GOVE Global Overland Vehicle Economical build.

I have loved this thread. So much thought has gone into this build. Like so many others on this board I am always amazed at the ingenuity of the board members. This build and design is not one that we could currently use (we have 4 children requiring lot of space on the road or else Dad would have less children as well as not being able to go off road because he would be serving a prison sentence) although it is well done and executed. I am also jones'n for an update? Great build it is very nice indeed.
 

heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
It is starting to come together - literally

While it may not look like it from the below photos, we are getting close to a usable vehicle.

We'd hoped to be in Mexico 10 days ago, but the truck just wasn't ready for a trip yet. Now, the garage is nearly done, we've decided to use it unpainted so we can get some good ideas at expo - it is aluminum so no rust problem.

Mocked up on the bed - the garage actually hangs out past the end of the bed. Also, you can see a couple of the boxes pre-bed liner :
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Garage with 'first lift' of motorcycle it actually worked.
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The Superwinch c1000 Crane winch:
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I had Line-X in Spokane, WA bed line the 4 underbed boxes, the 2 fuel tanks and a couple misc. parts. here you can see the secondary diesel tank (~60 gal) and a set of identical fuel pumps and filters for diesel and gasoline. the fuel pump isn't as close as it looks to exhaust. You can also see the 2 4/0 cables tucked into the frame headed for the rear winch.
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The funning looking slope on the diesel tank allows gas to make it to it's tank located above the aft of axle factory diesel tank. The Auxiliary diesel tank 'floats' on rubber pads on the truck frame. Whereas the gasoline tank is mounted to the truck bed. The orange tube is my auxiliary air to be mounted in an underbed box.
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Everything seems to be taking longer, especially painting and bed lining. It also took me a few days of vacation to install the independent 4 corner airlift bags, compressor, tank, electronics, 3 cab gauges, relays, 3 solenoids, and (I couldn't resist) an air horn.
20130507_214853.jpg

The AirLift 5000 was the one recommended for an F-550 but really it is for a pickup which has a frame that goes 'up' over the axles, it took a fair amount of custom fabrication to get something sturdy enough to not bend:
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and I finally received 4 of the 6 Rickson Wheels/Michelin tires.
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Size comparison - the OEMs just look ridiculous:
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The look nice, and give me a full 1.5 inch lift:
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heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
Phoenix camper mods

About a month ago, I moved the electrical and plumbing around in the camper to gain a little more storage - it was a lot of work, the factory Phoenix install was ok, but this is better.

Factory Phoenix install:
IMG_0983s.jpg

Super nice the way the whole panel comes off so you can work back there. I don't know if that is standard with every Phoenix, but I've pulled this off a few times:
IMG_1145s.jpg

I'm moved the outlets to the wall, moved the charger and inverter, electrical cable, and plumbing, I added a single 5' piece of 4 gauge to reach the new location of the A/off/B switch. The electrical now goes above this area or (as shown below) across the back wall, and the plumbing (mostly drains and valves) is pushed further back and to the right in the cabinet and is more awkward to reach but that is ok with me - I gained some storage space. Much cleaner now:
IMG_1153s.jpg


I also moved the big A/off/B switch to an exposed location just aft (left below) of the speaker. The switch was inside the cabinette, and we kept forgetting to change it when we wanted to charge from truck. See post 73 for 'before' picture, Much better storage now:
20130507_220458.jpg
 
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heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
GVW and Weight Distribution

Starting back on post 49 there is some discussion about weight distribution. The numbers are in. When we started the bare cab and chassis was 8700 lbs.

Fully loaded (well actually we had a lot more room for ‘stuff') 100 gal water, 100 gal diesel, 20 (of 30 max) gal gasoline, camper, motorcycle, 2 bikes, extraction gear (including 2 very heavy 5/8 chains), generator, tools, all our camping supplies, clothes, camera gear, motorcycle gear. Total weight was 18,200 lbs. Front axle weight=6700, so rear axle 11,500. The Rickson wheels spec is 8,000 front, 12,800 rear. Ford spec is 7000 front (I'm not too concerned if I exceed that a bit) and 14,700 rear. Total GVW from Ford is 19,500. So I could max load another ~1000 in the front (hard to do) or about 1000 in the rear.. I'm estimating another 1100lbs of cargo and upgrades, about 600 in front and 500 in rear.

