The Rooster — LayneWorks F250 Shop Truck

Can you have a shop truck if you don’t have a shop yet? I mean, that’s why I bought it, but at the moment I don’t even have a shed…just a large and rapidly disintegrating asphalt pad on a hill. (If you’ve known me for a while you know it’s luxury, I’m used to turning wrenches in the dirt.)

No, he ain’t gonna die…

TLDR QuickStats:

  • 1987 Ford F250 XL Centurion
  • 460ci/7.5L V8 / 4-speed AOD transmission
  • Sterling 10.25 axle (2WD)
  • F350 Suspension
  • Extended Cab / Long Bed (finally, 4x8 ply can be carried flat and uncut)
  • Gooseneck & Standard Hitches

TLDR QuickPlan/WorkLog:

  • Find a tailgate…done
  • Rebuild the wiring harness (and remove Centurion nonsense)…95% complete
  • Finish removing the ineffective 80’s smog gear, replacing with modern equivalents where appropriate…80% complete
  • Replace coolant reservoir and fix coolant leak…done
  • Reconnect the aircon and see if it works…in progress, troubleshoot clutch
  • Fix d/s headlight retainer…done
  • Replace dry-rot tires…done
  • Replace door skins, or maybe just the entire doors
  • Replace craptastic aftermarket mirrors with Ford Genuine…50% complete
  • Fix the parking brake
  • Replace trailer brake controller (missing)
  • Replace bumpers and rear hitch…
  • …add frame reinforcement to known OBS-chassis weak points
  • Stereo and speakers…done
  • Replace passenger window regulator
  • Remove window tint
  • Replace rear slider with solid window
  • Replace front buckets with a bench
  • Repair rear bench
  • Interior restoration…30% complete
  • Rework exhaust, hanging way too low…?
  • Lower ~4", add helper airbags for occasional heavy loads/towing
  • Upgrades: onboard air (for tools), work area lighting, cargo management, etc…
  • Slowly restore the chassis, paint, and chrome to showroom shiny condition

Longform…

@Brian can attest to the fact that I’ve been restoring my beloved Land Rover Discovery for an absurdly long time. It’s not an overly difficult or time consuming job, but it seems every time I start to get something pulled apart to work on it I have to drop what I’m doing and use the faithful beast for some menial task like rescuing Foresters, commuting to an assignment, or hauling hardware (in way too big a trailer). After the dozenth or so time quickly slapping tires/doors/batteries/panels on it I decided it was time to troll Craigslist for a dedicated support vehicle.

Clearly Fate agreed, because a prime specimen of 1980’s workin’ man nostalgia was right at the top of page one. You know those ads that end with “Price goes up next week after I’ve replaced the doohickey.”? This was one of those. I got to him after he’d replaced the carb and gotten that 460 purring like a kitten, but before he completely removed the smog equipment and Centurion “upgrades” (more on those later). He also already replaced the alternator and battery.

No sign of the too-common trapezoid beds and mismatched body lines from tired, overworked frames. A dirty, but completely intact original dash. The idle was quieter and smoother than my modern fuel-injected British V8. It even had a gooseneck and weight distribution setup installed (likely why the frame is still straight). Sure the carpet is toast and the bumpers are twisted, but those are easy fixes. Surely some other piece of truck-sized footwear was about to fall from the sky?

Remember these “hands free” gems? Old school at it’s finest…

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I LOVE OBS Fords! I’ve had 3 f150s, an 89, a 91, and a 94. Can’t wait to see what you do with this.

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That first impression though. :star_struck:

There’s something about old, American steel. The new stuff out of Detroit has been largely forgettable for 30 years. Plastic, parts bin style. Electronic gimmickry. Meh.

But gimme about a 1972-1989 full-sized truck–preferably with a clattering, indestructible diesel–and, man. What a treat.

I still remember the beat-to-shit Silverado diesel we kept out in a field at the golf course I worked at in 1998. We had to dig it out in winter, often needing a tractor to get it unstuck. The key stayed in the ignition at all times. It was never locked. It was cold blooded as hell, but it always started, and it never complained.

I love that #therooster is equal parts shitty old beater and well-kept, time capsule, resto-mod. Ain’t found a way to kill this one yet.

