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sardonicus 08-04-2019 10:15 AM

Modding my 1979 Ford F150 - looking for some opinions
So I have recently started working on my truck, progress is slow because funding is limited and I work on a poultry farm my family owns and am coming up on that time of flock where I'll be without pay for a couple months so this is mostly just an information gathering exercise.

There are several things I want to do with this truck, but one thing I wont be doing is a total electric conversion. I like working with the gasoline engines so it'll be staying, but I do want to improve fuel economy while having a little fun experimenting with some things.

The first thing I want to do is add hydrogen, and lots of it. Being that this is an older vehicle there is oodles of space for me to work with and in the end I will likely be running multiple hho generators - to start with though one will have to do and I'll go from there. The engine in my truck is a carbureted 302 with a 2 barrel carburetor. If anyone has experience with hho and these engines I would be curious to know how thats worked out for you. How much hho have you been able to pump into it before detonation became a problem? Any suggestions on this line of modification are welcome.

The next thing I want to do is to add an electric assist motor - this is where things get tricky for me as I've never done anything like this before, but here is my plan. My truck is two wheel drive but I know that they made them 4 wheel drive I am on the hunt for a front differential that will bolt up to my truck - preferably with no or little modification to the frame and supports. Then I want to run a drive shaft from that differential directly to a motor - wherever I can weld up a mount for a motor. With all the space available under there I dont think that will be a problem. I am looking for motor suggestions here because I really dont know where to start. I definitely want regenerative braking so if my understanding of things is correct I will need an AC motor. My hope is that by supplying power to the front wheels via an electric motor it will be easier for the gas engine to supply power to the rear wheels and overall make things more efficient. Motor, controller, inverter advice is all welcome here as well anyone with thoughts on how effective my plan really will be. I'm open to any better ideas too.

On the more experimental side of things I intend to attempt to reclaim some of the wasted heat energy from the gas engine. They waste so much in the form of heat and I believe that I can harness some of that waste by using banks of thermoelectric generators. The challenge I think will be finding a way to keep the cool side cool enough for usable electricity generation to occur. If anyones dabbled with something like this I'd be curious to know what kind of results they had.

Taylor95 08-04-2019 10:31 AM

I don't think anyone here has added an electric assist motor to their car. That would be pretty complex. If you actually do it, I would be very interested in the details.

There are a lot of things you can do before you invest in an electric motor and batteries. Make sure your truck is in good working order. Making the switch to full synthetic fluids will be good. Some mods that increase horsepower will also increase efficiency too.

Improving aerodynamics is what most people here have done a lot with. You could get a lot of gains from a tonneau cover, wheel discs, a front air dam, and adding positive rake.

sardonicus 08-04-2019 10:38 AM

At the moment the truck has no bed - it was rusting out at the seams and it just wasnt worth it to me to salvage so I have a lot of options in that regard for improving aerodynamics. I hadn't actually considered much in the way of aerodynamics at all. The idea of a positive rake is interesting though I'm not sure how I'd go about doing it. Thats some food for thought for sure - I'll have to do some looking into it.

Taylor95 08-04-2019 01:06 PM

Any pictures?

I've never done this, but a boat-tail like back end would reduce drag on your vehicle the most. You certainly have this option since you do not have a bed, however, you would probably be sacrificing aesthetics in the name of economy in this case.

Do you do mostly highway driving? Aero mods will benefit you the most if you do a lot of highway driving.

There's also a page on here you can check out to improve your driving habits. I believe you could get up to a 30% improvement in mileage by improving your driving.

sardonicus 08-04-2019 01:13 PM

I don't do much driving at all really - short trips into town for groceries and such. Kind of live in the middle of nowhere. Mostly I am working on this truck as a tax deduction - officially the farm pays most of my expenses so come tax time I don't have many deductions. This is "officially" a work truck lol.