Yes, it is a fat, but strong, pig.

The new rock-slide engineering slider/step was delivered and looks really cool I hope to install this weekend. adds about 120 Lbs. net. Photos to come.
 
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heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
Our Experience - so far

Overall we are very happy with the (nearly) completed rig.

  • Driving / handling – The F-550 is a nice rig to drive, great on the highway, very quiet. Strong, even gusty side wind has almost no impact. There is plenty of power to go up hills or against the wind. As the road gets rough the leaf springs show their true nature: pretty harsh.
  • There's nothing like having air conditioned seats while you do the white rim trail at Canyonland National Park
  • The factory shocks are fine on the highway, but pretty useless when fully loaded and on rough road – they gotta go.
  • The extra weight behind the rear axle causes some sway when lane changing on the highway above 60mph. For now we keep a stable steering wheel. But long term I'll upgrade to heavier sway bars – I hope that will help.
  • The lugged Michelin XDE 2+ tires are MUCH noisier than the stock Continentals and increased the cab noise significantly. I plan to add Dynamat to rear cab wall. The highway Michelin XZE2+ are MUCH quieter than the Continentals. When I install the lugged tires in the front (which are my spares/winter tires) may have to do more Dynamat.
  • The Airlift airbags have had some issues. One of the tubes for the front springs blew off at 80 PSI and 85 degrees F. The airlift provided tube that came with the front bags was MUCH softer than the rest. I only used the soft tube in front left and that one blew off. The Tees provided by Airlift, tended to be less effective at sealing properly versus third party connectors I bought. The Airlift provided mount for the rear was useless – it didn't fit at all. (The instructions DID say some modification would be required on a 550 - live and learn.) the airlift bags give me only about 1" of lift - I was hoping for 2" or 3". They also provide only a bit more stiffness.
  • The hinged from the rear but otherwise full float bed lifts off the truck frame pretty easy and sometimes ‘bangs' pretty hard on the rubber cushion on the frame when it comes down. I may add a single shock absorber to the front center of the bed.
  • Rickson Wheels should really get a whole category of their own because they really suck as a business, the product is fine, but oh my, what a screwed up company. I ordered and was charged IN FULL mid-December 2012 and was told 4-6 weeks for delivery. Lots of email communication. On 3/26/2013 I told them I'd have to start looking for alternatives – they immediately emailed back that it would ship the next week. Liars. I canceled payment on the credit card in April. I finally received 4 of the 6 on 5/6/2013, and made payment for just the 4 they sent. I'm still waiting for the other 2 (as of 6/27/13). I strongly recommend NOT paying Rickson up front.
  • Here is a little articulation test at Expo (thanks to Cari at Phoenix pop-up for catching my wife on the course):
articulation.jpg
 
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heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
Phoenix pop-up camper

We are very satisfied with Phoenix as a choice. I described in previous posts why I went custom. I believe having an experienced custom builder versus trying build it ourselves or buying and modifying a standard camper saved a lot of headaches – well worth it. Overall, camper build process was a pleasant experience and the final result appears to be well built and met our expectations. I cannot say everything about Phoenix was perfect and roses, but they worked hard to make things right (it was a short list.) We were not expecting the finish of a million dollar yacht - but, we did get a satisfactory camper and finish (which is a high standard for my wife and me).
[HR][/HR]Things we really liked:

  • Manual lift roof (very little to go wrong).
  • Lots of storage.
  • Composting toilet.
  • 100 gallon water, and water purification system.
  • Provision for exchangeable global propane tanks.
  • North/South (lengthwise with the truck) queen bed in cabover.
  • Cabover does NOT stick out in front of the truck windshield.
  • Non-RV gas Stove.
  • Light colored interior (wood) but not boring (fiberglass).
  • A/C that is NOT on the roof.
  • Rear of camper that is ‘clear' since we put the garage there.
  • All the special electrical modifications that we wanted.
  • Nurf bars on the sides.
  • Double insulated roof.
  • Lots more - We had a list of 70 specific modifications or additions to the ‘stock' camper for Phoenix.
[HR][/HR]
Lessons learned doing a Custom Build:

  • Every Phoenix is a custom build and they will do whatever you ask them to do, but you really have to be specific if you want something specific – don't make assumptions.
  • Phoenix was really great about not "sticking it to me" on my modifications, they charged the extra cost of the items I specified.
  • Try to get your ‘significant other' involved in the design (I tried, but occasionally failed.) My wife absolutely hated the counter top color. It was much too gray for her. Fortunately she is also very handy and used wood stain (for cheap) to create redder shade that worked for her.
  • At the last minute I decided I wanted a Natureshead composting toilet. Phoenix designed the head around a Thetford cassette (which I asked for) and was nearly finished with the head area. I purchased and shipped direct to Phoenix a Natureshead unit. Even though they had to make a bunch of modifications for the natures head, they didn't charge me (of course they still had the Thetford). I think if one was going with a Natureshead from the beginning the installation would be cheaper but Natures Head composting toilet is a bunch more expensive than a Thetford cassette.
[HR][/HR]
Some changes we've made now that we have it:

  • When the refrigerator or water heater have 120V then they default to using 120V. Meaning the water heater will heat water with 120v if it is available – big draw if you are inverting from 12V. So, I added a couple circuits to the blue sea panel on the 120V side to have separate circuits for refrigerator and water heater. I used black switches (the rest are white) to remind us that these should normally be OFF.
  • Moved the water pump to its own 12v circuit. And a couple other minor electrical mods, I don't recall.
  • I specified household plumbing and fixtures - not RV style. A good choice for the fixtures but not for the plumbing. The plumbing installed is PEX and it is easy to install, lightweight, but almost impossible to change or maintain. Worse, I've had 3 leaky PEX joints. Where possible, I plan to remove the PEX connectors and replace with some sort of flexible hose with stainless steel radiator style hose clamps. I'm certain Robby would have done that if I asked - but I just didn't know.
  • One of my requests was that standard RV electrical just wasn't going to be sufficient. What I wanted was enough different that I specified a lot of detail (Like wire size and type and specific electronics and sources to buy.) This was handled, no problem, and was installed as specified. After receiving the camper, and getting some experience with it, I made a few changes (See: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/84721-GOVE-Global-Overland-Vehicle-Economical-build?p=1347806#post1347806 )
  • The refrigerator was ‘clipped' to the bottom of its cabinet in the back, and screwed down in the front. Probably more than sufficient as an ‘RV on the road rig'. BUT, 2.5 days of constant rolling and bouncing around the White Rim Trail and the rear fasteners failed. I was able to fix it on the trail. I'll install a more permanent fix using the same basic clip solution but with much thicker clips.
  • I kind of wish they gave us more ideas and alternatives, but we sounded like we knew exactly what we wanted.:(
  • See: “Things I'd do different” in an upcoming post.
 
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heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
Things I’d do different

  • For sure I would have had Phoenix build the garage. It would have looked better and probably been lighter. Robby at Phoenix said he could handle that. I’d have my local welder build the motorcycle lift and storage inside.
  • I would have had Phoenix build the grey water tank NOT under the shower, because this raised the shower floor so there isn’t standing room and it is difficult (for me, but not my wife) to step down and ‘out’ of the head. As I get old this awkward exit will be more of a problem. Lowering the shower ‘pan’ would be more expensive as some sort of sump pump for the shower would be needed. Also, I would have lost some storage because the tank has to go somewhere. Alternatively, I could put the grey water outside under the truck bed and made provision to insulate and heat it. This would mean a more difficulty loading the camper on the bed but would be much better usability, and compared to a pump system it would be gravity drain so no 'sump' pump, but would require heat in winter.
  • Since we knew we didn’t like the Ford factory running boards we should have ordered it with none and ‘jumped’ in until we knew what we really wanted: rock-slide engineering step-slide.
  • We spent extra money and specified a fancy, cool, Foxwing awning and one extension for it. We think it is really awesome product, but not for us here is why:

