The Bitterness of Poor Quality remains Long after the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten.
Ford F-650 PICKUP // CUMMINS ISB
When you build the types of creations we do, you find yourself dragging around all sorts of stuff - inoperable hulks of project cars, medium-duty engine swap donors, bulky shop equipment, heavy chassis components, and the like. The average person might opt for a standard one-ton pickup to handle these sorts of jobs, but we've never been the types to strive for average. Enter the dually.
This truck started life as a regular-cab 2007 F-650 with a vinyl floor, manual windows, and a 200 HP 5.9L common rail Cummins ISB. It was outfitted with a 270-inch wheelbase, a 26' dry van body and a Maxon liftgate - just another bare bones moving truck in Budget Rental's fleet.
In early 2014, we found the truck at an insurance auction in dire need of mechanical repair. After the deal was made, we hopped a flight to Trenton, New Jersey and found ourselves staring down the barrel of a 20,000 LB, 13 foot tall truck that didn't move under its own power. We scrambled to find a decking saddle and lined up a Volvo VNL day-cab semi tractor that needed to be transported back to the midwest. After finding a towing company willing to deck the trucks in exchange for the old van body and liftgate, we were on our way home.
The Volvo was delivered to its excited new owner in Iowa, at which point we winched the F-650 onto the wedge trailer we'd dispatched to meet us. Arriving home in a blizzard, the Ford was rolled into the shop and the decision was made to bob the excess frame and move the axle as soon as possible, as this project was tying up nearly half of our workspace.
Without a crew cab or a dually box available to us, it was imperative to get the correct measurements to set the wheelbase correctly. After stalking down a few parked F-250s and F-350s in crew cab/long box configuration, we sliced nearly ten feet off the rear of the F-650 and used the remnants as a template to mark holes for repositioning the shackles.
Once the truck fit inside the shop, we were able to turn our attention toward the engine. Pulling the oil pan and valve cover revealed the true extent of the damage and made it clear we'd have to replace the engine. Fortunately, an extremely low mileage 6.7L Cummins ISB appeared on eBay for a price we couldn't refuse. It came out of a 40-foot transit bus and had the correct rear-geartrain configuration for this truck, which made it undesirable for use in Dodge pickups or other light-duty truck swaps.
While awaiting the arrival of the new engine, the next task on the docket was to locate a rust-free crew cab and dually box. After a few weeks of browsing Craigslist, a suitable 2003 F-350 King Ranch body revealed itself. We hitched a car trailer and headed for Des Moines, IA. Upon arrival, it was clear the 2WD 6.0 Powerstroke donor truck had probably never seen a northern winter. We loaded the cab, all four doors, a tailgate, dually box onto the trailer, plus stuffed the FJ Cruiser full of interior parts and hit I-35 to test the little Toyota's claimed 5000 LB towing capacity.
Due to their one-piece clamshell front end, the F-650 and F-750 trucks lack the inner fender structure and radiator supports of the smaller Super Duty models. Rather than converting the F-350 cab to accomodate the medium duty front end, we opted to clip the cab at the A-pillars and across the floor at the spot-welded seam. In addition to saving us the work of modifying the sheet metal, this prevented us from having to tear into the steering column, brake master cylinder and booster, or even remove the dash from the cab.
With some careful measuring and a few adjustments from the reciprocating saw and grinder, the F-350 cab slotted right up to the F-650 front clip with suprisingly little drama. We took some measurements, tack welded the pieces, and then hung the doors to check for gaps. After that checked out, final welding took place, followed by primer, seam sealer, and paint along the seams.
A set of Energy Suspension urethane cab mounts for 73-79 F-series trucks was utilized, in conjunction with custom nylon inner sleeves. Two simple C-channel brackets were made to stand off the frame and support the cab in the middle and rear.
Much later, a 2006 F-250 wiring harness was installed, enabling the use of the cab's power windows and locks.
By the time the cab alternations had been completed, we'd also installed the new 6.7L engine and repinned much of the truck's wiring harness to control the newer ECM. Thankfully, the truck's original 5.9L ISB shared many crucial mounting points with the new 6.7L, so it was largely a plug-and-play installation, apart from wiring.
The truck's Allison 2200HS 5-speed automatic transmission was rebuilt and had a Transgo shift kit installed.
With the F-650 front clip securely affixed to the F-350 crew cab, we turned our attention to the rear of the truck. In order to make the body lines match, an eight inch tall riser must be constructed. We fabricated one from structural steel and integrated a heavy duty gooseneck ball mounting plate, as well as standoffs for the mounting rails of a fifth wheel hitch.
We noticed a preponderance of F-650 pickups on the road seem to be painted garish colors or festooned with ridiculous accessories. Ironically, decorating this truck with loud colors and chrome stacks would just make it blend into the crowd. Instead, we chose to retain the Estate Green and Arizona Beige of the King Ranch donor truck. The two-tone helps break up the profile of the truck into smaller, easily-digestible chunks.
After completing the paintjob in-house (as well as the cowl and jambs,) a set of 22.5" Alcoa wheels were sourced from a Freightliner semi tractor, machine-polished, and fitted to the F-650. Additionally, we found a lightly used Ali-Arc bumper and built a hinged bracket to hang it on the truck.
With the truck's body completed and the drivetrain sorted out, we still had many details to finish:
A bespoke hitch plate was drawn in CAD and burned on a plasma table, then welded into the rear of the frame. It incorporates two comically large D-rings, a 2-inch receiver tube, a 30-ton pintle hitch, and a combination 4/7-pin trailer wiring connector. A second 7-pin connector resides inside the truck's box, for gooseneck trailers. A Prodigy P3 brake controller was installed.
The interior was finished in black and grey, since the King Ranch parts had been sold before we came across the truck body on Craigslist.
A bumper and tailgate from a 2014 F-250 were sourced at a government auction. The tailgate was painted to match and capped with a beige trim piece, and the bumper had a pair of Rigid Dually series LED reverse lights installed.
A pair of 120-gallon aluminum fuel tanks were sourced; however, brackets and steps were unavailable. We fabricated the brackets from C-channel, straps from stainless, and steps from extruded aluminum scaffolding and ladder rung material. A low crossover hose with two valves gives us the option of running a single tank or exploiting the capacity of both, for a range of over 2000 miles.
The truck also received a long-range Viper remote start/keyless entry unit, a double-DIN Kenwood DVD player with backup camera, and a hard-wired dashcam.
Now that it's been completely overhauled, this truck ought to be ready to give us years of service!