The Baja350 - a Dentside Story


Active member
Apr 4, 2022
San Diego
welp, copying over my build thread here as a copy-paste from the Polygoats forum & much of the same info from DR.
Maybe i'll actually keep this one updated. probably not though, lezbe honest.

So as some of you may have seen from the internets, I bought myself a new old truck. It's a 1974 F350 regular cab long bed. I *believe* it's a camper special because it has the goofy spare tire thing in the bedside, two fuel tanks, and all the little clip thingies in the side of the bed for a camper shell or slide-in. Pictures first because I know your attention spans are short.









Why did I buy this when I have the F1Fundred (henceforth referred to as "the bumpside")? Well, for quite a while now I've been wanting to address all the little things about the bumpside that have been driving me nuts for years. More on that later.
This truck was a pretty decent deal. It's pre-smog, has no cancer, runs, drives, legit registration, it's totally complete, and importantly the body isn't completely wrecked like most of these old farm trucks are in the sub $5k range.

Short term plan - Fix up the small issues, use it as a second car / shop truck until i'm ready to go off the deep end with the build.
The wheels are 16.5" so tires are generally unavailable, the tires are dry rotted. A few gauges don't work. Tail lights have some weird wiring issue going on. Most importantly - it spits oil at high speed & load. My fear: engine is blowing by a shit ton. We'll see.

Long term plan - Baja Rig generation 2. Desert cruiser, explorer of the land of tacos & cervezas.
There's a few things I can use the team's input on so feel free to chime in on the list below!
The side note here is that I'll be looking for this truck to solve all the things that I routinely complain about in the bumpside and don't have the means to fix without a massive unspeakable teardown & mega effort.

Shorten this to a regular cab wheelbase
Hang bedsides on internal bed shell - keeping as much bed sheet metal as possible. Critically: floor, inner fenders, tailgate.
Probably McQueen glass. maybe Autofab. flare width requirements depending.
Keep the steel hood - my bumpside's fiberglass hood has issues with thread tearout, it's not heavy enough to use the factory style hinges + springs, and forces the need for hood pins.
Front glass - probably going to have to be Autofab - mcQueen's requires using the glass hood I think.

targeting ~450 hp. I expect this truck will be heavier than the bumpside so obviously more power is required.
Must be faster than Dan, duh.
Also need to improve total range - either fuel economy or fuel capacity.
Requirements: must run on 87 octane (~9:1 compression ratio)
Option 1 - keep the 460. rebuild it. go EFI this time. E40D transmission (want overdrive, better mpg better highway manners). Some transfer case TBD.
Pros: Ford heart, 460 is familiar, big blocks are cool, net cheaper b/c i have the core already

Option 2 - #LSSwapEverything // 5.3 or 6.0 maybe. 4L80. whatever t-case is appropriate.
Pros: tons of knowledge available, can find easy, better mpg, uniqueish, more room for activities?
Concerns - total overall higher cost, total system length concerns. Stubby driveshaft?

Dana 44 TTB - ChoFab? stock plated? TBD. Custom cross-member wizardry required certainly.
Rear axle is already a dana 60. Keep that?
4-link. Tuck under the bed as much as possible. Maybe "tub" the bed floor for diff clearance street-truck style
Single 3.0 coilover & bumps on all corners.
Rear bed cage as sleeper as possible, no tube-work above the bed rail line. Seal the bed from the tires.

keep it simple, stupid.
Radio, intercom, DD-type aftermarket seats
simple cab cage
Don't cut up the dash, dummy
Re-use the factory steering column, dummy.
Replace all the weatherstripping & window seals etc
Not sure what to do about the gauge cluster yet.
Air conditioning!!!! vents & controls are already there.
Here's what i learned from my door tag.
it's a 1973 and not a 1974 like i thought, lol.
140" wheelbase
"Dark Yellow" paint code
F354 -> 10,000 lb GVW rating
Custom cab w/ styleside box
auto trans
Dana 70 w/ limited slip & 3.73 ratio
power steering standard
Originally ordered by the Los Angeles district. Neat.
* bunch of discussion about why Dana 70s suck / are cool * I DGAF about that anymore.

bought some new 17" wheels so that I can get reasonably priced tires that aren't dry rotted & start driving this thing.
Then went to a ranch weekend and ended up driving home with this LQ4 for the best deal ever.

