Home » Ford Briefly Sold An F-250 With The Body Of This F-150 And Everyone Forgot About It: Holy Grails

Ford Briefly Sold An F-250 With The Body Of This F-150 And Everyone Forgot About It: Holy Grails

Ford F250 Grail Ts2
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The Ford F-Series has dominated the American truck market for approaching a half-century. Most F-Series trucks are so common that there are probably dozens in your neighborhood right now if there isn’t one in your own driveway. Yet, there’s a Ford truck everyone forgot about, and part of the reason is that it sold for just a couple of years before disappearing. The Ford F-250 “Light Duty” of the late 1990s was a weird stopgap between the then-new tenth-generation F-150 and the Super Duty trucks, and they’re such oddballs that even Ford truck fans have forgotten about them. These trucks had the bodies of the F-150 but brought more beef to the barbeque, and you may want one today.

For most of the 76 years of existence of the F-Series, Ford sold light-duty and heavier-duty trucks alongside each other. In the early years of F-Series trucks, you could buy the half-ton F-1 and the classes climbed all of the way up to the F-7 and F-8 “Big Job” trucks. Ford’s truck lineup stayed that way for decades, even as the names of the trucks evolved.

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The F-Series has adapted to changing consumer preferences. Long ago, pickup trucks were largely work vehicles, but over time, Americans started using their trucks for more. Americans moving into suburbia took their trucks with them and suddenly, these trucks became daily drivers. Ford responded by bringing more car-like advancements to its trucks, great for the person using an F-Series for more than hauling.

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In the late 1990s, consumer preferences pushed the bread-and-butter F-150 to become more car-like than ever. However, this was at odds with how owners of heavier-duty F-Series owners used their trucks. Sure, some people were buying F-150s to drive to their office jobs, but plenty of other people were still using their trucks for towing, hauling, farming, and building America. Thus, Ford decided to split the F-Series into two separate lines. The light duty trucks would continue their path of becoming more comfortable, feature-packed trucks, while Ford would create a line of beefy work trucks.

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Those new heavier trucks would be bestowed with the name Super Duty, a nameplate previously affixed to a burly engine from the late 1950s and larger trucks in the F-Series lineup. The name was also used for the F-Super Duty of the late 1980s. Production of the Super Duty began in 1998 for the 1999 model year.

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The late 1990s launch of the Super Duty initially put Ford in a weird spot. The tenth-generation F-150 went on sale in 1996 for the 1997 model year, but the larger classes of the F-Series remained on the old ninth-generation body. Ford’s solution to this mismatch was a short-lived F-250 with the body of the F-150, making a sort of oddball not entirely unlike the infamous Nissan Titan XD.

A New Truck For A New Era

This story starts in 1989 when Ford was in the middle of a design overhaul. The Blue Oval was ready to move away from its boxy designs of the 1980s into something new. Among those new designs would be a fresh Ford F-150 built and designed around the truck buyer of the 1990s.

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As Bloomberg reports, the development of the tenth-generation Ford F-150 began that year. In that Bloomberg report, then Ford vice-president for light-truck development James E. Englehart credited designer James C. Bulin with the direction Ford took with the F-150. Back then, Bulin was a mid-level design staffer working in the basement and wasn’t even well-known.

Bulin’s initial work on F-150 development started with an ordinary assignment. He was ordered to assemble a pictorial history of truck design. Bulin brought in friend and auto consultant John Wolkonowicz to help with this project and reportedly, they came to a startling conclusion: Trucks hadn’t really changed for an entire generation.

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Together, Bulin and Wolkonowicz decided to expand on this project without authorization from Ford. Soon, they started pinning images of other vehicles and consumer products to bulletin boards alongside their pictorial truck history. Eventually, Bulin and Wolkonowicz noticed a trend in that product designs updated at roughly similar times, but they didn’t know why. The pair kept on sticking other parts of American life to their bulletin boards, including pop culture, international relations, and the economy. What they found was fascinating, from Bloomberg:

From that kaleidoscope of images, Bulin hatched what Ford came to call its value groups strategy. Bulin concluded that the basic values that motivate purchases are instilled in each generation between their teens to mid-20s, formed by everything from their relationships with their parents to whether their lives were touched by war and the movie stars they worshiped. “The growing-up experience of each generation establishes the rules they live by,” Bulin says.

