1986 Ford F250 Centurion 4x4
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This is "the work truck". It exists in our fleet solely to haul dirt, gravel, debris, and other such things. It's a nicely equipped low mileage Ford F250 Centurion 4x4 with a 6.9L IDI naturally aspirated diesel engine and a C6 transmission. It's basically a fully loaded 1986 F250 that was customized even further by Centurion before being titled and delivered to the dealer. It's got a shade over 100,000 miles on it, and everything works quite well.

Due to the 4.10 rear axle ration and the non-overdrive transmission, this truck is not going to be doing more than about 65mph on the freeway. At that point, it's singing along at a pretty stout RPM for a diesel. But, it's great for around town trips, and because it's a diesel, it stores better for long periods of non-use, so long as you keep the batteries charged. That's perfect for my needs.

These are the original pictures from the seller that were posted on Craigslist.

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These are the exterior shots I took after I got the truck home. It's in pretty good shape for the age.

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The bed, complete with plastic bed liner.

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The only rust problem on the truck is in the tailgate. The left side "cup" at the bottom is boogered up so the tailgate doesn't close quite right, and a previous repair on the gate resulted in some rust forming along the left edge. For my uses, this is fine, and it was reflected in the price.

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The rear and front rims on the driver's side. Note the manual locking hubs on the front.

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Driver's door panel and the driver's side of the dashboard.

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The obligatory engine picture.

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Passenger's door panel, passenger's side of the dashboard, 60/40 split front bench seat with armrest/center jump seat, and the fold down rear seat.

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Ceiling console, complete with working CB. Very retro.

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This truck is designed to be used for a camper shell, and it has the tie-down points for it, as well as mount points on the rear bumper, and extension bars in the back for mounting the camper shell to the truck.

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The factory options sticker in the driver's door jamb. I'll decode this below.

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The Centurion conversion sticker in the driver's door jamb. The title lists the vehicle as a "1986 Ford Centurion" and the conversion date is 1985, so I believe the conversion was done through the factory as an option before the vehicle was issued a title. Not that it matters much, but it is an interesting tidbit.

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The canopy was quickly and safely stowed in the backyard so I could easily haul various materials in the bed of the truck. The sawhorses are a scaled up version of a design for a pair I remember my father having around when I was growing up - simple, sturdy, easy to build, and cheap. They are 6' 1" wide, and have 8' long 2x4's screwed to the tops to simulate the rails of the truck bed, and then the cap is clamped to those rails using the same clamps as used in the truck. I did have to plane down the bottom of the 2x4's near the ends to fit the clamps I had onto them; your clamps may be of a different design of size. The legs of the sawhorses are 4 foot long pressure treated 2x4's with the top cut at a 19 degree angle - use PT wood here because it's going to be touching the ground if this is set up outside, which it is in my case. The top board of the sawhorse is a 2x6 to have plenty of surface to screw things together. There are 2x4's braces 2' down from the top around the outside of the legs. This gives strength to the units and prevents the legs from moving around and breaking off from the top board. Everything is screwed together with 3" and 2" decking screws to make it sturdy and easy to assembly, and every screw had a pilot hole drilled first to prevent splitting out the wood. Level the sawhorses from side to side (very important), and roughly level with each other (not as important, as long as it close), mount the 2x4's to the top, lift the cap onto the sawhorses, and clamp it down. It's high enough off the ground to hopefully prevent critters from making their home in there, though wasp nests are a risk in any enclosed space. The height should offer decent ventilation as well. If you live in a windy area, then consider mounting this down better, or not leaving the pickup cap outside in the wind. In our area, that means the cap goes back on the pickup in the winter and comes off in the summer.

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The pickup bed with the bed liner removed in preparation for installing a dump kit. I bought a 2 ton universal kit from Pierce Sales and I'm having it installed by a local welding shop - ACT Welding. It's a bit pricey, but it makes the truck hugely more useful for hauling stuff - because it's super easy to unload it. Combined with a small tractor a friend of mine owns, and we're all set to do pretty much anything we want to our properties without breaking our backs in the process...

