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Discussion Starter #1
Good afternoon,
I’m looking into trying to completely rebuild an older truck vs buying a brand new one.
I am currently thinking of a 1997 f350 4 door short bed with an updated 7.3 Powerstroke. Instead of the stock body, I wanted to put the body from a 1986 style body. I want to keep the interior of the 1997. It is basically just a body swap.(I know it’s not that easy)
The goal would be to improve the suspension and steering and give it a lot of up to date features.
I can do a lot and my brother is a diesel mechanic and can help with a lot of the engine things.
My question is, what kind of upgrades are a must? Anyone have any recommended tips? Can it be done for under 35-40k?( that number is just a ballpark to give an idea of budget) Is it possible to accomplish?
The more specific your answers the better it helps me thank you!
 

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I'm curious, why the 1986 body style? Just personal preference? You can just change out the front clip. It would be far easier and you'd keep the 97 interior. Everything else (cab and bed) are nearly identical. There are differences, but they are small (at least in my opinion).

I understand the refitting of an older truck vs buying new. It can be cheaper and you don't have to deal with DEF or EGR coolers and the like. I'm midway through doing the same thing.

I think the "musts" all depend on what your end goals are. For example, the musts for my truck is towing and off-road capability (the two can be mutually exclusive, so it is not the greatest at either, but has a nice balance between the two). I also want more power (who doesn't??). The towing capacity for these trucks is about 12k pounds. Legally... If you upgrade engine, transmission, and brakes, it could safely tow far more. You'd still get a ticket for being overweight, depending on if you even get pulled over for it. For me, 12k is as high as I want to go.

An interesting thing that I recently found out about, and might end up doing myself, is you can get brakes from a F-450 or F-550 (maybe even some commercial chassis) to upgrade. The stock brakes on these are rather weak, I think. The power steering is also weak (noticeably when you have lift and 35" tires), but can be upgraded to a Saginaw pump. The auto transmission has mixed reviews, but the bottom line is keep the trans temps down and don't tow up a hill in overdrive. Any extra engine output will increase the likelihood of transmission failure. It is not a bad design per se, just the engineers designed it to handle just the power a stock 7.3 puts out and not an iota more. There are upgrades out there that can turn the E4OD into a good, reliable transmission. A trans cooler out of a 6.0 truck is a big one. Cheap, easy mod that keeps the trans temps down. The torque converter has a notoriously small lockup clutch. One of the reasons towing with these in OD is bad. Probably the main reason, actually. There are lots of aftermarket converters out there though that are far superior with triple clutches and what not. You can easily spend $1k-3k on a really good converter.

There are numerous little odds and ends that can be upgrades too. I don't even know where to start on that though, but if you look through the various threads here, it'll get you some ideas pretty quick. I'm trying to modernize mine. It has a double din radio with apple carplay, remote start, reverse camera, forward camera, and LED lights in the interior. Eventually, I'll probably add more modern features as well, like one touch up/down switched for the power windows.

Be sure you make a build thread once you get started! It'd be great to follow you along and see how the 86 body style goes
 

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Only thing that's different is the front clip and rear bed arch . So ya can be done really easy and cheap . Just the cost of front clip and a rear bed and paint . No need to even touch anything in or on the cab .
 

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So, I see a few problems right off the bat.

#1 is there is no such thing as an obs f350 crew cab short bed. That combo was only available as an f250. No biggie, just clarifying your search.

#2. I personally like the 80-86 bull nose front end too, but it leaves no room for an intercooler. You would have to do an air to water or water meth setup.

Now for my personal recommendations if I was going to go this route. Ps I have a 97 that I've owned for 10 years.
I'd buy an f250 2wd crew cab short bed. 2wd because it will be alot cheaper initial investment. Then I'd find an 05-16 superduty 4wd donor truck with the axle ratio you want and do a superduty axle swap. It will ride and stop way better than anything the obs can offer.
Oh ya, do a hydro boost upgrade out of a f-superduty.
Now that it's a 4wd I'd start looking at the transmission. I'd either do a south bend clutch if its stick or get a built auto from bts or dieselsite. In my experience the e4od sucks.
Now that the trans can handle it we can start playing with the power.

