Oct 15, 2015 update to the Ford F-350 Ramp Truck project car

The Ramp Truck Journey: Day 5

So close, yet so far. Our ramp truck fell apart a little after 2:00 a.m. within 100 miles from home.
After bringing the wounded truck to a stop, this is the sight that greeted us underneath. Yes, that's half a driveshaft.
After getting the ramp truck towed, we had to finish the trip behind the wheel of our cargo. Tankfully, it had gas in the tank and fluids were topped off before it was handed to us.

We crossed the Florida border at about 2:00 a.m. As we rolled within 100 miles of home, we reminded each other that with our AAA Plus membership, we get 100 miles of free towing. We were home free. Little did we know we had just jinxed ourselves.

With Georgia in our rear view mirror, and less than 100 miles to go, we decided to lean on the old truck just a little bit more. We were getting tired and wanted to get home. Our 65 mph cruise speed, turned into 70 and then just for a minute, 75 mph.

That was all it took. Within five miles of the border, all hell broke loose. We heard a terrific crash and a horrible series of banging noises. It sounded like someone had pitched a shovel into a threshing machine.

No! This was not happening. We had driven some 1200 miles with just a few minor teething pains. Was our dream of a ramp truck going to end just south of the Georgia border?

It felt as though the entire front end had just collapsed and the engine had blown. Those sounds may have been familiar to us from past road trips.

After a lifetime of driving—shall we say—substandard vehicles, co–driver Rennie knew exactly what had happened. The drive shaft had come apart.

We were in the middle of nowhere so we let it coast, hoping we would miraculously come up on an exit and glide to safety. That was not to be. We were still some five miles from an exit when the poor old ramp truck clanked and clunked to a stop with the badly broken driveshaft still flapping.

We didn’t want to look, but we had to. It was bad. The rear shaft was missing entirely. The carrier bearing was still present, but the front shaft was broken in half. Even the yoke in the back of the transmission had shattered. But the damage didn’t stop there. The furious flapping shaft had also damaged the exhaust and punctured the fuel tank.

It was completely unfixable. No amount of MacGyvering was going to sneak us through this nightmare. It was time to give up. Beside ourselves, we called AAA for a ride home.

After being put on hold for a few minutes minutes, insult was added to injury. We were told that our AAA membership would not cover this type of a tow.

We called a local towing company and were told that if we waited a couple of hours, we could be towed home for $650.

With few options, we were desperate to get ourselves and our ramp truck to safety. We gave the towing company a credit card number and began to unload the Spitfire. While the truck was towed home, we would finish the trip behind the wheel of our cargo.

Of course, the Spitfire we had bought was just as untested as our ramp truck. Thankfully, we made it home safely and were in bed at 5:30 a.m. We thank the folks at Automotive Restorations for making sure that the fluids were full and that there was some gas in the tank before handing the Spitfire over to us.

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Comments

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alfadriver
alfadriver UltimaDork
10/15/15 3:04 p.m.

So you start the trip with a truck, add a Spitfire, then have the British car loan the truck some electrical parts. The truck fails, and you have to hope the Spit runs, so that you can finish the journey home.

Epic.

And that's what you get when take parts that have been infected with Lucas and put them on something else. No doubt that cause the mechanical failure of the driveshaft.

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
10/15/15 3:06 p.m.

I assume that you swapped the headlights back over?

Why did AAA not pick up the tow?

JohnRW1621
JohnRW1621 MegaDork
10/15/15 3:16 p.m.

When you said you planned for AAA tow, I wonder if they might reject it because the design purpose of the truck along with the logo on the door make the vehicle look "commercial" and not cover by your "residential" policy.

If not that, the mention of F-350 now makes this a "medium duty truck" not a run of the mill car/truck your policy may be intended to cover.

Also, this was possibly not just the tow of one vehicle but the tow of a second vehicle as well (Spitfire) which may have been reason enough to reject.

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette UltraDork
10/15/15 3:19 p.m.

Just one more thing I assume that you swapped the headlights back over?
Nice Tuna Nice

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
10/15/15 3:22 p.m.

Great read!!!! Thanks for sharing.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Editorial Assistant
10/15/15 3:34 p.m.

