Part Two: Ford F-350  Interior Cleanup

Last month, we introduced an all-new project build—Project OBSessed. This 1996 7.3L Power Stroke F350 has 224,000 miles, had one owner, and has seen its fair share of tough miles. However, given its age, it’s in great overall condition. After spending its life in Utah, where snowy salt-covered roads are the norm four months of the year, it’s still solid and rust free.

For many, these 1994-1997 Ford trucks hold a special place in their heart. Maybe you had one 15 years ago, or your dad had one, or your neighbor had one. Most folks who have been around diesel pickups have a story about a 7.3L Power Stroke, and it’s usually a good one. Like many of you, I grew up in a home that had an OBS Ford parked in the garage. I drove one similar to this truck my senior year of high school, and I later owned two other 7.3 Power Strokes that fostered my love for the diesel industry.

After 23 years and 200k+ miles, no matter how good the truck, there are bound to be things that break, fail, or just plain wear out. For this truck, even though the previous owner took great care of it, the dash bezel had some broken clips, a missing trim piece, and it was rattling. The square hole needed some attention as well.
Another common failure on these old trucks is the plastic HVAC vents on the dash. After who knows how many thousands of adjustments, the plastic had broken and directing air where you wanted was just out of the question.
A total replacement for the instrument cluster bezel from Complete Performance was the easiest way to fix the broken dash vents, rattling trim, and unwanted hole. This factory Ford part is a welcome find for a vehicle over 20 years old.
Removing the factory dash bezel didn’t take long. There were just a couple small screws and a few clips, some of which were already broken or missing. As advanced as today’s diesels are, it’s nice to get back into these older vehicles because they are so much simpler. Basic light bulbs light up the dash and can be replaced by disconnecting just a couple of wiring connectors.

I cut my teeth working on Power Strokes over 15 years ago and had a lot of fun doing it. Getting 600 hp from a 7.3L was a big feat in 2005, and I took pride in achieving it. But, with time, I was drawn to the ease of making power with common rail technology. I jumped off the blue oval band wagon eight or nine years ago and built a couple Duramax trucks with no intention of ever getting back into a 7.3L Power Stroke. I hadn’t forgotten how noisy they are, how stubborn they are to start on a cold morning, or how relatively underpowered they can be. But when the time came to move on from my 2012 Silverado Duramax project, for some reason, my past started whispering in my ear. I felt nostalgia for that classic, old-body-style Ford and the thought of getting back under the hood of a 7.3L intrigued me. Much to my wife’s displeasure, here we are, the proud owners of a loud, rough-riding F350—and it’s perfect. Over the course of the next year, hopefully you’ll enjoy following this transformation as we show you that an old truck can still be great truck.

In part one of the build, we started off with some cosmetic upgrades. We ditched a camo bug shield, tinted the windows, replaced a beat up front bumper, and updated the front end with new clear lens lights, a chrome grille, and all new taillights from Complete Performance. While this is a diesel performance magazine and you’re probably ready to see the horsepower bolt-ons get installed, that will have to wait a bit. When you’re daily driving a 20+-year-old truck, some things are more important than horsepower. With that in mind, we will focus on the interior this month. We spent $200 at the local detail shop having the carpets and seats shampooed, replaced a couple front window switches, rewired a passenger rear window that wouldn’t roll up or down, and even tossed the crusty old dash mat in the washer.

Complete Performance specializes in these 1997 and older Ford trucks and has been added to our speed dial list as we begin transforming this old worn out F350 into a solid and reliable daily driver. After more than 20 years, the factory door hinges were sagging badly, which made opening and closing a two-handed task. The door hinge pin and striker kit from Complete will solve that.
With the door side hinge removed, you can get a good look at the brass bushings that pin rides in. Over time, that soft brass will wear and begin to oblong. Once the pin is no longer tight within this bushing, the door will start to sag and just get worse with time. The new hinge kit includes all new bushings, pin, retainers, and the striker.
To replace the original door pins, they need to be drilled and tapped out of the hinge, which can be accomplished in multiple ways. On the driver’s front door, we were able to get a drill bit to cut the top of the pin off enough to use a center punch to then tap the pin down out of the hinges.
Pretty obvious where all that slop in the door was coming from. While it may only be a small amount of play here at the hinge, extend that slop out over a three-foot-long door and the sag can be drastic—close to an inch on our driver’s front door. It’s easy to see why the latch wouldn’t line up with the striker.
OBS Solutions is another shop dedicated to the 1994-1997 Ford OBS truck. For this build, a set of their replacement sill and scuff plates were going to be the perfect way to dress up the interior while adding some protection.

