Understand that the pictures here show the components of the truck after
a couple of years on the road. I would love to have shiny new "just installed"
pix, but what you see is what has been rolling for these last few years.
Some of these modifications may not apply to your particular vehicle or
situation, but I hope that some of these projects may give you some ideas
for special projects of your own.
The truck had a 460 cid. V-8, with an aftermarket "economiser" intake
manifold and a small 4 barrel carb.. when I acquired it. Not acceptable
for towing! To avoid problems in getting the truck to meet California smog
requirements, I replaced the funky intake setup with a stock manifold and
the stock Motorcraft spreadbore 4 barrel. This setup performs well and
produces reliable power. A manual choke conversion was installed. The air
cleaner assy was discarded in favor of a larger K&N air filter.
New plugs, wires, cap, rotor and coil were installed, all stock components
except the plug wires, which were Accel 8mm silicone wires. A new PCV valve
and an oil change finished it off. A compression check was done and results
recorded for future reference. The engine ran fine, and definitely showed
signs of having a RV cam in it. Also, the compression ratio is fairly low
and it runs fine on regular gas... no ping or knock. Whoever rebuilt this
engine for the previous owner appears to have made some intelligent choices.
When purchased, the truck had stock exhaust manifolds and a dual exhaust
with pretty much plain vanilla mufflers. When the engine tried to breathe
through the new carb. it became real obvious that there was serious restriction
in the exhaust system. I purchased a set of Heddman 3" headers and took
the truck to an exhaust systems specialist for a new custom system. They
recommended that I go with a 3" single exhaust system with a big 3" industrial
muffler. This type of system should maximize mid-range torque and provide
better power where it's needed for towing. The system is everything they
said it would be! I was amazed at the increase in power with the new system
in place and noticed that the engine runs significantly cooler when pulling
up a long hill. It's a little louder, but sounds real good! The tailpipe
exits in the stock location, just behind the starboard rear wheel. I really
am convinced that headers and a big diameter single exhaust system is the
only way to go for a tow vehicle! Plus, having the system custom built
was actually quite a bit cheaper than buying a bolt on system like the
one Banks sells.
As purchased, the truck was equipped with a good sized aftermarket
transmission cooler. It also had an eight bladed flex fan and fan shroud.
No cooling problems were seen even when pulling a long hill in fairly hot
conditions, so no significant mods were done to the cooling system. (if
it ain't broke, don't fix it!). A radiator flush followed by new antifreeze
and a new 13 lb.. radiator cap were the only improvements. All hoses were
inspected carefully for condition. An external transmission filter was
added (on the transmission cooler lines) and this also provided a gauge
to monitor the transmission fluid temperature... a useful addition!
As originally equipped, the truck had 2 fuel tanks, each about 20 gallons.
I opted to replace the rear tank with an aftermarket 40 gallon tank. It
bolts in where the original tank was, but requires the spare tire to be
relocated. It was a bit of a bitch job, but really helps provide extra
My fuel capacity is now 60 gallons and I can comfortably cover 400+
miles when towing. I also replaced the small fuel filter in the carb. with
a larger, replaceable inline fuel filter. This proved to be necessary,
as the packing dust from the inside of the new fuel tank clogged up the
first fuel filter in a big hurry!
I replaced all the universal joints and the center support bearing
on the drive shaft just so that I would know that everything was in top
condition. The differential was inspected and refilled with new gear oil.
The C-6 transmission seemed to work OK, but I did indeed have some trouble
with it down the road a bit. When it became necessary to have it rebuilt,
I had everything done to it that could be done to strengthen the transmission
for towing. A towing shift kit was installed, and the clutch pressure plates
were machined to accept additional clutch plates. A heavy duty torque converter
was also installed. So far, it works just great!
The truck was equipped with air shocks in the rear, but they aren't
acceptable for serious towing, as all the weight is placed on the shock
mounts, which aren't designed for such a load. I purchased a set of Firestone
air bags (Marketed as Ride-Rite) and installed them.
This was a fairly straightforward job and resulted in a very good ride
and excellent weight handling capability. I also purchased a 12v compressor
and set up a cab control panel with a gauge and controls to add or release
air from the air bags.
This has been real handy! I keep about 10 lb. in the bags when driving
solo and run about 45 lb. in them with the trailer attached. That's just
enough air to bring the truck level with the trailer on. The ride is very
soft (unlike the hard ride generated by conventional overload springs)
and the vehicle's handling is not affected. These are a really great addition
to any heavy tow vehicle! The only other suspension work needed was new
The first thing that I did was fully replace all brake components.
I went to Midas in order to have a nationwide warranty. They replaced both
front rotors, both front calipers, new front bearings and seals, new rear
slave cylinders, new rear bearings and seals and all new shoes and pads.
Wasn't cheap (about $1000.00) but I figured that brake systems was a poor
place to try and save money. I wanted the brakes to be 100% with no reservations!
