Our Friend Big Baby Blue
I’ve had several requests through email and in comments on the blog and YouTube to give a little more information about our truck. You likely have seen him in my photographs. He is a 1994 Ford F350 truck that we affectionately nicknamed “Big Baby Blue”. Blue came to us like it was meant to be. We were out shopping for an RV and not entirely sure what we wanted when we saw him sitting on the RV dealer’s lot. Someone had traded him in on a new fifth wheel and they had him on sale to clear off the lot. My wife Anne knew right away that this would be our truck. Blue was 17 years old at the time but in fantastic shape. We had our trusted mechanic give him the once over and after his OK we had ourselves a truck! We paid $8500 and added another $1500 in repairs and maintenance to get Blue ready to tow our new fifth wheel trailer. One reason we were able to afford a brand new Keystone Cougar was the great deal we got on the truck.
He is a 1994 Ford F350 Supercab Long Box 2WD with a 7.3L IDI Turbo Diesel motor putting out 190 HP and 388 ft-lbs of torque. ( Full motor specs can be found here.) The transmission is an E4OD automatic with overdrive and a 4.10 ratio rear end powering dual rear wheels. The truck fully loaded up weighs in at 6800 lbs. The GVWR is 10,000lbs. It is capable of towing a max trailer weight of 14,000 lbs. and a max over all weight GCWR of 20,000 lbs. I’ve weighed our Cougar fifth wheel and it comes in at around 9000 lbs. with a hitch weight of about 1700 lbs. all loaded up with our stuff and a full water tank so we are well within Blue’s safe towing margins.
Features and Options
Blue came with a bunch of cool factory extras. There are checker plate metal running boards, rubber mud flaps and a cab over sun shade. He has a full complement of extra marker lights, five on the cab, five on each side’s running boards, and four on the rear wheel wells plus 3 in the rear end. Looks pretty sweet all lit up a night. The 8 foot box has been coated with a durable plastic material, colored blue to match the paint. One feature I really like are the large towing mirrors. They are nice and big and can swing in for normal use or out wide for towing. He also has chrome wheel caps and lug nut covers making his shoes shine. Inside, the rear bench seat can hold three passengers or fold down flat for more flat cargo space. The truck came with a DSP brand fifth wheel hitch already installed by the previous owner and convenient trailer wiring outlet jack installed on the driver’s side wheel well. Hooking up the trailer is a piece of cake.
Mods We Have Added
First thing we added was a tinted rear window with a sliding window to replace the plain stock one. We travel with dogs and this really helps keep it cooler back there and give them some air. Next I upgraded the ancient trailer brake controller to a modern digital Tekonsha model Primus IQ. It’s been a great match. Because Blue has the long 8 foot truck box there was a ton of room in front of the fifth wheel hitch, so I added several storage boxes. First a large metal locking tool box to hold my two Champion 2000w generators. Second a wood box to hold tools, jacks, and repair parts. And third a box for Anne’s photography gear. This particular box I made water proof, lockable and lined it with foam padding.
Blue has proved to be a very reliable guy. He has logged over 50,000 miles in the last 3 years and has done a good bulk of that while dragging our house around in back. We have looped around the US and been up and down the west coast twice and not once have we been stranded by the side the road with a breakdown. We have had one tire blow out which because it was one of the rear duallys, we hardly noticed except for the escaping air sound. The biggest failure has been the transmission. At about the 5,000 mile mark the computer that monitors the E4OD tranny put us into limp mode causing it to shift very hard. It turns out the torque converter was slipping and the best thing to do was a complete rebuild. We had it rebuilt and they upgraded many of the internal components including installing a heavy duty torque converter designed for towing. Since then the tranny has performed great. Most other repairs have been routine like brakes, exhaust, wheel bearings, belts, hoses, etc. I change Blue’s oil every 2500 miles with 15W40 Rotella and the fuel filter is swapped out every 15,000 miles.
How Well Does He Tow
I am extremely pleased with this truck when it comes to towing our fifth wheel. The rig is very stable in winds and doesn’t suffer from sway at all. On the flats the sweet spot for speed is around 55 mph at 2000 rpm in the overdrive gear. If we cruise along at this speed without a head wind the truck averages about 12 mpg. In winds or hilly country this drops down to 8-10 mpg. The truck has plenty of stopping power and can hold the load going down steep grades extremely well. Most times I just have to gear down and let the engine and transmission take the load while occasionally apply some brake. We’ve cruised down many 10% and higher downgrades without any problem. The only time the truck has performed sub-par is going up long steep grades of 8% or more. On hills like this I generally have to gear down into 2nd or sometimes 1st and crawl slowly up. If the elevation is high and outside temps warm I have had to pull over on occasion to let things cool down for fear of overheating. Unfortunately this may be the best the truck can do given its limited horsepower and torque but I’m going to have it checked out this summer in case something is worn out like the turbo, fuel pump or injectors.
Video Overview of our 1994 Ford F350 Truck
As you can tell we really like our truck. Blue has taken us on some amazing journeys and never let us down. He is a little older, louder and doesn’t have the power of the more modern trucks but he always gets us to our next campsite. We get many compliments on him, especially when in areas where most vehicles rot away from the winter salts. Folks can’t believe a truck of his age can be in such good shape. I will continue to take good care of him and hopefully he will last us for years to come.
Follow our RV adventures! Sign up for the free monthly Love Your RV Newsletter – Receive the eBook “Tips for the RV Life” as a gift. Also head on over to the RV Happy Hour and chat with me and other RVers about all things RV. – Cheers Ray