Project Cobalt: Battered ’97 F-350 Becomes Cool Family Hauler

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1997 F-350 Camping

This $1,000 1997 Ford F-350 Crew Cab was brought back to life with used parts, cleaning supplies and a bit of chassis work.

Some people might look at the 1997 Ford F-350 in the image above and think that the rough-looking pickup will never serve as anything but a mud truck. However, a build thread from FTE member GuitarJesus shows how a beat-up, heavy duty pickup can be restored to a great weekend getaway vehicle for the family.

The Introduction

This unique build thread was originally posted to the forum under the name Project Cobalt by GuitarJesus. He purchased this 1997 Ford F-350 crew cab pickup for $1,000 and when he got it, he knew that it needed some minor repairs. This thread is unique in the fact that the owner wasn’t looking to build a monster mud truck or a flawless show truck. He just wanted a clean, reliable truck to pull his camper.

Project Cobalt F-350 First

“Ok guys, I’ve talked about it for a week, but I finally got her home. She’s a 1997 F-350 crew cab, 4×4, 460 ob2 with maf, and e4od auto. 4.10 gears, unfortunately it has an open diff in the rear. It needs rear end of the driveshaft replaced, replacement bumper is in the bed, I’ll rekey it, new hood, and I’m sure other odds and ends. I got it on a steal practically. I’ll update when I add to it.”

He also included the picture above of the new-to-him F-350 when he first got it. As we can see, it came lifted with aftermarket wheels and no front bumper.

While it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t in bad shape by any stretch, so it seemed like a solid basis for a project.

The Extensive Cleaning Process

When the OP first got ahold of this 1997 F-350, the interior was a mess. The vinyl flooring was caked in dirt, the upholstery was covered with random stains, the plastic trim was filthy and the flooring under the carpet was packed full of dirt and sunflower seeds.

1997 F-350 Messy Floor

He began by cleaning up a set of factory seat covers for a 40/20/40 split front bench and a while later, he found the seat to wear that freshly cleaned upholstery. He also added a rear bench with the fold-down armest.

1997 F-350 New Seats

Next, he pulled the vinyl floor lining out and cleaned it up, but when he got carpeting that matched the rest of the interior for free, he went with that rather than the black vinyl. While the carpeting was out, he removed a few pounds of dirt and sunflower seeds from cab with a pressure washer, also removing and cleaning all of the plastic trim. While the interior was apart, the OP also took the opportunity to remove the manual wind-up windows and add power window motors in their place.

1997 F-350 Clean

Once he was finished, the interior of this 1997 Ford F-350 looked like new.

Mechanical Improvements

As mentioned in the intro, this F-350 needed some repairs to the driveshaft, but the owner also found that the transmission cooler needed some attention as well. He removed the bed and installed a new fuel pump and sending unit, along with swapping to a tint steering column assembly with a new steering shaft.

1997 F-350 Steering Column

Finally, when the OP bought this F-350, the front bumper was in the bed. He learned that the bumper wasn’t on the truck because at some point, it had been wrecked in the front and the passenger’s side frame rail was bent. The radiator support was also bent, but after a shop straightened the frame rail, the owner was able to “massage” the passenger’s side of the core support to properly line up with everything else.

1997 F-350 Frame

The owner also found that the cooling system of the 460 big block V8 hadnt been service in some time, but after performing that simple task, the truck was ready to serve as a cool family hauler.

1997 F-350 Camper

Going forward, the OP plans to add a Vortech supercharger to the monster V8, but in the meantime, it has been transformed into a great truck to haul his family camper. While we have included a collection of pictures here, the OP has far more pictures and details of his 1997 F-350 restoration that you can check out in his thread by clicking here.

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