The hard part was turning those lessons into a pickup truck. Two-thirds of ninth-generation F-150 owners were over the age of 50 and the light-duty pickup was gaining so much momentum with the baby boomer generation that it was estimated that 80 percent of tenth-generation F-150 owners would be boomers. So, the big question became: How will Ford design a truck for a generation of people?

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Images Ford F 150 1996 1

Ford decided to try something different with the F-150. Instead of benchmarking the competition, which was the industry norm, Ford would design its new truck around what its largest demographic of customers wanted. This meant making some concessions. For example, the designers of the new F-150 wanted to make the truck look like a mini big rig. This would end up being the direction taken by the Dodge Ram’s designers, but Ford’s customer-centric approach meant doing something else. As Bloomberg notes, the mini semi-tractor design died once Bulin pointed out that boomers liked the compact designs flowing in from Japan.

Bloomberg explains that the boomers of the 1990s put a lot of value into strength through physical fitness while remaining trim and sleek. These Americans grew up in an era where schools placed an emphasis on exercise thanks to President John F. Kennedy’s National Council on Physical Fitness. This was reflected in the products the boomers of the 1990s purchased, which performed well without unnecessary bulk.

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To designers, this meant the new F-150 had to look powerful, but sleek and slim at the same time. There was no way they were going to get away with what Dodge’s designers were doing with the Ram.

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Designers, including F-150 design director Andy Jacobson, took these ideas and ran with them. The cab was narrowed by two inches and lengthened by five inches. Wheels were enlarged to give the truck a commanding presence while a third door was added behind the passenger door to make carrying children easier. The windshield was tilted and the beltline dropped for better visibility. The cab lengthening made for, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, a “magical space” or extra space behind the seats for storage.

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At first, higher-ups pushed back at a radical departure. Some consumer clinics also gave Ford some troubling feedback. While boomers loved the early friendly rounded design of the F-150, the ranchers and construction workers who already had older Ford trucks preferred the squared look of what we call the “Old Body Style” today. Bloomberg explains that under Ford’s old development system, designers might have been told to listen to the existing traditional owners, not the fresh faces who were in love.

However, Bulin’s data suggested that if Ford continued with the radical design, they were likely to have a home run on their hands. Ford execs were wary that their cash cow was endangered, but let the design go ahead anyway. In 1995, the future F-150 was previewed with the Triton concept.

Pictures Ford F 150 1995 1

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The “jellybean” F-150 was not a mini semi-truck like the second-generation Dodge Ram, but Ford was certain its softer look was the real winner.

The tenth-generation F-150 launched in 1996 for the 1997 model year and as it turned out, Ford was right. Countless Americans walked into dealerships and drove out with F-150s as 780,838 and 746,111 F-Series trucks went to new homes in 1996 and 1997, respectively. And it wasn’t all in the design either, as the new trucks sported Ford’s modular SOHC V8, marketed as the Triton. The Triton wasn’t just a stout powerplant, but its design allowed for mass parts interchangeability and dramatically shortened engine development times.

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A lot of younger folks don’t like the tenth-generation F-150, but when you consider the context, that makes sense. Ford designed the F-150 to appeal to our elders, not us. Well, I suppose Ford also designed it for tenth-gen lover Matt Hardigree. Anyway, the tenth-generation F-150 has a lot of high watermarks including the SVT Lightning and the Harley-Davidson Edition. Don’t forget the weird Lincoln Blackwood!

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Today’s grail is something far less-known.

The F-250 “Light Duty”

Fteenthousand

As I stated earlier, the Super Duty officially marked a split in the F-Series family as the light-duty trucks began following a different development path than the F-250 and up. However, the split technically happened earlier than that with the launch of the tenth-generation F-150.

While the then-new F-150 got a new body, the F-250 and larger trucks continued with the 1997 and up model years, but under the old body style and chassis. As Auto Trader writes, Ford was working on the Super Duty, but wanted to launch a stopgap solution. This truck would be marketed as the F-250, which would be confusing as the old F-250 was on sale at the same time.

