Talk Me Out of an OBS as a budget overlanding rig!

Halligan

Adventurer
Had an '08 V-10 F350 myself. One thing to watch out for is the 05-09 Ford modular motors have a funky spark plug design that is prone to break off in the cylinder head requiring a special tool to remove the pieces. Not really a big deal but something to consider.

I have to agree with some of the above posts regarding trying to find something in the 2000's or newer. I like the 80's and 90's iron for the old school "cool" factor but I won't daily drive one.

Good luck.....
 

VroomSIX

Member
The OBS Ford trucks are a great choice. I might be biased cause I own and run one but it’s the truth. My 96 F150 runs a 4.9l Inline six that’s legendary for reliability. It’s not very powerful with 150hp but VERY torque rich with 265ft-lbs available at a bit over idle speed. I get a consistent 12mpg city and 15mpg hwy whether I’m towing, have my camper on the back, or if the truck is empty. It doesn’t really seem to care! Be prepared to take your time though as it is not particularly fast. I also have the single cab short bed which affords me a much smaller wheelbase (about the same as a JK Jeep) than the bigger trucks while giving me a bed that’s not only 6.5’ long but also almost 6’ WIDE. Perfect for me to sleep in the back comfortably :cool:

The 5.0 and 5.8 V8 options are also great choices with plenty of extra power, but mpg’s drop a bit. The 460 big block V8’s, though nice and very powerful, drink fuel like there’s a whole in the tank. Single digit mpg numbers being the norm.

You could get these trucks with a variety of transmission choices. My truck runs a E4OD 4-speed automatic which is basically a C6 3-speed with an overdrive and electric controls. These autos were shared along the whole lineup, but the 5.8’s and Diesels got slightly better internals. Though this holds true to any automatic transmission, these Ford units really benefit from having a trans cooler installed as heat is their #1 killer. Besides that, keep the right amount of fluid in them and they are pretty bulletproof.

They also came with a 5-speed built by Mazda or one by ZF. The ZF box was much stronger than the Mazda unit which was prone to failure if pushed hard ( severe offroad, big tires, etc.) and was only found on F250-350 models.

The 4x4 systems in these trucks are pretty robust. The 9th gen trucks started getting the Borg Warner 1356 Magnessium transfer case. It could have been optioned either with a floor shifter (most optimal) or a electric shift push-button option.

If you already run a vintage 4Runner understand the frame and running gear will be even beefier than this even at just an F150, nevermind the 250 and 350 varients.

Parts will be VERY easy to find. Any auto parts store in North America has almost everything you want or would need for these trucks. They literally sold 10’s of millions of these.

Where you really start seeing the cons is, well they are old trucks. The rides can be rougher than modern vehicles and NVH levels are pretty high. Things like door seals, hinges, seat foam, and insulation start wearing out over time. This can lead to a much louder and uncomfortable ride than a modern vehicle. Steering on these can be scary loose until your literally replace THE ENTIRE steering system. Still, all these things are easily fixed with some research and elbow grease.

Also, being old trucks, and as reliable a they once were, they are still old trucks. I find that if you’re able to bite the bullet and get everything mechanical straightened out all at once you can get to enjoying them faster. Most need a tune up and a few seals changed.

This is just some of the information and experience I’ve gathered in running one of these trucks for the past 5 years.

Good luck on your hunt! (y)(y)
 

mvrk10256

New member
referencing the "abysmal" support comment from the earlier post.

I am not sure what you mean. I have a 2500HD. I bought a sub $200 leveling keys, and installed them in my driveway in under an hour. You can spend about $250 on upgraded tie rod ends that wont bend - pretty much the only weak point of the front end. the rear axle is a full floater beast, the tcase is solid, and if its got a G80 RPO code it comes with an automatic locker. The 6l80 or 6L90 trans is bulletproof, and the LM7 6.0 is super common and widely supported.

If you want a big lift you gotta spend $$ on Cognito arms, but those are very high quality parts and will drive close to stock. I run Billstein 5100 series shocks and steering stabilizer. They are fantastic ( about $500 total shipped form Summit).


Not really sure what else you would need. That truck will go anywhere your toy will.
 

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
The 3/4-1 Ton "OBS" Ford truck was designed in the 1970's with upgrades until the end of the model run in 1997. Remember the first version of the "OBS" Ford truck was first offered for sale in the 1980 model year. Dodge in this era ran their "OBS" from 1972-1993 with upgrades of this 1960's designed and engineered truck. GM ran their "OBS" from 1973-1991 with late 1960's early 1970's design, engineering and upgrades. Good trucks however nowhere near "Modern" in so many ways by today's standard!

Fact of the matter is these "OBS" trucks are down right CRUDE!

