1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

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1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
Time to redo the disgusting interior of Old Blue. But first a little historical background:

It was fall of 1980 and we were living in Hawthorne, NY, about 30 miles north of NY City. The first kid was in the oven and I had a new job starting on the first of January which extended my commute from 7 miles to 30. Time to retire the ’65 VW bus and ’69 Camero and get something that would produce heat in the winter and had better likelihood of having some traction in the winter. First, it was a Ford Escort for my wife and soon-to-be child. I needed something to commute in as well as haul firewood with. Since we both grew up in small towns in rural California (her) and Oregon (me), a pickup wasn’t a hard decision. Of course the Ford dealership in Pleasantville didn’t have a pickup on the lot (a what??). So I ordered what I wanted and waited for delivery.

The 1981 F150 Custom, 2wd, 4-speed, 300 six seemed to be the ticket. Manual everything, twin-60 A/C (aka wind wings). It was just what I wanted, and in powder blue it matched our first child. And, coincidentally, the dealer called and delivered it in our driveway just an hour or so after we arrived home from the hospital with #1 son in arms, January 20, 1981. Much to my shock and chagrin, I discovered that pickups had to be licensed as commercial vehicles in NY, and were not allowed on the parkways. Hmm, that was my route to work. So it ended up I commuted to work in the Escort and my wife happily transported young son in the F150. I bought an aluminum cap for it, making a nice place to keep junk dry, throw a mattress for camping, and keep the sand bags dry in the winter when we needed to keep the rear end on the ground.

If I were to do it again, I would have dug deeper and bought real A/C. And I converted the steering to power after 10 years or so of arm strengthening exercises. We lived on a few acres in rural Oregon for about 30 years later on and I often wished for 4wd, especially when I had swapped the tire chains on and off for the 3rd or 4th time during the day, but all-in-all the 2wd version did us well. The tranny is the one with the high rear end so it is like a 3-speed with an overdrive instead of 3-speed plus granny. Great on the highway, with 23 mpg or so, but pretty useless around town – it doesn’t ask for 4th until you get to 55-60. The stump-puller 1st gear would have been nice on the farm, but not nice enough for me to go to the effort of changing it out. It is also useless for pulling anything except a utility trailer, and even with a pair of booster springs, it doesn’t haul a lot. I bought an ’80 Bronco to pull a horse trailer when we were in the horse business during our daughter’s 4H years.

When our son turned 16, he got the keys to it. “It’s your primary transportation. Rules: #1 you have to get your little sister to school and home every day [we lived 10 miles from town]. #2 don’t get any tickets.” Then when he went off to college, little sister drove it until she went off to college. Then it came back to me.

Maintenance wise, I couldn’t be happier. At 198K miles right now, I’ve done surprisingly little along the way besides put tires on it and change the oil. The brakes were probably the biggest complaint. I think the salt on the NY roads were part of the problem, even though it only had 2 years of that. Both front calipers got really sticky, as did one of the replacements. Similarly, the e-brake cable froze up. I’ve put 2 clutches in it, but the engine and transmission are untouched except for the fact that since we moved to town, my wife isn’t happy with oil puddles on the garage floor, so I had to replace the rear main seal and both front and rear transmission seals. But the tranny is the size and weight of a bread box, so it was pretty easy. Had a bit of problem a couple years ago that it would only start when the key was released, not while it was in the crank position. Obvious fix was the switch in the steering column – nope. After swapping out a couple more odds & ends, I finally tracked it to the ignition module. But 190+K on the original isn’t much to complain about. I think I’ve replaced the exhaust system once, but maybe it was twice. Shocks a couple of times, of course – after all, it lived 25 years on a mile of gravel road.

One of Ford’s better ideas was the powder blue paint – guaranteed to fade within 5 years. By the mid-90s, it was about as faded as could be, so I scrubbed it down with a Scotch Brite and got a cheap paint job on it. It also faded away by 2010 or so. In 2017 I finally bit the bullet and had it painted again (I’m don’t mind small jobs, but I’m nervous about painting an entire vehicle). One of my friends, who owns the local NAPA store, recommended a painter who would do a good job without requiring a second mortgage. The paint numbers on the sticker had faded away, but 1981 powder blue, what is there to go wrong? So, he picked the paint and gave it to the shop. The painter called me on the Monday morning it was to be finished and suggested I might want to look at the truck. As you can tell by the photo, the blue is a bit brighter than the original. Hmmm. The NAPA guy took the blame and volunteered to supply new paint and the painter grudgingly said he’d put it on. But it was a nice paint job and who really cares – it is still blue, so I left good enough alone. After a few months I didn’t go into cardiac arrest each time I saw it.