The first step on the build plan is going to be to get a full motor/trans/t-case & electrical conversion done while the truck stays in the stock body & suspension configuration. Test & tune that out such that I know it's reliable, then start working towards the other build areas.


So most of ya'll have probably seen the snap or IG story, but i'll update this hear for the sake of it.
The engine I got from Guy looks to have spun a bearing and had been sitting for who knows how long because it was pretty raunchy. I tore it completely apart and found all sorts of schmoo in the cylinders and some visible grooving in the rod bearings. The good news is that i couldn't *feel* the grooves so I'm fairly confident that everything can be saved. The engine is basically a core that needs a full refurb - so Guy didn't charge me anything. Thanks amigo!

Dropped it off at the machine shop this morning, it'll get blasted, cleaned & magnafluxed to validate that the block is okay.
if yes: bore+hone. Crank recondition. New pistons & connecting rods. Heads cleaned, valve job & grind/lap. New bearings in everything.
This engine is an '02 and the piston/rods are the pressfit style and are not refurbishable, or at least the price delta is relatively insignificant compared to getting a later model floating wrist pin style (according to the shop). So we're going that direction.

not cheap, but i'll be happy to know the engine has been 100% gone through.
I'll be throwing an aftermarket cam, valve springs, rockers & pushrods at this bitch too.
Assembly will be done by me to try and save a grand or two.




Now I have to make a decision about whether or not it makes sense for me to do a full front-end tear down at the same time as this motor swap. Or do I accept a little negative work (motor mounts @ crossmember) in favor of staging the build + spending a little further. I'll have to evaluate more.

In other news, the LQ4 turned out to have a cracked head according to the shop, most likely caused by overheating. The crack explains why one bank of cylinders looked like it had been sitting in water for a while.
I ended up looking through some classifieds and found a guy local to me that had a set of the same LQ4 heads (317 casting) that have already been machined & reconditioned for just a couple hundred bucks. Sweet.

9/27 2019:
Fiiiiiiinally got my block back from the machine shop this morning.

ended up at .065" over because of how fuckered the cylinder walls were.
so we're up to LS3 spec. which means this is an iron block 6.2L.
The pistons we bought have dished reliefs for the valves, but not as deep as the factory lq4 dish, so a little math and we figure we're up at ~10 to 10.1 compression ratio. I should still be able to tolerate 87 octane if the timing isn't too aggressive.
Of course I'll always give it the best gas that's available but it's good to know if i'm deep in Baja sur that it won't grenade itself on poo gas.

More pics of the pistons, rods, and others soon to follow.


Got the engine painted. went with Ford blue for the block, covers, and heads. Then just some basic gloss black for the valve covers and oil pan.
I'm pretty happy with it. Looking to assemble the thing in the next few weeks.

Related: picked up a free NP246 from Travis. It's a t-case that has "auto 4wd" so it's electric shift and has a bunch of clutches and whatnot that it used to engage 4x4 based on (i'm sure) a bunch of sensors and some logic in the factory ECU.
My question: is there any hope of trying to make this thing electronically shifted but standalone?
Is there a better t-case out there for this concept?

I like the idea of an electrically shifted tcase as it better aligns with my vision for the interior, but if it's too huge a hassle i may just scrub that idea.



PRP Competition pro series seats
delivered as i ordered despite my whining in this post:

Seats came in already. Pulled em out, test fit the hiney, took a pic, and put them right back in the box until the build starts next year.
They forgot to use the yellow stitching & the seat heater is only in the butt-pad but oh well. The suede came out awesome.

Common lug pattern front to back
Not-shitty or hacked together.
not too damn expensive.

Here's the thing, if I go with a fully fabricated rear end, AND i want it floater... the prices are huge.
camburg is ~8500 ready to bolt up.
Quick performance is ~6900 with no 4 link brackets or calipers
Trail gear doesn't offer a 5x5.5 option (on their website)
Cheapest so far is probably this one: and I have to call them to fully price it.
(side bar, if you're a modern business and people still have to call you to place orders then I deem you antiquated and doomed to fail)

I'm having a hard time swallowing the idea that I would go with a fully fabricated axle and have it be semi-float when I've already got a full float axle in the truck (that is probably too narrow & heavy)
Frame section picked up from Mitch & took it straight to the sandblaster. Ready to start cutting off brackets and getting ready to be moved over to the dentside.