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To create the new F-250, Ford beefed up the frame of the new F-150, a Sterling 10.25″ rear axle, and an upgraded suspension. The result was more or less an F-150, but more. A 1997 Ford F-150 Regular Cab F-150 had at best a 8,200-pound tow rating and a payload of 2,435 pounds, but the 1997 Ford F-250 Light Duty could tow 8,700 pounds and haul up to 3,340 pounds. The gap became greater with SuperCab trucks. A F-150 SuperCab could tow up to 8,000 pounds and haul up to 1,955 pounds while the F-250 still towed up to 8,600 pounds and hauled 3,075 pounds.

Ford advertised both the F-150 and F-250 Light Duty as having the highest V8 payload rating in the class of under 8,500-pound GVWR pickups.

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Aside from the beefed-up equipment, the F-250 Light Duty was equipped and optioned like the F-150. They shared the same body, the same interiors, and nearly the same engine options. While the F-150 came standard with a 4.2-liter V6, the base engine for the F-250 was the 4.6-liter Triton V8 making 220 HP and 290 lb-ft torque. The top engine for both trucks was the 5.4-liter Triton V8, which made 235 HP and 330 lb-ft of torque in 1997. Transmission options were also similar between the trucks with both F-150 and F-250 having the option of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

Sadly, it’s really hard to tell just how rare these trucks are. They’re considered to be rarer than other F-Series trucks just because of their short 1997 to 1999 run. But at the same time, Ford sold two F-250s at the same time, which has led to modern-day confusion. At the very least, the F-250 Light Duty seemed like a fine stopgap for someone who wanted the look of a newer truck plus a little more strength under the metal.

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Additionally, Ford did keep this truck alive after 1999, sort of. You could buy this truck after 1999, but it was badged as the Ford F-150 7700, the number signifying the truck’s GVWR. By then, Ford got the Super Duty line in production so it was no longer necessary to have two F-250s on sale at the same time.

If you’re an F-250 Light Duty owner and search for F-250 mechanical parts, you’re likely to find parts for the OBS F-250. If you’re searching for body and interior parts, just save yourself the headache and search for 1997 F-150 parts. Thankfully, identification is easier. A Ford F-250 Light Duty is identifiable with its badge and 7-lug wheels.

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Recently, we wrote about how the Nissan Titan XD failed so hard that it upset reviewers, owners, and mechanics alike. The Nissan Titan was such a disappointment that Nissan won’t even be building them anymore. The Ford F-250 Light Duty shows how to make the “half-ton, but more” concept work. Mind you, Ford was just trying to satiate buyers until the Super Duty came out.

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An Illinois Gambler 500 chapter member owns one of these trucks and it’s a beast at off-road recovery. You see his jellybean truck roll up and you just aren’t prepared for the pulling it can do in any sort of muck and mud. If you’re a fan of the tenth-generation F-Series and just want it to work hard, this is the one to get. I have more good news, too. If you want one, they can be found for sale today in decent enough shape for trucks more than old enough to drink. It seems nobody cares about these things, either, so you can grab one for well under $10,000.

Do you know of or own a car, bus, motorcycle, or something else worthy of being called a ‘holy grail’? Send me an email at mercedes@theautopian.com or drop it down in the comments!

(Images: Ford)

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Fitbit
Fitbit
15 days ago

This also serves as a reminder that HD trucks used to just be tougher versions of the 1/2 tons, not overstyled, oversized statement trucks. The black single cab is a classically handsome truck that would do me just fine.

Benkone
Benkone
18 days ago

Make sure the plugs are tight!

Crisis
Crisis
18 days ago

Cool. This solves a bit of a mystery for me. A few years back, my wife and I bought her father’s 2002 F150 Supercab 4X4. I’ve always thought it rode pretty high, and he’s not the kind of guy that would have modified his pickup.
I knew it had the goofy 7 lug wheels, so when I got home today, I checked the door plate and see that it has a 7,700 GVWR.
It just has standard F150 badging and is newer than the F150 7700s noted in the article. I guess it’s just a “heavy half” as they were one called back in the ‘70s.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
18 days ago

I didn’t forget. One dumb factoid, that maybe you already mentioned in the article, but I don’t know, because I didn’t read it is that these trucks came with a super weird and rare 7 lug bolt pattern. It makes them easy to spot. You know, other than the obvious F250 badge, right on the side.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
17 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

The obvious question being…. why are you commenting on an article without having read it? (and yes, it was mentioned.)