The new "Heavy" F250/F350 Ford truck started anew in 1999. These trucks were designed clean sheet in the mid 1990's. Dodge started their new body in 1994 with early 1990's engineering. They made a big upgrade in 2003 with a new Dodge truck. GM started their 3/4-1 ton trucks in 1992 with late 1980's engineering and again in 2001 with the new design truck engineered in the late 1990's. In each situation the "New" trucks took huge in leaps in engineering, comfort, reliability, fuel economy and design over their previous "OBS" older brothers.

If you look at ALL VEHICLES not just trucks offered for sale in total by ALL OEM manufacturer's world wide between 1998-2005 virtually every OEM manufacturer completely re-engineered and re-designed every model of every vehicle they offered in their total lineup during this time frame with modern CAD design and modern manufacturing practices for parts. DIGITAL control is a wonderful thing! GM, Ford, Dodge, Honda, Toyota on and on ALL totally re-designed and re-engineered their complete brand and vehicle model offerings. ALL for the better!

Starting in 2001 with GM you have a completely new truck with the revolutionary LS based gas engine, Duramax Diesel and the 8.1 litre "Big Block" engine options. While the old Chevy Small Block was a good engine that engine in NO WAY COMPARES AT ALL to the LS engine which is a TRULY GREAT ENGINE! Little if anything offered anywhere in the world by any manufacturer comes close to an LS engine for power, reliability, small packaging and aftermarket support. Used parts are EVERYWHERE! Ford/International in all their wisdom decided NOT to make the 7.3 diesel emissions compliant and bestowed upon the Ford faithful the 6.0 Powerstroke! What a disaster! Dodge in 2003 came up with their new truck and upgraded once again the Cummins 5.9 24 valve to the Common Rail HO 5.9 which is probably their best diesel effort installing the HO 24 valve 5.9 a truck that was now overall a pretty good truck!

The automotive world took HUGE gains in quality, reliability, ergonomics, fuel economy and most anything else you can think of during this GLORIOUS TIME OF REVOLUTION NOT JUST EVOLUTION (1998-2005) in the automotive and truck world. Look at the automotive aftermarket, the car shows on TV and the new fantastic parts offered for many vehicles that are based upon engineering concepts from this time period. Much of this innovation goes back to this 1998-2005 era when the OEM's FINALLY decided to spend the money to design and sell much better vehicles. This trend now means newer designs and upgraded on a more frequent basis. No more 16-18 year runs for a truck body design. Most will say that's a good thing and few with piss and moan! The Chevy LS Engine family is by far the most used engine for engine swaps in most any vehicle, car or truck.

Expensive? Yes all this new engineering, innovation and manufacturing technology costs money and you the customer are gonna have pay for it! The rewards are MUCH BETTER TRUCKS in oh so many ways! Given all these facts why would anyone in today's world (2019) want to consider anything "OBS" built before 1998-2005 for any type of daily driver or Overland vehicle that they will full time travel within?

Nostalgia? Your Cheap? You live in a cave and hate progress? I guess there are all sorts of reasons to justify in your own mind and thoughts about why an "OBS" truck is so good. For the rest of us nothing could be further from the truth!

All I can say is this:

They sure don't make cars and trucks like they used to!

As for myself I am sure as Hell glad they DON'T!!!!
I find your user name puzzling. :unsure:
 

vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
I have road raced "Vintage Race Cars" all over the country for over 20+ years as just one of my many varied interests!

Therefore I am a Vintageracer!
 

pappawheely

Autonomous4X4
I have road raced "Vintage Race Cars" all over the country for over 20+ years as just one of my many varied interests!

Therefore I am a Vintageracer!
You must then understand that "crude" to some, is wonderful for others. I like simple. When I need to know the outside temperature, I roll down the winda.
 

zelseman

Observer
referencing the "abysmal" support comment from the earlier post.

I am not sure what you mean. I have a 2500HD. I bought a sub $200 leveling keys, and installed them in my driveway in under an hour. You can spend about $250 on upgraded tie rod ends that wont bend - pretty much the only weak point of the front end. the rear axle is a full floater beast, the tcase is solid, and if its got a G80 RPO code it comes with an automatic locker. The 6l80 or 6L90 trans is bulletproof, and the LM7 6.0 is super common and widely supported.

If you want a big lift you gotta spend $$ on Cognito arms, but those are very high quality parts and will drive close to stock. I run Billstein 5100 series shocks and steering stabilizer. They are fantastic ( about $500 total shipped form Summit).


Not really sure what else you would need. That truck will go anywhere your toy will.
It's all relative I suppose, but say I didn't want the $200 leveling keys and I wanted a different lift or I wanted an option to run a long travel kit or a full coilover setup up front. How many skid plates offerings are there for the truck? Can I get Fox Shocks if I don't want Bilstein? Are there aluminum or steel plates available? I agree that much else isn't needed besides what you mentioned, but I would like to have options.

