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1997 Ford F-150 Exterior Upgrade - TotYl Resurrection, Part Four

We Make Over the F-150's Exterior

May 1, 2015
Photographers: Jeremy Cook, Anthony Soos
When last we left you, we had finally had our long neglected former Motor Trend Truck of the Year looking and performing at a semi-respectable level. Not only have we performed a major tune-up and added some performance parts, but we also gave it a nice 5-inch lift along with new brakes, shocks, and even a few new front end parts. We are just about done with phase one of our buildup, and we don't want to go too far in one direction just yet, but we felt that a day of cleanup and parts replacement was in order to get the exterior up to par with the rest of the truck.
We started by rubbing out the crimson metallic paint with a bunch of products from Meguiar's. Then we decided to put an end to the beige trim and chrome bumpers by taping off the entire lower section of the truck and spraying it all with Eastwood's ElastiWrap removable rubber coating. Then we put a call in to Auto Anything and ordered up a complete set of Spyder lights, including headlights, LED taillights, corner lights and an LED third brake light, all in a smoked finish. Auto Anything also supplied the universal LED conversion kit to really light up the road in front of us. Last but not least, Auto Anything sent us a black mesh grille insert from Grillcraft. After a long night in the TEN Tech Center, we stood back to check out the fruits of our labor and could not believe the transformation. We're pretty sure that this about the best you can do with an old ford with original red paint! But that does not mean we are finished with it. Stay Tuned (hint!) to see what we do next!
Photo 2/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Before
Before. As you may recall, the truck was in pretty rough shape when we got a hold of it.
Photo 3/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade After
After. At this point we’ve got the truck looking good thanks to Auto Anything, Eastwood, and Meguiar’s.
Photo 4/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Spyder Lights
1. Our cloudy and yellowed lights were in dire need of an upgrade. From AutoAnything.com we ordered three pairs of lights from Spyder, the smoked crystal headlights and matching corner lights (PN: HD-JH-FF15097) as well as their smoked LED taillights (PN ALT-ON-FF15097-LED-RS).
Photo 5/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Spyder Led Third Brake Light
2. We definitely wanted to replace our sun-damaged third brake light while we were at it, and ordered the Spyder LED version (PN BKL-FF15097-LED-C).
Photo 6/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Putco Led Conversion Kit
3. Auto Anything suggested we upgrade out headlight bulbs with the Putco LED conversion kits (PN 269007W). These bad boys pump out 2000 lumens and have a 6500K color temperature. Best of all is they are plug-and-play and only take about five extra minutes to install.
Photo 7/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Grillcraft Mx Series Steel Mesh Grill
4. We wanted a subtle but custom black grille to replace the rotted egg crate that we had. Auto Anything had just what we needed from Grillcraft in the form of their MX Series steel mesh grilles (PN FOR-1300-B).
Photo 8/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Eastwood Elastiwrap
5. We really wanted to try out Eastwood's new ElastiWrap removable rubber coating, and the F-150 was the perfect candidate. Eastwood also carries Surface and Prep Cleaner, masking tape, and masking paper to make the job easier, so we ordered accordingly.
Photo 9/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Grille To Core Support Cover Removal
6. Before we pulled the buffer out, we decided to remove all the parts we were getting rid of. We started by removing the grille-to-core support cover, which requires the removal of eight push plugs.
Photo 10/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Corner Light Removal
7. A single screw holds the corner lights in from above. Once it's removed, the light will slide out and the bulb can be removed.
Photo 11/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Headlight Removal
8. For the headlights, the two clips up top are slid up allowing the light to slide out. Then, the bulb was removed as well.
Photo 12/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Grille Removal
9. The Phillips screws that line the top of the grille shell and hide behind the corner light were removed, then the splash guards were unclipped from the bumper and the two large clips on the lower edge of the grille shell were removed.
Photo 13/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Plastic Weld Removal
10. We used a die grinder with an angled bit to remove the plastic welds that attach the stock grille insert to the shell.
Photo 14/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Grille Insert Removal
11. Now the grille insert can be freed from the shell and sent to the scrap pile.
Photo 15/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Tailgate Jamb Screws
12. Two screws in the tailgate jamb hold the taillight in place. The bulbs were unplugged and the lenses were added to the pile.
Photo 16/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Third Brake Light Removal
13. A final two screws hold the third brake light in place. With all the parts removed we were ready to brighten up the paint.
Photo 17/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Meguiars Paint Reconditioing Cream
14. Meguiar's hooked us up with a few products to get our 18-year-old paint into shape fast and with minimal steps. We used their paint Reconditioning Cream with their yellow pad and backing plate. Then the Final Inspection was used for the final wipe down.
Photo 18/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Meguiars Paint Reconditioing Cream
15. We hit all the red with steady even passes. We ended up with a few machine swirls because we were working so quickly but we cleaned them up later by hand.
Photo 19/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Eastwood Elastiwrap Spraying
16. Once we got the paint looking good, we wiped down the bottom area with the Eastwood Surface Prep and Cleaner, as well as the first inch of red so the masking tape would stick. Then we carefully taped off the bottom section of the truck and used lots of paper and plastic to protect the paint and the floor.
Photo 20/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Eastwood Elastiwrap
17. After a final wipe down, we began to spray Eastwood's ElastiWrap onto the truck. We did four laps all the way around the truck, getting a little heavier with each coat.
Photo 21/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Eastwood Elastiwrap
18. Here you can see the difference between the wet and dry areas from the sheen. When we removed the masking tape, we had a razor blade handy in case the coating decided to leave with the tape. We only had a few small areas that needed help.
Photo 22/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Grillcraft Grille Install
19. Now we were ready to install the new parts. The Grillcraft insert lies over the grille shell and the holes are marked and drilled with a 1/2-inch bit.
Photo 23/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Grillcraft Grille Screws And Clips
20. Screws and screw clips then hold the grille to the shell, with spacers used along the top side.
Photo 24/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Grillcraft Grille Assembly
21. The grille assembly was then returned to the truck using the original screws and clips.
Photo 25/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Putco Led Conversion Kit
22. We began the Spyder light install by setting up the Putco LED conversion kit. The "bulb" installs like normal, then there are a couple wires to hook up. That's it!
Photo 26/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Led Conversion Kit Wiring
23. With the wiring fed through the core support and plugged back in, the light simply slid back into place and the clips were pushed back down to secure them.
Photo 27/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Led Conversion Kit Wiring Box
24. The final extra step is to secure the box to the core support with some self-tappers.
Photo 28/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Smoked Headlight Lens Install
25. Next, the corner light bulb is twisted in place and the smoked lens was slid into place and secured using the original screw and clip.
Photo 29/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Led Third Brake Light Install
26. The LED third brake light was up next. Before it can be mounted, the plug needs to be fished through the cab. We pried down the headliner enough to unplug the old and plug in the new without putting a crease into it.
Photo 30/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Led Taillight Pigtail Install
27. Finally, the LED taillight pigtail plugs in right where the bulb used to be. Then, the taillight is secured with the original two screws.
Photo 31/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Project Truck
28. The cool factor of this old Ford went up dramatically with just a single day's work. And the lights are super bright, even through the smoked lenses.
Photo 32/32   |   1997 Ford F150 Exterior Upgrade Project Truck
29. We like how the smoked lenses blend into the truck much better now. We can't wait to show you what we do to our F-150 next!

Sources

Meguiar's
Irvine, CA 92614
800-347-5700
www.meguiars.com
Auto Anything
San Diego, CA 92123
800-874-8888
www.autoanything.com
Eastwood Company
Pottstown, PA 19464
800-343-9353
http://www.eastwood.com

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