Looking forward to updates. And maybe a test drive. :wink:

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I was hoping for an F150 when I started searching, perhaps with the straight six since it’ll be used almost exclusively for lumber and dump runs (both under 5 miles, minimal hills). The price:condition math was too good to pass up on this one though, and I suppose someday when I build a garage I’ll be able to haul cars home… :slight_smile:

Bullnose is still my favorite, but the bricknose is growing on me.

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A little digging at the local pick-a-part netted a straight, perfectly operational tailgate for $50. A little digging at the local Motor Vehicles Division—courtesy of the truck having not been in the system since they used paper for filing—netted an interesting (and good) history for the vehicle. Turns out the truck was purchased new right here in Prescott, and likely spent it’s entire life working a ranch over in nearby Chino Valley. The complete lack of bug-splatter-induced decay in any of the still-original front end chrome and plastic tells me it was either well cared for, or never really left the area. The random dings and scratches from ranching equipment bumping into it tells me it’s the latter.

The tailgate will eventually get color-matched when the paint gets done. It will not be getting one of those awful period-correct brushed aluminum skins…

Yeah, they’ve come to snuff the Rooster…

1987 was a cross-over year for the F250, and like many split-generation vehicles, it shares parts with both the older bullnose and newer bricknose trucks. This was the last year for carbonation, and the first year for emissions “control” equipment. (Yes, autocorrect thinks carburetor is carbonated…technology.)

The concept is fascinating, but the execution laughable at best: an overworked spaghetti of plumbing and valving has various gasses forced through it by a pair of belt-driven air pumps, loosely circulated and redeposited into the intake and exhaust with a blend based on a combination of ambient temperature, coolant temperature, throttle position, vacuum pressure, and shear luck. All of this without the benefit of any noteworthy computer monitoring or control. (I’m sure someone here has a far better understanding of this system than I, it baffles me.) “I reckon” science at it’s finest.

A testament to Ford’s faith in the system is it having it’s own dedicated belt, and it’s complete isolation from every other system on the truck…including the emissions warning light. It’s like they were telling the end user to remove the experiment completely, which is what most folks do when faced with the few available and very expensive replacement parts. The next year they switched to EFI and a completely different system to handle smog.

I received the truck with the system disabled and half-removed, as pictured above (there’s a shiny new Edelbrock 4bbl in there somewhere). The remnants of that mess hid a not insignificant oil leak dripping on the exhaust manifold, which began producing a smoke-screen sufficient for Bond’s quick escape about half way home, and also provided shelter to a multi-generational colony of rodents seeking passage to a new world.

With furry critters evicted and most of the spaghetti removed—and an appropriate air cleaner upgrade to match that Edelbrock carb—I could finally see well enough to spend the next several days soaking the top and sides of the motor in degreaser. Thankfully, after some serious and still unfinished scrubbing, the leak turned out to be merely a loose valve cover.

I declared the Rooster fit for duty, pending new tires, and set off with a warm blanket for the top of a steep hill climb to watch the sun set…that’s what you do when you get a new truck, right? Just the right amount of speed to get a 2WD truck with good 32" all-terrains up the slippery side of a fist-sized-rock-covered mesa, windows down, Waylon in the cassette deck, four-hundred-and-sixty happily growling cubic inches, and at the first bump: * burble, burble, silence… * clearly there are still a few more little things to fix up.

We backed down the slope and settled for a slightly lower, much less bumpy hill. Fortunately, She really likes trucks.

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That’s a memorable build thread intro if I’ve ever read one! Excellent work sir. High beams on the floor is more than just a passing nod to retro, isn’t it? Its a full on bear hug. This is going to be fun to watch.

That sunset pic is a great FORD commercial, 33 years late. Was the homage to the truck’s ranch history coincidental? I’m thinking not.

Love it! And as a non full-size, non-domestic aficionado, you’ve snared me with the story.

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As am I, @PajEvo. Chazz is a freaking artist.

There’s bikini babes posing with booth vehicles, and then there’s art. This is the latter. And it’s better.

