Old Farm Truck Gets a Skyjacker Lift Kit, Battle Born Beadlock Wheels, and General Grabber X3 Tires

    Lift, tires, and wheels for an old farm truck

    We love old trucks. They remind us of a better time and adventures past, still sweet in our memories. Their look, feel, smell, sounds, and more all spark memories of fun and exploration. Still, old trucks are old, and are usually in need of some updating and refreshment. Nothing makes an old truck look and feel better than a new suspension lift, a fresh set of tires, and some nice new wheels. Fact is, Redferd, our 1978 Ford F-250 Custom 4x4, is in need of lots of refreshment, but the building blocks are solid and ripe for another 41 years of on-road and off-road miles. We have to start somewhere, and getting the old truck together with parts from Skyjacker Suspensions, General Tire, and Battle Born Wheels is a great way to refresh the truck mechanically and revamp its look totally.

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    Our old Ford 3/4-ton, Redferd, is a 1978, which firmly places it in the "Low-Boy" F-250 camp. What does that mean? Allow us to explain. In 1977 Ford began to change designs in its 4x4 3/4-ton trucks, which did not start with, but resulted in a different suspension height for these trucks. The change began with an engine change from the FE (360/390) engines to the 351m/400 (which share engine bolt pattern with 429s and 460s). Later, in 1977.5, the trucks were also changed from a taller 4x4 (sometimes unofficially called a High-Boy) to slightly lower 3/4-ton 4x4 trucks (nick named Low-Boys). The idea, as it is generally accepted, was to make these work trucks a little more civilized and comfortable to use. The change was also accompanied by a switch to wider framerails, a switch from a divorced transfer case to a married 'case, and the gas tank was moved from its in-cab position behind the seat to the rear of the truck, under the bed. Not too much of that is important here, except for those of us who like big tires. For us, the loss of the "High-Boy" is a loss of tire clearance. Redferd was low, and we wanted bigger tires. Here's how we revamped Redferd's look with new springs, shocks, tires, wheels, and more.

    Skyjacker Lift Kit

    We started the install by supporting the vehicle off the ground by the frame. We have a Bendpak 10K lift, which is a great help, but you could do this easily with a few sets of jackstands and a floor jack. We then laid out the new springs (the kit is available either with lift blocks for the rear or replacement springs for about $600 more). We opted for the full rear springs since Redferd's factory leaf packs have seen lots of heavy use.

    Old Farm Truck Parts Off

    We then supported the rear axle and removed the U-bolts, spring plates, and shocks from the axle so we could then lower the axle and remove the old leaf springs and factory blocks. The factory blocks will be reinstalled with the new springs and U-bolts.

    Skyjacker Brake Hoses

    Now is a great time to replace the rear brake hose that runs from the frame down to the axle. You might be able to get away with loosening or relocating the top mount for the brake hose, but after 41 years Redferd's factory rubber brake hose was looking pretty threadbare. Luckily, Skyjacker also makes replacement brake hoses front (PN: FBL93, $122.56) and rear (PN: RBL93, $62.87). These are added options that are a must in our opinion. Don't forget to add brake fluid and bleed the brakes after the lift is installed.

    Moog Parts From RockAuto.com

    With the rear springs removed it became apparent that Redferd's rear shackle bushings were in great need of replacement. When we looked into replacement bushings we found this Moog leaf spring shackle (PN: K150411, $29.79 from RockAuto.com), and since the bushings are already installed in these shackles (and the new springs from Skyjacker) it was a no-brainer to grab a pair.

    Skyjacker Rear Leaf Springs

    With the shackles bolted to the rear of the new leaf springs (the shackles have to be installed before the springs are installed on the truck), we lowered the axle, installed the factory suspension block, and installed the included new U-bolts and nuts using the factory U-bolt spring plate. The long end of the spring goes toward the rear bumper with the thick end of the shim facing the rear of the truck. Tighten the U-bolts to spec (100-120 lb/ft) for 5/8 U-bolts that are supplied with the lift kit.

    Installing the Skyjacker Black Max Shocks

    With the rear suspension basically complete we installed the included pair of Skyjacker's new Black Max shocks. These shocks have twin tube construction, chrome plated shafts, vehicle-specific multi-stage valving, advanced foam cell technology, and increased fluid capacity for maximum heat dissipation.

    Old Farm Truck Problems

    Between a power steering system that has a small leak and a leaky driver side front axle seal, Redferd's front axle was nasty. It was coated with a substance that looked like brownie batter but sure didn't taste like it! Once we scraped some of the goo off the axle, we supported the axle and removed the front U-bolts, U-bolt spring plates, played-out shocks, and original springs (along with about 10 pounds of greasy, oily dirt).

    "New" Old Farm Truck Parts

    The top and bottom factory spring plates had to be relegated to the parts washer to soak the oily dirt coating off for a few hours. The kit comes with new U-bolts, washers, and nuts, but you have to reuse these parts to reassemble the front suspension.

    Skyjacker Suspension Bushings

    While the rear springs from Skyjacker came with rubber and steel bushings already installed, the front springs use polyurethane bushings with new steel sleeves. We like to slather these in grease and install them with a hammer. The poly bushings go in first, then the steel sleeve is inserted. Ours tapped in pretty easily but you also can use a bench vice or a C-clamp to press them home.

    Skyjacker Suspension Drag Link

    From there we removed the factory drag link to install the new drag link from Skyjacker. The suspension system requires a new offset and adjustable draglink (PN: SDL250, $206.54). Removing the factory drag link allowed the axle to drop far enough to get the new higher-arched spring in place.

    Black Max Shocks and Skyjacker Brake Lines

    Last step for the front of Redferd is to install the included front Black Max shocks from Skyjacker and the optional (although highly recommended by us) front brake hoses.

    Battle Born Beadlock Wheels and General Grabber X3s

    All the above was done to renew Redferd's suspension, but also to provide more clearance for larger tires, namely a set of General Tires Grabber X3s in 37x12.50R17 ($357.00 each). These tires have a bit of a retro look that fits Redferd to a T. We also got a chance to test out some beadlock wheels from a relatively new company, Battle Born Wheels, in the form of their Gatekeeper in 17x9 with an 8 on 6.5-inch bolt pattern ($224.95 each). Battle Born is veteran owned and operated and has aluminum beadlock wheels as well as a new line of simulated beadlock wheels for those who don't need the beadlock and would prefer a traditional wheel.

    Old Farm Truck Stance

    And while some settling may occur, Redferd sure stands tall. In fact, and it could just be a high boy/low boy thing, we're guessing right now Redferd is closer to about 5 inches taller.