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Thread: Expedition Modifications to a Ford F-150 Pickup

              
   
   
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  1. #1
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    Default Expedition Modifications to a Ford F-150 Pickup



    Expedition Modifications to a Ford F-150 Pickup
    Is it feasible and within my budget?

    PART I

    I guess pickup trucks don't make the best backroad vehicles because of their long wheelbases, wide turning diameters and limited dry storage areas, but there is no sense in buying another rig when we already have a low mileage vehicle sitting under the carport. My objective is to modify our '02, Ford, F-150, Extended Cab, Short Box pickup truck to serve as a dependable and affordable remote-area backroad cruiser as well as a daily utility truck for hauling brush to the dump and ATV's to the hills. Who knows, I might haul an ATV on some backroad adventures, too.

    Since the truck will serve as a utility vehicle I don't want the hassle of installing, removing and storing an expensive camper or canopy, to say nothing of putting up with the powdery dust those units collect. Besides, we have a cross body toolbox installed in the truck bed and it being watertight would make a convenient place to store gear, or so I thought.

    My plan for sleeping away from bugs, critters and raindrops is to sack out under a truck tent. A truck tent is just like a regular tent but designed to be set up in a truck bed rather than on the ground. There are several tent brands available in the $200 price range, of which I have narrowed my choices to two http://www.enelcompany.com/ and http://www.camp-right.com/ Also available are comfortable contoured air mattresses that fit between the wheel wells.

    As for cleaning the dust out of the pickup prior to bedtime I found a dandy solution that should work great in conjunction with a broom and a jet of compressed air. It's a commercial air operated handheld vacuum. http://www.industrial-vacuum-cleaner...eld-vacuum.htm Cool, huh?

    Okay, the bed is clean and it's time for sleep, but can a big guy like me fit in a short bed pickup with a toolbox? To test it I took a couple of sofa cushions and an old pillow out to the truck and laid down for a test nap. Well, somebody had to do it. It didn't take long to realize that my feet were extremely uncomfortable in the minimal space provided under the toolbox so the cross body toolbox will have to go. And that's too bad because I will need to find alternative storage space utilizing cargo bags or remove the back seat for additional inside storage.

    So, if I remove the toolbox, squeeze my gear into cramped quarters, buy an inexpensive truck tent and air mattress, the F-150 will take me to the campground. But, will it go farther? More on that next time.
    Jerry
    Last edited by Jerry; 10-16-2007 at 06:31.
    Jerry
    Reading and Riding Northwest Backroads
    K7PNW

  2. #2
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    Expedition Modifications to a Ford F-150 Pickup (Continued)
    Is it feasible and within my budget?

    PART II

    All right, we left off by saying the F-150 would take us to the campground, but we wondered if it would go any farther. The answer is not much farther without a few mechanical modifications.

    First is ground clearance. Our F-150 is the 7700 Model, the heavy-duty version with a 10.25" ring gear in the rear axle. Therefore it has a larger pumpkin (the round gear box in the center of the axle) and it hangs down closer to the ground than most other F-150's. Factory ground clearance is stated to be only seven inches; about the same as the old Ford Crown Victoria sedan we owned a few years back. If I go to the trouble of lifting the truck I would like it to clear at least ten inches considering the terrible approach, break over and departure angles created by the long wheel base and body overhang. Heck, my lifted Cherokee (Wagoneer body) with a shorter wheelbase than the truck it has eleven inches under the pumpkin.

    To lift the differential to the height I desire requires tires six inches taller than the originals and that translates to huge 37" meats. Ain't no way, so a compromise is in order. I can live with 9" of ground clearance obtainable by increasing tire diameter to 35". That would necessitate buying new offset rims and at least a four-inch suspension lift, better yet a six-inch lift to eliminate all tire rubbing.

    Egad, going from 31" to 35" tires calls for a ring and pinion gear correction as well. The truck is running 3.73 gears now and with larger tires it should be increased to a 4.10 ratio. And while the gears are out on the bench it would be a good time to install an ARB air locker in the front axle and possibly replace the rear limited slip with a Detroit Locker.

