This was my wife’s grandfather’s truck. He bought it new in 1990. It was swiftly dubbed amongst the family as ‘Ford Country’… since it says Ford Country in that awesome font on the doors lol. Nevertheless, it was his favorite truck. He got a newer F150 one a little over a decade later, a crew cab model with all the amenities. But even with the new model in the garage, this was the one he usually gravitated towards. Like a favorite old pair of shoes, it just fit.
He passed about 15 years ago. And my wife’s mom kept Ford Country for sentimental reasons. The truck ran for another 5 years or so, making weekend Home Depot runs & whatnot… until it developed a transmission issue that left it incapacitated. It was pushed in the back of the corral. A month turned into a year… and a year turned into a decade. There it sat… an old Ford truck in a field.
For some reason at the beginning of this year, the truck caught my attention for the first time. Even though I’d been walking past it for a decade with no care/interest, all the sudden, something about it sitting there wasting away started to bother me. I didn’t want that to be the end of its story. I asked my mother-in-law about her plans for the truck, explaining that it was getting to the point where it was gonna be too far gone to save it. And she said, “Oh Johnny please do something with it, I would absolutely love that!”
SO we struck a deal lol. This is how it looked… honestly not too bad for 10 years on idleness.
My mother-in-law gave me the truck for a buck… and I told her I’d start throwing some time & money at it, to see if I could save it. The stipulation was, I had to agree not to ever sell it (easy). And I kinda made a stipulation of my own… that the whole family should be able to drive it. Ya know – since it was the family’s truck. So it has to be at least relatively usable & streetable. I said ‘relatively’. lol
So… long story short, everything I touch on this thing is broken… orrrr it breaks as soon as I touch it. CRC Freeze-Off has been a lifesaver. And while there’s a lot of dust, there’s no rust!
I went through the 5-liter 302 engine doing all the ignition/fuel related tuneup stuff, and got it to run again! I figured if the engine could be saved, it might be worth the cost/effort of a new transmission, brakes, etc. BUT – while I was under the hood, we had a bit of dumb luck! With the front grille out, Hunter noticed an old drip-trial coming off the top of the trans-cooler in the front of the truck by the radiator. The fitting was loose! AKA: hopefully NOT a transmission mechanical problem necessarily… but just a trans leak! We did a trans fluid change & got ol’ Ford Country running & moving under it’s own power!
So now I’m fully committed to the cause at this point, and so starts the fun part. Aftermarket wheels with a more current fitment & sizing are harder to come by for the older square F150s. Even though you can find the correct bolt pattern without much trouble, the hub size on the old Fords is often too big to clear these newer wheels. But TSW has a sister brand called TUFF with a few modern-sized wheels that will fit the old bricknose Fords. I went with the TUFF T-12s in 20X10 -19 squared. The T-12s have a lot of trendy ornamenting on them, with brushed pieces at the end of each spoke and a bulky plastic center cap. But you can remove the brushed pieces for custom painting, so I just… removed them altogether. And if you also remove the center caps, it gives the wheel more of a raw-but-choppy look. I was honestly hesitant to put 20s on the truck. I normally gravitate to something a bit smaller & more period-correct. But 20’s are the new 18 after all… so I’m hoping Ford Country will grow into the look. Plus the modern truck/SUV tires offer better sizing options in 20-inch. I went with the TOYO Proxes ST III in 315/35/20 – front & rear. Inner fender trimming was required lol.
Belltech is a sister company of KW Suspension… their truck line. They make a suspension kit for the old Ford trucks that give them a 2” drop in the front & a 4” drop in the rear… and offers the kit with or without shocks. I got the kit WITH their performance shocks. The front uses drop springs along with the new shocks, and is a super simple & quick process to install (no spring compressor needed). But on the rear, you have to cut-out the OEM brackets that secure the front of the leaf springs… and bolt up the new Belltech brackets. You also need to re-package the leaf springs & add a wedge to re-align the driveshaft. Belltech also gives you a new rear shackle to mount the rear of the leafs (and of course the new shocks if purchased). The 2”/4” drop is a mild & well-rounded look, but I wanted to go lower… go figure.
These old Ford trucks use a unique front suspension design using I-Beams. A company called DJM Suspension makes ‘Dream Beams’, which replace the OEM i-beams & lower the truck 3” while keeping alignment within specs (~$400). So I decided to add the DJM Dream Beams on top of the existing Belltech kit, for a total 5-inches of front drop! To level-out the rear, I got the DJM axle flip kit (only like $60)… which flip-flops the leaf springs under the axle, and gives you another 5” of drop. So now in the rear, I’m sitting 8-inches lower then stock. NOTE: It would be 9-inches… but there is about an inch of adjustability in the Belltech rear shackle, and I don’t want to be too squatty in the rear. To me that just looks like a dog dragging it’s butt across the carpet. Here’s a pick of the adjustability on the rear shackle…
While the bed is off, I ordered the Flowmaster American Thunder cat-back exhaust, and the Flowmaster performance cat… since the original cat (and entire exhaust system) was all rotted out.
Also while the bed is off, I got the Hellwig rear swaybar. There is no OEM swaybar rear OR front. At least to my knowledge, you cannot use a front sway with the i-beam front suspension design. But Hellwig’s rear swaybar will stiffen the rear a ton, which will also stiffen the front a bit by default…. and hopefully assist in not bottoming out on the rear bumpstops. Especially since I removed the rear bumpstops.
There have been all sorts of obstacles along the way. Every kind you can imagine… from the twin fuel-tanks/pumps, to the clapped-out window motors, to the almost nonexistent brakes. And I fully expect more sneaky problems to come as I actually get it back on the road. But there’s something soothing about working on this old truck… and working out the kinks. Kind of like my relaxing quarantine anti-drug. Expect the rear to come down about another inch, as I just removed bumpstops & been tinkerin’. Photos will come after we install the new behind-axle fuel tank & get the bed back on.