I was thinking about chasing a more story-driven approach to my own build thread moving forward. This one’s making that feel more and more like a necessity. :wink:

@ChazzLayne any thoughts on ditching the carb altogether in favor of one of them newfangled, bolt-on, Holly EFI setups? Or sourcing the OE EFI bits and converting? I feel like injection might perk that 460 up more than a little bit, but diminishing returns and whatnot.

I’m gonna guess he definitely does not want to bother with the OE EFI bits lol. Those early Ford truck EFI systems were reliable, but terrible at the same time.

Thanks guys… :blush:

A little of that, and a little the closest dirt with a good sunset view and a ticking clock after the MVD.

OE EFI no, but I have occasionally been caught lingering at the bolt-on EFI pages in the Summit catalog. The carb is tuned just right for Prescott and it’s not likely to leave this elevation anytime soon, so possibly in the distant future (after the garage is built). As it sits the power feels ample, balanced, and predictable.

Funny coincidence with the stats: horsepower and torque are almost identical to the Discovery even though the motor is nearly twice the size (7.5L vs. 4.6L). Sales sheet stats, both vehicles have had a little work done…

The bullets scream to me from somewhere…

Certain combinations of keywords thrown at Google in a fit of desperation will result in thousands upon thousands of pages of completely unrelated, completely useless chaos. Occasionally you get lucky and result number five is some guy with a '99 F150, the exact same list of symptoms, and an answer so simple it smacks you in the forehead with a +20 Club of Obviousness.

Chazz, you idiot. You forgot that most valuable of lessons learned from your days as the IT guy: Is the cable plugged in?

Seemingly unrelated symptoms, in order of appearance:

  1. Oil pressure often reads zero, accompanied by the red setting-things-on-fire ENGINE light, which was noted and assigned low-priority because of known-good OP and a well-known it’s-a-feature-not-a-bug change during this model year that makes the gauge an “on or off” affair
  2. Stalled at the bump during the previously mentioned hill-climb
  3. Rough idle, occasionally
  4. Occasionally tough to start, with no obvious pattern (amount of time parked, cold vs. hot, etc)
  5. Occasionally grumbles and dies shortly after starting, or really whenever, again no obvious pattern
  6. But mostly fires right up on the second try like any old carb’d truck should
  7. Brake lights didn’t work, replaced brake light switch which solved the problem until…
  8. Pressing the brake pedal cranks the starter, which happened suddenly and startlingly as I went to put it in gear and go get parts last night
  9. Stalls when sitting still without having 30%+ throttle applied
  10. Won’t crank the starter with the key, cranks starter but won’t start with the brake pedal
  11. Inexplicably all seems well, then half-way down the hill it stalls out
  12. Starter cranks when the transmission is in R; I’m eventually able to speed-shift from N to P and restart, but the problem persists…which is no bueno because now I’m perpendicular half way down the hill blocking the entire driveway, unable to move forward because boulder, missing both reverse and park, and without that one piece of essential gear many auto-trans folks never use…the parking brake (I use it obsessively, but PO didn’t reconnect the cable after servicing the rear brakes)
  13. And all seems well again; quickly back the truck up to it’s parking spot and call it a night (after deploying wheel chocks)

I suppose the correct question is actually: Are all the cables plugged in…to everything else?

There are perhaps five documented cases of Ford trucks with this problem on the internet, and they’re all solved one of two ways: 1) Jiggling 'til it works then deploying zipties overwhelming, and 2) rebuilding the wiring harness. I’ve rebuilt the wiring harness on a modern-ish Land Rover, how bad can the 19 wires a 1987 F250 requires possibly be?

First up: remove the Centurion electrics.

A Centurion package in the 80’s looked about like this: slap all of the available XLT options onto a base model XL chassis after it leaves the factory, swap the bench seat for custom velour captain’s chairs, install a wooden console in the roof with a Cobra CB and auxiliary switch panel, then splice into and hack apart the original wiring harness with a collection of wires, relays, fuses, and angle aluminum that reminds me of my third grade science project.

(In fairness, I’ve bolted relays and a distribution block to a panel the same way, but I was an amateur and it was mounted inside the passenger compartment away from weather. I expect better from a manufacturer-endorsed conversion business.)

