1999 Ford F-250 - A Second Life Part 1
A Smooth-Riding Suspension and Updated Looks
Even though the 1999 Ford F-250 had been used hard in its previous life, Frank Navratil recognized the many years of utility left under its rough skin. After it served 14 years as a ranch truck during the summer and pushed a plow when the snow fell in the Colorado Rockies, Frank brought the truck to sunny southern California to begin its transformation into a capable backwoods explorer.
The beautiful thing about diesel engines is how long they last. However, this can also be a curse as the body surrounding the engine begins to deteriorate around it. While some diesels live a long, happy life cruising the interstate, others are sentenced to hard labor. This truck was the latter.
When Frank Navratil’s father offered up his old work truck -- a 1999 Ford F-250 -- for practically free, Frank wasted no time hopping a flight to Colorado to bring the old Ford truck out of the snow and mud of the Rocky Mountains. The truck’s body was in rough shape, but the 7.3L Power Stroke under the hood ran great, making it the perfect candidate to haul the wife and kids on family camping trips. To prepare the truck for its new life as a weekend warrior, Frank enlisted the help of CJC Off Road in Bellflower, California, to give the Ford’s suspension a refresh. A 4-inch lift kit from Carli Suspension, consisting of front and rear Deaver leaf springs and King 2.5-inch shock absorbers, was ordered to replace the rusted-out factory gear. With the suspension figured out, attention turned to replacing the beat-up factory bumpers. A pair of tubular-steel off-road bumpers from the skilled craftsmen at Creative Fabworks was selected for its style and strength.
While the body may still show the scars of its previous responsibilities, the former plow truck turned family wagon is well on its way to a happy second life.
“While some diesels live a long, happy life cruising the interstate, others are sentenced to hard labor. This truck was the latter.”
01. This is what we had to work with: a worn-out and rusty former plow truck. The good part was the price -- the bad part was the entire undercarriage. Blown shocks and de-arched springs meant everything needed to be replaced. We’ll skip the boring stuff and get right to the reassembly.
02. The first thing we needed to do before slinging the new Deaver leaf springs into place was install the bushings. A generous coat of bearing grease and a deadblow hammer made the sometimes tricky job a breeze.
03. Moving the new 12-leaf Deaver front spring pack into place is best accomplished with the help of a friend. Paul Cleveland and Cody Comensky of CJC Off Road shuffled the heavy springs into place with ease.
04. Thanks in part to its former life as a plow truck, many of the factory nuts and bolts were rusted together. Removing the front hanger from the factory spring required a little ingenuity. Ultimately, the business end of a 7-inch grinder got the job done.
05. With the hanger finally separated from the stock springs, Kevin Morgan was able to reattach the hangers and bolt up the Deaver springs. Copious antiseize lubricant was used where necessary to prevent any future rust issues.
06. Following the theme of the install, heat and brute force were once again called upon to remove the factory sway bar links. Cody utilized the power of a map gas torch to finally separate seized bolts and bushings.
07. Carli provided new sway bar links (right) to accommodate the 4 inches of lift. These links are powdercoated black and use polyurethane bushings for a long life and smooth operation.
08. Cleveland muscled the new dampers into their home in the factory shock mounts and then snugged them up with the air gun before filling them with the specified 150 psi of nitrogen.
09. Keeping the new springs under control is a pair of King 2.5-inch reservoir shocks with valving specifically designed for the truck by Carli.
10. The grinder made another appearance as Cleveland attempted to remove the factory track bar bracket.
11. Included with the kit is a new dropped pitman arm and track bar bracket. The powdercoated bracket mounts to the factory location and includes two holes to accommodate different lift heights.
12. Rust strikes again. After soaking the rear U-bolts in penetrating oil and heating them with a torch to no avail, Cleveland pulled out the trusty angle grinder yet again and set to work. Since the kit provided new hardware, the old bolts were simply cut off and tossed in the garbage.
13. Working on the ground makes even the simplest task more difficult. Lying under the truck, Cleveland placed the hefty King 2.5-inch rear shocks into place, finishing the lift kit install. By the following week, CJC Off Road had a vehicle hoist installed.
14. The rear spring pack from Deaver features a progressive 11-leaf design with three overloads. Once the springs were mounted in the front and rear hangers, the axle was lined up and the U-bolts were snugged down with an impact wrench before being torqued to spec. Again, gratuitous amounts of antiseize lubricant were used to prevent future issues.
15. With the suspension work completed, the F-250 headed to Creative Fabworks in Fullerton, California, for a matching pair of front and rear tubular steel bumpers. Each bumper was crafted from 1¾-inch steel tubing, precision bent, and MIG welded. Both units bolt onto the frame. The front bumper has mounting provisions for an LED lightbar and features an aluminum skidplate, while the rear has a trailer hitch and pockets for LED backup lights.
16. With the suspension work completed, the F-250 headed to Creative Fabworks in Fullerton, California, for a matching pair of front and rear tubular steel bumpers. Each bumper was crafted from 1¾-inch steel tubing, precision bent, and MIG welded. Both units bolt onto the frame. The front bumper has mounting provisions for an LED lightbar and features an aluminum skidplate, while the rear has a trailer hitch and pockets for LED backup lights.