What kind of power are we looking for?

This is my personal combination that works really well, gets 10mpg towing and 18-19 on the highway. I regularly tow 10-17k lbs with it.

6637 air filter
Full turbo back exhaust
Ceramic coated manifolds and bellowed up pipes
Rebuilt turbo with 1.0 housing and ww2
E99 intake spider
6.0 intercooler
6.0 fan blade
Full force diesel 160cc stage 1 Injectors
Gearhead tuned ts 6 position chip
Adrenaline hpop
Autometer z series boost, pyro, trans temp, diff temp, fuel level
Trucool max trans cooler
Mag hytec trans pan, valvoline fluid
Mag hytec diff cover, amsoil gear lube
Factory 4:10ls camper package
Us gear exhaust brake
Delo 15w40 with motorcraft filter and fs2500 bypass filter changed every 10-12k( yes you can run 10k+ miles on an oil change in a heui truck. My oil samples prove it. Over 12k and the viscosity starts breaking down)
Dieselsite coolant and transmission filters
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you all for the posts! That's a lot of good information. Rtracer39, what is the cost of all the things that you listed for your truck? That is where I want to be both in gas mileage and in power.
I think the 86 front end would look really awesome, but it's not worth not going with the 6.0 intercooler. Therefore, I might just stick with everything in the 97 body style.
Is there any good places to look for the trucks that you mentioned? I know of craigslist and facebook marketplace. That's about it... Any help would be really appreciated, thank you.
 

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You're looking for a fairly rare truck. I haven't seen alot of crew cab short bed obs. You might check copart or salvagebid.com. I've seen a couple obs on there. I know they definitely have alot of superduty donor trucks if you go that route. I only recommend that so you know you have every suspension piece you need and it wont nickel and dime you to death at the dealer.

As far as how much I've spent I couldn't give you an exact number. But I'd say with a built trans and superduty axles you'd probably spend around $15k over the original cost of the truck. The only thing I'd do different for your truck vs mine is go with the dieselsite hybrid 66mm turbo kit. It's based on an e99 turbo and makes working on it wayyy easier. I'd also do an edge insight cts2 with the egt addon.

I run around with my truck on the "stock" setting on my chip because I have a ford reman trans. It still has all the power I need. I've driven stock 6.0's and the stock commonrail cummins and my truck is way quicker off the line. The 1 drawback is the single shot injectors are very loud. I use to like it when I put them in 5 years ago but now I wish it was quiet like my 05 cummins.

Maybe this will help:

6637 air filter - napa $100ish
Full turbo back exhaust -$400
Ceramic coated manifolds and bellowed up pipes- -$800
Rebuilt turbo with 1.0 housing and ww2 -$600
E99 intake spider - kinda hard to find -$150
6.0 intercooler -$150 used and cleaned
6.0 fan blade - free, had it off another truck
Full force diesel 160cc stage 1 Injectors -$1200
Gearhead tuned ts 6 position chip-$350
Adrenaline hpop -$600
Autometer z series boost, pyro, trans temp -$600
Trucool max trans cooler -$125
Mag hytec trans pan, valvoline fluid
Mag hytec diff cover, amsoil gear lube
Us gear exhaust brake
Fs2500 bypass filter -$600
Dieselsite coolant and transmission filters -$350
 

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Delo 15w40 with motorcraft filter and fs2500 bypass filter changed every 10-12k( yes you can run 10k+ miles on an oil change in a heui truck. My oil samples prove it. Over 12k and the viscosity starts breaking down)
You have me curious about your oil samples. Do they include detergent and zinc content? If so, are those numbers still good at 10k? I'm more worried about those numbers dropping off than viscosity.

The crew cab short bed OBS is a hard one to find. I got lucky (mostly) finding the one I have. Unfortunately, the previous owner(s) of my truck were not keen on maintenance, so I've had to replace/rebuild just about everything on it.
 