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The truck just after the dump kit was installed, but before the final "fit and finish" work was done. The rear bumper is off at this point, the license plate is tie-wrapped to the rear hitch supports, the filler necks for the fuel tanks are just tied back to the frame, and the rear sections of the running boards are not re-installed yet. The running boards mounted to the frame and to the bed, so I'll have to figure something out for that later. The bumper won't clear the hitch when the bed is lifted, so I may do something cheesy and install a 2x6 as a bumper and mount the license plate to that. We'll see what I come up with for that. I also need to figure out what to do with the filler necks to make that work.

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Some more shots of the dump bed in action...

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The pump and reservoir for the dump system.

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The hydraulic cylinder and the scissors assembly it is attached to.

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The rear hinges for the bed to pivot on as it lifts up.

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The rear and front gas tanks. Note that the filler necks are simply ties down to keep them out of the way for now. Sometime later I'll need to do something better with this, but for now, it works. I have to lift the bed to fuel up, and the filler necks being down promotes some seepage at the filler caps, so it's generally grimy around here at fill up time.

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A close up of the upper pivot pin under the bed. There is no way to grease these easily, so that's something I need to work on eventually.

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The rear of the truck with the bumper removed. The wide bar is for the camper package, but it works out in my favor as a bumper-like assembly. Later on, I discovered a factory license plate mount - complete with license plate light - on the left side up under the bed, and move the license plate there.

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Here's the F250 helping with pulling stump bits at a friend's house. We used the Kubota to pull them a bit at a time and then loaded them into the back of the F250 for disposal. Running that little Kubota is pure stress relief for a guy like me; I love it... I'd almost pay to run it on some days... And, yes, some of the bits were so large that we had to back the truck into the hole they came out of and then push them into the bed of the truck with the tractor. It was quite the stump, but we got it out with some creative use of the tools at our disposal, and without being unsafe while being creative. Leverage can be a wonderful thing when used properly. I must admit that driving onto the back of the truck with the Kubota was a bit weird, even if the tailgate was firmly supported by the ground it was resting on...

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These are some pictures of my dad helping me out at my friend's house running the Kubota and loading some compost into the F250 for moving around the property. My dad concurs - the Kubota is a blast to run. I am not at all ashamed to admit that my friends and I have big toys for big boys and that we still like to play in the dirt with our toys. After a few hours on the Kubota, I would say that my dad concurs wholeheartedly. :-)

You can also see the license plate in it's new location in this photo, and you an see that we managed to bend the left rear camper support bar. Backing into stuff tends to do that. Oops. Oh well, but, it's a work truck, right? Exactly. I'm not losing any sleep over it...

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My dad doing more work with the Kubota and the F250, this time loading the F250 with the chain-sawed-up remnants of a dead snag that fell over in a windstorm so we can make it go away. A bit blurry, but worth posting. It's my dad, who I don't get to see much since he lives far away, and we're playing with the big toys and having a blast. You may not think it's much reading this, but when I look at this picture, it puts a smile on my face when I remember my dad getting off the tractor at the end of the day and remarking how much fun it was to use this stuff and that he'd had a blast working with us all day. That's a good memory to keep around.

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More work with the F250 at a friend's house, this time removing the remnants of a giant old cedar stump that has been rotting away on the property for at least 30 years, maybe a lot longer. This thing was huge - the stuff in the bed of the truck is all the cut-off roots from this stump. You can see how big some of the roots were when they joined up with the main stem of the stump; they were individually as big as a medium sized tree, and we removed a number of them...

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Dump Bed Controls

The dump bed uses a simple three wire electrical harness with a SPDT momentary contact center off switch doing the actual work. One wire is power in, then the other two wires are power out to either the pump (to raise the bed) or to the dump valve (to lower the bed). If no power is on either wire, then the bed stays put. The kit comes supplied with a simple chrome toggle switch for the dash inside the truck, and for a while I just used that hanging off the steering column to do what I needed. Eventually, I'll mount it in the dash on the left side so you can get to it easily with the driver's door open.