Yes, the headlights were swapped back over. And I'm not totally sure why AAA turned them away. I assumed it was because it was a tow vehicle itself. I'll ask Tim when he pops back into the office.

nocones
nocones SuperDork
10/15/15 5:02 p.m.

noddaz
noddaz Dork
10/15/15 6:53 p.m.

Very nice. It will be funny. In a few weeks...

ncjay
ncjay Dork
10/15/15 7:11 p.m.

Everyone will take something different out of this story. I'm guessing the fuel tank didn't have much fuel in it and didn't drop gasoline all over the place. That could have added a much worse twist to this story. And yeah, trucks like that don't coast very far, even downhill. Holy crap, I just realized - the crew on "How I Met Your Mother" is right. Note to self, remember this.

irish44j
irish44j PowerDork
10/15/15 9:05 p.m.

If it makes you feel better, I lost two of my three driveshaft bolts at the last rallycross and only discovered it when I left the venue only to get a massive vibration at 20mph. Had to jury-rig it and limp 60 miles through the 80mph mountain highways (going ~40mph with trucks trying to run over me) to a friend's houses where he had a couple of the bolts I needed...

kazoospec
kazoospec Dork
10/16/15 8:09 a.m.

Not that I believe in luck/karma/jinxing/etc., but, in my experience, celebrating "we're almost home" generally =

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
10/16/15 8:21 a.m.

I'm pretty sure the Spitfire transferred some sort of karmic debt to the truck when you did the headlight swap. The good news is that you've thrown off the demons that were present in the Spitfire (as evidenced by it's trouble free drive the rest of the way) so now it should fine for years. It's the price you pay.

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
10/16/15 9:03 a.m.
noddaz wrote: Very nice. It will be funny. In a few weeks...

Nope, I just laughed out loud at several of these posts. It's funny now.

And about those headlights... Rennie tipped the toolbox over in the dead-tired, dead-of-night fumbling that followed the driveshaft explosion, and some of the headlight mounting hardware went into the pitch-black, gasoline-soaked scrub on the roadside (because OF COURSE the tank was full--gas is cheaper in Georgia!).

So they duct-taped one of the headlamps back into the Spit.

Margie

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
10/16/15 9:07 a.m.

Oh, and I think the official reason stated for not giving the ramp truck a tow was "no". Bolstered by the fact that they did, indeed, send a ramp truck to tow the ramp truck. Apparently "ramp truck" is not an industry recognized term. Or middle-of-the-night dispatchers just don't listen.

Margie

alfadriver
alfadriver UltimaDork
10/16/15 9:07 a.m.
Marjorie Suddard wrote: So they duct-taped one of the headlamps back into the Spit. Margie

No wonder they worked when re-paired with Lucas.

Or the car was rewarding the lights for the job they did on the truck.

BTW, next time, remember bailing twine or wire. That way you can do an engine rebuild on the side of the road.

NOHOME
NOHOME UberDork
10/16/15 9:27 a.m.

Real men would have at least thought about pulling the ramp truck with the spit. Or died trying. Just saying. No Truck Left Behind.

And by the way, hope that no one send you a bill for the EPA clean-up on the gas spill.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
10/16/15 9:36 a.m.
NOHOME wrote: Real men would have at least thought about pulling the ramp truck with the spit. Or died trying. Just saying. No Truck Left Behind.

Been there, done that. Sorry, Volkswagen Rabbit and four-puck race clutch. You didn't deserve to tow a motorhome.

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
10/16/15 9:42 a.m.

Actually, Tim wanted to tow the truck to the next exit with the Spit. Rennie said no.

They're good friends because they take turns being the rational one.

Margie

alfadriver
alfadriver UltimaDork
10/16/15 9:49 a.m.
Marjorie Suddard wrote: Actually, Tim wanted to tow the truck to the next exit with the Spit. Rennie said no. They're good friends because they take turns being the rational one. Margie

I'm sitting in my office laughing out loud at that idea.

Buying a 40 year old ramp truck that has not moved in 20, and expecting to drive it home- yea, ok, one of the two is rational. But adding a SBC to carry back in said risky truck? No- there are no rational people in this decision anymore. Especially when you consider that someone had the bright idea to DRIVE the SBC that has not moved for how long? Just to finish the crazy journey.

If it were a restored SBC, maybe there was some rational thoughts going on.

But not the package that these to goofballs put together.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
10/16/15 9:51 a.m.

