Blue Crew Goes Diesel
Many might not know that Ford made Crew Cabs in the ’70s. And yes, we know this is the (much) bigger brother to the F-100, but this diesel swapped F-350 is just too cool not to explore in more detail! Colton Dana is an automotive painter by trade, and at age 17 he came across his first Crew Cab Ford truck and instantly fell in love.
“I never knew that Ford made this crew cab until I was 17,” Colton says. “I always liked the older Ford body styles, but I just pictured the typical single cab short bed street truck. When I found out that Ford made a ’70s body style truck in a crew cab, I just had to have one, but I didn’t want the typical restored classic truck. I wanted a modern diesel that looked old but had all the modern performance and capabilities of a diesel.”
So instead of day dreaming about this cool diesel mash-up, Colton set about to make it a reality. About five years ago, Colton stumbled upon the truck that would begin this amazing adventure. It was just sitting at a mechanic shop stashed in the back corner. Colton soon found out that it was a forgotten project truck that already sat on a 2000 F-350 frame, had a 7.3 diesel engine, 4r100 automatic transmission and was a 4-wheel drive. The chassis only had 117,000 miles on it, but the truck was not even close to being in driving condition and it did not have any interior. The hood was held down by a tie strap and the bed was teetering back and forth on the frame. Colton’s first thoughts instantly were, “I need this truck!” but he didn’t have the cash at the time to buy the truck. A year later, he kept close watch and the owner of the ’77 crew cab still had the truck for sale. Colton was in a better spot to negotiate and soon a deal was struck.
To complete this truck, Colton bought four other trucks with four years of work.
Of course, things don’t ever go as quickly or as smoothly as we picture in our heads, but the four-year build had to be done in Colton’s spare time and it came together quite nicely. The first thing that had to be addressed to get the Crew up and running was building a new core support. The previous owner had just welded the radiator directly to the frame and upper core support. It was a challenge to build a core support to hold a radiator, intercooler, condenser and transmission cooler for a truck that originally came with only a radiator. As you can imagine it was a tight fit, but after completely rebuilding inner fender wells, and modifying the grille and completely rebuilding the core support, Colton was able to get everything functioning properly.
The second major hiccup was the wheelbase of the truck was 3 inches too long, so the back wheels weren’t centered in the wheel wells. The previous attempt to shorten a long bed truck frame was done in the wrong location, so they ran out of space to shorten the frame properly. The solution was to buy another frame section, so Colton found a short bed framed F-350 and purchased the rear frame section. Right away after shortening the frame properly, everything began to come together much easier. The gas tank bolted on as if it was on a stock 2000 F-350 truck. And the ’77 bed almost bolted back into place. The only modifications needed were to shorten the brake lines, fuel lines and driveline.
The next mess to tackle was the interior and electronics. Looking at the truck’s “retrofitted” dash and the mounds of wiring wadded up underneath it—the task of organizing the mess of wiring and making everything function properly seemed nearly impossible. With the wiring harness being out of a 2000 truck, there is a lot of wiring, two computers, two massive fuse boxes that all needed to be organized and hidden. The solution was to put the 2000 F-350 dash into the ’77 truck cab. The dash, being about 2 inches too wide, required a lot of trimming and cutting to make it look like it was meant to be there. The computers and fuse boxes are now bolted right into their proper places and look neat and tidy, and the truck now has a 2000 F-350 steering wheel that tilts, has functioning gauges, cruise control that works, radio, Bluetooth, and A/C controls. Everything on the dash now functions and is in working condition. At this point the truck was ready to be started, run and driven.
Once everything was back to working mechanical condition, it was time for the cosmetics. New cab mounts were made, and the truck body panels were leveled and aligned from front to back. The body was sandblasted, and bodywork began. With things coming together and all smoothed out, Colton laid down the Ford Grabber blue with matte black trim. To add to the modernized look, he fabricated custom bumpers from 3/16-inch steel to tie the new frame and the old body together nicely by hiding the larger 350 frame.
Moving back inside, Colton updated to power captain seats from a 2008 F-150 into the truck for comfort and convenience. Front seats are power adjustable 40-20-40 split and the rear seats are front folding 30-70 split seats. The F-150 seats seemed to just fit the truck and to finish the seats off Colton had them recovered with black leather and blue stitching from Katzkin done by Top Notch upholstery. The ’77 truck cab was never made to have power windows or locks, but with all the newly acquired modern conveniences this was now a must.
To complete this truck, Colton bought four other trucks with four years of work. Most of the trucks were wrecked trucks and it was cheaper to buy a truck, take the parts he needed and then sell the truck for scrap than it was to buy the parts outright. With four trucks, four years and 90 percent of the work done solely by Colton nights and weekends, there was A LOT of work done in a home garage, so this goes to show don’t ever let your “surroundings” limit you to what you can accomplish when you truly put your mind to something. Colton wanted a truck that could do everything his Dad’s 2000 F-350 7.3 diesel could do, only doing it in style. He wanted a new truck that looked old and with patient persistence Colton was able to make this dream come true!
1977 Ford F-350 Crew Cab
- 7.3L Ford swap with 4R100 trans
- Custom 3.5-inch exhaust with 4-inch side rear exit
- 3.73 gears
- 2000 Ford F-350 frame shortened 6 inches
- Full 2000 Ford F-350 chassis, engine, trans, axle, wiring, brake swap
- Bilstein shocks all four corners
- Hydroboost brakes with discs front and rear
- Custom driveline
- 16-inch Pro Comps
- 315/75/16 BFG All Terrains
- Removed factory bumpers
- Handbuilt bumpers, with custom lightbar grafted into front
- Painted true Ford Grabber Blue by owner
- OEM exterior with grille, handles, badges, etc., painted black
- 2008 F-150 power seats with Katzkin leather
- 2000 F-350 dash, steering wheel, gauges, cruise control
- Pioneer doubledin touch screen
- Power locks, windows, seats, etc.