I also replaced the 4 cheesy under-rated chrome spoke wheels with a set
of 3000 lb rated aluminum wheels and new rubber was mounted at the beginning
of the trip. I went with the Bridgestone Dueller A/T 31X10.50R16.5LT tires
and I have been real pleased with them! They have a very stiff side wall,
which helps control side to side sway and they wear like iron! I currently
have over 35K miles towing on them and they are still showing a lot of
I replaced the original truck seat with a better quality reclining
bucket seat unit with a center console. Much more comfortable.
All seals on all windows and vents were replaced, as well as getting
the windshield replaced with a new tinted one. A CB was added and the antenna
was mounted on the truck roof. This bears some additional mention: the
antenna is a full wave antenna and is a light whip that extends to 11'
9" above the ground. This allows it to act as a "feeler" for clearance
height. I need a minimum of 11' 6" clearance for the fifth wheel and I
know that if the antenna hits something overhead, then I need to get out
and take a look. This obviously doesn't work at highway speeds but has
been mighty handy in campgrounds and gas stations, etc. It keeps me out
of parking garages, tho....
The truck needed a paint job real bad, so I took it and had it restored
to the stock colors. Then, bed rail protectors were added to cover the
Fog lights were added. Additional wide angle mirrors were added to the
The truck came with these motorcycle turn signals installed in the doors...
I think they are a good idea, as they help catch people's attention when
you are signaling for a turn!
I also added these neat little window visors... they're great! They
allow me to leave the windows open a bit when parked and keep the rain
When I bought the truck, the instrument panel was mostly inoperative
and the plastic of the gauge cluster was dry and brittle. Rather than try
to replace the gauge cluster with a stock setup, I decided to build a custom
instrument panel. I just happened to have a full set of 2 5/8" gauges....
J.C. Whitney had a close out sale on them and I bought a complete set just
in case I would ever need them. How handy! Building the instrument panel
was a challenge, but I think it turned out all right. I also included an
auxiliary panel with amp and volt gauges for the engine, as well as the
air spring controls and an ammeter for the charge line going back to the
I realize that this is all perhaps a bit excessive, but good instrumentation
can help you catch problems before they become serious. I feel that a transmission
temp gauge is an absolute necessity when towing, and I would feel pretty
helpless without a tach. and a vacuum gauge to keep tabs on what the engine
and transmission are up to. The complete engine gauge set includes: Tach,
Speedometer, Voltmeter, Ammeter, Water temp, Trans. oil temp, Fuel pressure,
Oil pressure, Vacuum and Fuel level. Also included as part of the instruments
is the Delorme Tripmate GPS receiver on the dash and a platform to hold
The truck was already wired for a fifth wheel and all I did was inspect
the trailer wiring. A battery isolator was already installed on the line
to the trailer batteries and most everything seemed to be in good shape.
I did replace the existing electric brake controller with a new Kelsey-Hayes
hydraulic controller. I absolutely detest electronic brake controllers...
in my opinion, they have never truly succeeded in making one that works
properly in all situations. My hydraulic controller works based on how
much brake pedal pressure I am applying, from light braking all the way
to full lock up and is never confused by hills or rough roads. It responds
instantly and is ultra-reliable. I also have an ammeter inline with the
brakes... this makes it easy to test the trailer brakes and wiring for
I added an auxiliary cigarette lighter outlet box to power the laptop
and GPS receiver and also added aftermarket power windows and power door
Towing and truck bed mods.
The truck was a short bed model... this caused a lot of skull sweat
about hitch types and mounting positions. I am using a RBW lil-rocker hitch
and the hitch center point is about 6" behind the rear axle. I actually
had no choice on where to mount it, if I'd positioned it directly over
the axle, I'd have had to relocate BOTH fuel tank fillers... no small job!
It hasn't caused any handling or towing problems and due to the shape of
the front of the trailer, I can cramp it fully without the trailer hitting
the cab of the truck. The only problem that I can see from having the rig
on the scale is that all the pin weight of the rig is on the rear axle....
the front axle of the truck is lighter loaded than the rear axle, but there's
still 3000 lb. on the front axle, so it's not floating or anything. A bit
over 4000 lb. on the rear with the rig on.... hasn't been a problem for
I also added a wind deflector to the top of the truck cab. It looks
pretty cool but the silly thing makes absolutely no difference at all!
