Charlie, 96 F250 Service Bed


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It did alright for a Liberty. This car was so fun to drive. It was extremely well balanced. I sold it to fund KOH expansion. It lives in France last I heard.

The car was registered and insured, but obviously street legal was dependent on where I was. One of my most epic trips with this rig was a 10 day run from Ensenada to LaPaz with two other go fast crawlers. This car was the inspiration to develop the King of the Hammers. Before this car was built no one ever considered a dual sport crawler. This one broke the mold and I really wish I still had it. My daughter pictured below learned how to drive in this car and was the terror of the desert at 13 years old.

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In reality, despite what @Dave swears, this is what his new Jeep will look similar to in about three years... :rofl
Returned home from a 14 day, 3500 mile road trip using the wife's Grand Cherokee "Chick-O-ree". We averaged 23MPG over the 70 hours of driving and it took all but about an hour into it and I was thankful we did not drive Charlie. Charlie would have consumed 437 gals of fuel on the trip. The Chick-O-ree consumed 152 gal. We spent about $500 in fuel which would have been upwards of $1500 in Charlie. I drove the speed limit the whole trip (as I have too many points to risk any more speeding tickets) so I don't think the drive time would have been much higher in the old truck, but I will say two additional items made the trip more enjoyable. I would have had to stop for fuel more often, some stretches got pretty remote. I also would have been concerned about breakdowns the whole trip. We had some pretty desolate stretches that would have been uncomfortable.

The fuel saving translated into hotel stops rather than camping stops. While I would have liked to camp on this trip, in hindsight our schedule was way too tight to allow any type of enjoyable camping. We spent most nights at family, or friends homes anyway. Jackson, Bozeman, and Bend had the highest hotel rates of our trip, but they also gave us some of our best nights, so we may have missed out exploring those towns had we camped.

70 hours of driving gave me a lot of time to consider the perfect vehicle. We looked at Sportmobiles in all the resort towns and on the highway. They look cool for highway travel and wide dirt roads, but I personally would not be interested in driving any type of trail in that type of rig. I might still be swayed as I have not had the chance to experience one. We may at some point look into renting one for a weekend.

In the long term, a 97-98 12 valve Dodge does seem right for us. I like the Caravan campers they make here in Reno, we can tow a boat, or Crawler and the drivetrain is stout. That being said, the wife and I have a lot of irons in the fire currently that suggest buying a project truck should wait. For the time being Charlie will do just fine serving weekend exploration trips in the Eastern Sierra. We have so much within a 6 hour radius, I am lobbying for local adventure as opposed to driving 14 hours to recreate. Our family is blessed with making Idaho and Montana home, while we sometimes forget we have Tahoe, the Eastern Sierra and Great Basin outside our doorsteps. I learned this trip, that mixing family visits and adventure is a challenge. I think plane rides may be better suited for family visits, or bomb runs in the Chick-O-ree.
I figured an update might be in order. I have not done any work to Charlie the last few months and have been focused on my home renovation. Lots of research into options for next steps with this rig. While the truck has been great for all these years a few things are preventing me from believing I should continue down the path with this truck. Interior storage (in cab) is a drag. When the wife and I travel together stuff ends up piled in the middle of the seat and all over the floor. Fuel mileage is the second hurdle (at best 8) and lastly power.

Rather than continue investing in Charlie, I have been saving the cash each month, looking for a suitable replacement. The Ram trucks are very nice, but after much thought, I think it is more practical to find a 7.3 extra cab replacement and swap all my bumpers, tire carrier, ect over to a new to me truck.

I am shopping now for a replacement and it is interesting the price swings and value of these older diesel trucks. I am in no hurry and have a few requirements, such as color, manual transmission, vehicle mileage. Looking for a mature owner truck limits the search.

Any next steps on this build will be focused on the service bed, as it will get swapped to an extra cab truck at some point.
Test drove a 1995 F250 powerstroke manual extracab today, but did not pull the trigger. It has an expired California registration and a fuel leak. Fuel leak looks like a common problem with the drain valve on the back of the filter housing, but I could be wrong as the owner pressure washed the engine before I arrived. I could see where it previously parked as it marked it's territory. The bigger concern is smog. In Reno we are required to pass a smog test every year, for diesel powered trucks all the way back to 1967. We don't have an exemption like California for Diesel trucks in this model year. I am concerned because it has a Banks inter-cooler and K&N cold air filter kit. Unless someone knows, I will have to hit up my local smog test station this week and ask. I am guessing this is why it is not currently registered.