    Whew, I'm tired of talking numbers so I will go on to the subject of retrieval gear. Sooner or later the truck will get stuck and I hope it will be equipped with sufficient retrieval gear to get it back on the road. As of now it has nothing more than tow hooks in the front, a trailer hitch receiver in the rear, a snatch strap, a length of chain and the factory scissor jack. I dare say it will need a bit more in remote areas.

    The first thing required is a Hi-Lift jack. Next are secure jacking points on the front and rear of the vehicle. Unfortunately the stock bumpers are not strong enough to lift the vehicle so right now the only solid jacking points are under the front tow hooks and rear hitch receiver; neither a very secure location. But, while we are on the subject of bumpers let's talk bumpers.

    I would like heavy-duty bumpers, front and rear, for a variety of reasons including the fact that they provide unlimited jacking points for the Hi-Lift. Heavy duty front bumpers make for secure winch mounts, clevis and tow hook attachments and they protect the fenders when I scrape a rock or a tree. Don't laugh, it happens to the best of us. The bumpers can be fabricated to serve as compressed air tanks plus I have special plans for additional hitch receivers built into the back bumper.

    'The truck will certainly need a winch, a model capable of working loads equal to one-and-a-half to three times the vehicle weight. Reference http://www.pirate4x4.com/tech/billavista/Recovery/ A 9,000# model would be the bare minimum. Also necessary is a set of rocker panel guards (Nerf bars) with flat spots to step on when climbing up to the lifted cab. Did somebody say compressed air? Yup, an under-hood air compressor and out-of-sight reserve tank will be required for frequent air down - air up procedures, fixing flats and running the hand-held vacuum. I would prefer a belt driven unit, but slower electric models work okay. An auxiliary battery is also in order to power the winch and various other appliances, especially convenient for those times when we leave a light on overnight.

    Then there is extra gasoline storage, a Pull-Pal retrieval anchor, various tools, etc, etc. Wow! How much will all this stuff cost? Will we have anything worthwhile when we are through? And will the truck be too tall to fit under the carport we had built especially for it? We will find out in the next installment.
    Jerry
    Last edited by Jerry; 10-20-2017 at 14:49.
    Jerry
    Reading and Riding Northwest Backroads
    K7PNW

  3. #3
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    Or you just drive it as is and make the modifications a little at a time. Unless you plan on wheeling it (that's what your Jeep is for) it should do fine in most situations.

    The oldtimers my Dad used to hunt with drove their old 2wd pickups all over the hills above Randle during hunting season without any problems.

    Steve
    Steve

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  4. #4
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    Expedition Modifications to a Ford F-150 Pickup (Continued)
    Is it feasible and within my budget?

    PART III

    Here we are again, trying to answer the questions (1) is it feasible and (2) is it within my budget to install expedition modifications to our Ford F-150 pickup? The answer to both questions is Yes and No. A simple meaning of "feasible" is 'Accomplishing something successfully'.

    Is it feasible?

    Most modifications are available aftermarket and the task can be accomplished, but in my opinion, not successfully. With all the modifications discussed earlier it would indeed be a formidable truck, but after all the work is done the long wheelbase vehicle will still stumble on berms, whoop-de-doo's and creek crossings; gear storage will always be awkward and inconvenient; and it will only hold enough gas for a little more than a long days travel. That does not add up to a successful expedition build in my book.

    Is it within my budget?

    The quick answer is NO and I knew that before I started. All we would had to have done is ask Evelyn and she would have set us straight right up front! But, seriously, I guess we could afford building it one way or the other, but the cost is much higher than I anticipated and therefore is definitely NOT in our budget (but sometimes things have a way of sneaking into our budget...shhhhh)

    The cost? Are you sitting down? How does $12,800 grab you? It grabs me in the old wallet besides some other places! I guess it shouldn't because I have been through this process before, but the dollar amount reaches out and grabs you when you see it all totaled up. And that figure does not include accessories such as the Hi-Lift jack, lights, radios and other hundred dollar items.

