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Project Car SOTU 2017: Hoon Truck Jr.

[Working project title]

It’s barely been two months since I took ownership of the 2002 Ford F-150 I call a childhood hero, so this isn’t going to be as big of a Project Car State of the Union update as some of the other guys here will have. I formally introduced it back in June and covered the 3,300+ mile trip to get it from California to its new home in Georgia, so I recommend starting there if you missed it.

The truth is this truck was maintained very well by its previous owner, my grandfather, and I knew exactly what I was getting as I already had thousands of miles of experience across fifteen years with it. But it’s still a fifteen-year-old truck and not everything is perfect. For its first appearance in our annual PCSOTU, there are a couple of issues I managed to get ironed out and some plans for the future.

Starting with the only big issue first, the water leaks. I mentioned it in the road trip story, but when I drove it back in February of this year (when it was still living happily in California), California was in the midst of a record rainy season and that exposed an aging weatherstripping seal on top of the windshield. I figured this out after hearing a sloshing sound coming from inside the cab and then tracking down the noise to the door sill on the right side.

Water was coming in from the loose and somewhat cracked weatherstripping, going down the A-pillar, and accumulating in the space underneath the door sill that ran the length of the cab. Since getting that fixed by professionals, it’s seen more rain here in Georgia in the last two months than it has in California for the last fifteen years. It works well.

However, that same rain exposed another leak, this time at the back of the cab. I hopped in my truck on one rainy day and could see water dripping down the inside of the back window. Panic!

Rain was guaranteed in the forecast for the next week, so I put a strip of duct tape over the suspected source of the leak – a small gap between the back of the cab and the black plastic piece surrounding the back window – just to get it to stop leaking. Surprisingly, that worked and it confirmed where yet another seal had gone bad.

When I finally had a clear day, I pulled the tape off, scrubbed the hell out of that area with Goo Gone to get the residue off, and took a better look at it. Turns out, that gap I had taped over wasn’t really supposed to be there. Looking on the right side of the cab, that plastic window surround was tight up against the back of the cab and the thin rubber weatherstripping on it had made a good seal. The left side was loose and could expose a quarter-inch gap where I figured the rain would be getting in.

I went and got some 3M weatherstrip adhesive that the nice lady at Autozone recommended and attempted to glue it all back and form a waterproof seal in the process. Despite my best efforts to screw it up, the black adhesive blended in pretty well and seems to have actually worked. I ran a garden hose over that whole trim piece for a good fifteen seconds to test it and there wasn’t a drop inside.

$5 repairs for the win. As of now, there aren’t any active leaks I can find, though it’s highly likely I’m just not looking hard enough.

The only other outstanding issue at this point is the switch for the power side mirrors which gave up the ghost a few months prior to taking ownership. I figured I’d start with the cheapest fix first by just replacing the switch. For about $25 online or at Napa, you can get an identical replacement part that’ll even fit properly if you try hard enough.

It was the easiest repair of my life. Without using any tools, I popped off the plastic switch cover, disconnected the dead switch, and replaced it with the new one in just a few minutes – a pro could do it in under a minute. Most of that time was spent trying to get the new switch to sit properly in that plastic cover, but it’s in. And it even works!

So after those two minor victories, the truck seems to be all good now pending a few routine maintenance items that I’ll be checking over with more mechanically-inclined friends. Judging by how strong it still feels every time I drive it, I can’t imagine anything else is wrong. I’m up to 42,500 miles with it now, about a thousand more than I came home with in June.

As for my future plans with it, I’m not completely sure what I want to do to it besides keep it on the road in as close to perfect condition as possible. The paint is a bit worse off than I had thought (you have to look close to see faded clear coats, cracks, etc), so maybe one day I’ll see how much of it can be restored.

I definitely want to get a new tonneau cover as the old Snugtop is off and tucked away in my garage (and I don’t feel like putting it back on after all that), preferably one that can fold while still offering good protection. I’m also considering a very minor exhaust modification to get a little more tone out of that Triton V8 without it being obnoxious, but that’s very far out if it does happen. I’m also considering replacing the grille with one of the more attractive honeycomb-style grilles that were offered on some F-150s in that generation… maybe.

And I already have at least two friends who are trying to talk me into doing a Lightning conversion. They say it’s easy since I already have the 5.4L V8, but I’d have to get really bored with the stock powertrain for that to happen.

The bigger list of plans isn’t what I want to do, but rather what I don’t want to do. No off-road tires, no lift kit, no truck nuts, no big light bars, no big sound system upgrades, no obnoxiously loud exhaust, no truck tool boxes that’ll never get used (as with most trucks in the south), no camo anything, and just for good measure, absolutely no truck nuts. I’m not going to ruin this near perfect truck by turning it into a brodozer, and if I do anything at all, it’ll be reversible.

It’ll continue being one of my two daily drivers and an occasional toy hauler for friends, but I’m also treating it as sort of a project since it’s much easier (and cheaper) to work on than my BMW. As this truck continues to settle into my life, more things will surely go wrong and wear out, but I’ll take more chances and try to correct them myself. Just how the Hoon Truck (Sr.) helped teach Jeff how to wrench, Jr. is already starting to do the same for me. I love it even more for that.

[Images © 2017 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]

  • outback_ute

    Good stuff Greg. Get some wax on the truck to help protect the paintwork from UV & weather. My dad’s old Ford has very faded, chalky paint that is nearly orange, but with a (color-matched) wax it is shiny and red.

    • Greg Kachadurian

      Thanks. Waxing it is definitely something on my to-do list, once I’ve built up the courage 😐 I’ve never detailed something that big before!

      • ptschett

        Full size pickups aren’t that big. It’s just that everything else is small.

      • outback_ute

        At least it has a built in work platform to do the back half of the roof!

        • Greg Kachadurian

          Ha! I realized that when I washed it the other day how convenient yet insufficient that was. I ended up having to stand on the wet/soapy side rails without face planting to get that part.
          (That was probably the first time its ever been hand washed too)

  • ptschett

    I seem to remember the eggcrate grille on F-150’s of this era was on 4×2’s, whereas 4×4’s had the honeycomb/mesh style?
    (I’m used to seeing mostly 4×4 F-150’s of this era. 4×2 1/2-ton pickups are practically nonexistent up here in the ND/SD/MN tri-state area unless they’re either a) fleet trucks for a nationwide company or b) 40+ years old.)

    • Greg Kachadurian

      That would make sense, but I haven’t paid much attention until recently. I mostly noticed them on some of the more top end models like Lariat. I’ll keep an eye out around here too. Thanks!

  • engineerd

    Nice! A good truck shouldn’t be ruined.