COAL: 1987 Ford F-150 – Finally, Another Truck!

Where we had last left off, I had moved back home and taken a job at a local auto parts store on the counter.  I’d bought a ’92 Saturn SC previously from a co-worker, and upon moving back to Cape Breton, I deemed it was time to buy myself another truck.I didn’t have too many requirements at the time.  I wanted something in decent shape, and 4 wheel drive.  A friend of my father had two trucks for sale, a 1990-ish S10 4X4 in black, and an ’87 F150.  I’d tried the S10, but found it kind of small.  The F150 caught my eye with the snazzy two-tone paint job.  It was a Custom trim level, which – well, I have no idea what that gave you.  I think it was a step above the base as I recall seeing these trucks with a badge on the dash that said F-series.  For powertrain, it had a 4.9 L six – the old 300 upgraded with multiport fuel injection.  It also had a New Process NP435 transmission, which was a 4-speed with the low first gear.

My favourite interior of the 80-96 trucks

The truck was reasonably well-equipped.  It had full instrumentation, a AM/FM/Cassette, and as a suprise to myself and other owners of these trucks of this vintage, intermittent wipers.  There was nothing marking it having them, I had had the truck for a while before I discovered turning the switch past “Off” you could turn on the pulse wipers.  Instrumentation was clear, and well-lit at night.  The heater in this – like the last generation truck – was not great, but was tolerable.  The transmission shifted pretty well for what it was, and the gearing of the transmission, the differentials, and the transmission all worked well – it was a good setup, while not fast, the torque curve of the engine allowed the gap between gears to not be too noticeable.

Probably these Fords were the last trucklike truck.  Look, two shocks per side on the front!

The twin-traction beam suspension was surprisingly good on the road, exhibiting no wander or strange tire wear.  The driving position I found very comfortable as well.  I’d had it on some long trips to Halifax and Moncton (4 1/2 and 6 hour drives, one way) and it wasn’t fatiguing.  What was fatiguing, however, was the fuel bills.  With the 300, the 4 speed, the 3.55 gearing, and big flat front the truck would get no better than 12 MPG on the highway.  It was even worse around town.  It was the same hauling a load, or empty.  For the lack of power, I had figured it would have been a lot better on fuel.  After a full tuneup it was really no better either.  I checked for codes, but none came up.  In the interim, a better offer had come around, as a counterperson for a heavy equipment dealer in town.  I took it, and took the opportunity to get some training at the main dealership in Dartmouth, 4 1/2 hours away.

On a training trip to Halifax.  It cost $80 to go 240 miles…  

The F-150 did several trips to Dartmouth for my training.  It never let me down, but man, it was hard on fuel.  Thankfully, we got paid mileage, so it wasn’t straight out of my pocket.

The truck had some electrical issues as well.  The salt we use on the roads here played hell with the wiring on this generation of truck – it was like the insulation was porous – and the wires would turn green and swell up.  It happened with one of the main power leads to the fuse box, and to the power supply to the fuel pump as well.  Mostly, though, the truck just worked.  Having grown frustrated with the fuel consumption and lack of power above 3500 RPM, I figured I’d swap it over to a 302 and gain some power and a nice sound.  It was a mistake.  The injected 302, to me, used more fuel than the 300, and made less power to boot.  The 300 was nice and torquey, and could pull from second to third to fourth without much issue at any RPM.  The 302, unfortunately, could not be shifted too early or would be out of its power band.  It had to be revved up past about 3000 RPM, and that killed any chance of economy.

Way better IMO than what was to come from GM in their ’88 trucks!

I’d met my wife-to-be in the meantime, and decided that I’d get a small car to use for day-to-day use.  I kept the truck about a year and a half, and a good offer came in from a young guy who liked it.  It was sold off, but I still miss it.  I would in the future own a few more Fords and GM’s, and I still have a soft spot for the blue oval.

I liked tinkering with vehicles, but sometimes I’d be better off leaving them.  This was one of those times.  It was a good truck, but I ruined it by changing out the engine for something I thought would be better. Now that I’m older I can see the folly of my ways.  Have any of you ruined something like I did?

A hint to as where I ended up working…