    Needless to say I will not embark on a mission to heavily modify the F-150, but when the tires wear out I will replace them with a size a couple of inches taller and if I find a good deal on a used 9,000# winch I will buy it. I will also have my mechanic weld some bumps on the tow hooks and hitch receiver to securely hold a Hi-Lift jack in place and will purchase a 60" model jack. I already carry a portable Vi-Air compressor and an assortment of tools and I plan to expand my collection of retrieval gear as necessary. And maybe buy a truck tent to explore some possibilities.

    Jerry


    PS Follow future posts of how the F-150 is slowly modified into a capable backroads vehicle.
    Last edited by Jerry; 10-20-2017 at 14:50.
    Jerry
    Reading and Riding Northwest Backroads
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  5. #5
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    It is real easy to get carried away with 4x4 toys.

    I was hot to modify our 1997 Sidekick when we first got it but finally said 'wait - I already have a 4x4 money sink' and resisted.

    Toy Man

  6. #6
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    When people ask me about what type of vehicle to purchase or modifications to make, I always ask what the intended use will be.

    With my vehicles, I take the same approach. Do I need a 8 inch lift and 38 inch tires on my Land Cruiser? With the places I go, probably not. Does it look cool. Yes. Will it cause other problems down the road or increase maintenance issues? Most likely.

    Of course, things that increase the likelihood of you returning to civilization (winch, lockers, body armor) or to increase the load carrying capabilities (storage, heavy duty suspension, higher load rated tires, etc) are useful for the type of travel we do, but not for other uses.

    The same goes with custom modifications. If you're broke down somewhere, can you get parts ordered in?

    We've all seen the poser 4x4, big tires and lift, 20 inch wheels and lots of chrome. Usually these rigs are worthless in a mild wheeling situation and probably have a terrible ride on or off road (not that they will ever see a gravel road or dirt). Of course they almost always have a drop hitch that nearly drags the ground.

    Steve
    Steve

    K9PNW | Exploring the Pacific Northwest in my 1992 Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser

    Pacific Northwest Backroad Adventures - Pacific Northwest Outdoor Adventure Forums

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  7. #7
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    Wink

    Yeah, I know what you mean. Sure don't want overkill, just comfortable necessities. Unless you are talking about electronic toys, then overkill is okay in my book.

    Starting with a long wheelbase, overhung body puts you behind the eight ball real fast. Probably half the expense is attributable to lifting the vehicle off the ground, i.e. lift, gears, wheels, tires and step rocker guards. So a shorter wheelbase vehicle has a real advantage right from the start - it needs less of everything.

    There were two "deal killers" that prevented me from heavily modifying our F-150 . First was the awkward storage; it is something we would have to live with forever. And the second was there are no manufactures of auxiliary fuel tanks for that model year F-150. The truck gets around 15 mpg now and with big tires it would drop to between 12 and 13 mpg. Having the capacity to hold fifty gallons of fuel is not an exaggeration, it is only enough gas for two or three days in the back country.

    If a person wants to use a pickup for their expedition vehicle I suggest they start with a heavy duty 3/4 ton model because they are inheritantly higher off the ground to start with, plus modifications are more readily available and sometimes even less expensive than those for the F-150. See the Turtle Expedition:
    http://www.turtleexpedition.com/vehicles/turtle4.php

    Don't get me wrong, both Evelyn and I like our truck and if we never change a thing it's okay with us. The original idea was to take advantage of the truck's low mileage (assumed dependability/reliability) and at the same time sell off a couple of other toys...maybe

    Jerry
    Last edited by Jerry; 10-16-2007 at 07:13.
    Jerry
    Reading and Riding Northwest Backroads
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  8. #8
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    Default What now?

    So the F-150 is off-the-table for your expedition rig, and the Wagoneer has visibility and dependability issues. What direction will you be heading in now?

