor, Saul and Joel position the new Transfer Flow storage box/70-gallon fuel tank. Because the unit is heavy and will sit behind the wheelwells, a forklift is helpful for loading and unloading it in the bed. Once the box is in, measurements are taken to ensure it is positioned squarely in the bed (with respect to the bedsides, rear panel and tailgate), and then Saul marks locations and drills all of the 1/2-inch holes for the bolts that secure it, as well as routing fuel lines and electrical wiring.

We discovered that while the box is universal, it still ultimately is designed for later-model trucks with taller bedsides. To compensate for the gap between the box and bedrails, Saul fabricates a set of spacers that will fill the void when the box is installed after the bed is coated. Measuring 23.35 inches from front to back, the Transfer Flow box/tank combination is 20 inches shorter than the truck's previous two-piece, fuel-and-cargo-storage setup. Overall, the change brings increased bed space, less weight, and extended fuel range to our project rig.

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Spray and Wash

As we noted earlier, prep is a critical piece of this type of puzzle. A truck's bed surface should be clean before any attempt at coating is made. Despite Joel's thorough sweeping, Big White's bed requires a good bath. Oil and dirt accumulation must be cleared away (especially in one of the corners of Big White's bed), so a local self-service car wash is where the truck is taken for a thorough bed bath. Powdered laundry detergent is the top-secret cleaning agent we use in conjunction with the car wash's soapy foam and high-pressure water.

After some scrubbing and rinsing, the bed is much cleaner and ready to be taken to LINE-X. Cleaning and documenting the process with photos is helpful. We showed pictures of the now-clean bed to Nat, so he can assess the rust areas and overall wellness of the area being coated. As part of the process, LINE-X technicians handle the final cleaning and preparation of surfaces being coated. There are occasions where rust or damage is too severe and will not support coating, so again, consulting with Nat or a LINE-X representative is advised. Big White's bed has a seal of approval and is ready to undergo the process, which we'll detail in the next report on this 1995 Ford F-350 makeover project.

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Sources

Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions
800-282-8379
http://www.graphics.averydennison.com

Complete Performance (CP Addict)
409-383-6004
http://www.cpaddict.com

Gear Driven Automotive
818-678-6500
http://www.geardrivenautomotive.com

LINE-X of Huntington Beach
714-375-2833
http://www.linex.com

Raceskinz
818-945-7764
http://www.raceskinz.com

Toyo Tires USA
800-442-8696
http://www.toyotires.com

Transfer Flow
855-763-0224
http://www.transferflow.com