Part Nine: Traction and Steps

Well, the old body style Ford build we’ve been working on for over a year now is really starting to take shape. With last months fuel injector upgrade and another 90-horspeower on tap, the 230k mile motor is running strong and seems to be ready for more. With a 205cc injector, we’re fueled way heavier than the stock turbo can support and it’s apparent our stock mechanical fuel pump and fuel system is sufficient for those Hybrids either. With fuel pressure dropping substantially and our EGT’s and smoke output pretty extreme in a big tune, there is definitely a lot of power left on the table. So soon we’ll tackle an electric fuel system conversion with parts from Strictly Diesel and the turbocharger will get upgraded with a new unit from KC Turbos. But for this month, we’re going to focus on a couple small things.

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While the old stainless tube steps were still serving their purpose, the hardware was pretty rusted out and the brackets were bent a caused some unwanted squeaks and rattles. Besides,
after 10+ years on the truck they were showing their age. All that seemed like a great reason to update.

When we installed the new Sky’s Off-road Reverse Shackle Kit on the front suspension and upgraded the steering assembly with heavy duty parts from Carrick Customs, we kind of just eyeballed the alignment best we could with a tape measure. Obviously, it needed a professional alignment, soon after, so while the truck spent the time at the tire shop, we opted to do something about the tires on Project OBSessed as well. This past March, Toyo Tires released an all new Open Country A/T3 for the light duty market, and with great personal experience from its predecessor, the A/T II on another truck, we knew this big Ford could be the perfect test bed for something new on the market.

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Looking to stick with some of the nostalgic look to the truck but add some functionality, we opted to go with some wheel to wheel nerf step bars from N-Fab, Inc. The classic step design has been around for years and tucks up nicely along the cab for a great look while offering great access in and out, including a bed step for easy access back there.

The Open Country A/T III was developed to deliver gripping off-road traction with responsive and predictable on-road handling. Toyo’s engineers went to the drawing board to focus on wet performance, durability and longer treadwear life. Of course, a quiet ride with exceptional stability while towing was just as important. The all new tread compound and lug pattern offers improved braking, better cut and chip resistance with enhanced off road traction. By more evenly distributing the void areas within the tread pattern, the Toyo A/T 3 offer better appearance as the tire wears and multi-wave sipes offer excellent snow traction and reduce irregular wear. This F350 is setup to sit just slightly taller than factory, so the tried and true 285/75R16 in a 10-ply load range E was going to be perfect for the factory 16” Alcoa wheels.

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The patented drop down step design N-Fab has been using in their
bars offers a great foot well for access in and out of the truck. They’ve
placed them in the perfect place along the main tube and their in-house
gloss black powder coat really finished them off nicely.

After 1,000 miles of driving we can report with excellent feedback and a confidence in suggesting them to readers. Towing heavy they felt very stable, with no issues of wandering at freeway speeds or that strange soggy feeling you get from a tire that’s too soft to support the weight. We’ve had them through the mud with great results, they cleared mud easy and kept finding traction when it was needed. Unfortunately, our winter ended a little too soon and we can’t report on their ice and snow performance, but with the tire industries Mountain Snowflake qualifications, we’d assume they’ll be great in winter conditions too. Our LT model tire is covered by a 50,000 mile warranty and Toyo will even offer a 500-mile guarantee with their “Buy’em and Try’em” offer. If you’re not satisfied, they’ll take them back.

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The N-Fab Nerf Steps tuck up against the body and make for a great look. It is worth mentioning, on the longer wheel to wheel and bed access steps, you’ll want to make sure your cab mounts aren’t worn out so the steps follow the body to bed lines smoothly and won’t flex into the bottom of the bed on off camber terrain.

With the brand new tires under the truck, we really wanted to do a little more on the cosmetic side of things. The truck is in excellent condition for being 24 years old, but there are still a few parts showing signs of age and the effects of baking in the sun. The stainless steel tube steps on the truck were still functioning as a step, but years of road debris and use had left some permanent scratches and the salty winter roads had all but eaten away the steel mounting brackets. The factory body moldings running down the cab doors and bed sides were pretty sun rotted as well. So, in hopes of bringing some new life into the old truck, with the help of a heat gun we made short work of removing the moldings. They peeled right off leaving just the adhesive behind, that we were able to clear off easily with a 3M eraser wheel in our drill. While we haven’t done anything just yet, we do have plans of replacing the moldings with some factory appearing stuff but are still tossing around the idea of doing some other body work and painting the truck.

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While installation of these steps does require some drilling, it’s quite simple and we had both bars installed in less than an hour on our own. By locating the steps in the preferred location and marking the hole locations from below. We could drill a small pilot hole then finish off to the correct size with a step but from above.

As for the steps, we opted to replace those 15 year old tube steps with the Bed Access triple hoop steps from N-Fab. Like the Toyo Tires we installed, we have had previous experience with the N-Fab product line and knew they’d fit this build perfectly. Their step design has been around forever and looks right at home on this old truck. The main tube tucks up nice and tight against the body while the drop down steps offer a great step pad a little closer to the ground for easier access. The extra length running under the bed adds to the look we were after and the extra step back there sure makes reaching things inside the bed nicer. They offer great body protection from road debris the full length of the truck and their fully welded design should hold up great for years to come. The steps did require some drilling under the cab, but still were able to be installed in less than an hour.

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The supplied carriage bolts made it simple to attach the step bars to the body. With three mounting pads per steps, they secure snugly and feel solid regardless of whether your stepping up into the front, back or even the bed.

It is worth noting however, if you plan to run the full length steps from wheel to wheel, you’ll want to be sure your body mounts are in good condition. Any cab mount droop or excessive cab roll will be more prominent as the steps may not follow the bed lines as smoothly as the cab. Off camber positions while driving could cause the steps to contact the bed as well, so we opted to replace all our body mounts with brand new units from Energy Suspensions just to be safe. After swapping those old rubber mounts out, we’re glad we did, they were shot.

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With the glossy new steps on the truck, it really brought out just how faded and sun rotted the original body moldings were. Unfortunately, there is no good way to clean these up, so we opted to remove them completely.

Next month, we’ll get back under the hood and start tackling those fuel system upgrades we mentioned so our fuel pressure stays up where it supposed to and really give this Power Stroke a chance to perform to it’s full potential. We’re currently making 400-horspower, and we’re told these injectors can support upwards of 475, so naturally we’ll do everything we can to ensure we get there. Besides, the original plan with this build was to fill that nostalgic void in our hearts while be able to keep up with those brand new $70,000 Super Duties at the dealership and honestly, we’re almost there…

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With the help of a heat gun and a 3M eraser wheel on the end of a power drill, the moldings came off easily. The adhesive came right off the paint and it’s revealed just how bright and shiny this white paint used to be. Luckily for us, the local detail shop says after a cut and polish, the whole truck should come back to life in its brilliant white exterior.
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One major advantage to a magazine project of this depth is the ability to test new products when they come along and thanks to our close relationship with Toyo Tires we were given the chance to try out their brand new to market Open Country A/T3 released this past March. Sticking with factory wheels, we opted for the tried and true 285/75R16 in a 10-ply E-Rating to handle our towing needs.
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The all new tread design on the A/T3 offers better wet braking, improved handling, and off-road traction without affecting there on road performance and longevity. Plus, Toyo offers up to a 65,000 mile warranty depending on the size you run.
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Once on their rims, to be sure everything with our recently replaced front end it was pulled up onto the state of the art alignment rack to ensure we’d get the most of those new tires.
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