Project "Autonomous" F-350

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
Since I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I decided to start a build thread. I am a design engineer, writer and motorsports photographer. Fed up with cubicle life, I decided to become more of a freelancer and build a vehicle capable of extended off-road travel and boondocking. I want to travel from race to race and have a mobile office with all the comforts of home. As long as I have an internet connection, I can work from almost anywhere. A 1992 F-350 4X4 crewcab became the foundation for my rig. It has a 460 gas motor and 5-speed manual transmission. The truck had only 120K miles on it and was in good overall condition. A bonus was the Warn M10000 winch and classic Warn bumper already mounted.

I have learned plenty during this project so far; my first attempt at living quarters was a Caribou 11k. If I was going to be spending a lot of time off the grid, I wanted to be comfortable. It did not take more than a few miles on the road home from purchasing the camper to figure out I had made a mistake. The over 4K pound camper was making the F-350 groan and creak as I went down the road. I knew it would not work where I was headed; live and learn.

IMG_3473.jpg


My next purchase was a 1988 4Wheel Camper Keystone. I had been scouring the normal sources for months looking for a fullsize pop-up at a price that was in my budget. I found this one 90 miles away and drove down on a weeknight to purchase it. The Keystone is light and strong at the same time. It can go anywhere the truck can but the downside is it doesn't have an inside shower. One of my criteria is being self contained.

IMG_4620x.jpg

I wanted a durable, lightweight box that was big enough to be comfortable regardless of the weather. After doing tons of research on this site and others, I figured I would have to build my own. Then by chance I saw Uhaul trucks for sale on craigslist. Their box's were exactly the size and construction I was looking for. The '97 F-350's that they came on also had some parts I could use on my truck like the 38 gallon rear tank. The best thing was, I could get the entire truck for next to nothing.

2Y3A9716.jpg

This thread will no doubt wander as I go into detail on the truck and camper build but I promise to share my thought processes, discoveries and failures too.
 
Last edited:

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
One of the first things I considered was wheels and tires. I wanted to be able to repair a flat in the field. Beadlock rims allow you to take the rim apart, perform a repair and then put it back together again. You can also wrestle a tire on and off without a beadlock but I wanted a very strong wheel. I chose Trailready beadlocks for their quality and the super wide "World Series" ring that they offer. It reinforces the rim substantially, much more than many other designs available.

Autonomous4X4_IMG_0126.jpg

My tire of choice was the Falken Wildpeak in a 37x12.5-17. The Wildpeaks are a great all terrain tire. I spend a lot of time offroad but I also cover huge distances on the highway. I have to consider durability, traction and fuel economy. The Wildpeaks give me all that. They also have a load rating of 3525lbs each.

IMAG0151.jpg

One thing I learned was that the Wildpeak tires have a very thick bead on them. Spacers were needed to seat the beadlock ring onto the wheel. Trailready has the correct spacers and they are lightweight and easy to install.

IMG_3549.jpg

If you are going to repair a tire in the field, any balancing that was done is now compromised. Fixing a flat and then hitting the pavement for a couple hundred miles with an out of balance condition will kill your tire. I HATE! wheel weights but thankfully there is an awesome solution to this problem. I use Centramatic dynamic wheel balancers. It does not matter what the balance on the wheel and tire is, the Centramatic Dynamic balancers will make the wheel run smooth and true. They mount between the hub and the wheel. The minute I drove with the Centramatics I could feel the difference! If you hate wheel weights like me and want to get the most mileage out of your tires, wheel bearings, etc. you should check out Centramatic. I run the Centramatics and NO wheel weights.

Autonomous4X4_IMG_3108.jpg

You can also see the Warn hubs I had installed by my friend Tom Baker at Baker Automotive in Fullerton, Ca. He upgraded my hubs while doing a complete front brake job including rebuilt calipers and a new rotor.

Last but not least is my tire pressure monitoring system by Pressure Pro. The sensors mount to the valve stems and send a signal wirelessly to the dash mounted display. You can monitor up to 6 tires with this unit. Once programmed it will sense a slow leak and give you a warning. It's great peace of mind when you are towing, (my trailer will have the sensors too), or carrying a heavy load. I have not installed the unit yet, I am still laying out the dash. The super wide "World Series" rings on my Trailready beadlocks also protect the Pressure Pro sensors from damage offroad.

Autonomous4X4_IMG_8315.jpg
 
Last edited:

redthies

Renaissance Redneck
Looking forward to seeing this progress. I love the 92-97 F series. It's hard to find the balance between size and weight of a camper, and the amenities that you want.
 
Last edited:

98dango

Expedition Leader
I love the truck always have. The new direction looks fun and should work well.

In the picture of the hubs did you go to a different steering set as well or was this previous and I missed it.
 

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
I love the truck always have. The new direction looks fun and should work well.

In the picture of the hubs did you go to a different steering set as well or was this previous and I missed it.
I am almost done with a complete steering overhaul. Straight tie rods, heims, saginaw pump conversion with remote cooler, ram assist, custom pitman arm. I have to give thanks to Crap Industries for letting me use the shop for my build. It's nice to work with people who have the same "out of the box" thinking and the tools to do just about anything.

IMG_8243.jpg
 
Last edited:

Seabass

Idiot
I'm so glad to see you do this thread. I was lusting after your truck long before I bought mine. I'd love to steal some of your ideas if you don't mind! You've done a great job!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
I'm so glad to see you do this thread. I was lusting after your truck long before I bought mine. I'd love to steal some of your ideas if you don't mind! You've done a great job!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Ha! steal away. I am jealous of your diesel!
 

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
I fabbed up a mount for the hydraulic ram. Since I am running a remote PS cooler I don't have the lines looping around on the X-member. The ram is mounted to the X-member and runs over to the pitman arm. The lines will be tucked up in the frame and don't have to cycle up and down with the front axle. *Note to self, steam clean the truck before starting the project* Years of a leaking steering box and pump have built up a layer of greasy sludge on everything, YUCK!

IMG_8167.jpg
 
Last edited:

98dango

Expedition Leader
I can honestly say I have not seen a ram mounted to the pit man arm ever. You will have to let me know how you like it.
 

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
I would like to claim credit for the idea but honestly, I have seen a few examples on other trucks. If it doesn't work I can still move it to the axle housing. With a spring over and the leafsprings going into negative arch it gets crowded down there.
 

GJStringert

Observer
Great build! I love the OBS's, and 37's on a nice mild lift is very sweet. Great job on the steering (I'll build something like that someday, still rocking the crappy Dodge y-link with no steering box brace or stabilizers gets a little hairy sometimes...), nothing beats a good straight tie rod and drag.

I can't remember but I know I saw a thread somewhere where a guy used a Uhaul box on a Sterling chassis-cab truck, turned out really nice. I've got eyes on this thread!

Keep us posted!
 

java

Expedition Leader
I've always toyed with the idea of a Uhaul bed. Have you weighed it? Any guess as to weight?

The hardwood floor seems like its HEAVY. But they are built pretty decent it seems
 
Top