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Quarter-Million-Mile Power Stroke Work Truck Project

Part 1: We Buy A Used Fleet Vehicle For $2,250

David Kennedy
Aug 1, 2010
Photographers: David Kennedy
The best thing about owning a four-door diesel truck is that it can do anything. Want to tow your boat, haul some lumber, or race your buddy's Mustang? No problem. Want to take your wife out for a night on the town, pick up the kids from school, or even go on a family vacation? Your diesel can do that, too.
Photo 2/10   |   This '97 Ford F-250 HD has more than 288,000 miles on it-which is probably why we got such a cheap price. The high miles won't stop us from using the truck to haul parts, tow trailers, and even play in the mud from time to time.
But one of the risks of having a truck that can do everything is that it becomes an essential part of your life-and stops being just a pickup-truck-based tool. You can find yourself with a vehicle that's too nice for some jobs, too big for others, and in some cases, car seats begin to take precedence over toolboxes.
We're not going to suggest that you restrict the things your diesel can do, rather it might be time to add a regular cab truck to your stable of diesels in order to tackle the toughest and dirtiest jobs. Basically, what we're suggesting is that you start your own personal fleet, and the key is to buy the least expensive and heaviest-duty vehicle that will do the job.
Buying A Fleet Truck
There are literally hundreds of places to buy used vehicles, but the best deals come from people trying to unload their truck quickly. If you're in the market for a second pickup to use as a utility vehicle, one of the best places you can start is in the used commercial (or fleet) vehicle sales section of your local paper or website. You're looking for a truck that has a proven diesel drivetrain, as few options as possible (less things to break), and evidence of routine maintenance performed by good mechanics.
Photo 3/10   |   This truck has been in California for most of its life, so there's zero rust on the body. Corrosion is the biggest danger when buying a used vehicle. For most of us, it's easier to rebuild a diesel's drivetrain (if needed) than it is to repair body and frame rot.
What We Got For $2,250
We found this '97 Ford F-250 with a 7.3L Power Stroke, automatic transmission, and four-wheel drive on, but it was being sold by RTR Services in Salem, Oregon. The truck had more than 288,000 miles on the odometer, was listed with a very detailed description, and the asking price was $2,500. We made an appointment to see the truck locally-this is critical with high-mileage vehicles-and gave it a thorough inspection. We offered $2,250, which we felt the truck was worth in parts alone. The F-250 came with an 8-ton pintle hitch and a bed-mounted toolbox, and the frame, body, and suspension were in great shape for a work truck.
The Downsides To Buying a 288,000-Mile Truck
Every part of the truck was dirty, the radio didn't really work, the headliner was falling down, and the driver-side door handle had broken free from the door. The engine's flexplate was worn out from use, which tends to cause a gear-clashing sound when we try to start the truck. The batteries were shot, there was no spare tire, and we felt it would only be prudent to replace every fluid in the truck. On the plus side, the A/C was said not to work-but it worked great.
Photo 4/10   |   A truck this old may have had dozens of people driving it, but the interior tells a different story. The F-250 is a base model in every way, but it has A/C. There's an old (but expensive) CD player in the dash, and the truck was once outfitted with two business-band radios. There was a layer of overall filth on every surface, but only the driver side of the seat is stained and worn. All of these clues suggest this Ford spent most of its life in the hands of a foreman.
Our Plan
We're going to drive this truck to the office, junkyard, and the shop. We're going to build it into a utility vehicle that we're never afraid to scratch or get dirty. The truck should be up to the task regardless of weather, temperature, or time of day. We'll add some power to it, install a snowplow, bolt in some heavier-duty drivetrain pieces as needed, and use it to evaluate how components hold up after 300,000 miles of use.


RTR Services
Slalem, OR 97301
The Fordson House



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