The factory instrument cluster bezel around the steering wheel had been cut up for a switch install or something, and a couple of the clips that hold it on were broken. The bezel had a pretty gnarly rattle to it and just looked worn out. If you own one of these ‘94-‘97 Ford trucks, you’ll want to become familiar with the Rutledge boys at Complete Performance in Jasper, Texas. They specialize in the Ford OBS and will have just about everything you’ll ever need to fix one up. Their online store had a brand new factory bezel that was just what we needed to freshen up this interior. Being an OE part, it fit perfect, looked great, and fixed some rattles. The dash was easy to swap out, which allowed us to replace a couple of burned out light bulbs in the instrument cluster.

Next on the list of repairs was to give the sagging doors some attention. All four on this crew cab had some movement in the hinges, and the driver’s door sagged so much when open, it took two hands to get it to close properly. The latch was nearly an inch lower than the striker, making it very tough to close. Again, through Complete Performance we ordered a full set of door pin hinge kits, which include all new brass bushings, pins, retainers, and the striker latch for each door. The factory bushings wear over time with the weight of the door hanging on them and most owners using the door to hoist themselves up into the seat. It’s just a wear item you should expect to replace after 20 years of service. Swapping the bushings and pins out is pretty straight forward, but it can be time consuming. Drilling and knocking the original pins out may require removing the door, but it’s worth the work the first time you swing the door closed and hear the latch effortlessly click shut.

These older Fords used a thin molded plastic trim piece as the sill plate to cover the edge of the carpets and body. Obviously, over time that plastic wears out, scratches, and in this case even warps. It looks terrible and barely serves its purpose anymore.
The sill and scuff plate from OBS Solutions is offered in both bare aluminum or powder coated in satin black (like ours) and is super easy to install. The sill plates are a direct replacement to the factory plastic piece and will use the original screws to attach them. The new scuff plates use an automotive 3M adhesive to adhere to the factory body.
It’s amazing how something so simple can improve the looks of a vehicle. The new OBS Solutions sill and scuff plates fit perfectly and, with the simple-formed ridges, offer a sturdy and durable entry point for both the driver and passengers.
These plates were literally a ten-minute job to install, with more time spent cleaning up the body so the adhesive would stick than was spent doing the install. The black satin coating offers a like-factory look too.
Just because we drive something from the 90s, it doesn’t mean we have to miss out on today’s latest creature comforts. Sure, we’ve given up air-conditioned seats and a sunroof, but thanks to the aftermarket, our sound system won’t be lacking any longer. The Alpine iLX-259 is a single din touchscreen system that offers all the latest technology such as Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and navigation.

Lastly, inside the old truck something had to be done with the busted-up, barely-working, 15-year-old head unit that had sunken so far back into the dash you could barely reach the volume knob. Giving up some of life’s latest creature comforts as a driver hadn’t been that hard of a transition. Sure, the A/C-cooled seats in my previous Silverado had been nice, but they weren’t needed with cloth. The sunroof was kind of fun to have, but again, was not really needed. So, jumping back in time a decade or two wasn’t as bad as I’d initially thought, but it didn’t take long to miss a modern stereo. No USB port, no Bluetooth, no navigation. I missed the convenience of some of that stuff. So, after chatting with a friend at Laketown Speed and Sound in Draper, Utah, we rectified the situation. The new Alpine iLX-259 offers all the features of a new truck’s stereo such as Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, voice texting, navigation, music streaming, and a big, easy-to-navigate touchscreen—all in a single package to fit the factory Ford dash. It was installed with just a couple of conversion harnesses and instantly brought the old Ford into the 21st century. Yes, we have to yell into the auxiliary microphone to complete a Bluetooth phone call or send a voice text (thanks to minimal sound deadening and that obnoxiously loud 7.3L under the hood), but this has been some of the best money spent on the truck thus far.

Next month, we’ll finally do something on the horsepower side of the build with some updated tuning, a cold air intake, and an all-new exhaust system. Don’t fret though—that will just be the beginning as we plan to do a complete, electric-fuel-system conversion, larger injectors, intercooler, bigger turbo, and a healthier high-pressure oil pump. We’ll also have to address the transmission, tighten up the steering, and update the suspension to get this thing riding like a new truck. That steel-wheeled buckboard and outdated front-shackle, leaf-spring design got really old after the initial excitement of getting back into an OBS Ford truck quickly wore off.


Complete Performance

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