PROJECT OBSESSED - Diesel World

Introduction to the build-up of a ‘96 F350 Ford Power Stroke

The Old Body Style (OBS) ‘94-’97 Ford is one of those trucks that will never go out of style. Like the ’68-’72 Chevys, the OBS Ford is timeless. There’s just something about that 7.3L Power Stroke that drivers continue to love. Whether you owned one, your dad owned one, or your neighbor owned one, many of us have a memory of these old trucks.

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With that in mind, it was time to start another big project, and with the overwhelmingly good feedback we receive from readers any time we focus on an older truck, starting on the overhaul and updating of a ‘94-’97 Ford F350 seemed the perfect fit. After months of searching, this ‘96 F350 was located not far from home and showed a promising future. The used-truck market is nuts right now, and we were finding these old Fords in the $15-20K range regularly, so when this one popped up at $12K, it was worth the second look. Meeting up with the owner who had been driving it for over 20 years, we were impressed to find it virtually rust free and with a relatively clean interior. After driving the truck and giving it a good once over, we had an idea of what kind of work was going to go into it and felt comfortable making an offer. It had 224,000 miles on it, which was more than we wanted, but the engine ran strong and the oil and transmission fluid were in good condition.

The previous owner had used the truck as his daily driver and weekend tow rig for more than 15 years before replacing it with a newer Dodge pickup. Since that time, the truck had spent a lot of time sitting and was going to need some basic maintenance and love to be truly ‘daily driver’-worthy again.

When it comes to finding parts for ‘94-’97 F250/F350 trucks, there is one go-to shop that specializes in everything OBS Ford. Located in Jasper, Texas, Complete Performance (CP Addict) is run by brothers Chris and Paul Rutledge, who have nothing short of a sickness for the OBS Ford trucks. They’ve built an entire business around their love for these trucks and are known nationwide for their expertise. So, it seemed like a no brainer to spend some time on the phone with them and surfing their cpaddict.com website for a list of stuff we’d need for this build we’re calling Project OBSessed. To replace the faded grille and lights, the Rutledge boys suggested their six-piece headlight package in our choice of clear or smoked lenses along with some new chrome headlight bezels and all-new chrome grille shell. Because our local laws do not allow smoked lenses, we opted for the clear lens package, which will improve the looks of our old Ford while offering better lighting. All the parts were direct-fit pieces and fit perfectly. We also opted to replace our faded taillights with some new, original red tails from CP Addict.

In next month’s installment, we’ll do some basic performance modifications including a new cold-air intake, exhaust system, and custom tuning to help breathe a little bit of life into that old Power Stroke engine. We’ll be turning this truck inside out with one goal: to build one of the finest OBS trucks on the road. Call us crazy, but we expect to see this old Ford achieve the power of a newer truck, with similar ride quality and the versatility to be a reliable daily driver and weekend tow rig. Anyone can buy the perfect truck, but we’re seeking that sense of pride you feel when you build one with your own hands—and the help of the best aftermarket shops in the country. Stay tuned: Project OBSessed is going to be a fun one.

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The ’94-’97 F250 and F350 trucks were extremely popular and for good reason. That 7.3L Power Stroke made great power, and who couldn’t love that spacious crew cab? The OBS has become a classic in the truck market. It has a timeless look that done right is still as stylish as it was 20+ years ago.

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While the exterior of the truck is in great condition, with a straight body, glossy paint, and shiny chrome, the under hood shows signs of neglect. It appears to have spent a lot of miles running down dirt roads and never a minute at a car wash. The engine runs strong and the oil and transmission fluid appear in good condition, but there will be some parts to replace and some elbow grease needed to clean it up.

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We thought the truck was completely stock, other than the cheap air filter mod under the hood. However, these two gems were found stashed under the front seat and instantly took us back a decade or two. The Gold PCM chip and Max Microtuner from Superchips were by far the most popular tuner upgrades for these 7.3L Power Strokes back in the early 2000s. While they do work, tuning has evolved and we will be replacing them

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First priority for this build was replacing a few of the exterior pieces that were showing the truck’s age. The factory grille shell and that camouflage bug shield had to go.

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Along with the faded grille shell, the bubbles under the plastic chrome layer made the entire front end need refreshing. And let’s not even mention those lovely yellowed head lights.

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With the ever-increasing popularity of these OBS trucks, there is a growing need for good replacement parts that add some flare. Complete Performance of Jasper, Texas, has dedicated their business to OBS trucks and specialize in everything ’94-’97 Ford. While we’ll be ordering up a huge laundry list from them for this build, we started off with the front-end package that includes a grille, light bezels, 6-piece clear head and corner lights package, and new taillights.

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Swapping taillights on these old trucks is simple: a couple Phillips head screws, two small bolts, and they pop right out. While the factory light was removed, we took some time to clean up the bulbs, wires, and added some di-electric grease to the light sockets.

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While the original taillights weren’t cracked or busted, 20-plus years of sitting out had taken a toll. The red lens was faded and hazy and the clear reverse lens was discolored as well. While Complete Performance offers clear and smoked taillights, we opted for the factory red tails.

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Up front, the swap is a little more labor intensive and will require some more time to get the headlights, blinkers, and clearance lights traded out. The original chrome-light bezels are being swapped for new shiny parts as well.

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With the factory headlights removed from the truck, you can see how yellow and hazy the lens has become. You can also see the moisture that resides within the light.

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Think these new, clear, reflector-style lenses will look any better hung on the front end? There is no doubt, but another advantage is the added projection you’ll have with the new headlight technology. We’ll be installing some new LED bulbs as well, which will really bring this old truck into the 21st century.

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Going back together now, the new headlight lenses can be mounted first, then the corners and bezels, and lastly the grille shell. Remember, you’ll have to go back and adjust the headlights for the correct light pattern on the road, which is easily done with a few small adjustment rods on each headlight.

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Going back together now, the new headlight lenses can be mounted first, then the corners and bezels, and lastly the grille shell. Remember, you’ll have to go back and adjust the headlights for the correct light pattern on the road, which is easily done with a few small adjustment rods on each headlight.

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The new factory replacement grille sitting next to the original shows just how much life has changed that old girl after 20-plus years. The factory chrome is a dull and the gray centers have faded out. Complete Performance’s new grille is a perfect fit and will make such an improvement to the truck’s overall look.

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The new lights look so much better, and for what little investment and time was spent swapping them out, you’d think this was an all-new truck. The clear lenses look great on the front of this white truck and took away 23 years of tarnish and wear.