Then my intake manifold + ECU parts showed up from Summit. FiTech stuff.
Of course I had to plop the manifold on the engine and get a look at it.
Cutoff a bunch of bracketry off the F150 frame.
Still had to wire wheel a boat load of seam sealer.
Got my dana44 third rebuilt & regeared to 4.56
Beam pivots, motor mounts and third member all got some steel-it this weekend as well.




unrelated. I learned from my last thread that I had better write down the cam specs so I can find them later for when this cam eventually gets discontinued. So ya'll can ignore this, more for my reference later.
Brian Tooley stage 3 truck cam p/n: 31824133
Cam Style: Hydraulic roller tappet
Intake Duration at 050 inch Lift: 218
Exhaust Duration at 050 inch Lift: 224
Duration at 050 inch Lift: 218 int. / 224 exh.
Intake Valve Lift with Factory Rocker Arm Ratio: 0.553 in.
Exhaust Valve Lift with Factory Rocker Arm Ratio: 0.553 in.
Lobe Separation (degrees):113
Camshaft Gear Attachment:3-bolt
disassembly has started. Finally.
Now that I feel like I'm able to start working on stuff again post-covid, had to start somewhere. Pulled the radiator today & got a look at my new parts that have been sitting in a box for weeks.

New transmission built locally with a Hughes performance torque converter. Still need to get the 4x4 tail housing & cut down the output shaft.
New NP241 transfer case w/ slip yoke eliminator. Fully rebuilt & shipped to my door.
Going to stash this rad for a bit, it's huge. would be awesome if I can make it work with the new assembly. costs me nothing to hold onto to it so why not.

Hood, fenders, and bed are all for sale if you know anyone.



never thought i'd catch so much grief for deciding to not throw something away until I absolutely knew i didn't need it. Fuckin' morons.

Got the 460 pulled & started stripping down the front end for the frame splicing:


Shout out to andrew for coming by the past 2 nights to help double-check my measuring & layout the cuts.... leading to this:



No turning back now.
tmgrande3740 post_id=104419 time=1593193201 user_id=236 said:
looks almost done! whats the ETA on those beams?
And scott he is mexican, so the setup es normal

I just pinged Cho last night but with a little more pressure this time and he's going to have all my parts, beams + steering, ready in 2 weeks. Supposedly.
Which gives me 2 weeks to finish fiddling around with the frame splice.
Got started this weekend with the first attempts at floating these things together. Getting this joint just right & aligned is going to take me a long time I think.

Started with a combination of 2 floor jacks and an ATV jack with sketchy brick risers that looked like this:


Quickly realized how dumb of an idea that was. I was going to need way finer adjustment than the jacks could provide not to mention stability while I'm measuring 5 or 6 different things. So I hit amazon trying to find some low-profile screw jacks and found some RV stabilizer jacks that were available for next-day shipping so that I didn't waste sunday. They'll work, but they're pretty cheap so the jack is not very well retained so it's a bit wobbly. Just add ratchet straps :) pics below.
Also realized during this transition that the truck was in the stock lean, so I raised 'er up a little bit. Adding the need for more brick under-jack risers. yeah yeah, 2x4's would be better but I have bricks and I don't have lumber.

Started measuring and grinding to fit. It's a pain in the dick.
Every time I go from the "connected" position to the "I need to grind shit" position I have to take the frame off the screw jacks completely to get room.
Doing that solo is frickin' hard so I took lots of breaks and spent a lot of time just staring at the damn thing, lol.




Unrelated: if anyone wants this gas tank let me know. It's the stock rear tank. probably something like 20 gallon capacity, fits between narrow frame rails.
Got the frame squared up & leveled. Thanks for the feedback from IG to those of you who responded.
Also had Andrew come by again & double-check that I didn't miss something stupid and we decided that it was good.
So I tack'd 'er up.




The frames lined up pretty damn close on width and height right where we made the cut but they're not perfect.
The new frame is only something like 1/4" wider. That's not a big deal. What's more problematic is that the new frame has a little bit of a twist to it at this joint and it's a touch taller. Hard to tell in the pictures how the twist is impacting things but basically on one side the new frame has the top-side sticking out further than the bottom and on the other it's the bottom side that is wider.