You must then understand that "crude" to some, is wonderful for others. I like simple. When I need to know the outside temperature, I roll down the winda.
We likely share this sentiment, our 1986 Toyota is far from comfortable on the road or trail but it leaves a smile on my face nearly every time I drive it.
 

vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
I still have the only vehicle I have ever purchased new which is 1995 Ford F350 Crew Cab therefore I am pretty familiar with OBS Ford. WAS a Hell of a nice truck in 1995 however by today's standards it's downright CRUDE. Just like the 1993 Dodge W250 Cummins 4x4 and the 1971 Dodge Sweptline 4x4 Crew Cab I have if you want to talk about really CRUDE!

Call it Crude, call it wonderful however I guess we can both agree that if nothin else they are all OLD!!!!
 

MattsBurban

Member
I can't talk you out of it.

Any OBS I don't care what brand are awesome.

Especially the Fords and a 7.3.

My favorite was the '97...... and I've had every gen up till the 6.0.

'97 hands down was the best. Bottom ends were stronger and can handle mods better, Personally I loved the interiors and the captain chairs of the Fords

That being said...... My 02 F-350 crew cab long box was a gorgeous truck, and I pulled loads that would make a Freightliner jealous.

Don't expect a "comfy" ride tho...... pretty sure a horse drawn buggy is smoother. Ya really get to "feel" the road. Every crack..... and pebble.

Get an F-350 if you can.... they don't ride any rougher and at least they have a solid front axle vs the tire eating TTB front axle on the pre-superduty F-250. OR plan on new leaf springs and shackle bushings to keep the tires running square.

Shackle reversal kits make the front end a little smoother.... (let the axle move back and away from bumps and potholes vs forward and into the bump)

If looking at a 7.3........

Get rid of the Flat turbo down pipe, and delete the EBP (if it has), replace the fuel transfer pump hoses, keep a CAM sensor in the glove box..... you will need it...... glow plugs and relay every two years....high mileage truck may need an IPR valve if it spins over a lot before starting.... worst case a HP pump.... if that's shot it won't start. IF you plan on remote travel I'd consider a new one just because, they can be running.... shut it off.... and won't start again. But they can be expensive.

I've had 460's...... bleh.

IMO a 7.3 is a million times better engine. But I'm a diesel fan

So much so.... The small block 350 in my suburban is going bye bye in favor of a Cummins.

Happy shopping

Cheers
 

mvrk10256

New member
It's all relative I suppose, but say I didn't want the $200 leveling keys and I wanted a different lift or I wanted an option to run a long travel kit or a full coilover setup up front. How many skid plates offerings are there for the truck? Can I get Fox Shocks if I don't want Bilstein? Are there aluminum or steel plates available? I agree that much else isn't needed besides what you mentioned, but I would like to have options.

Not to be argumentative but in general yes. The following are examples. I linked to quality products, but you can get "knock-offs" on ebay.

Long Travel Kit w/ Fox shocks included I believe it comes in 4", 6", 7", & 10" lifts.
AL skidplate
Steel Skidplate

To some degree you are always going to be trading some comfort for off road performance in the IFS vs solid axle deal. And all that comes down to wheeling. If your idea of over landing is driving around the dirt roads of big bend or similar, the truck works just fine stock. In fact I didnt even use 4x4 last time i went, and we ran everything including black gap. If you are looking to run 38"+ tires, and have 400hp v8 and jump over boulders obviously you need a very different rig. But I also would not want to have a camper in the back of that thing as its going to neuter a lot of 4wd ability.
 

justbecause

perpetually lost
I have ABSOLUTELY nothing bad to say about our ‘02 7.3. It’s not an OBS but it is a great truck. CCLB 4x4 in near pristine condition. Not sure what your budget is but we paid $10k for it. Reliable, great support globally, decent MPG, and a ton of power. For the price I’d buy it again in a heartbeat.
We carry a large Lance camper to Baja and it goes good. No complaints.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
10k for a 4 door 7.3 is a great deal. I remember when those trucks were cheaper than their 1/2 to counterparts, now people act like a 7.3 leaves gold dust in its exhaust.
 

Buddha.

Lurker
I always chuckle a bit when I see this referred to mid 90's ford and chevies. Technically wouldn't he old body style of Super Duty be the '99-'16 body style and the New one be '17 +? That being said the mid 90's ford are a nice truck. I wouldn't mind a CCSB 4x4 with a 460.
It's getting ridiculous with the chevy guys. They have the obs, the nbs, the nnbs, and I don't know what they're calling the newest style yet. Nnnbs?
 
Last edited:
Top