  • The awning would have worked great with our original swing away garage design or with the garage door hinge on the driver side, however, the garage door hinges at the top and opens upward.
  • With the awning closed it makes the camper about 5 inches wider – which is just not needed, too easy to catch on stuff, and makes us unnecessarily wide.
  • When in use it extends around the side and behind the truck (over the garage) where it does no good.
  • Because it goes over the garage we cannot open the garage with the awning deployed.
  • Also, our truck is tall and the poles provided are not long enough to hold the awning up.
  • The awning material is thin (similar to all other camper awnings) and isn’t going to be effective against equatorial sun. We already own some large VERY heavy duty tarp type material used on boat awnings. We’ll adapt it for use with the camper, or maybe use the tarp to cover a free standing canopy.

  • The Foxwing awning and one tapered extension are for sale. (sold)
  • I’d do more research on big overland vehicles so I could adapt what they do - like using flexible hose fresh water pipe. When I saw it in use at expo it was a duh moment.
  • I wouldn’t pay Rickson Wheels until they delivered – preferable: find an alternative.

At the beginning of this build my primary alternative was to build a trailer and have a standard camper/pickup – current thoughts:

There are several factors. Based on below, if I was staying in North America, I would definitely do the trailer.

Advantages:

  • It would be cheaper but not a lot cheaper (a custom trailer might cost less versus a custom flatbed.) F-350 is no cheaper than F-550, but has some nicer options available.
  • The 350 comes with a more powerful and more economic version of the 6.7 diesel.
  • I would have had better weight distribution – across 6 or 8 (if dually) tires.
  • Total length would be longer, but without trailer, shorter.
  • It would be easier to leave the trailer behind as needed versus removing the garage.
  • It would be easier to load the motorcycle.
  • Also with a trailer I wouldn’t have an all custom rig which might be difficult to sell (no plans to
    sell it - ever!)

Disadvantages / problems with trailer

  • My extra water, fuel, and storage would be in the trailer - which could be a hassle.
  • 6-8 tires and probably 2 different sizes would mean at least 3 spares.
  • Even though a 27' long truck is a problem a bigger problem, for me, is towing a trailer would be painful in many areas of the planet.
  • I do know that with a trailer we might not have been able to complete the white rim trail in Canyonlands.
 
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DzlToy

Explorer
I have been through this debate many many times with my self and friends and on forums, etc.. I have concluded that for me, a small tow rig (FG sized) with a small fifth wheel toyhauler (24' floor) is the way to go for North American travel and here's why:

The trailer can be used as a base camp and left at any camp site or location that you can drive it to. Yes, this eliminates some of the way back out of the way camp spots that you could get to with a camper mounted on an FG or using a smaller rig like a Landcruiser, but you could say that for any example and would eventually end up hiking everywhere in the end to get to the tightest spots.

The trailer allows for plenty of RV space (about 14'-16') and a 8-10' garage for mountain bikes, motorcycles/ATVs, kayaks hung from the ceiling, as well as a place to put coolers, folding chairs, muddy boots, tools, etc.

The trailer allows the master bedroom to be over the pin box and you are not folding down a dinette to sleep on cushions or using a small cabover bed. There is tons of room in this configuration and very manoeuverable with a short fifth wheel trailer and a SWB 4x4 tow rig.

The tow rig, probably a FG sized truck with a basic flat bed, will provide access into tighter places, a vehicle to easily go into town for provisions or go play tourist without drawing too much attention. It can be used to haul firewood, water tanks or parts or haul an ATV or mountain bikes to a trail head or a boat ramp, etc without bringing a large vehicle or the trailer if desired.

Its easier to tow a large or heavy trailer with extra water and storage, etc than it is to try and cram all of that into or onto a truck (of any platform or size).