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Check out this video I took pulling my gooseneck and f450 on it. Itll give you an idea how loud it is. I'd dynamat the whole interior and firewall while you're building it.

(Ignore the door panel rattle in the video)

 

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The oil samples did show what you are asking. That's why I switched to delo from rotella. Even at 10k miles my zinc levels were better than the brand new rotella. I use to have a picture of my dipstick. My oil even with 5000 miles on it is as clean as it was when I put it in. You can actually read the dipstick through the oil on it.

I bought my truck 10yrs ago with 147k miles. I'm currently at 317k and I've had the bypass filter on it about 100k of that.
 

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10k miles is the recommended oil change from international with the t444e without a bypass filter.

Besides the extended drain intervals I tend to over maintain my truck. It's about $300 every oil change. I change the oil and both filters, and the fuel, coolant and external transmission filters. I change the internal filter at the ford 40k mile interval. I also check my coolant with wix test strips and add the ford sca when necessary.

I use only motorcraft for the oil and fuel filters and baldwin for my addons.
 

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The oil samples did show what you are asking. That's why I switched to delo from rotella. Even at 10k miles my zinc levels were better than the brand new rotella. I use to have a picture of my dipstick. My oil even with 5000 miles on it is as clean as it was when I put it in. You can actually read the dipstick through the oil on it.
That's good to hear. I keep telling myself that I'm going to pull oil samples every time I do an oil change, but I've yet to do it I'm actually heading over to my buddy's shop this morning to do an oil change too. I've always ran delo in my truck, so I guess I got lucky on that one. My dipstick is usually readable through the oil as well, but it does darken up by the time I change out the oil.

The dynamat makes a world of difference. I didn't use the name brand stuff, but I did the whole floor pan, added some to the firewall, and some other areas. Brought the noise level down significantly, in my opinion. I didn't run a decibel meter before and after, so the results are not exactly definitive. But I am certain it is quite a bit better on noise control
 

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Depending on where you are, if you have a Caterpillar dealer, you can get the oil sample kit easily. It's about $14 and includes the return label and bag. Just go into parts and ask for an oil sample kit.
 

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So lots of ideas here and hopefully I can give you a few points for reference.... all learned from digging through and reading some of the hundreds of pages of threads here!

For the 6637 filters, definitely look at Riff Raff diesel for a better price. My truck is a 95 CCLB and I’m expecting to have $22-25k including buying the truck for all the upgrades except paint.
You didn’t mention 4wd in the opening post; however if you have it then I’d recommend a PMF Suspension RSK with U code SD springs (2,400#). I put V codes (2,600#) and it’s still a night and day improvement but I would like it a little softer. My front axle is rated at 4,600#. Spent about $1k on these parts:
  • 2.25” rsk
  • Bilstein 5100 series shocks
  • 3” drop pitman arm
  • 3” drop track bar bracket and adjustable track bar (supposedly the adjustable bar wasn’t a necessity but I prefer to give the alignment shop something to work with)
  • V code SD springs
  • all new hardware
  • longer sway bar links from skyjacker
For the rear I’m looking at PMFs kit to run ‘08+ springs with their long travel custom Deaver leafs and custom shackles. Probably $2k for parts with hardware. Hoping to delete the factory lift blocks in the process.

FYI I’m not really into lifting but that was the simplest and most cost effective way to improve the ride. Also like how narrow tires dig through snow so maybe 255/85r16s when time for tires.
I also paid a professional (not me or my friend) to install a Compustart remote start kit with 2 mile range remote. Idea was to be able to start from in the house or a hotel ballroom. $600 well spent to have a warmed up engine and comfortable cab when I get in.
Choose your power goal and build accordingly. I’m looking at baby hybrid 200/30 injectors for around 475 hp to put off valve train upgrades for awhile... others say they’re cheap insurance.
Sound deafening, late model leather seats, new carpet and mats, and gauges. Looking at pod over rear view mirror.
 
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