You can tell that it looks shiny blue, but I didn’t have any of the dents pulled – after all, it is an old truck, and likely I’d put another dent in it as soon as it was all smooth and shiny. I had all the emblem holes puttied up, since a couple emblems were missing anyway. Fortunately no rust anywhere – I paid for an after-market undercoating job when it was new and kept it well rinsed during its two winters in NY.

Now I had a nice looking truck, but the inside was the pits. Those wonderful powder blue door panels are still powder blue, and also powdering apart. The dash has a big crack all the way across from too many days in the California sun during our time there, and the speaker grill is about to fall through the dash. Floor mats are in tatters. The seat belts are frayed and the retractors work… sometimes. The seat, under the add-on cover, is all torn up. And if it stays outside in the rain for long (rain? in Oregon?) I have to leave it in the garage with the windows open for a few days to dry it out. Even through it is just a shuttle to the lumber yard, nursery, and recycling center, it would be nice to be able to get into it in clothes that didn’t need to go directly in the wash afterwards (or so says my wife). Besides, we have a Drag the Gut festival in McMinnville every August, and it would be fun to cruise the gut in.

Sporting the new paint job.

From the other end.


So now it’s time to redo the interior. Rules of engagement: Make it acceptable, not perfect. Definitely a case of “better is the enemy of good enough.”
"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

Gary Lewis
Administrator
Wow!  What a cool story!  Not only did you buy it new, but you ordered it - exactly like you thought you'd like.  

I think that's a family heirloom.  At least the son rode in it when small, and both kids drove it to school.  So, spruce it up and impress the soon-to-be grands?

The wetness may be from leaks around the windshield.  The butyl they glued the windshields in with has usually dried and cracked by now.  The best fix is to pull the windshield and put it back with new glue.  But a temp fix is flowable RTV.  However, if there's rust under the windshield it'll continue to expand, so it really should be fixed.

The door panels can sometimes be sanded down to better plastic and repainted.  Sometimes.  But it takes a lot of sanding with 60-grit wet-or-dry used wet or it'll clog almost immediately.  And you won't have the right texture, but is that important?

The dash is best covered with a Coverlay cap.  Not perfect but pretty good.

Anyway, keep us posted what you do.  
Dad's: '81 F150 Ranger XLT 4x4: Down for restomod: Full-roller "stroked 351M" w/Trick Flow heads & intake, EEC-V SEFI/E4OD/3.50 gears w/Kevlar clutches
Blue: 2015 F150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew wearing Blue Jeans & sporting a 3.5L EB & Max Tow
Big Blue: 1985 F250HD 4x4: 460/soon-to-be ZF5/3.55's & EEC-V MAF/SEFI
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
In reply to this post by JohnnyD
And now it is time to see the current disgusting interior.



Here you can see the condition of the door panel. Driver's side has slider lock missing and both sides are crumbling from UV exposure. Was the plastic specially selected for increased texture over time?



You can see the crack clear through the dash just above the instrument panel. Also note the speaker grill is about to fall in due to cracking.



Door seals? What door seals?



Hood release mount self-destructed. Let's hear it for cable ties! And the metal frame broke at some point, so it got bolted to a chunk of strap I had knocking around.



Floor mats might as well be replaced -- they are just beginning to show wear...



Don't ever look under the seat cover -- you may be surprised by what you find.



You can see the wear on the seat belt. Not sure if it makes any difference, 'cause the retractor only works part of the time.

So now I sit and wait for a big order from LMC to arrive.

"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
Oh, I've replaced the windshield several times along the way (25 years on a gravel road and a gravel quarry 1/4 mile down the pavement). So I'm pretty sure it is well sealed. I'm counting on door seals to fix the problem. You'll see in the following post that they are trashed.