If I really want to get out into the middle of nowhere, I can pack a tent and a cooler and some basic supplies and go down almost any road or path with a SWB 4x4 vehicle, especially one that does not have a huge RV box on the back and weigh 14,000 pounds.

I have designed myself crazy on this and that is the best solution I have come up with almost every scenario. Its like dressing in layers for the cold. No matter what size vehicle you pick there will always be compromises. This lets you do everything.

If a SWB FG is too small, you can always pick a larger tow rig but I do not prefer large tow rigs, a bit more room in the cab would be nice and an 8 foot flat bed is just fine for anything I would want to do.
 
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Darwin

Explorer
I have been through this debate many many times with my self and friends and on forums, etc.. I have concluded that for me, a small tow rig (FG sized) with a small fifth wheel toyhauler (24' floor) is the way to go for North American travel and here's why:
I went through the same thing, still debate the pros and cons of both in my head. Ultimately, a truck camper wins out over a travel trailer simply due to the fact that my intentions are to travel south of the border and a trailer would be a major pain in the *** south of the USA. I believe in the first few posts about the GOVE camper he mentions similar intentions of taking of the rig south and also around the world.
 

heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
for sure I was never considering a travel trailer but an expedition type trailer that would haul my overland supplies and regular camper for living space.
 

heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
There were a couple corners that required a bit of backing up - though not that one. It is very steep in places.
 

heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
I finally fired Rickson Wheel

I mentioned in earlier posts that Rickson is a difficult company to work with. It has been a long hard journey between myself and Rickson but I finally fired them.

I ordered my tires\wheels in December of 2012, I'd read many bad reviews of customer service, and a couple reviews with problems with quality. But, most people were satisfied with the product so I ordered. I received partial shipment (4 of 6) in May 2013, September 20[SUP]th[/SUP] the right front wheel came apart. The truck was not overloaded for the wheel nor the truck, just 4000 miles or so on the wheels. It could have been deadly:

20130920_092451.jpg20130920_092500.jpg20130920_092533.jpg20130921_133634.jpg20130921_133655.jpg





Here are the nasty details:
6/12/2012 Initial query didn't get a response but I was a bit vague - fishing expedition on my part.
Are there ‘super singles' that meet my GVWR needs and are about the same diameter as the stock tires?
If I need different wheels, because of the ease of field repair I'd prefer a split rim type wheel design.
12/5/2012 Initially I received quick email responses about the details and what my options would be and had a quote within a day.
12/7/2012 Final details, Clearly I was a buyer.
12/12/2012 (or about) the actual order was placed by phone. For 6 x 19.5” wheel with specific inset/outset, match mounted 285/70R19.5 Michelin tires. Four front wheels, 2 rear. Fronts where to be used as spares front and rear. Expected delivery, 4 to 6 weeks. I expressed concern at the time that using fronts on the rears was way over the weight limit, but I was assure that this would be ok for short distances / slower speeds. I never did put the fronts on the rear.
12/30/12 my credit card was charged for $6,961.64, got me a bit worried but I'm a trusting fellow.
1/7-24/2013 several emails about progress, and questions about details.
2/5/2013 my first slightly panicky email:
“I'm really running in to a time crunch, my flatbed and camper will both be complete this week, and I'll need the wheels soon or I won't be able to drive to Denver to retrieve the camper”
2/11/2013 the many excuse started coming from Rickson.
2/13/2013 Emailed specific dates for trip to Denver. No delivery.
Late February traveled to Denver without the new wheels/tires
3/7/2013 “It has been over a month … what is the status of my order?”
3/22/2012 "What is happening with my order?

I don't understand it has been months since the order and during the last month I've had a very difficult time getting any update.

I'm becoming very concerned. I'm leaving for 3 weeks to Mexico with the rig in late April so I'm looking at alternatives though I prefer the Rickson wheels but you're not leaving much choice."