Taylor95 08-04-2019 01:21 PM

The amount of work for aero mods probably wouldn't benefit you a whole lot then. I would suggest just making sure the truck is in good mechanical shape. If you do end up doing something like electric assist, that would probably net you the most efficiency no matter your typical driving habits.

sardonicus 08-04-2019 02:19 PM

The engine is a recent rebuild, missing only a few small but important parts. Should be in perfect running order when I can finish collecting parts.

I also wonder what peoples thoughts are on electric vs mechanical water pumps.

Gasoline Fumes 08-04-2019 04:57 PM

For short trips, preheating the engine coolant and oil, trans and rear end with electric heat would help. And you could run it without the alternator and grid-charge the battery.

slowmover 08-04-2019 05:53 PM

TBI. Cutting the warmup to shortest worth more than the rest. (Highest cylinder pressure on today’s pump gas after rebuild with camshaft suited to ACTUAL WORKING USE. Very small quench and maybe 8.875 to 1 CR)

The V8-302 and the I6-300 weigh about the same. I’d prefer the six with a manual. 3+ 1 OD. Positive traction differential with 2WD.

Other than that, it’s tires.

A front air dam & side skirts depending on amount plus type of unpaved surfaces. An aerolid if it will work.

I wouldn’t go into other work.


sardonicus 08-04-2019 06:25 PM

Interesting information. I'm pretty 50/50 on paved roads and gravel roads. The price of living in the middle of nowhere I suppose.

owly 09-05-2019 03:05 PM

Disk brakes are a significant liability, as they tend to always be dragging, unlike actually retracting like drum brakes....... they are great for stopping power and wet operation, terrible for economy. Changing out to the older drum brake system should offer some benefit in economy.

I don't believe that electric waterpumps offer a significant benefit.... You are losing energy in generating the electricity, and again in running a motor. Unless you are starting out with a lot of extra battery power on your trips, or charging via an exhaust turbine or some such, there would seem to be very little gain to be had here.
Water pumps are centrifugal pumps, not constant displacement pumps. With centrifugal pumps, restricting flow either on suction or somewhere else, reduces horsepower draw. Flow is the biggest factor in horsepower consumption by these pumps. Pressure * flow / 1710 = horsepower. When you block the output, the flow drops drastically, and the pressure rises only slightly. Thermostats work fairly well to regulate flow for cooling needs.
Power steering and Alternator are two of the higher demand systems, as is the lubricant pump in the engine........ which would be difficult to alter. Unfortunately the stock steering unit is geared so high that steering it without power is a bear. My 1960 Ford F100 4x4 has manual steering with about a 6:1 ratio compared to about 2.5:1 on your newer Ford, and is easy to steer manually. There are manual "armstrong" steering units on older 2wd pickups that you might adapt.... late '60's early '70's. This is significant enough that new cars are starting to come out with electric steering assist......... a superb idea.
Alternators are wonderful devices....... small and powerful, but they are not efficient, and draw a lot of horsepower. I've often wondered how long it will be before someone comes out with a charging system that uses intake air or exhaust to charge......... We have to restrict the intake and create vacuum by throttling the engine, to keep it under control. That's like putting your hand over someone's mouth and nose and forcing them to suck air.... a dead loss. This energy could be used to generate power... but nobody does it.
I hear people claim that headers and low restriction intakes gain mileage...... THEY DO least on fuel injected cars. We are choking the engine down anyway, and these things only make a difference at full throttle. In truth it really doesn't matter weather the aircleaner or the throttle is choking off air to the engine........ something has to. Likewise the exhaust... though there are some liabilities there.

