Project Responder, the Ultimate Volunteer Firefighter’s Response Vehicle.
By Michael Netherton
After 250,000 miles, you would think a truck would be ready for retirement. That’s not the case for one truck. Michael Netherton, has taken a different approach to vehicle aging. Starting with an ’87 Ford F-250HD 4×4 Supercab truck, Michael’s organization, Project Responder, is in the process of transforming this everyday driver into the "Ultimate Volunteer Firefighter’s Response Vehicle". This project is being presented on the web at the Code3 Responder website (http://www.projectresponder.com) in conjunction with the project sponsors.
The goal of this undertaking is to completely renovate and transform a standard Ford truck with over a quarter million miles on the factory motor, into a show truck that will be equipped for nearly any emergency to which a volunteer firefighter might be called upon to respond. Michael got the idea from his many years of service as a volunteer firefighter and his love of Ford trucks. According to Michael, "I have always wanted to find a way to bring together my interests of monster trucks, fire trucks and my favorite truck brand, Ford."
Project Responder will ultimately create a truck that will not only take ribbons at shows, but that can go anywhere and be prepared for nearly any emergency. When the truck is finished, it will have been stripped down to the frame and rebuilt from the ground up. According to Michael, "there will be plenty of polished aluminum and flashing lights, but there will also be power to pull a house down the road and enough gear to outfit a small fire department. This truck will be the ultimate firefighters response vehicle."
The project began with a 1987 Ford Heavy Duty Supercab 4×4 that has seen the highways from Edmunston, Canada and Caribou, Maine down south as far as San Antonio, Texas. Other than a 4" lift kit, dual batteries, a high amp alternator and 33" tires, the truck is completely stock including the 351 Windsor High Output (5.8L) motor under the hood. The service records for the truck show no major service issues other than a few minor warranty repairs over the years during the 100,000 mile warranty period. The key to the truck’s long life has been changing the oil and performing regular maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer throughout the years.
The body of the truck has seen the most wear and tear. The cab was repainted by the dealer in 1992 because of problems with the dark regatta blue paint that was used by the factory not adhering well to the primer. The bed is now the victim of the same problem, but after thirteen years and many, many, miles, this is not a major issue. The big problem this truck has experienced has been seam separation, primarily under the cab on the driver’s side. Several of the seams have separated under the cab where the floor and sides of the cab are joined. This has caused the cab to sag and the floor to buckle under it’s own weight creating a large split in the driver’s side floor from the pedals, halfway to the seat. As part of the project, the seams and stress fractures will be welded and repaired. In addition, extra support will be added to increase the strength and stability of the cab to accommodate the additional weight that the cab will carry once all of the electronics and emergency equip
ment have been installed.
To complete this project, the front clip, cab and bed will be removed. The front clip and the cab will be transported to a local body shop to be repaired and repainted. The bed will be sold and replaced with a new service body, the brand of which has not yet been determined. While the entire body is off of the frame, the engine, transmission and transfer case will be removed and replaced. Then the frame will first be cleaned with a high pressure water system and then bead blasted to remove any remaining undercoating and surface rust. This includes the axles, springs and other suspension components. Once the metal has been cleaned, the chassis will be powder coated by a local firm.
In our next installment, we’ll cover the disassembly and the drivetrain. You can get all of the latest news on Project Responder at our website: http://www.projectresponder.com. While your there, be sure to send us your comments and if you have an emergency response vehicle of your own (public or private) be sure to log on and upload a copy in our Readers Rides Section. We would like to thank Ford-Trucks.com for their support. If you would like to help sponsor Project Responder, contact Michael Netherton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at 314-444-6875, attention Project Responder.
Until next time…