While I was at it I also: removed what was left of the dealer-installed towing wiring (which was mostly cut out, but still left plugged in at the battery/brake ends), fixed a coolant leak I noticed on the way through (loose clamp), discovered why (possibly) the air conditioner doesn’t work…

…found this gem (really, who splices into a hood lamp to power…whatever that is? Oh, Centurion)…

…located and safely capped off three of these (I know not where they go)…

…and ultimately, with all the dealer-upsells and aftermarket hackery out of the way, found the ultimate cause of every little nagging problem on the truck…

These were twisted up too, this is after separating them out and testing all systems go. I’ve ordered a few waterproof multiplugs and there’s thankfully plenty of slack to clip and reassemble. On the upside, that’s it, right there is the entirety of the factory wiring harness (save a few basic ancillaries like tail lights). My to-do list just got cut in half.

Yeah buddy! Just when you thought you were free from tape-to-jack converters. :sunglasses:

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LOLWUT?

Pressing the brake pedal cranks the starter, but not turning the key, but won’t start with the brakes applied? Am I reading that right? And there’s a trick with doing this only in reverse?

And how did you get something THIS BIG perpendicular in YOUR driveway?

#type2fun is never fun in the moment.

Reminds me of the biodegradable wire harness in the Volvo 240s and… waitaminute…

Now I see why you’re such an interesting character!

  • You have a hacked-at-the-dealership Ford farm truck,
  • and a Volvo 240 project car,
  • and more than a couple Subaru Forresters in parts,
  • and your reliable daily driver is a Land Rover Defender.

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19 circuits all shorting and grounding randomly to each other from bumps, attitude, and throttle. :smiley:

So, I was parked nose in toward the house over past the studio’s corner. Normally that’d be just back out turning, then forward turning the other way and down the drive. I didn’t realize quite how big a turning circle the Rooster has (battleship class), and I have too many cars in the drive right now, so stalling perpendicular half way down the hill happened in the middle of an Austin Powers style 17,290-point turn…

AP-turn

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :crazy_face:

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Oh yeah. That would do it. Heh.

Also, “Battleship Class.”

185,496.4 miles

Spent the better part of a day closely inspecting the wires, unwrapping them completely from the tape and split-loom while following them up from the rot. I pulled the wiring harness out from over/under the truck and plugged it back in on the outside to make the work easier—I have to rebuild it with it plugged in (battery disconnected) because the wires actually change color from one side of the plug to the other. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Just a few inches into the covered portions the insulation returns to soft-and-flexible and the creepy green death stops. Fortunately, there’s plenty of slack in the harness to just cut out the bad section and re-use the remaining good wire.

All cleaned up and back in place as Ford oritinally intended, minus the spiffy relay holder I still need to clean up and remount. And the brake fluid sensor plug I need to replace. And the A/C wire and plug I need to splice back onto the cut one that came with the truck.

Everything works again except for power to the fuel pumps, which stopped working when I untangled the original shorted wires so there may be additional damage to the wires further aft. (I checked the fuse already.)

I intended to pull out the multimeter today and trace it down, but…

I think I’ll take the day off.

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Oh man. I am SO jealous.

These are fun projects. And snow? Methinks I live in the wrong part of Arizona…

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I love those Deutsch connectors! They make everything look and work so clean.

There’s something so inviting about those massive old truck engine bays. There’s just so much room, you can practically jump in to work on things. We’ve got a '93 F-250 at work that’s only got about 75k original miles on it. It’s got the 5.8L V8, which I’ve heard is a really good engine to have. If work ever puts it up for sale I’d be massively tempted to try to buy it off them.

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Still 185,496.4 miles

Is it???

I’m glad I waited a few days for the snow to melt, because it gave me time to catch up on some videos (I’m addicted to Diresta, MCM, and a few other DIY channels). One of them had a not-so-subtle reminder to always follow the troubleshooting flowchart (air quotes) and not just jump to conclude whatever problem the internet (or your past experience) says is most common to the symptoms…

Re-armed with that mentality I picked up at the fuse where I left off. Just past the fuse is the emergency fuel cut-off, which is a live circuit during normal operation. It seems the plug wiggled it’s way loose while I was fiddling with the wiring harness, and that’s why the fuel pumps weren’t running. I plugged it back in and the beast fired right up. Yeah, glad I followed the flowchart instead of ripping out and rebuilding the rear harness (which is still in surprisingly good condition).