    Many of the modifications that are on your Waggy, could be moved to another vehicle. It is usually impossible to recover the cost of the upgrades, if you sell them with the vehicle anyway (i.e. selling the Wagoneer with all the upgrades, will not bring much more $$$ than without the upgrades).
    Brian
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    2004 4Runner Sport V6, 3" OME lift, 275/70R17, 1" wheel spacers, GPS, CB & Ipod, Scion Stereo, Truck Vault storage drawer, Rear diff breather.


    Regardless of our opinions (including mine), the Truth still exists.

  9. #9
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    Default Checking prices and availability of modifications

    So the F-150 is off-the-table for your expedition rig, and the Wagoneer has visibility and dependability issues. What direction will you be heading in now?
    Interesting you bring that up at this time. Just walked in the door from checking prices and availability on a couple of modifications applicable to the F-150. Yes, the F-150 is off the table as an "Expedition Rig", but not off the table as a capable backroads rig. The difference between the two in my mind is that an expedition vehicle is self reliant and will take me just about any place I have a desire to go alone.

    As to visibility and dependability of the Cherokee, (1) the visibility issue is common to all older full size vehicles with big, square hoods. Big hood = low visibility and (2) the dependability issue is one that is inherent in all old cars and trucks. In my opinion a vehicle with high mileage could suffer from metal fatigue. The Cherokee with 180,000 miles on the clock is in excellent mechanical condition for its age with a fresh 401 engine, MSD ignition module, MSD distributor and MSD coil, a new Optima Red Top battery, a TH400 transmission recently inspected by the trans shop, a rebuilt transfer case, new gears and guts in both axles including a Detroit Locker in the rear and an ARB air locker up front, new brakes, bearings and seals and excellent tires with two spares. The Cherokee has the capability of taking me most places I would ever dream of going and then some. I'd say it is more dependable than 99% of other rigs it's age. But the fact remains that it is old and I personally, being physically out of shape, would not venture into remote areas alone.

    Many of the modifications that are on your Waggy, could be moved to another vehicle. It is usually impossible to recover the cost of the upgrades, if you sell them with the vehicle anyway (i.e. selling the Wagoneer with all the upgrades, will not bring much more $$$ than without the upgrades).
    You are correct on both counts. I am not into dismantling and selling parts so I plan on selling the Cherokee complete. Somebody will get a really good deal. It has served us well over the years so it owes us little in return. It's a shame to see it sitting around when a new owner could be enjoying it.


    Are there any offers?
    Last edited by Jerry; 11-06-2007 at 00:06.
    Jerry
    Reading and Riding Northwest Backroads
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  10. #10
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    Default 33" Tires, leveling kit and GPS

    Update:
    It's still not an expedition vehicle, but the F-150 is getting closer to being a darned good backroads rig. This past week the truck was fitted with LT255/85R16 BFG MT's. That's the equivalent of 33" x 10" tires. That addition gained 1 3/4" of ground clearance by actual measurement. To accommodate the bigger tires a "leveling kit" was installed. The kit simply cranks up the torsion bars to gain about 2 1/2" of lift. Taller blocks replaced the factory blocks at the rear axle to keep the original angles. Both additions are working great on the city streets.

    Next was finding a good location to mount the Garmin Street Pilot GPS unit. The F-150 dash is nothing but curves; not a flat place to be found for the GPS mounting bracket. The next best choice was attaching the unit to the top of the CB radio located over the transmission hump. Installing a temporary bracket to allow clearance was necessary. It isn't the best place for satellite reception, but it is out of the sun and seems to be working fine around town.

    The real test of the new additions will come this weekend on the Southern Oregon Trip when we take unimproved roads south of Sisters to Mt. Bachelor and the next day follow the Klamath River from K-Falls to Yreka, California. We might find ourselves driving in snow this weekend!

    Will report back next week.

    Jerry
    Last edited by Jerry; 11-06-2007 at 00:08.
    Jerry
    Reading and Riding Northwest Backroads
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