I also wanted an easy way to control the bed from outside the truck - sometimes it's easier to be able to watch the load as it's emptying and make sure it's done, etc. I found a really neat little handheld pendant switch on eBay for cheap that can be used to control this. It's got labeled up and down buttons with a mechanical lockout so you can only operate one button at a time, enough of a load rating to work fine in this application, and it's rainproof, so I don't have to worry about it being affected by moisture. My plan is to  mount this on a simple length of cable that will plug in somewhere near the back of the truck bed. I can unplug it and stow it in the truck when needed, and pull it out and plug it in when I want to use it. I can attach a simple piece of stiff wire on it to use as a hanger and allow me to hook it to the side of the truck bed - basically, a bent up piece of wire coat hanger with a piece of vacuum tubing pushed over it to prevent scratching. That way I can hook it up and leave it hooked up while doing work with it, and only unplug it and stow it when I put the truck away or when I need to drive it on the road. For the wire, I may use a a simple piece of 4-wire trailer hookup wire with the molded plugs on the end, or maybe I'll snag something out of my kit of WeatherPak connectors and use that. If I could find a cheap piece of coiled wire to do the hookup with, that would be cool, but they seem to be more money to buy new than I want to spend on this.

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Decoded Tags and Options

From the factory door jamb sticker above, here's the decoded info:

  •  10/85 is the date of manufacture.
  •  8800 is the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating). This agrees with the Centurion conversion info tag.
  •  4410 is the front GAWR (gross axle weight rating). The Centurion tag puts this at 4600 lbs, and that should supersede the factory tag.
  •  5922 is the rear GAWR. The Centurion tag puts this at 6250 lbs, and that should supersede the factory tag.
  •  LT235/85R16E is the front and rear tire size .
  •  16X6K is the front and rear rim size, to meet the weight rating.
  •  51 PSI is what the front tires should be inflated to, to meet the weight rating.
  •  80 PSI is what the front tires should be inflated to, to meet the weight rating.
  •  1FTHX2611GKA27796 is the VIN, which breaks down as:
    •  1FT = Ford Truck (Complete)
    •  H = 8501 to 9000 lbs GVW
    •  X26 = F250 Pickup (Super Cab) 4x4
    •  1 = Diesel 6.9L (426cid) V8
    •  1 = Check Digit
    •  G = Model Year 1986
    •  K = Assembly Plant, Kansas City (Claycomo, Missouri)
    •  A27796 = Sequence Number
  •  7B is the exterior color code (Shadow Blue Metallic).
  •  86 is the DSO - Domestic Special Order - Code, for which Ford can indicate what area of the country the dealer was in as well as some other data if the truck was ordered in some unique way ("Recreational Vehicle Pool", I suspect this helps confirm that it was farmed out to Centurion for customization pre-dealer-delivery).
  •  155 is the wheelbase length in inches.
  •  X268 is the body type and GVWR rating. X26 is a F250 Supercab 4x4, and 8 is the GVWR rating (??? should match the other data).
  •  LBM is the seat type, fabric, and interior color. L is the seat type (bodycloth bench???), B is the interior color code (???), and M is the cab/back of cab details (Super Cab).
  •  K is the transmission (C6).
  •  C5 is the axle (Ford limited slip 4.10 ratio axle rated at 6250 lbs).
  •  2 is the tape color for the tape that separates the two paint colors (???).
  •  9 is the front spring rating (???)
  •  A is the rear spring rating (???)

From the Centurion body tag sticker, here's the decoded info:

  •  The conversion was done in 11/85 (November 1985).
  •  The serial number is 6157(at least that's what I think this is documenting).
  •  The total GVWR is 8800 lbs.
  •  The front GAWR is 4600 lbs.
  •  The rear GAWR is 6250 lbs.

Basic specs, options, and interesting add-ons:

  •  F250 4x4 Super Cab
  •  Diesel 6.9L V8, normally aspirated
  •  Power brakes (front disc, rear drum)
  •  Power windows
  •  Power door locks
  •  AC
  •  Full instrumentation, including a tach and trip odometer
  •  Dual fuel tanks
  •  Delay wipers
  •  Cruise control
  •  60/40 split front bench seat with reclining side seats and a center jumpseat/armrest
  •  Digital clock with what I believe is a built in hour-meter
  •  Clearance lights on the roof
  •  Manual locking hubs on the front axle
  •  Vent shields on the windows
  •  Towing mirrors that extend outwards when needed (though they are likely stuck in place now) and have blind spot mirrors on them
  •  Fog light wiring out to the bumper area, with a switch in the upper console
  •  CB in the upper console
  •  Aftermarket AM/FM/CD player from the '90s; it's a basic unit, but it works nicely for a work truck
  •  Camper shell mounting mounts, with the rear extension brackets
  •  Plastic bed liner
  •  Receiver style hitch (rating unknown as of yet)
  •  Trailer wiring with trailer brake controller
  •  Full length running boards with marker lights in them
  •  Extensive maintenance documentation reaching back across the previous three owners to the ~30,000 mile point


Work Done

  •  Got the truck checked out by my mechanic; it got a clean bill of health.
  •  Stored pickup cap in the back yard, see notes above.
  •  Removed the handle and lock cylinder and locking mechanism from the canopy by drilling out the rivets and unscrewing the sliders for the locking rods. The locking rods were slightly bent, and I didn't get a key for the lock anyway.
  •  Bent the canopy locking rods back into shape again (they're supposed to be perfectly straight) using my handy bench vise and some large pliers. Apparently someone who owned/used the truck before me lost the key and had to get creating in opening the canopy up... :-/
  •  Got a new locking T-handle for the canopy with a longer back rod on it so I can install the arm that latches behind the tailgate.
  •  Filled up the front and rear tanks with diesel to prevent condensation from forming in a partially filled tank.
  •  Re-installed the canopy locking mechanism onto the canopy with the new handle and lock cylinder, and the arm that latches behind the tailgate.
  •  Replaced the tailgate with a used one that's not rusted out and that I don't care about beating on. The replacement gate even had a plastic bedliner piece already screwed onto it. You can't beat that for $20!
  •  Fixed the driver's taillight. Someone had installed the bulb backwards so that the dim filament was the brake light and the bright one was the running lights. This made it look like the left brake light was on all the time at night, and the left rear turn signal wasn't noticeable at night because it was flashing the dim filament and not the bright one. I just removed the light with a few screws (don't forget the ones that you have to drop the tailgate to see), pulled the bulb out of the socket, turned it 180 degrees, and re-installed it. For some reason this truck allows installing the bulb backwards. I suspect the socket is a bit booger up somehow. Not a big deal; it was a fast fix and it works fine now.
  •  Installed a Zune adaptor and an FM modulator under the dash so I can get the tunes I want when I want them, and still take the Zune with me when I leave the truck.
  •  Fixed the hum when using the Zune adaptor. I used the wrong audio cables and I need to use the ones that came with the FM modulator; they have noise reducing chokes on them and it made a big difference.
  •  Added a flexible stalk style mount for the Zune to sit in so it's in reach and visible when driving. It's mounted to the front inside driver's seat bolt and sit just to the right of the shifter - in easy reach while driving, but out of the way.
  •  Install the rear speakers that came with the truck. I just hooked up the existing wires laying in the rear seat area and used a single screw to hold them to the side trim. It's a truck; who cares about "pretty"?
  •  Mounted fog lights on the front for (eventually) more visibility at night. Now I just need to wire them up...
  •  Moved the flexible stalk for the Zune mount to be under the passenger's side center front seat bolt. Some tall folks (aka, the guy who uses the truck more than I do right now) was constantly complaining about it being in the way... :-)

Stuff To Do

  •  Wire up the fog lights for more visibility at night. I just need to find the wire for them under the hood that's hooked up to the switches in the roof console... I'll probably have to trace the wire from the roof console down, unfortunately...
  •  Install backup lights on the hitch (perhaps using the old pair from my 1975 Suburban?) for more visibility at night.
  •  The upper and lower radiator hoses and one heater hose will need to be replaced at the end of the summer (2011) or the beginning of next summer (2012). Nothing critical yet, but it's on the list.
  •  It needs an oil change sooner or later.

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Page last updated 01/15/2012 03:42:32 PM