I'd love to give the truck to the grandboys (8 and 5), but they live in snow country in central Washington, so 4wd is a must. My daughter is a vet in Salt Lake and will eventually buy some acreage, so maybe if she has kids, it will go there.
"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

Gary Lewis
Administrator
In reply to this post by JohnnyD
That thing is well used!  You really got your money's worth on that truck.  But, fixing it up will be a joy.  
Dad's: '81 F150 Ranger XLT 4x4: Down for restomod: Full-roller "stroked 351M" w/Trick Flow heads & intake, EEC-V SEFI/E4OD/3.50 gears w/Kevlar clutches
Blue: 2015 F150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew wearing Blue Jeans & sporting a 3.5L EB & Max Tow
Big Blue: 1985 F250HD 4x4: 460/soon-to-be ZF5/3.55's & EEC-V MAF/SEFI
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

Gary Lewis
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In reply to this post by JohnnyD
Conversion to 4wd is pretty simple.
Dad's: '81 F150 Ranger XLT 4x4: Down for restomod: Full-roller "stroked 351M" w/Trick Flow heads & intake, EEC-V SEFI/E4OD/3.50 gears w/Kevlar clutches
Blue: 2015 F150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew wearing Blue Jeans & sporting a 3.5L EB & Max Tow
Big Blue: 1985 F250HD 4x4: 460/soon-to-be ZF5/3.55's & EEC-V MAF/SEFI
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
In reply to this post by Gary Lewis
Money's worth is right! I bought it new for $7,000. Even with tires, windshields, paint, and misc parts, I can't have more than $5K more in it. At 198K miles, that's about $0.06/mi. I probably beat the government's cost per mile estimates!



(1)98260 original miles.
"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
In reply to this post by Gary Lewis
Hmmm, maybe 4wd conversion will be my follow-on project. The grandboys don't come of age for another 8 years...
"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
In reply to this post by JohnnyD
Christmas in April!!



Everything is there except the new glovebox (backordered), so I guess I have no excuse but to start. I'll post new and old parts as I work through the project.
"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

grumpin
1986 F250HD SC XLT Lariat 4x4 460 C6
1992 Bronco XLT 4x4 351W E4OD
1997 Mazda 626 LX 2.0L G25M-R
1998 Suburban LT K2500 454 4L80E
Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

salans7
I'm excited to see the progress on this one!
-Shaun
1980 Ford F350.
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

Gary Lewis
Administrator
In reply to this post by JohnnyD
That is going to be FUN!  
Dad's: '81 F150 Ranger XLT 4x4: Down for restomod: Full-roller "stroked 351M" w/Trick Flow heads & intake, EEC-V SEFI/E4OD/3.50 gears w/Kevlar clutches
Blue: 2015 F150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew wearing Blue Jeans & sporting a 3.5L EB & Max Tow
Big Blue: 1985 F250HD 4x4: 460/soon-to-be ZF5/3.55's & EEC-V MAF/SEFI
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
In reply to this post by JohnnyD
First stop: DASHBOARD

I opened the box and this is what I found:



Top view of the new dash. Even has VIN cutout in the edge. Only difference I can see from the original is the original had an octagonal radio grill and this one is square (doesn't show well here).



Here you can see the front view of the new one.



Here's what we want to get rid of. Big crack above the instruments, a small bull's eye, and the radio grill is about to fall in.



I started to take out the screws on the old one, but wait! If all else fails, read the directions. This is a dash cover, not a replacement. It slid over the old one sweet as can be. Kinda snapped into place, no adjustments needed. The hardest part was cleaning 38 years of crud off the old dash and then squeezing out a bead of RTV all around the edge of the new one and around all the vents. Then it slipped in place, snapped, and I worked it around to make sure everything was in contact. I stuffed cardboard around the edges to make sure they were making good contact. Also I wanted to make sure the radio grill was stuck on, so I put the blocks on top and wedged them in place with a board. Now to let the RTV dry.



Ta dah!! Here we are, good as new (well, almost). As I said in an earlier post, I couldn't get the part in a blue that matched the original powder blue, so I opted with black. Since this truck is never going to win best of show, I decided that the black made a nice contrast with the remaining blue parts, no need to fine-tune the paint match or repaint everything.

Total time for this (besides the RTV drying) was 45 min. Wow!

I'm probably not supposed to promote specific products, but I can't say enough good about this one. This came from LMC: "Dash Cover - Black" p/n 49-5519-BL $129.95. I'd have done this 15 years ago if I knew it was going to be so easy. I don't think the rest of the project will be as easy as this, but it gives me a jump start.

"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

Gary Lewis
Administrator
I have the same Coverlay cover for Big Blue.  Not sure when I'll put it on, but the one I had on an '82 Explorer made a huge difference.  Well worth the cost.  