"Please call or email me"
3/24/2013 I started looking elsewhere getting quotes from Les Schwab.
Here is where it all goes WAY down hill
3/26/2013 in message to les Schwab “Well, now that I tell Rickson that I'm looking elsewhere they tell me they will ship next week. Has me worried they actually follow through.”
Rickson flat out Lied nothing shipped
Mid April I cancel my trip with Livingstone to Mexico, I processed a request through VISA for a credit, we continued to hope we could get wheels in time for Expo.
4/25/2013 I get a credit from visa for the full amount of the 12/30/12 charge.
About 4/27 (following many phone calls) I agree that if I could get the initial set of 4 by May 4, then go ahead and do it.
5/3/2013 Visa charge of $4,851.50 occurs
I get an email that the wheels will be shipped by Air Freight on Southwest, by May 4, Rickson will pay freight.
5/4/2013 email from Dan: "Their computer system
was down and I waited for about 45 min. She said the only thing she could do to
get it out, short of me waiting any longer, was to ship freight collect because
w/o the computer there was no way to figure the charge and have me pay for it.
So let me know what it is and I'll either credit you back immediately or apply
it to the other 2 assemblies.
"
I have NEVER received the credit to this day, and I've asked for it MANY times.
Four wheels arrive in Spokane 1.5 hours after air freight closes, not open on Sunday. I picked them up Monday morning 5/6 at 6 am at the SW air freight. the shipping charges were $937.06 which I paid.
5/7/2013 emailed copy of Freight bill and asked for reimbursement to my credit card.
Went to Expo and spent an additional week in the desert Southwest. Very sad to not go to Baja.
6/18 emailed Rickson: "What is the status of the other 2 wheels and tires?

This is again holding up my progress as I cannot complete my project until I have the 2 ‘spares' so I can mount them – besides needing actual spares.

Please account for the $937.06 see attached, on the charge for the other 2 wheels/tires."
6/19 Reply from Dan "We're building the 2 additional wheels. I'll try and get these shipped out next week. Thanks and we will of course deduct the shipping charges. Thanks. "
He Lied.
6/25 requested warrantee info and emailed photos of Michelin tire that failed. no response, until just the other day. BUT no warrantee info.
Every other week from June 15 to Sept 15 I either called and left a message or emailed asking about the warrantee info and the other 2 wheels. No response, except 6/19.
On 9/20 I took the truck to the Ford dealer as there was a slight bump in the steering wheel and a quiet associated thump while driving that speed up with ground speed. I'd read a lot about the 'weak' unit bearings this was VERY early for them to fail. There are 8500 miles on it. I didn't even consider the wheels might have failed. During the dealers second test drive (I wasn't with them on the 2nd drive) the wheel fell off while they were turning around. see pictures. note there was NO weld on the rims and 90% of the weld remained on the 'hub'.
I emailed Dan that morning before noon, and said I needed an answer and solution by the following Tues night. and
within minutes of my email Dan replied: "I'll get right back to you on this and we'll get it straight."
We email back and forth a few times about alternatives, and him insisting that another set wouldn't fail. I emailed detailed photos of the failure and pointed out the other front wheel was welded poorly as well (I used to be a welder) He admitted that I should remove the other wheel as they were built at the same time. He thought the rears were fine as they are built much more strongly (and I agree) I noticed the welds on those were also not uniform. Interestingly, he never said that it has never happened before. BTW, he did make one final response at 11 PM on Tuesday, attempting to convince that they build great products. And provided me with 20" wheels as an alternative (but did NOT say at what price.)
Dan is a great salesman and a great liar. I'm sure that the vast majority of their wheels are fine - that was not my experience.
In the end with all the hassles, lack of credit for shipping, no spares, Ford dealer visit and charge, multiple lies, and a broken wheel. I was down to just one functional wheel and I don't trust it. I decided I wanted nothing but my money back.
Today 9/25 response from Dan included "I do again apologize for the poor customer service. We can certainly get you refunded"

Read the last paragraph from May 2007 Truck camper magazine http://www.truckcampermagazine.com/news/rickson-wheels-and-tires It turns out: old news is new news.
I'll post any updates.
NOW: looking for alternatives, but for the foreseeable future, the original factory Fords are back on.
 
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