This just in: I've been poking around the Spitfire, and there's absolutely no chance that the tailights were working for their drive home. The taillight harness is burned up and the fuse is blown.

The headlights work fine, though. They didn't even notice the lack of taillights–4:30 a.m. will do that to you.

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
10/16/15 9:52 a.m.

Hmm, okay, I will give you that, Alfadriver. Let me amend that to "they take turns being the more rational one." Because, yeah, I'm not sure full rationality is ever achieved when Tim and Rennie are together.

Margie

kazoospec
kazoospec Dork
10/16/15 9:52 a.m.
Marjorie Suddard wrote: Actually, Tim wanted to tow the truck to the next exit with the Spit. Rennie said no. They're good friends because they take turns being the rational one. Margie

This cracked me up. I have a friend like that. Unfortunately there are, um, gaps in coverage.

alfadriver
alfadriver UltimaDork
10/16/15 9:54 a.m.
Tom Suddard wrote: This just in: I've been poking around the Spitfire, and there's absolutely no chance that the tailights were working for their drive home. The taillight harness is burned up and the fuse is blown. The headlights work fine, though. They didn't even notice the lack of taillights–4:30 a.m. will do that to you.

Hard to claim they were driving so fast that nobody caught up to them. It is a Spitfire, afterall.

(and thankfully, it did not turn into an accident with someone approaching that didn't see them, whew. Easy to overlook, as one expects the lights to work more reliably than the front)

alfadriver
alfadriver UltimaDork
10/16/15 9:56 a.m.
Marjorie Suddard wrote: Hmm, okay, I will give you that, Alfadriver. Let me amend that to "they take turns being the more rational one." Because, yeah, I'm not sure full rationality is ever achieved when Tim and Rennie are together. Margie

Really, this is one of the best stories.

IMHO, David and JG should sit down with Rennie and Tim to translate the story. While I really like Tim's writing, the thought of those two putting together this epic story is very inviting. Like I'm laughing at what they will write already.

NOHOME
NOHOME UberDork
10/16/15 9:58 a.m.
Marjorie Suddard wrote: Actually, Tim wanted to tow the truck to the next exit with the Spit. Rennie said no. They're good friends because they take turns being the rational one. Margie

Faith restored....At least one of them thought about it.

Did they at least secure to priceless Lotus quarter to the Spit so as to save it from marauding Loti Zombies?

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
10/16/15 10:06 a.m.

Nah. They were D-O-N-E done with the entire show. It was still strapped on the back of the truck when the big wrecker delivered it Monday.

Margie

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
10/16/15 10:15 a.m.
Tom Suddard wrote: This just in: I've been poking around the Spitfire, and there's absolutely no chance that the tailights were working for their drive home. The taillight harness is burned up and the fuse is blown. The headlights work fine, though. They didn't even notice the lack of taillights–4:30 a.m. will do that to you.

Therefore towing the ramp truck with the Spitfire is the logical choice... the ramp truck has tail lights and the Spitfire has its original headlights duct taped in place.

TRoglodyte
TRoglodyte SuperDork
10/16/15 10:20 a.m.

I would grade this "E" for EPIC, thanx for the memories.

NOHOME
NOHOME UberDork
10/16/15 10:22 a.m.
tuna55 wrote:
Tom Suddard wrote: This just in: I've been poking around the Spitfire, and there's absolutely no chance that the tailights were working for their drive home. The taillight harness is burned up and the fuse is blown. The headlights work fine, though. They didn't even notice the lack of taillights–4:30 a.m. will do that to you.

Therefore towing the ramp truck with the Spitfire is the logical choice... the ramp truck has tail lights and the Spitfire has its original headlights duct taped in place.

I vote that Tuna go on all future such trips. His keen engineering thought process cuts straight to the chase.

Plus he could use some time away from the kids.

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
10/16/15 10:29 a.m.
NOHOME wrote: And by the way, hope that no one send you a bill for the EPA clean-up on the gas spill.

I hope the EPA never finds that spot, because our esteemed publisher may or may not have crowned his defeat by dropping a deuce in the woods next to the gas spill.

There were several reasons he started showering down on the pedal just before the driveshaft blew. He really, really wanted to get home.

Margie

logdog
logdog SuperDork
10/16/15 10:33 a.m.

In reply to Marjorie Suddard:

Its a Superfund site!