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
17 days ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

The article title insisted I had forgotten about this truck. Indeed, I had not. Do I then need to read the article to comment on a truck that I hadn’t forgotten about? I could’ve written the article myself. So there’s that.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
18 days ago

I have a 2000 XL F150 with the V6 that I’ve owned since new. That body with a higher capacity would be perfect. I don’t need a truck that looks like a Freightliner, nor do I particularly want one that does. I’m probably going to the dump or the lumber yard, not pulling a 42ft trailer down the interstate.

I’ve had that thing for going on 25 years and it is the best vehicle we’ve ever owned. We call it Trusty Truck. One of those with a bit more towing ability or load carrying capacity would be great.

And you definitely want the Island Blue Metallic. 🙂

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
18 days ago

I like the holy grail articles but comon now… the 7 lug F250? Even in the rusty upper midwest, I’ll see them at least 2-3 times a week. How about a 1500HD with Quadrasteer instead.

Benkone
Benkone
18 days ago
Reply to  CTSVmkeLS6

My brother-in-law has one of those!

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
17 days ago
Reply to  Benkone

Those are sweet trucks indeed! He’s got a grail IMO. 1500HDs were mostly loaded models and really nice do-it-all heavy duty trucks. All were 4 door, 6.5″ box too. Quadrasteer article would be cool. 2wd,4wd, 1500,2500,club and crew cab, even Suburban had it and the Denali truck too.
I’m assuming GMT800 based vehicles must have the most varieties for any model run than ever before or since.

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
13 days ago
Reply to  Ross Fuller

Ha ha ha oh looks like I missed that article lol.
An article on all the GMT 800 varieties would still be pretty cool!

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
18 days ago

I knew someone in college that had one of these. His was supposedly an ex-NASA truck that he got from a surplus auction for cheap. At one point it was set up as a dual fuel gasoline/CNG truck but the CNG tank was missing by the time he got it and he only ever ran it on gasoline.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
18 days ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

They did sell a fair amount of these with the CNG prep and tanks in the bed, mostly for cities, airports, etc..

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
18 days ago

I do remember these trucks. At the time they were released, I worked for a manufacturer of service bodies (the things with compartment doors for tools). We had just released a line of steel “aerodynamic” service bodies, and I thought that this truck would look killer with one of the new bodies. Service bodies are generally mounted on 2500 and up trucks, they ship from the factory as cab/chassis configuration (no pickup box) and are ready for upfit. Soon came to realize that it was no dice for this truck, as it wasn’t offered as a cab/chassis. Truth told, it would’t have worked with the new service body anyway because the bottom of the cab bulkhead is more forward than the top – this would have created an awkward space between the body and cab.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
18 days ago

Fascinating article! I have what I consider a light duty F-250 but it’s a 1992. It has the 300-6 and 3 speed with creeper gear, 8 lug rims, 2WD but the GVWR is only 6,600 lbs. Also semi-floating rear axle instead of full floating you see on most F-250s.

That 7 lug rim business is crazy. Thought it was a typo in the article at first.

John Klier
John Klier
18 days ago

Chevrolet had a light duty 2500 in the early 2000’s. It only showed 2500 on the badge rather than 2500HD. Looking at the truck it appeared to be just a 1500 frame but I’m assuming it had a beefier suspension. I think you could only get it with the 6.0L engine.

Yngve
Yngve
18 days ago
Reply to  John Klier

Was it a 2500, or a 1500HD? A buddy of mine had one of the latter around 2003

John Klier
John Klier
13 days ago
Reply to  Yngve

2500 but I remember seeing 1500HD’s as well around the same time. They might have been the same thing.

