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Thread: "F" 250 as the ultimate tow rig! Can it be?

  1. #1
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    Default "F" 250 as the ultimate tow rig! Can it be?

    Since I finished my T-Bird Drag Car, I thought it was important to have the correct tow vehicle to get me to the track. I decided to set some limits because it's as easy as buying a new truck and going into debt by a whole lot.
    #1- it needs to be from the same era as my car (look period correct). That limited me to OBS F series or E series van as well as a nice Crown Vic or Grand Marquis. A wagon would be awesome!
    #2- cannot have a 460, let's face it I could not afford to race after gassing this pig up for a day at the track. 10mpg is no go in my book since this would be a second vehicle and I would be using it on a daily basis going to and from work. It must be economical in today's sense.
    #3- it had to be Windsor powered! I have a whole garage of squirreled away parts from over the years and I could make an awesome EFI Windsor something.....

    My buddy offered me this beautiful 1988 F250 XLT lariat that his dad willed him when he died....it has a 460 and C6. That was against rule 2.... So we started talking. There were hundreds and thousands of these trucks built with a 460. Many were for sale cheap! That was because of the fuel consumption. Can a truck like this be revised to today's standards of economical by using Junk Yard stuff for the fraction of the cost of something new. The cost of replacing everything cannot even be close to the cost of buying a new truck.

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    These thoughts stewed for a few months and became all but forgotten and then it happened! I found a 1988 f250 XL model with a gacked 351 and a 5 speed on Craig's List just down the street in Chula Vista. I went and checked it out. The owner would not come down 1 cent! I looked the truck over and was as giddy as a school girl. It had a complete set of unrashed real deal ALCOA wheels and the desireable ZF 5 Speed and not the Mazda turd.

    After getting it home courtesy of AAA, my neighbor and I tore into the truck. Motor and tranny out, drive shaft, motor mounts, tranny crossmember, pedal bucket and steering column, wheels off and viola the frame was bent behind the passengers front tire....well that's ok. Call the Scrappers, instant $200!

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    Over the course of the past year I had the ZF rebuilt by a racing buddy for the cost of a 351w block and $300 in rebuild kit. The 351 required a complete rebuild, so an over bore of .030, hot tank, cam bearings and a lot of elbow grease! My friend with the nice 1988 f250 and I discussed the possibility of a gas mileage 393.... Was it a possibility? My old tbird would get 24-26 mpg with stock ford stuff with the exception of 3.55 gears and an HO intake. I did not see why a 393 would get less than 20. Maybe I was dreaming! But either way I thought a lot of it had to do with port velocity and air flow being high at low engine speeds and the cam in the tbird, so I started by planning the goals.
    #1- must get 20 mpg! While Towing this was never going to happen and was unrealistic but daily driving, that's real!
    #2- it must go 500 miles on a tank of fuel when towing. If it ended up getting 10 while towing, it needed to carry some fuel. The truck spends a majority of its life not towing, but when loaded it had to have some range.
    #3- it must have some flair and charisma. Low engine speed means larger cubic inch generally for good low grunt and it can be complimented with longer rods for more grunt below the curve and in normal operating range.

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    Love love love my "OBS". I literally just do not like any Ford trucks made after these. The styling just doesn't even hold a candle to it for me. Kinda goes against my policy of no ABS but you can't win them all right?

    Good luck with the build! MPG may be a tough one, though if you spring for a really nice high-flowing top end setup you might get what you're looking for.

    310104_642140817666_2043108011_n.jpg
    1987 20th Anniversary Cougar, 302 "5.0" GT-40 heads (F3ZE '93 Cobra) and TMoss Ported H.O. intake, H.O. camshaft
    2.5" Duals, no cats, Flowmaster 40s, Richmond 3.73s w/ Trac-Lok, maxed out Baumann shift kit, 3000 RPM Dirty Dog non-lock TC
    Aside from the Mustang crinkle headers, still looks like it's only 150 HP...
    1988 Black XR7 Trick Flow top end, Tremec 3550
    1988 Black XR7 Procharger P600B intercooled, Edelbrock Performer non-RPM heads, GT40 intake AOD, 13 PSI @5000 RPM. 93 octane

