Farewell dear Stang...

It’s been a busy year and I’ve totally neglected my blog, but that’s about to change here.  After five years of living in the great state of Washington, I’ve finally decided that my 2006 Mustang is simply not going to cut it any longer.  My needs have changed and going back to a truck will suit my family’s and my lifestyle much better.  I will miss the stang, she’s been a great and reliable car and one heck of an eye popping head turner.  In five years I’ve only had it in the shop for one repair outside of basic maintenance, kind of hard to complain about a car like that.  She will be missed.  But a new beast is lurking in the background getting ready to make an appearance in my driveway soon enough.

So like anything else in life, I’ve made lots of compromises and sacrifices when buying a car in the past (like getting the stang in a V-6 rather than the GT).  I’ve never had a new vehicle *just* the way I want it for some reason or another.  Since I plan to keep this truck for quite some time, this will be a no-compromises build and I’ve decided to do things the way I want them from the get go. I looked around at every truck out there and there are some great options available these days.  One hard core criteria that was not up for negotiation was that this truck would have to be AMERICAN MADE.  With so much that is wrong in this world and our economy being in pretty sad shape, I felt it was only right to spend my hard earned money right here and put it to work in our own economy.  After looking at all the major players and doing extensive homework, I confirmed what I already suspected…this was going to be another Ford for this family.  I’ve had a Ford in the family since I was born (my dad started my obsession with his 67 Mustang) and I’ve gone on to own a dozen or so Ford products. At this point in my life, I think it’s safe to say I bleed blue.

So the next big question, *which* truck would be the right one?  I have to be honest, there’s a secret part of me that ‘s total redneck.  Yes, you can be hispanic and be redneck.  🙂  That being said, I really wanted a Diesel powered beast and a dually was something I’ve wanted as long as I can remember.  Let me tell you folks, if you haven’t checked out an F-350 lately, you would be shocked at what an amazing truck that is.  All that being said, I quickly realized it was going to be entirely too much truck for what I needed.  Even with plans on buying an RV next year, short of a giant 5th wheel toy hauler, I just simply didn’t *need* an F-350.  Short-lived dream, but practicality and an ass-whoopin from the wife wasn’t part of this build.  Back to reality.

The truth is that these days, an F-150 is so much more capable than the same truck even a few years ago, that if you aren’t hauling some very heavy things on a daily basis, an F-150 should suit just about anyone out there looking for an all-around solid and very capable truck.  This truck build will have four major missions to accomplish. First mission, an eco-friendly daily driver truck. Yes, I used eco-friendly and truck in the same sentence. Fuel prices aren’t getting any cheaper and the need for an all-around multi-function truck made the new Ford EcoBoost engine an extremely attractive option.  We’re pretty eco-conscious here in the Pacific NW and when I first read about this new twin-turbo engine, I have to admit, I questioned what the heck Ford was thinking, but I kept an open mind in the name of being “green.”  I watched for months as this new engine’s saga began to unfold.  I read every article, every blog and took every opportunity to learn anything I could about this engine.  The bottom line folks?  This is the real deal.  As this engine gets put to the test over time, I really believe it will revolutionize the way America thinks about 6-cylinder engines moving forward, especially the truck enthusiast community.

Second mission: An off-road capable beast that can get me to just about any photography location or fishing hole I choose to go after.  I’ve become obsessed with fly fishing this past year (which coincides nicely with one my other passions, photography).  As I learned more about my new hobby and ventured out to new and unknown destinations in search of fish, it became painfully obvious (very quickly) that my Mustang was simply not going to get me to those places you find in magazines.  Aside from being able to get on the many fire-roads and off-road trails in the region, this truck has to be able to serve as a solid shelter should things go wrong in the middle of nowhere .  One thing I’ve learned being part of a Search and Rescue organization, things will go wrong when you least expect them to.  And when they do go wrong, you better be prepared if you plan to make it back home. Throughout this series I will cover the products I chose to accomplish this mission and why they’re critical to being prepared.

Third mission: SAR.  As I alluded to above, I’ve been involved in Search and Rescue on and off for over 25 years with the Civil Air Patrol.  Most recently that has been from an air operations aircrew role but this year I’m planning to get back to my roots and exercise those rusty ground team chops.  Here in WA, you simply never know what kind of terrain that mission will take you to.  As a senior leader, if I’m taking my cadets out into the unknown, I want to make sure we are loaded up and prepared to spend some time out there should something go wrong.  This rig has to be able to execute this mission with a high degree of reliability and success.