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
17 days ago
Reply to  John Klier

You could get a 2500 or 2500 HD, and even a 1500HD which was a carbon copy of the light duty 2500 as far as frame, diff etc but was always a 4 door crew loaded ‘family/play’ market. 2500HD is 2″ taller from body mount and rear section frame being 8″ instead of 6″. So many configurations with the 3 modular frame sections – confusing but cool I suppose.

JumboG
JumboG
18 days ago

That wasn’t the first LD F-250 they made. I had a 88 LD F-250, OBS. Key differences are it had a Dana 44 TTB on leaf springs up front, and a semi-floating Sterling rear end. GVWR was in the upper 6k range. A HD F-250 had a Dana 50 up front, a full floating Sterling rear end and a GVWR in the 8k range. Changes from the F-150 were the leaf springs up front instead of coils, I only got a 3 speed C6 automatic and no airbag.

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
18 days ago

The 10th gen gets too much hate. It had a number of innovations and the styling has aged decently. This is still a generation of pickup that had manual transmission/V8 combinations, and that alone should keep it out of the doghouse.

David Barratt
David Barratt
18 days ago
Reply to  ColoradoFX4

The exterior looks decent but the dashboard is a horrifying blob.

Yngve
Yngve
18 days ago
Reply to  ColoradoFX4

Agreed. I feel like most folks who complain about the 10G either don’t drive trucks, drive a more reasonably sized OBS or GMT400, or proudly rock one of the more modern rigs, complete with trucknutz.

Every time I fail when trying to squeeze my ’15 Ram 1500 winter driver/work truck/RV tow vehicle into a parking spot, I curse the absurdly lofty/squared off hood.

Mike B
Mike B
18 days ago

I think the black long bed above looks pretty good. I’ve also always thought that era sawblade s (I’m sure Fored nerds have a name for them) were a good-looking wheel.

My buddy had one of these in the early ’00s when he aspired to start a landscape business. A Teal green 4×4 longbed with the 5.4L. I distinctly remember the 7 lug wheels, and my WTF reaction when I saw them.

Zach
Zach
18 days ago

FTR, Ford kept building 7-lugs under the F-150 badge for several years dubbing it a heavy duty package. I had a 98 F-250 LD with the 4.6, and I currently own a 2006 7-lug with the 5.4. I think 2014 was the last year they made them.

They’re great – they have a solid rear axle and 4.10s, but the insurance rate of an F-150. My 06 is rated for 9,500lbs towing and somewhere around 3,000lbs payload. Ridiculous.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
18 days ago

Ah yes, the Ford 7 lug hub. The stupidest lug pattern ever made.

Peter W
Peter W
18 days ago

I have seen far more of these in junkyards than I have ever seen on the road

Mechanical Pig
Mechanical Pig
18 days ago

Hmm, I owned a “holy grail” by complete accident, not even realizing it when I bought it.

Had a 2001 jellybean F150. I bought it when I was only 18 or so, and I don’t recall it being advertised as anything other than a F150 equipped with the 5.4 triton. It was a decent price, nearby, and only had about 50k on it. The only giveaways was the “7700” on the tailgate badge under F150, and it having 7 lug wheels instead of 5.

Anyway, the truck turned out to be a fantastic POS. Note, all these issues happened in between buying it at 50k, and it turning into such a money pit that I got rid of it at 100k.