1: Preheat your engine with a block heater
2: Install an electric fan
3: Get several large batteries, (golf cart) and put a switch on your alternator field wire.......
stop it from charging. Charge from the grid or solar when at home.
4: Convert to old school manual steering
5: Backdate to drum brakes
6: Convert to synthetic lubricants all through the system including grease, transmission o
oil and engine oil.
7: Drive for efficiency........ let the pickup slow down climbing hills, and coast going down
Use pulse and glide when possible using neutral. Drive as if you had no brakes at all,
planning far ahead for stops or slowing, coasting rather than braking.

redpoint5 09-05-2019 03:10 PM

Good points, but drum brakes aren't going to help much. What does it save, a couple watts each wheel? I've not seen it measured, but it can't be much, and they make aftermarket springs to retract the pads.

oil pan 4 09-05-2019 03:30 PM

For get about hydrogen.

Yeah I added retract springs to my disk brakes on my leaf.
They cut down on brake drag, use 2 or 3 springs if needed.

If you have a thermostatic air intake good.
Install a wide band oxygen sensor and meter and get a edelbrock 4 barrel carb of the appropriate size for you engine.
Use the wide band 02 to tune the carb for a good idle, lean cruise and fuel dump at wide open throttle.
I was able to get my 1985 7.4L suburban up to 16 to 18 mpg on the highway.

freebeard 09-05-2019 04:00 PM


The next thing I want to do is to add an electric assist motor - this is where things get tricky for me as I've never done anything like this before... Motor, controller, inverter advice is all welcome here as well anyone with thoughts on how effective my plan really will be. I'm open to any better ideas too.
Mild Hybrid.

A 20hp altermotor on a serpentine belt drive (with a big battery pack but only 115v) would be the least work and get you grid charging, regen and a decent power boost.

Mostly I am working on this truck as a tax deduction - officially the farm pays most of my expenses so come tax time I don't have many deductions. This is "officially" a work truck lol.
Sounds like a license to spend money on it to me. :) Replace the bed with a teardop trailer shell with camper jacks.

cyclist916 09-05-2019 05:59 PM


Originally Posted by oil pan 4 (Post 606140)
For get about hydrogen.

Seconded. The hydrogen generator stuff is pure snake oil. There's no such thing as free energy.

Varn 09-05-2019 07:25 PM

A few ideas:

Light truck tires rated at 60 psi or more. I put Hankook ATM tires.
They roll good and have great traction.

Weird body like this.

And most importantly, don't drive it much.

RoadRaceJosh 09-05-2019 08:35 PM

As has been pointed out the limited miles driven means the truck doesn't consume very much and therefore also doesn't benefit much from modifications for economy. The more you drive the more efficiency counts. I would not add a hybrid system or HHO. The hybrid will never show payback and the HHO will never show any benefit.

To get a return on your investment you'll need to be conservative and judicious. Make sure the engine runs just as well as it possibly can. Changing the ignition advance curve on smog-era can often show power and economy increases. Make sure all the wheels are pointing in the right direction with a careful alignment. Depending upon the rear axle ratio you can probably installed a used 3rd member or axle assembly to reduce engine RPM and increase fuel economy, but you'll have to shop carefully to ever see the money returned. If you're in need of new tires you can also reduce engine speed with taller tires.

But better by far than an F150 is a smaller pickup if it meets your needs.

ToddT58 09-06-2019 09:01 AM

Wow... taking me back a decade or four. In '79, I had a Ford van with a 302. It was a year of a gas crisis and I started running the numbers. In the end, I figured I could increase my economy enough to justify a few engine mods with a three year payback. And sure enough, the calculations were right. Now, remember this was in '79 when our only source of information was magazines and friends.

The end result was a much better fuel economy plus the power to pass a car when I needed it. Lots more fun to drive. Then again, I also added sway bars and KYB shocks.

I added an Edelbrock SP2P manifold (designed more for economy than max hp), a Carter 625cfm 4bbl carb with vacuum secondaries an headers. My economy went from 12 to 14. The biggest addition was a vacuum gauge. I drove with an eye for max vacuum. I also added an electric fan.

Good luck! Sounds like a fun project.