Fourth mission, but certainly not least: the family adventures.  I have been blessed with two very beautiful girls and a wife that lets me get away with crazy ideas like building a project truck.  So it’s only fair that when able, I take them out to experience the outdoors and what this great state has to offer.  Prior to moving to Washington, my wife’s idea of camping was room service at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas.  The mere thought of no running water or flushing toilets made her cringe.  Over the past couple of years I’ve managed to ease her and my little ones into camping by starting them easy at campgrounds with facilities like KOA’s.  This was a perfect way to introduce them to the outdoors without a lot of undue stress and drama.  This year I finally coaxed my wife (with the help of some friends) to try camping at a primitive campground which had “pit” toilets.  She wasn’t exactly keen on the idea so I went prepared with a Luggable Loo and pop-up Privacy Shelter as a backup.  Thankfully, we didn’t even need them and the girls camped like champs.  Next up – Overland excursions and off-trail primitive camping!  But you know I’ll have a backup shelter – the truck!

So now comes the fun part, ordering the truck.  One thing I’ve learned over the years and after buying several new vehicles is that not all dealers are the same.  Your experience and level of quality can vary pretty dramatically and I’ve been on the receiving end of working with a dealer that was a complete nightmare (none here in WA though).  I took this part of the build extremely serious as I want to make sure that not only will the dealer be around to honor any “dealer” warranties outside of Ford (think aftermarket parts), I wanted to establish a long-term relationship with my dealer knowing that I would be back for another vehicle in the not too distant future.  Over the past few years of living in the Seattle area, I’ve been to most of the local dealerships but one in particular has stood out time and time again, Bickford Ford.  So for anyone out there who wonders if social media can make a difference and bring you new customers, I’m one example of how simple frequent interactions with the dealer on Facebook has landed them a new customer. The folks at Bickford have not only been extremely helpful throughout the ordering process, but they made sure I wasn’t getting into more truck than I needed.  Remember that F-350 I was considering?  It was the guys at Bickford that discouraged me from that purchase based on my needs.  I’ve been to many dealers that would have put me into the most expensive truck I was willing to take on, but this is one dealer that you can count on having solid salesmanship and ethics. Bickford has a great service team and through their aftermarket specialists, I’m able to get exactly what I’m looking for on the truck in one place at the same price you’ll find at most online stores (and they’ll stand behind the products).

So by now I hear you screaming…”tell us what you got already!”  Fine!  🙂  A couple of months ago I finally placed the order for a 2011 F-150 FX4 EcoBoost.  The order wasn’t without a hitch however.  As life would have it, due to the unfortunate events that have happened in Japan, Nav systems are in short supply for all auto manufacturers at the moment and Ford was no exception.  After placing the order with Nav system, I was notified that they would not be able to get the Nav system.  I seriously thought this was going to be a deal breaker for me.  Being a tech-guy I really wanted that new Nav system with Ford Sync.  After trying to find an existing truck that met my needs and striking out, I decided that the Nav system delete wasn’t that bad after all.  Not only did it save me some serious cash that I can put towards other parts, in the end, you can do some amazing stuff with the aftermarket units out there today.  I’ll cover this more in-depth as one of the segments throughout the series. For now, we are t-minus 2-3 weeks from an ETA delivery date of August 8, 2011.

So stay tuned folks.  This project truck build will cover everything from performance to aesthetics to functional mods that will make this an ultimate outdoors rig.  I’ll be covering suspension mods (without a lift kit) that will include coil-overs, shocks, upper a-arm upgrades, 18″ wheels, 34″ tires and more.  Lighting mods from lightbar selection with long-range lights to replacement HALO headlamps. Functional mods will include canopy (topper) selection, bed liner, side steps, spare tire carrier for the oversized tire to roof rack and cargo box mods. Depending on how broke I am after all that, we’ll look at how to make a substitution for that factory Nav that will blow the factory option out of the water. So in closing , I’ll leave you with a sneak peek at what the baseline for this project build will look like.  Stay tuned folks, over the next several months I will periodically be posting updates to every step of the build!