NOHOME
NOHOME UberDork
10/16/15 11:13 a.m.
Marjorie Suddard wrote:
NOHOME wrote: And by the way, hope that no one send you a bill for the EPA clean-up on the gas spill.

I hope the EPA never finds that spot, because our esteemed publisher may or may not have crowned his defeat by dropping a deuce in the woods next to the gas spill.

There were several reasons he started showering down on the pedal just before the driveshaft blew. He really, really wanted to get home.

Margie

I need a rag to wipe the monitor right now and a good explanation for the noise I just made.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
10/17/15 6:01 a.m.

Margie, some things do not need to be put on the message board.

And good thing we did not try to remove the exhaust manifolds to fix the gaskets and thus the leaks, as I have spent a few hours on this this week, and have only gotten a couple of the bolts out without snapping them. I did get a three piece driveshaft made from junk yard parts. The driveshaft that blew was two piece. I am trying to get the truck running again to bring something cool to the $2015 Challenge next weekend.

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette UltraDork
10/17/15 10:08 a.m.

to bring something cool to the $2015 Challenge next weekend. you rang ?

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse SuperDork
10/19/15 9:18 a.m.

I once had my F350 (crew cab long bed four wheel drive) die on me on I-77 just north of Charlotte. I was towing my 34' two-car hauler at the time. I called AAA, and told them that my truck had broken down. When the driver arrived, he told me my policy didn't cover trailers, or rigs that big, and a couple of other reasons he wasn't supposed to tow me.

I had my obviously-pregnant-at-the-time wife in the truck with me, and our dog, and mentioned to him that I had some cash. He then got on the horn and told dispatch he was towing "just the pickup", flat-bedded the truck, hitched up my trailer (which, incidentally, had no tag on it, because South Carolina) behind him, and towed us the ~100 miles home. For about $300.

Moral of the story: Always carry a pregnant wife, a dog, and cash.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
10/19/15 9:40 a.m.

Looking at the picture of the driveshaft in a puddle of gasoline, we should all be happy the driveshaft didn't spark on the ground and light off the gas.

THAT would have been an epically BAD ending to this story.

WOW Really Paul?
WOW Really Paul? MegaDork
10/19/15 4:24 p.m.

I'm thankful the s10 I lost the driveshaft in didn't puncture the tank, it just put a dent in it big enough to reduce its capacity 2 gallons.

Mine did similar things, ripping the yoke out up front, it became unbalanced from spinning too fast. Sounds like you had a similar thing happen. Throw a bigger diameter driveshaft under there when you put it back together and you should be good past 80mph.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy PowerDork
10/19/15 8:46 p.m.
volvoclearinghouse wrote: Moral of the story: Always carry a pregnant wife........

It is getting harder than you think (no pun intended) - she just turned 53 years old.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse SuperDork
10/20/15 6:46 a.m.

You guys have earned this shirt:

84FSP
84FSP HalfDork
10/20/15 10:09 a.m.

Wow - you guys never fail to impress

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
10/20/15 10:15 a.m.

Thanks all! We now have the new (now three-piece) drive shaft in. We are now chasing sending units and fixing the damaged fuel tank. Truck is now buffed, and the bitchin' seventies vinyl top is fixed. The wiring issues are all solved and we are getting a bit tired. Still breaking off exhaust manifold bolts (and got a few out without breaking them). I wanted to drive this thing to the $2015 Challenge as a support vehicle, but that is looking a bit unlikely.

DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk UltraDork
10/20/15 2:18 p.m.

Tow it with the Spitfire. We'll all be impressed.

NOHOME
NOHOME UberDork
10/20/15 4:19 p.m.

Is the ramp truck within 2015 budget? Like to see it do the cones.

bluej
bluej SuperDork
10/20/15 4:35 p.m.

In reply to volvoclearinghouse:

Next time maybe Rennie can throw a blanket under his shirt and make pouty faces to try and fool the tow driver.. because we all know there'll be a next time.

RedGT
RedGT New Reader
10/21/15 3:40 p.m.

For future reference, you are aware that everybody including amazon sells 7" round headlights comprised of euro housings and h4 bulbs, right? Bright as day. For $70, any old car I plan to drive at night gets those things as the first mod. I have literally brought them along when picking up a Miata at night and installed before leaving.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse SuperDork
10/22/15 6:49 a.m.