Ecky 09-06-2019 10:12 AM

Third the opinion of not bothering with hydrogen. The short of it is that producing hydrogen is a lossy process. You have to burn more gasoline to make the hydrogen, and the energy you get out of feeding that hydrogen back into the engine doesn't make up for the extra fuel needed. Plus to make any significant amount (not just a fraction of a percent) you'd need a monstrous alternator.

Making the hydrogen with grid power, pressurizing it and storing it in tanks which you then load into the truck are more likely to have close to zero return, rather than a large negative return.

Depending on the drive cycle, a plug in hybrid conversion could have merit. I have tons of ideas on how to do this, but most won't be cheap.

enator 09-06-2019 10:21 AM

"I added an Edelbrock SP2P manifold (designed more for economy than max hp), a Carter 625cfm 4bbl carb with vacuum secondary" Todd is correct. Get a 4 bbl carburetor with a spread bore, another words small primary and large secondary that is vacuum operated. advance your timing until it pings but no detonation. Get an intake manafold from a junk 302 with the right carb. and use the original air cleaner with the preheater. it will put warm air into the carb. I got similar results with a 1980 Chevy van, engine rebuilt with a towing cam and transmission with a shift kit set for towing. it went from 14 mpg to 16 and more horsepower. I also removed the pollution controls and used an O2 sensor and gauge to tune the carburetor. Do not waste your time with HHO. it is worthless. I tried on a mercury sable with two trolling motor batteries and it was NO DIFFERENCE. if you come across $15K you can buy this, AC Electric Drive Systems and the batteries, etc. and have a machinist make an adapter for the front of your engine (double roller 50# chain?) to the ac-50 motor. (I used the ac-20 on my electric motorcycle) A tax deduction and when you junk the truck years down the road just unbolt the electrics and use for another vehicle.

DGXR 09-06-2019 10:31 AM

I can't help at all with the hydrogen part, but I have a few comments for the electric assist part.
First, you need a clutch between the front prop shaft and electric motor so that the wheels will not be slowed when the electric assist is inactive.
Second, you need to synchronize the speed between the axles when electric assist is active, i.e., be sure the electric motor RPM range and front axle ratio end up covering the full range of vehicle speed attainable with gas engine power.
Finally, if you go through all this trouble, you *might* want to use an electric motor that can also function as a generator. Regenerative braking will recoup some braking energy. You will need more than just the regular "car" battery to power electric motor assist, and that extra battery needs to be recharged somehow. Just a thought... hope my $0.02 helps you.

sbestca 09-06-2019 01:33 PM

40 years ago I started at a trade school 20 miles from home. I needed to save money where ever I could. I was driving a 1969 Half Ton Ford with the 302 and 3 on the tree Manual, 3.25 gears.

I was getting 16mpg(imp) out of it. Like yours, the bed was rusty. I ripped it off and built a spruce flatbed. I installed long tube headers and high flow mufflers and a taller paper element in the air cleaner. I pulled the heads and planed them (I was studying machinist) for 9.5:1 compression. Recurved the ignition and used my daily trips to experiment with jetting on the stock 2bbl.

I ran a 2 blade fan with large pulley clutch drive and a shroud to reduce cooling losses. No problems with overheating here, cool weather and country driving.

Also changed my driving style, didn't know about pulse and glide, used a coast down hills and barely make it up style. Keeping in high gear with speed down was a big savings too. I also ran tall but skinny radial tires instead of the fat bias meats so popular back then. End result was 24mpg(imp) over the week consistently.

For winter I had to go back to smaller filter and supply intake heat. I kept it year 'round after that.

freebeard 09-06-2019 07:28 PM


I have a few comments for the electric assist part.
First, ...
Second, ....
Finally, ...
A belt-driven altermotor sidesteps the first two points and enables the third.

ToddT58 09-07-2019 03:24 PM

Enator, you wrote "I also removed the pollution controls and used an O2 sensor and gauge to tune the carburetor." Please share more about tuning this way. I think I know where you're going but want to know the practical tips. What about in conjunction with a vacuum gauge?

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