The last significant issues (significant = unfit for service) were coolant related: the reservoir was holding on by one tab, and there was one last small leak up top. The leak was easy to narrow down, and I’m very lucky it was still small…

The 80’s manufacturing habit of leaving tons of extra slack carries over to coolant and heater lines as well; just cut off the split section and re-attach the line. I have a hunch this is actually the wrong size for the heater line, but the leak is gone and it should last until I replace the radiator (which has a plug that isn’t leaking, yet).

The old reservoir shattered when I removed it, and the left over pieces continued to disintegrate and fall as I carried them to the trash can. :no_mouth: This isn’t-new one is from an '89, so hopefully I get a couple of years out of it…or maybe I’ll just suck it up and drop the $40 for a new one when I do the radiator.

185,498.4 miles

Back to the Fun Stuff.

The mirrors have been bugging me since I got the truck (beyond the broken glass). They’re the crappy aftermarket 3-piece arms with an unusual droopy bend, exposed mirror hinges, and low quality metals—basically all we can get new from the parts shops these days. I prefer the next-size-down, single-piece bent to a triangle design, but since the Rooster will likely see large trailers in it’s future I decided to stick with this style and keep an eye out for OEM take-offs. It didn’t take long…

A recent trip to pick-a-part netted a pair of mint condition OEM mirrors, though oddly, only one of the quadrapods. Since the passenger side door has a few issues, which I was about to discover the cause of, I got started on the driver’s side…

…only to get the old mirror torn down and find out why I need to replace both door skins. So, this truck left the factory with that one-size-smaller mirror I prefer, and only had provisions for that size and smaller mirrors (otherwise you’d have exposed holes in the door). Thus, there are none of the proper Ford-installed mounting points in the door skins for these mirrors. To make matters worse the rivnuts were installed in the wrong location (an easy mistake to make with the craptastic aftermarket mirrors), and the rivnuts just spin and spin because they weren’t fully seated. Sweet.


Now the multiple rip-outs on the passenger side mirror make sense, at least the how (not the why). Tek screws I will never understand—I popped the broken mirror off, reamed out the holes, and put in stainless rivnuts (properly, using tools). It’s not great, but it should hold until I replace the door skins. That’ll be after I repair the minimal rust issues. Like, in 2030 when I’m ready to paint the truck.


Frustrated and looking for easy wins, I skipped ahead to installing the rest of the junkyard goodies that don’t need to wait for paint. Rebuilding the half-missing AC wiring harness went very easy, all two wires of it. I prefer home runs on wires, but proprietary hard-mounted sockets in the devices on each end meant I’d be better off crimping and sealing (@Brian, that glue squeeze-out :sunglasses: ). The button on the dash lights up again, but the clutch on the compressor doesn’t engage. I’ll work on that later…after it gets warm outside.

And the last floppy rattling thing on the truck…sorted! The Rooster is ready for service, day or night.

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Do you think the “unnecessarily” rebuilt harness is better than what had been? If so, if take comfort in knowing it’s sorted for the long haul more than letting that fuel cutoff switch thing bug ya. (Because we all know how much shit like that will bug ya.)

Can’t wait to play with wires and electricity. And try taking these kinds of pretty pictures of same!

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Oh it definitely needed rebuilt, not just from the shrinking insulation and creepy green death, but I also repaired several sliced grounds, links, and a few broken plugs. Stoked I don’t have to do the back half though, as that would all have to be laying on my back under the truck.

50mm f1.4 with the shutter 2/3rds darker than Uncle Canon says it should be…winter light makes finding “golden hour” a lazy ordeal. :sunglasses:

185,500.3 miles
(Stole the mileage-stamp idea from @Brian because it’s awesome.)

I need a bit of advice from someone with any experience; I have none since I’ve always burned through the tread life long before the sidewalls even start to look weathered.

How bad is too bad for cracking in the sidewall?

Pictured is the worst part of the worst tire, obviously tons of tread life left on these. I expect this will be a recurring problem for the Rooster since it will likely see less than 1,000 miles a year… :frowning: