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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The general theme of this build is to put together a highly capable, high GVW light/medium duty work truck with the heart and face of a 1st gen. Have chosen to call it a W550 because a 2009 F550 4x4 will be lending it’s running gear and chassis to a W350, so seems appropriate to call it a W550.

The build list:

-2009 F550 Frame and Suspension
-Dana S130 4.88
-Dana Super60 4.88
-ZF6
-NP271
-1989 VE Cummins
-1989 W350 Regular Cab
-Hiab 550-1 Knuckle Crane
-Tilting Flat Deck
-Stazworks 20x11 two piece aluminum super singles
-335/80r20 Goodyear G275's
-Giles Tuned VE/30% Over Extrude Honed Sticks
-HE351cw/HX55 Compounds

Happened upon a good deal on a beat up 2009 F550 that had been used hard and put away wet. 450,000km’s on the ticker and the 6.4 was toast.





The frame in the back half where the mechanics service body had been sitting for 12 years, was rusted pretty bad. Luckily these F550 frames are incredibly thick, and everything was salvageable.
The rear axle had recently been rebuilt, and a new transmission was installed 10,000km’s previous. The front axle was in pretty rough shape, since all the seals were gone and had not kept an appropriate level of oil in it for who knows how long, by the smell of the oil it was much too long. Along side the u-joints being toast the ball joints where also near the end of their life.
Aside from all that most everything else was in good shape and not needing replacement, so basically just the steering and suspension.

Also found a low km Cummins from a 1989 that had been sitting for many years.



Also found the Knuckle Crane that will be sitting behind the cab.



And so it begins….



Tearing out the junk 6.4 using methods that only a redneck could appreciate.



Apparently there is a special engine lifting tool that you have to buy from ford to bolt to the back of the engine, in combination with the front picking point, to lift these engines. I couldn’t be bothered and instead wrapped a thick strap around the rear of the exhaust manifolds and pick the back up from there instead.



I am amazed and disgusted by the level of engineering required to shoehorn these engines into these trucks, so much so that it makes it incredibly annoying to work on. If you want to do anything with these trucks you are almost always condemned to lifting the body off. Luckily for me the engine and body were junk, so everything was treated as such.



The next redneck method involved using a chain hoist and a series of ratchet straps to lift the body off the frame. Should really have built the one mounting point a heck of a lot stronger, because shortly after I had the chassis rolled out from underneath the body and far away, the mount broke and the rear of the body dropped 4’ to the ground. Usually I overbuild things, but was in a bit of excited rush this time around ……so that’s a lesson I am humbled by.



At this point I was not entirely aware of just how far I was going to have to dig into this project, but once I saw just how bad the rust was after I spent a half day with a 5000psi pressure washer, I realized the only proper way to do this project was to do a complete restoration.
 

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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·




So I started taking everything apart and getting ready for my friend to bring his commercial sand blaster out and get this frame rust free again. Almost every bolt was a bear to get out, and most of them had to be cut out. A couple of the crossmembers were an incredibly poor design that provided no real way to clean dirt out, so I had to pop the rivets and take them out to be properly prepared for paint.





Have acquired quite the parts collection



Not much of a helper, but a welcome distraction.



Received the rebuilt and performance tuned pump and nozzles back from Giles. You can tell this man does incredible work just by the attention to detail he puts into the finish. Am really looking forward to seeing the results of his work.


 

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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·


The conversion engine mounts, steel engine adapter and 450hp clutch finally came in the mail. Was a bit of a chore with the boarder being the way it is, usually I would just drive across and pick up my parts from a receiving warehouse, but this time I had to pay a brokerage company to bring the engine adapter across for me.



Ordered a reman HE351cw off of eBay from America, and found a hx55w on eBay out of Europe. The reason why I was willing to look all the way across the ocean to Europe for the hx55w is because finding the smaller 19cm waste gated turbine housing in North America is next to impossible, and I wanted this size turbine specifically to keep a low rpm spool up to match the VE’s fuelling curve. Is also why I opted for the HE351cw with its 9cm turbine. This should make for a nice VE towing application, and with dual waste gates the turbos will be able to always stay within their map. Though the waste gate for the hx55 is likely unnecessary, but I could not find the 19cm turbine housing without it. Better to have it and not need it I suppose.



New brakes all around.







My friend came out with his sand blaster and spent about 4 hours taking the chassis and axles down to bare ‘white’ metal.




Immediately sprayed some rust enamel primer before the metal even had a thought to start rusting again.
 

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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·





Made a shelter to spray epoxy and keep the elements out while it cured.






The epoxy turned out to be a real hassle with the weather getting colder at this point, that and I probably sprayed it on a little too thick to have it cure properly. After 3 days I was starting to get a little concerned and was fearing the worst….I don’t even want to think of the job it would be to remove uncured epoxy and re sandblast….My friend who came with his sandblaster has a lot of experience with these things and recommended I go get a 500,000 btu frost fighter and get it cooking inside. So I took down the spray booth and made a small insulated tarp oven..... After two days of cooking at high temps the epoxy went hard as a rock, and I began sleeping at night again.....


 

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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·


Took the rest of the small parts that we didn’t have time for when doing the frame and axles, down to my friends place and he lent me his spare sandblaster so I could get them ready for paint. Got them down to ‘white’ metal (and me down to 'red' skin) and finished with the rust enamel, then ran out of temperature and day light. Had to bring them back up to my place and finish the last coat of black speed enamel. After the epoxy ordeal, I decided to do these parts in simple enamel, and will finish them with a urethane coat once my shop is ready for painting projects.

You may also notice in the pictures I have a couple L-Reinforcements shortened, painted and ready for install. Spent a couple hours chiseling rivets by hand at the local Pick n Pull, no cutting tools are allowed there, so my wrists took a bit of abuse that day while I pulled these off of a frame there. With the Hiab 550-1 going on this truck, I opted to reinforce the frame, it is a shorter frame and likely didn’t need it, but I rather have it on and not need it.




Pressed in some new joints for the front end along side new stub shafts, and also resealed the front axle with new inners and outers. Didn't remember to take pictures of the inner seals being put in.






Got my head back from the machine shop with a nice resurfacing, cut valve seats and fitted with o-rings and tophat seals, valves were also cut. This was a bit of an ordeal as well and ended up getting a different head back than what was sent in. My original head ended up moving while he was cutting one of the o-rings, and was scrapped. Luckily he had a spare 12 valve head sitting around, only problem was it was a later head with the 7mm injectors, so he had to ream out the holes for my 9mm injectors. This had to be done, since I already spent a few cents having my stock injectors re-popped and extrude honed. Also got some new 60lb exhaust and intake springs in the mail to help keep the valves where they should be under high boost and exhaust brake conditions.




Happened upon a lucky warm day and sprayed some Urethane onto the frame. Then it got cold at night and the curing process was halted. Urethane is a little more forgiving than Epoxy, but then it started raining and I didn’t want to risk anything. So I covered it in some insulated winter sleeping bags and a couple layers of tarps, and put a little space heater under it. Couple days later it was hard as a rock and I could finally be done messing around with the fame.
 

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1989 W550
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·



I ran out of decent weather to finish my chassis parts in Urethane so that I could bolt the rolling chassis back together, and my shop at the time was unheated, so I was at a bit of a stand still for a while since all my funds went towards getting the rolling chassis finished before winter. After a month or so of saving and unfortunately a little credit used I began taking apart the engine to do a reseal.








New bearings, rings and seals will be here next week as well, and I deglazed the cylinder walls while I am waiting.
 

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1989 W550
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·










In case you have never seen or heard of this, it is called metal stitching. I was preparing to move the engine back and the motor mounts were in the way of the oil drain casting, so I cut it out and stitched in a cast iron patch with cast iron tapered plugs. Funny thing is, after the fact now that I have the engine in place on the frame in relation to the 1st gen body, I didn't need to do this, and am using motor mounts in their stock location. Oh well, it was a fun project.
 

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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·


Collecting some fancy parts.



Oil drains for the compounds.





Engine is all put back together with a .20 over head gasket, 60lb springs and arp studs.





Friend delivered the cab last night. Don’t know how this body managed it, but there is hardly a trace of rust on it!

Did some quick measuring and it looks like I will need to bring in the F550 mounts in one inch on each side, and have plenty of material to do it. Had I of had the shop, time and resources I would have done this step before the epoxy, instead now I will have to do touch ups, oh well.

Can hardly wait to get the chassis put back together and engine mounted so I can place the body and get a better idea of the stance. Come on warm weather!



This is one of my old trucks, who's colour combination I will be repeating.
 

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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·


Warm weather finally, so getting ready to spray urethane and reassemble the chassis






Looking brand new again!



Finally rolled it back into the shop.




Before and after shot, took a lot of work to get here, and a lot more to go, but am really happy with the way things are turning out.

Next up is to get the Cummins in so I can figure out where the cab needs to go. But first I need to build a wheeled rotisserie for the cab so I can move it into the shop to lift it in the air. Have a couple engine stands I will use and modify to make the rotisserie. Will make future body work much easier too!
 

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In case you have never seen or heard of this, it is called metal stitching. I was preparing to move the engine back and the motor mounts were in the way of the oil drain casting, so I cut it out and stitched in a cast iron patch with cast iron tapered plugs. Funny thing is, after the fact now that I have the engine in place on the frame in relation to the 1st gen body, I didn't need to do this, and am using motor mounts in their stock location. Oh well, it was a fun project.
Why did you think you had to do the stitching, and it was hard to see what that area originally was for?
 

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Rear Admiral Rickard Onmi
2018 Ram 3500 CCLBSRW
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Pretty sure that frame is nicer now then when it rolled out of the ford plant, going to be a good build judging from what you've done so far. Love seeing stuff like this
 

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1989 W550
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38 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·





Figuring out the body placement so I can redo the F550 mounts to fit the dodge cab mounts. Did a little photoshop to give an idea of where the tires will sit. Nice thing is because the dodge body sits quite a bit higher than a stock ford body, I wont need a lift to clear tires, just some serious fender trimming in the front.

To cover the wheels I will be modifying some fiberglass dually fenders to fit up front, since the wheel width from outside wheel to outside wheel will be just shy of 8' with the super single conversion.




The F550 engine and transmission sit further towards the passenger side, so will have to trim and modify the tunnel quite a bit.
 

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1989 W550
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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Why did you think you had to do the stitching, and it was hard to see what that area originally was for?
It was the block casting where the stock oil drain goes. I am going to be running 42' tires I wanted to push the body back so I would not have to trim the inner/outer fender closest to the door, this way I would only have to trim the front towards the bumper, which is a much easier modification. Turns out I did not need to do this though, since when I finally got everything in place, the body already sit as far back as I needed it to in the stock motor mount location. 🤦‍♂️

Cost of doing these kind of modifications with a lot of unknowns in place, the best thing to do would have been to have everything modified and put together first, then torn apart to restore. Oh well.
 

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1989 W550
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Pretty sure that frame is nicer now then when it rolled out of the ford plant, going to be a good build judging from what you've done so far. Love seeing stuff like this
Pretty close I would say, the frame had seen a good amount of rust around the fuel tank though, so the metal looks a bit rougher in some spots than what would have come from factory, but the coating is definitely better than factory!
 

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Mountain Man Customs
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I look forward to seeing this complete. Nice work thus far. Don't keep changing your plans. Just put it together and drive it as simply as possible. Then make changes from there. So many "ultimate" builds never get done because we get caught up and burned out over details, or trying to upgrade every single component with the most expensive possible choice.
 

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1989 W550
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I look forward to seeing this complete. Nice work thus far. Don't keep changing your plans. Just put it together and drive it as simply as possible. Then make changes from there. So many "ultimate" builds never get done because we get caught up and burned out over details, or trying to upgrade every single component with the most expensive possible choice.
That is definitely sound advice, and I definitely have to apply myself to that wisdom on some things.
Nice thing is, that this will be a work truck that I use to start a business, so I have some motivation to get it finished as soon as possible.
The most time consuming part for me, that I don’t want to change, is bringing everything back to like new condition, I don’t want to have to bother with maintaining old worn out parts, so I would like to start from fresh and keep up the maintenance going forward.
 

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I'll be watching this very interesting build!
 
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