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    Ok, well the reason the post has so much info is for the back story, but to cut to the chase.....I have already started and am almost done with phase 1. I bought a much more used truck that was much newer but was closer to what I wanted. I found a 1994 F250 2wd reg cab long bed. It was sporting a 351 that did not run and a "fresh rebuilt" E4OD. Well I pulled the motor out after finding 5 quarts of water/ antifreeze in the pan and did a cheap spray can rebuild, re-ring and bearing job to get it up and running. Found 1 bad rod that apparently got hot and was deformed on the big end. The crank was junk, but I had the crank from the beater 88 with the ZF 5 speed. Swapped the crank, used an 88 f250 rod and bought 1 piston. The best part was the F4TE block in the 1994 truck. Roller 351! I can use most of the parts stashed from the tbird and 23 years of 5.0 parts hoarding. I used the stock SO 5.0 cam from my tbird, a lightning lower intake, some cobra roller rockers and a set of AFR 165 cylinder heads with 60cc chambers. I had scored an awesome set of doing Thorley try-y headers for a bronco at the annual swap meet that were stainless for $65 that were almost $700 new. Thought they might fit, and they do....awesomely! I has a few race parts left over from a blown up 302, timing chain, t bird valve covers and a New NOS ford timing cover I bought almost 15 years ago.
    So things I learned.....the low end on this 351 is awesome, I don't know if I need a 393. That may be overkill. The Trucks are all batch Fire efi and not sequential. Therefore the 302 cam would work well in the truck temperairally until I finish the 393 and swap over. A fuel rail from the 88 F250 is a direct bolt on and will accept a 5.0 mustang adjustable fuel pressure regulator. Speed density batch fire is very acceptable to upgrades as long as the cam remains very factory. The 351 pulls 23" of vacuum at idle and really idles smooth. I swapped the mechanical fan for an electric flex-a-lite and added a dual battery setup from a powerstroke diesel. I added a 33 gallon bronco tank in the rear.

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    I have been focused on my interior and the towing capability recently. The fresh rebuilt tranny was slipping like mad and did not enjoy shifting promptly. I could not tell if it was the programming of the PCM or just poor rebuild. After flushing and shift kit, I decided to ZF 5 speed the truck. bought a clutch from center force, new flywheel and master/ slave cylinders with throw out bearing. I hit the junkyard and found a 1992 f150 with a manual and got a 92-96 pedal bucket and the wiring harness from a manual and the computer from a f350 box truck. I need the front wiring harness that has brake controller and relays in the fuse box anyway. I also scored a slider back window and a set of seat brackets to mount a pair of lightning seats.

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    Id go with a 302 and highway gears. The zf had a super low almost granny 1st gear and with a manual while towing, staying in 4th isnt a big deal for hills. For every 1k in rpms, you use about 4x the fuel.
    Quote Originally Posted by jcassity
    I honestly dont think you could exceed the cost of a new car buy installing new *stock* parts everywhere in your coug our tbird. Its just plain impossible. You could revamp the entire drivetrain/engine/suspenstion and still come out ahead.
    Hooligans!
    1988 Crown Vic wagon. 120K California car. Wifes grocery getter. (junked)
    1987 Ford Thunderbird LX. 5.0. s.o., sn-95 t-5 and an f-150 clutch. Driven daily and going strong.
    1986 cougar.
    lilsammywasapunkrocker@yahoo.com

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    I am a fan of the OBS ford trucks as well. Have 4 of them. Two with 7.3 autos, one 7.3 5 speed, and one with a 460 5 speed. I agree with the notion that you can rebuild one for a fraction of the cost of a new one as long as you can turn the wrenches yourself.

    20 mpg's does sound a bit ambitious from an OBS F250 gasser, but hope you can pull it off. Most F250's got 4.10's, but some 3.55 gears, synthetic fluids, non aggressive tread tires, front air dam, and a light touch on the throttle couldn't hurt. In stock form for a gas engine the closest Ford came to what you are trying to do was the 300 6cyl 5 speed. They pulled great and could do mid teens out on the highway.

    Goal #3 was flair and charisma, made me think of this. Someone that pulls a 4 eye bird or stang to the track needs this.

    http://ottumwa.craigslist.org/cto/5906984549.html

    Last edited by bodyman; 01-05-2017 at 09:08 AM.

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    This van is the best! Too bad I already spent my cash on this truck. This thing is perfect! Just that stripe......it needs a purple one too before I commit to buy!

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    This weekend I will finish the ZF install and button up the column. I got a box of carpet, not for munching, but to put on the truck floor and make some exhaust. I should then be finished with phase 1 and can check some mileage as well as the charisma/cool factor!

    Exhaust, I got a 4 inch diesel mandrel bent exhaust. It was half the price of most dual kits and will likely out flow them by a bunch. Just need to fab a Y pipe from the headers. I'll try and grab a bunch of pictures so anyone who wants to see this thing can check it out.

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