Now, if all the upgrades go that well you'll be done by Monday.  
Dad's: '81 F150 Ranger XLT 4x4: Down for restomod: Full-roller "stroked 351M" w/Trick Flow heads & intake, EEC-V SEFI/E4OD/3.50 gears w/Kevlar clutches
Blue: 2015 F150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew wearing Blue Jeans & sporting a 3.5L EB & Max Tow
Big Blue: 1985 F250HD 4x4: 460/soon-to-be ZF5/3.55's & EEC-V MAF/SEFI
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

FuzzFace2
Looks good almost like a new truck LOL.
There were cars that had black dash pads with other color seats and door panels.
Ever see a white inside with a white dash pad ......... nope it was black.
Had a 63 Buick Skylark drop top: white body / black top and white inside but the dash was black.

I also have a cover overlay I got from a member. I have only tried a quick fit and looks to fit pretty good.
I have a 2nd dash pad that I will try some of the posted repairs to. If it works great if not oh well on the shelf it goes it get in the way too much.
Dave ----
81 F100 flare side 300 six/T18 project
http://cars.grantskingdom1.com/index.php/1980-Ford-F100?page=1
81 F100 style side 300 six/SROD parts truck
http://cars.grantskingdom1.com/index.php/1981-Ford-F100
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
This post was updated on .
FWIW, here's a tip on slider door locks, if you haven't discovered it the way I did.

Those little devils are hard to unhook from the control rod when taking off the door panel (or putting it on). I managed to break the plastic weld on the brand new one I just bought (grrrr). It is busy being JB Welded right now.

Then I discovered that you should pop the whole slider mechanism out of the door panel, THEN rotate it off of the control rod. Easy Peasy! And the bonus is that you don't have to take the interior door handle off, either.
"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

JohnnyD
Spelunking under the seat (a dangerous thing to do).

So I took the seat out yesterday as the first step in recovering it. Not to say that I'm meticulous about keeping Old Blue spotless, but as I was cleaning out mouse nests and empty pretzel bags from under there, I started unrolling wadded up receipts and worked my way back to 2006. Then I found the prize of prizes - a check book. Turns out it was my son's, and although it didn't have a year noted in the register, the transactions were clearly no later than his last year in high school -- he graduated in 1999. I guess cleaning out under the seat once every couple of decades isn't too excessive.

Speaking of cleaning, since I had Old Blue painted in Sept of 2017, I was granted a bye and was able to skip the annual wash job in the summer of 2018, 'cause I could still tell what color it was. Summer is on its way, so I guess 2019 is the year of the new blue's first wash.

And would you believe my wife earned her living as a house cleaner for many years? Yes, she is very excited about being able to ride in Old Blue without having to launder her clothes after the trip...
"Old Blue" 1981 F150 Custom, short box, 2wd, straight 6, manual 4-speed; purchased new in NY, now happy in Oregon
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

FuzzFace2
Thanks for the tip on the door panels & slider locks.
I hope I can remember that when I go to put mine back together after painting.
Heck I hope I remember how the insides go back in the doors after years being apart.

What are you doing with the seat? I have not looked does LMC sell a re-cover kit where you pull what is left of the old one off. Then re-pad and put the new back on?
I have 1 rip in mine that is not bad and I bought a cover but would be nice to have the factory look to the seat with out rips.
Dave ----
81 F100 flare side 300 six/T18 project
http://cars.grantskingdom1.com/index.php/1980-Ford-F100?page=1
81 F100 style side 300 six/SROD parts truck
http://cars.grantskingdom1.com/index.php/1981-Ford-F100
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

salans7
In reply to this post by JohnnyD
JohnnyD wrote
FWIW, here's a tip on slider door locks, if you haven't discovered it the way I did.

Those little devils are hard to unhook from the control rod when taking off the door panel (or putting it on). I managed to break the plastic weld on the brand new one I just bought (grrrr). It is busy being JB Welded right now.

Then I discovered that you should pop the whole slider mechanism out of the door panel, THEN rotate it off of the control rod. Easy Peasy! And the bonus is that you don't have to take the interior door handle off, either.
This is a great tip, however prying too hard on the slide locks may detach the plastic face from the metal backing as many of us 80-81 owners have found out, and it's very hard to reattach the faces and get them to stay.
-Shaun
1980 Ford F350.
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Re: 1981 F150 "Old Blue" needs a new interior

Ray Cecil
In reply to this post by JohnnyD


Another blue truck....I see a trend.

Cant wait to see this one completed.
Ray Cecil
1982 Flareside 300 Six, Hedman Headers, 4x4, SROD 4 Speed, 1 Wire HEI "Little Blue 82"....
1969 Impala Custom Coupe, 86,000 miles, 327, Powerglide.
1999 Silverado, 346,000 miles, 5.3 Automatic Z71 4WD
2008 Tahoe (wife's)

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