In reply to RedGT:

Are those the annoyingly bright, usually-improperly-aimed blue lights I see on cars?

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
10/22/15 6:58 a.m.
volvoclearinghouse wrote: In reply to RedGT: Are those the annoyingly bright, usually-improperly-aimed blue lights I see on cars?

No. What you're thinking of are aftermarket HID lights.

I bought three (or four) sets of H4 lamps and haven't installed them yet in my three LBC's.

One, I was unaware they didn't include the bulb sockets and I have yet to source them.

Two, H4 bulbs typically draw more power than standard sealed beams. Since my LBC's currently lack any sort of relay and all lighting amperage is pulled through a barely adequate light switch, I need to do a relay upgrade first.

Third, I'm still debating on getting 7" LED lamps instead, although the ~$300+ cost makes me hesitate...

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 UberDork
10/22/15 9:20 a.m.

Is autopal and hella still the top in the 7 inch sealed beam to h4 market?

I've got silverstar sealed beam in the duster, but they are nla and won't last forever.

ebonyandivory
ebonyandivory UltraDork
10/22/15 9:53 a.m.

The whole thing seemed so well thought out... Can't believe it didn't go flawlessly!

(Btw, I think we all need to do this kind of thing as often as possible)

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse SuperDork
10/22/15 11:30 a.m.

In reply to Ian F:

So...they came with a 7" round thing that you can install like a normal sealed beam lamp, and an H4 bulb...but no socket? This seems....odd.

The extra current thing would worry me. Most older cars have barely adequate switches that are now old and have corrosion on them. And old wires. A relay would be a must.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
10/22/15 1:08 p.m.

In reply to volvoclearinghouse:

Didn't come with a bulb or a socket. Just the reflector/lens assembly. Purchased it from some VW parts vendor a couple of years ago that was linked here in a thread. Now it's obvious why they were so much cheaper than I'd seen in other places.

Depends on the car. My 1800ES has a relay, so only control amps go through the light switch.

RedGT
RedGT New Reader
10/22/15 6:42 p.m.

In reply to Ian F:

Ah...yeah. I just got another set (the miatas are multiplying)...$70 shipped, includes 55w bulbs and sealing thingy. Not sure what you mean by socket but this setup is a drop in for a Miata, maverick and Nova that I have personally done fwiw. You can also get lower wattage or 6v h4 bulbs as needed. As you noted the vw guys love em and theres no way old bus wiring is that healthy.

The Alfa was wired like you describe...little 4" round lamps and all current going through the switch. It'd get kinda toasty with high beams on but there was also so much resistance in the system of that thing that headlights on meant the wipers were slow as molasses anyway so...drive only on sunny days.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
10/22/15 9:32 p.m.

In reply to RedGT:

Ok... I had to go upstairs and look at them again. Just no bulb and no plug. I'll install them after I rewire the cars.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse SuperDork
10/23/15 5:23 a.m.

Found these on eBay, did a little poking around and folks seem to like them. Might try them the next time an old roundie craps out on me.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
10/23/15 8:28 a.m.

In reply to volvoclearinghouse:

Those look near identical to the ones I have, except mine are labeled "Bosch". I do want stronger lights on the two Triumphs, so I'll probably add relay harnesses over the winter and finally install these. Rewiring the cars is a more long-term project.

RedGT
RedGT New Reader
10/23/15 9:24 a.m.

Holy E36 M3, that's a deal. Am I cheap enough to pay to return my set for a net savings of $15?

Powar
Powar UltraDork
10/23/15 10:43 a.m.

I used a set of those AutoPals (rectangles, however) in my last EXP. I was very impressed with the quality and the price.

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
10/23/15 10:52 a.m.

Are those high/low beam?

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse SuperDork
10/23/15 11:21 a.m.
tuna55 wrote: Are those high/low beam?

There's different bulbs, but yes, the H4 has two settings, three prongs, just like the old sealed beamers. My main concerns (since I've never tried one) would be light dispersion characteristics and, of course, durability. While sealed beam lights could stand to be brighter (heck, I've driven around in my W123 with the high beams on accidentally and never once gotten flashed at by oncoming drivers) I like the sort of natural light dispersion, with gradual feathering around the edges. A lot of the modern lights on newer cars have sharp edges to the viewing range, which I dislike.

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