This was my first time driving a manual transmission with a diesel, the power is incredible, but you won't be drag racing off the line as it feels like it would leave a trail of broken parts in the street. I have had a half dozen diesel trucks, but all with automatics. My first impression was that these types of trucks are all about utility, where the automatics seems to offer more luxury. The truck feels like it will pull down a house compared to the Gas 5.8 in Charlie. I am curious if anyone has any opinions on manual vs auto in diesels? My main reason for considering the manual is that I have wasted a few auto's and like the idea of simplicity.

Truck has 160K miles and we are currently negotiating a price. We are within $500 of blue book in our first talks, so I am pretty sure we can come to an agreement on price if I want to buy. FWIW, I found a handful of trucks in this price range ($7,500-$10,000) in my area, all in about the same condition, save for the OG owner $67k miles cream puff that the owner is firm at $20k.

This seems a lot more fun than just buying a new truck at the dealer, but I bet fixing stuff will change my mind.
We have a 97 dump truck, its the auto. It has shift kit in it and SUCKS. I can imagine with a manual it would be nice, but my cheap guys cant drive sticks.

As to emissions, is it an inspection or just a sniffer test?

The fuel leak you should be able to see it puddling in the valley (after a drive) if its the fuel bowl. Ours had that one... Easy fix though.
Spent a little effort to track down the inter-cooler and smog in Nevada. Two separate sources report that the Banks inter-cooler will not disqualify a smog certificate in itself, but it will need to pass a sniff test on the dyno. Putting together an offer for the owner, but I doubt he will accept as I want him to smog and allow me to have a pre sale inspection done by a shop I have used in the past that does only Diesel. $150 will give me a better idea on the fuel leak.

I am no hurry
The Ford auto from that period is terrible. I had a small grading company and we replaced a couple, but they were used hard. My brother replaced a couple more, and his were not used hard. And they never drove all that well. I much preferred the manual. The 2003+ trucks got a new automatic, and it's great. But the old (E4OD?) is marginal with the stock diesel. I have heard that it can be built up by a transmission shop, but that was more than I ever wanted to mess with.
Spent a little effort to track down the inter-cooler and smog in Nevada. Two separate sources report that the Banks inter-cooler will not disqualify a smog certificate in itself, but it will need to pass a sniff test on the dyno. Putting together an offer for the owner, but I doubt he will accept as I want him to smog and allow me to have a pre sale inspection done by a shop I have used in the past that does only Diesel. $150 will give me a better idea on the fuel leak.

I am no hurry
I have not done much research, but IIRC some of the Banks kits are CA legal also....
It's been a while since I updated this post. I have been tinkering with Charlie and saving some money for a replacement. I did not take any pictures or document any of the latest modifications as I was planning to do that when I transferred everything to a new platform. None the less this is a long post.

In February I left Reno in a pretty massive snow storm and headed south to Johnson Valley for the 13th running of the King of the Hammers. Road conditions were pretty bad on 395 I averaged about 35-45MPH from Reno to Mammoth. A few times visibility was limited to maybe 10 feet in front of the truck. I never locked the hubs and drove pretty safely in 2 wheel drive, mostly because I was too lazy to get out and lock the hubs, but partly because I wanted to find the point in which the road required 4WD. CHP did stop me one time in Walker, but only to ask if I saw anyone stuck if I could help them. I did not see a lot of vehicles until I got to the June Lake cut off and then it got interesting with the Subaru crowd driving foolish. Fuel mileage was about 15 MPG at that slow speed (35-40) but after Bishop we digressed to 7MPG at best.

Truck ran great the whole trip, but did throw a code climbing from Bishop to Mammoth on the return. Climbing hills frankly sucked, with speeds down to 35MPH on any significant grades. The check engine light corrected itself, and I assume it was a emissions related issue since it seemed to have no change in performance.

Rooftop tent camping at the Hammers in February was not the most fabulous idea, but the tent did hold up very well in the high winds. Temps inside the tent in the morning measured about 20* with snow on one of the nights. I was able to quickly get the shelter up to about 90* with the Buddy heater, so it was bearable. The wind noise was the only real complaint, but even people in RVs complained of poor sleeping conditions.