-First spark plug shot out of the head like a week after I bought it. Local shop did a time-sert repair. Apparently this issue is so common on Triton engines they make a kit specifically for this purpose.
-Water pump leaking, replaced
-Alternator died (leading to breakdown/tow #1)
-Second spark plug shot out of head
-Starter crapped out (leading to breakdown/tow #2)
-Discovered the rear brake calipers were more or less inop and about 90% seized. Replaced calipers/rotors. I didn’t dare touch the parking brake, as you don’t for any car in states that salt the roads.
-Starter crapped out again. Thinking I must have got a bum reman from the parts store, yanked it off and brought it back. It tested perfect on the bench. Discovered the main + battery cable had rotted out internally on the truck between the battery and starter. Cutting it in half it was mostly powder inside. Replaced that, now it cranked over better than ever.
-Both front wheel bearings went out around 80k. The front rotors were about toast, and front calipers were also quite stiff, so that turned into another $500 job.
-Driver side valve cover gasket started leaking badly enough to cause oil stink in the cab. That was a joy to replace.
-The vacuum actuator for the front axle started going out. It had a manual shifter for the 4×4, but would discover sometimes in 4×4 neither front wheel would spin. I never did fix this, as usually a little fiddling with forward/reverse and it would eventually engage.
-Third spark plug shot out of the head. The driver-side firewall plug, aka, the absolutely least accessible one on that truck.
-Input seal on rear axle started leaking. Not bad enough to motivate me to do anything.
-Transmission started acting up around 90k. Intermittently would start shifting oddly, would hold 2nd gear way too long, or wouldn’t shift up until you moved the shifter between 2 and D a couple times. *usually* shutting the truck off and restarting it would fix the problem, for a while. It wasn’t throwing any codes. Hrmmmm. Fluid was full and looked fine. Did a fluid/filter change, but that didn’t seem to help.
-Went to get it inspected for reg renewal and it failed due to excessive play in the front end. On the lift you could grab both front wheels and do the hokey pokey and shake it all about. Needed ball joints, tie rod ends, the whole shebang.
-Probably a week after I had that done, the transmission decided to pack it up entirely. The issue reappeared, much worse, and the “turn it off and on again” didn’t fix it. 3rd and 4th gears had left the building, and it would only shift between 1-2 by directly selecting them on the shifter. “D” just became another “1”. Diagnosis was “she’s fucked, mate” and it needed a rebuilt transmission. Quoted $3k installed. Apparently the “7700” used the heavier duty transmission of the F250 (apparently not, as I never towed anything heavier than a snowmobile/4wheeler), which is much more expensive and less common than the standard in the normal F150.

Said nope, asked what the shop would give me for the truck as-is, took it, and then went and bought a lightly used 2nd gen Tundra. Drove that for 100k miles trouble free. Well, once the dashboard lit up like a Xmas tree, but it was for some smog pump recall Toyota fixed for free. It also had about double the power of the Ferd, and got better MPG, despite the 5.7 iForce being notoriously thirsty. I only got ~15, but the Ford was lucky to do 12 or 13.

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
18 days ago
Reply to  Mechanical Pig

“You chose… poorly.”

Data
Data
18 days ago

I applaud your Holy Grail reference.

Lardo
Lardo
18 days ago
Reply to  Mechanical Pig

well, that is a well told tale. I felt your pain. maybe not such a holy grail. and why they can be bought for cheap…

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
18 days ago
Reply to  Mechanical Pig

Sounds like my Ford truck ownership experiences (2001 F250 SD). I’m surprised you don’t have people telling you that the spark plugs were “only a problem on the 3 valve heads.” I very much beg to differ…
The transmission problem, as it was explained to me and I vaguely recall, was the transmission ECM would occaisonally loose its damn mind and do random things. Mine apparently tried to be in two gears at the same time with the expected result at just over 76,000 miles.
I unloaded it when it developed a weird electrical problem that would short the battery when the ignition was in the Run position. I never did figure-out what caused it in spite of there only being one circuit that could have handled the current without burning. At least it sounds like you got out of it before the cam phasers went!

Last edited 18 days ago by Jason Smith
Pickup_Man
Pickup_Man
18 days ago

Millennial here who absolutely loves the 10th gens. I grew up in one, drove it for years and miss it dearly. These were great trucks. The 97/98 with the steel bumpers I think are a bit ugly, but the refresh for ’99 really cleaned them up and I think they’re great looking trucks. The 5.4 was an absolute stump puller and doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves IMO. They are lacking in top end HP numbers (great for marketing) but more than make up for it in bottom end grunt. Best truck motor I’ve ever owned, definitely prefer it to the 5.0 Coyote.

I know all about the LDF-250 and always thought they were a bit weird, they’re definitely less common than the F-150 but I remember seeing them quite often.

It’s still a dream of mine to build the 10th Gen Ford never did and merge a crew cab with a 6.5′ bed, it’s apparently not very hard to do.

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