So the plan is to tack up the segments of the c-channel verticals & bottom-sides where I made the frames flush. Leaving some slight misalignment on the other segments that will need to be heated & beated with a torch + porta-power down the road. That and a little pie-cut to the overhangs to get things to line back up. I don't want to do any of that until I'm 100% sure that I have the wheelbase located properly though. Which means I need beams + fenders to mock up and check that. When I go to burn everything in eventually then I can work this joint to it's final config.

Here's a look at what i'm talking about:
Picked up all the beams & steering fabricated parts from Ohhcho Fab this weekend. Immediately realized that I was way short on hardware so then I turned around & went to Kartek to pick up spherical bearings, spacers, etc.
The Solo beam pivots continue to disappoint. I had to drill them out for the larger bolt (easy enough) but what i'm mostly talking about now is the mounting width is not standard. I measured at like 1.830 on one side and 1.740 on the other. That on top of the bolt holes not aligning with the crossmember and I'm glad these dudes gave me some money back when I complained about their quality control. Anyway, whining over.

I also picked up a few things necessary to half-ass slap the knuckles together with the goal being to set the wheelbase & clamp the radius arm brackets to the frame so I can check how I did with the frame splice. At first glance it seems to be pretty good, but way more investigation needed still.
Huge shout out to Ross for coming by to help me with the heavy lifting, measuring, and D44 assembly. Made the day go so much smoother.

Old crusty knuckles on Cho's beams are a bit sad, lol. I'm hoping it'll look better once they're cleaned up.



Cho's radius arm mounts were meant for broncos. Unfortunately the dentside frame starts to rise where the arm wants to land. I'll likely have to make my own mount.

The of course I had to roll some tires near the snouts just to get a look. I'm digging it.
next up: cycle the suspension, check clearances, check travel targets, mock up with wheels, then eventually burn the frame in once I'm 100% sure it's where I want it.
Nevermind my sketchy brick + recalled jack-stand setup supporting the front of the frame. Soon to be replaced, probably.

bought pipe stands, the bricks are gone.

Beams are 1.5" over and are getting something between 6.5 & 7 inches of up-travel. makes sense since the 4.5" beams get 8-9 inches up.
That got me started on thinking of ways to get to an inch or two of extra up-travel because it seems like a shame to go through all this custom work and settle for an only sort-of fast truck. The bumpside had 8 up and worked pretty good until i got into big shit. So 9 inches would be the target if possible.

Andrew came and looked at it with me and we think the best way to pull that off is to raise the spliced bronco frame section 2 inches straight up. This keeps the cab ride height at the same location so it's not a monster-truck looking thing but gives more room. The limit was beam housing to frame right near the third member.
Before committing to that we messed with the camber adjusters to see how bad the alignment would be 2 inches higher and it'll be near 0 at max adjustment with the parts I have currently.
Then the next concern was engine & trans clearance. So to check that I had to mock up the combo in the truck to see how much room I have to go up.




Installing this engine was a pain in the dick with the autofab motor mounts shoving the thing really close to the firewall. Broncos apparently have more distance between their firewall and the mounts.
A little panel beating & trimming gave me some room but Andrew and I still wrestled with this thing for several hours just trying to get it installed.

A custom firewall doghouse / trans tunnel area might be the right solution to improve engine installation & motor hardware access once this thing is raised 2 inches, but it does look like there could be enough room as-is. firewall cutting will only be done if necessary.

also got some raceline beadlocks & started mounting those up to get a look at total width.
So after breaking my thumb in a transmission jack and having to wait a few weeks to be functional again, I called over my buddy to help get the trans clearance sorted out.
Started cutting up the firewall a bit and then got to a point where we realized it wasn't worth continuing until I can fully bolt up the t-case to get the full picture.
So I chased down the 4x4 tail housing adapter and sent that out to get cleaned up, then i'll finish the 4x4 conversion and get back to cutting up the body.

In the meantime, I got started with setting up Cho's steering crossmember.
After getting some dimensions from him & other advice, I trimmed off the front lip of the engine crossmember for tie rod clearance. Will have to cycle to see if I cut enough, but this is a good start.
Floated the thing into place, more engine lean back (4.5 deg) bought some more clearance to the Cho brackets. Started working on the templates to box in the passenger side frame. Mine is a 91 frame which means it didn't come with the passenger side structure that the later model frames have, which is also what Cho designed this thing around.







(last pic: I gotta beat the top flange of the frame down a bit, there's a small "dent" right there that's causing the top template to lift)