It was on this trip that I seriously considered my options. I have not been able to find a suitable OBS Ford PSD to purchase. The trucks are around $15K - $20K for decent shape and mileage. Finding sub 100K mileage is like finding a four leaf clover. I started looking at Ram options and came very close to pulling the trigger on a 2015 truck that was already well equipped, but the cost vs. used gave me cold feet, and I backed out in the 9th inning. I also was having second thoughts about the size of the truck. Driving Charlie around town sucks. It sucks so bad I pretty much only drive to the Home Improvement store and work. I previously owned a four dr F350 long bed and was reminded of parking that beast. So the Ram trucks quickly fell off my radar.

Enter the Toyota Tacoma; this seemed a reasonable option. Tons of aftermarket support, good choices for use, but price creep pushed my budget up from $10k-$15K to $30K quick. That turned in to $40K when I started looking and realized I would have to rebuild or purchase things like bumpers and tire carriers. The biggest issue, I did not fall in love or like the Tacoma. The seat was not comfortable, the power seemed no better than Charlie, the fuel mileage was an improvement, but nothing to brag about. I even tried the TRD PRO and was not impressed.

"Can you see yourself in this truck?" NO!

"If you don't like the Tacoma, maybe you will like this?"

The salesmen were pretty good; he was not letting me off the lot without checking all the boxes. I was not interested in what he was pitching, but the wife was impressed. The GMC Canyon was a lot better ride, with the 2.8 baby Duramax giving me a much smoother power band and I was comfortable. Now I had to do research, so I was not buying the used truck today at a $40K price point. Sorry, Toyota I was not feeling it. GM is up to the plate.

I had not paid much attention to the Colorado the last three years. Sure I saw the Bison at the SEMA show, but never really expected that GM would green light the project, and it would just be another notch in the AEV belt. However, when I started researching the ZR2, it seemed the logical choice for my interest. I found a 2016 at Carmax and went for a no obligation test drive of a unit with 40K miles and a nonnegotiable sticker price equal to a new 2019 of the same features. I am not sure why everyone loves Carmax, but it is a great place to drive a car.

I Loved it. So if I am gonna spend $40K on a new truck I figure maybe I can find one of these AEV Bison trucks and see what that is gonna cost? Now you know where this is going.

GM produced only 2000 Bison truck for 2019. I don't know the mix, but I assume half are gas and half are diesel. The dealers don't seem to list them as a Bison on their websites, so you have to look at the options and window sticker to find them. Within a few hours, I see one about a 2-hour drive from Reno. MSRP $54K, lots of incentives bla bla bla. I finally get a hold of someone who knows about the Bison and learn that the sales managers friend has a deposit on the truck, but I am second on the waiting list. The truck is not on the lot yet. No chance that truck is not already sold, I go back to searching.

Now I am convinced I am buying the Bison, because its a game, to find one and see what kind of deal I can get. On Weds, I locate two Bison trucks in Carson City. Introduce the great salesman on the phone, he knows all about the truck and says they are stuck in California due to the poor weather we have been having this year, in fact, he tells me pretty much all their inventory is stuck in California, something like over 100 vehicles. On Friday (yesterday) the wife and I decide to see this salesman and see if we can put a deposit?

This is where it gets fun. The dealer knows the truck is in demand; they want $5000 above MSRP for the truck. $59K asking price. I can leave a deposit, but its gonna be $59K for the truck. Since they don't have any inventory on the lot, its Friday night and we are already in Carson; I ask if we can buy the truck and negotiate a price. I have no trade, a pocket full of cash and a good credit score, you guys wanna make a deal or what?

I will spare you the details of our 3 hour debate, but I am glad I took that class on mutual gains negotiations. Two salesmen, the sales manager, the wife and I sparing over a fair price for a truck that is not even on the lot was a party. The weather has been pretty bad in Northern Nevada this year. Not a lot of cars on the lot and some pretty hungry salespeople at mid-month gave us the upper hand. We bought the truck. Looks like from what others are sharing about Bison sales prices we did pretty good. Cost me $1,500 more than what I considered my best case scenario. I got some of that back in Finance :)

No idea when the truck will be here they are gonna track it down next week, I am in no hurry.

Charlie is gonna go back to work truck duties; I got a new project. AEV Bison.
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