If I hadn't hard-mounted it, I would have removed it by now. Part of the
reason why it doesn't work is that the front of my rig is already fairly
well streamlined and the only thing the wing does is make the bugs hit
higher up on the front of the rig. Honestly, I can see no discernible difference
in MPG or handling. If you have a rig with a large vertical front then
I suppose that a wing will help, but don't get a small one... the bigger
ones work much better, I'm told. Mine, like most, folds down easily for
I wanted some storage for the bed of the truck that would house a large
toolbox and a generator. After shopping around and not finding anything
reasonably priced that would meet my needs, I decided to build the truck
bed storage myself. This turned into quite a project! I drew up the plans
and then went to a local sheet metal supplier and ordered a 4' X 12' sheet
of aluminum diamond plate. ( ***Ow, Ow, Ow, $$$$$$$***) They were kind
enough to break it into pieces when I bought it, so that took care of a
lot of the fabrication. I went out and got a tank of Argon for my MIG welder
and commenced to learn (the hard way) to weld aluminum. The boxes turned
out pretty good and have held up well to the rigors of traveling.
The generator runs off the big rear fuel tank and both cooling air
and exhaust is routed through the bed of the truck. I have installed both
a 30A outlet and a standard 20A duplex outlet in covered boxes on the outside
of the generator box. Also, I wired a 4 pole connector to the generator
control lines and put a similar connector on the trailer and wired it to
a generator remote panel. In use, I plug the trailer power cord into the
30A outlet and run a cable between the remote connector on the generator
and the one on the trailer. I can then control the generator from inside
the trailer. I also have a local start/stop switch at the generator for
use when the trailer isn't what I want to power.
The box is built right into the truck bed.
This side holds my toolbox and assorted items.
This side holds my Onan Microlite 2800 Kw generator.
This is an enclosure for a custom built 35 gallon ABS water tank, complete
with 12v pump. This has come in mighty handy for transferring potable water
in extended dry camping situations. I also built a custom fifth wheel tailgate
to interface with the rear water tank. It's welded from 2" square light
steel tube and works just great. Lastly, I was able to mount the truck
spare tire on top of the water tank, since the large rear fuel tank forced
me to relocate it from it's stock position under the truck. Looks like
I'm about due for a new tire cover!
This widget is to allow the motorcycle to be carried on the rear of the
truck. This has been handy a couple of times, such as when I want to take
the truck somewhere for service and don't want to be stranded there all
day. A couple of times, there's been some trails that I want to ride the
bike on that are too far away to get to comfortably on the bike. It's possible
to load up the bike and drive the truck to the trail head, unload the bike
and go riding. It's just a piece of steel C-channel welded onto a standard
hitch stinger. A gate latch clamps onto the bike luggage rack to hold it
The older Ford trucks all came with an area reserved for a second battery.
Since I was not going to use this space for a battery, I mounted a couple
of surplus ammo containers here. They are water-tite and provide great
storage for tools and supplies.
I just had to throw this one in! It's just so cool! My extended cab
truck has the rear jumpseats and I built this nifty little box to fit between
the seats and hold all kinds of stuff. It also provides a decent place
for mounting a set of stereo speakers! Built from 1/2" X 6" pine and painted,
it was a cheap and easy project that really helps kill the clutter!
I get a pretty dependable 7 to 7.5 MPG towing, regardless of terrain
or winds, and I get about 10 MPG solo. Not great, but on the high side
of average for this engine and size of trailer. The engine runs well on
even the cheapest grades of fuel and never pings, even when it's quite
hot. Timing is set to factory specs. Since I don't have any useful information
on the cam or pistons installed when the engine was rebuilt, I can only
guess that the compression ratio is fairly low. That accounts for the lack
of detonation and pinging even on lower grades of fuel. There is a very
noticeable "lope" at idle, so I'm pretty sure that the cam isn't stock.
The paperwork from the engine rebuild (previous owner) states that a "RV
Cam" was installed, but there are no actual cam specs. The combination
works well, tho and produces good power, so I can't bitch too much! The
total weight of truck and trailer with full fuel and empty holding tanks
is about 15,000 lb.. The rear gear ratio is 3.56 which is a little high
for towing, but it works well for me. Third gear at 2500 rpm yields about
60 MPH. Second gear at about 3200 rpm yields just under 50 MPH and is my
maximum climb configuration for grades up to 6 %. I can pull a 6% hill
at 50 MPH but the pedal is flat on the floor. First gear and 3200 rpm yields
about 30 MPH and works well for grades up to about 11%. Maximum grade I
can pull is about 15% with a rolling start. 3200 rpm is the calculated
torque peak for the stock 460 and seems to be about right for mine. Engine
water temps rarely exceed 210 degrees except on very hot days and steep
grades. I consider 230 degrees to be as hot as I will let it get. Transmission
temps run about 10 to 20 degrees higher than the engine temps in most hill
climbing situations. Cruising at 55 on level ground, with ambient temps
at 80 to 90 degrees, I typically see water temps around 190 and trans.
temps around 170. Even a slight grade will raise the trans. temp up to
about 200 degrees. Engine oil consumption has been pretty steady at about
1 quart every 1200 miles. This is not abnormal for the 460 when heavily
loaded. I now have about 40,000 towing miles on the truck.
For any gas powered tow vehicle or motorhome, you should strongly
consider making at least these improvements: