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Phone Truck Obsession

Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Phone Truck Obsession - September 08th 2019 4:15 pm

Starting point for a project to convert three Ford E350 ex-Bell telephone generator vans originally from Canada. I am not sure why I have three of them but I have noticed everything seems to be costing 3 times as much. A bunch of these low mileage vans showed online a while back. I remember seeing more than a dozen of these for sale at one dealer in Ohio alone. I picked out three, two were in Ohio and one was in MA after being surplus'd by Montreal Bell. I had each one shipped here sight unseen and started going through each one of them. Each one needed repairs for one thing or another like a buch of needy kids. I had to replace back doors on one of them due to corrosion but finding replacement Econoline doors at a salvage yard was pretty easy. I put new weatherstrips and door gaskets on each one and I was sticker shocked at cost of a complete set of Ford OEM gaskets for each van (about a grand), but when factoring the cost of a new van it does not seem quite so bad.

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Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - September 08th 2019 6:11 pm

I did as much of the paint prep that I could and some corrosion repair in the driver step wells where muddy snow-laden boots once were. I started working in my driveway which got me on the HOA radar and I started getting letters and fines, but I got quite a bit done before I had to move the work elsewhere. Two 50 foot storage units solved that problem. Each van went for a professional paint job, but only the areas that needed it to cut costs. Nothing fancy just standard Oxford White because I still want these to look like a commercial vehicle, concealing a high-tech interior when finished. The only way to tell the trucks apart at first glance, is the license plate #. The A/C units I chose are low profile Coleman 15K BTU with the hope these will look more like commercial cable splicing trucks as opposed to RV's when finished. I refuse to fly or go to airports I had enough of that and I don't like truck stop coffee, nasty food, and motel rooms. The current plan is to configure each one differently, each for a slightly different purpose, but with the same basic amenities.

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Posted By: tuner4life

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - September 09th 2019 12:07 pm

That's pretty wild building 3 vans like this! What are you going to use them for? What are the "3 different purposes"?
Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - September 09th 2019 3:56 pm

Van #1 is for a custom mobile office that can get into congested city areas, while also providing amenities yet still look like a ubiquitous white service vehicle. I work on the internet, and for the past few years I have used the HOA Violator (a.k.a Dodge Cargo) setup as an office, but it had no A/C. For example, I would park it on the public street out front of a client location in Tempe, sneak out there on breaks to work for the second client remotely, thus doubling my income. The only real drawback was the furnace-like temps in Phoenix during the summer, even with the engine idling to run the dash A/C, that only did any good when sitting in the front seat and that made me look suspicious. It also made all of my electronics overheat with interior temps hitting up to 140 F. I decided if I ever upgraded that I would get the biggest baddest A/C I could find and move the work area to a totally concealed compartment in back, like a law enforcement surveillance van, minus the periscope.

Van #2 provides a mobile platform for projecting high power lasers at outdoor entertainment events such as remote desert locations (with FAA permission - sample picture below). It will power the equipment and keep the electronics and operator cool. The interior layout will differ slightly to lose a few amenities to suit the purpose.

Van #3 a spare, in case one breaks down, and for interstate travel. I added shore power connectors to each van so they can also plug into house current.

Thank you for asking, and giving me a platform to talk about it. There is so much great information on this board!

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Posted By: Just4fun1991

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - September 09th 2019 5:06 pm

Van #2 (your pic) is cool!! That would be fun....
Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - September 09th 2019 5:19 pm

Thanks, yes there is something about lasers + desert + star-filled sky + vans, it's magic, it was 10 degrees F the night that pic was taken, and no van for shelter. Van #2 is the "Laser Rig".
Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - September 17th 2019 9:20 pm

In order to keep it real, yes I found some rust. The worst example was the right rear wheel area of the one from Quebec. It was just a little red spot on the white paint about a quarter inch in diameter when I first, um spotted it. I started sanding and hit bondo, lots and lots of bondo, and opened up into this giant cavity filled with all sorts of nasty sh^t. See the little hole in the wheel well sheet metal? The wheel flung salty sand into the pocket, it rusted out and it was apparently just covered it up with bondo and a coat of new shiny paint, leaving the corrosive sand to fester inside for the next guy to deal with (that be me).. I cut away the bad metal and cleaned it all out, and while doing so, it reminded me of the last time I went to the dentist for what I thought was a very small cavity. I ordered new replacement sheet metal stamping for this area and had it professionally butt-welded to get fresh metal on the area, now it is as good as new. The void behind the new metal was coated with rust conversion paint and filled with expandable foam to prevent anything else from ever getting behind there again.

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Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - September 17th 2019 11:49 pm

A/C units were added on top after rust rot was fixed. A truck shop fabricated additional steel support brackets fo hold the 90 pound Coleman units. The bracket was riveted to the roof cross member supports. Nothing original here I just copied the same thing from what another guy posted on a Sprinter forum. There is already a household type circuit breaker box with some open spaces to add another breaker for the A/C unit and some blank knockouts for another conduit run. Having a seat placed temporarily under the A/C unit with the output vents pointed at my forehead is the cat's meow. The generator housing gets pretty hot though making the right arm rest a bit toasty.

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Posted By: SaltLakeNorseman

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - October 19th 2019 9:20 am


Will you be my Sensei?

Three vans, three jobs and like 10 different puposes!

You are taking Van Life to the next level!


Posted By: newkirkinc1

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - October 19th 2019 12:32 pm

Looking good and nice work!
Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - November 26th 2019 8:42 pm

Thanks very much for the kind words! Since my last post I have made a few small steps, installing hinged glass in the rear and side doors. I sourced the replacement glass and hardware from older junked Ford Econoline vans and swapped out the fixed glass for hinged glass. One downside was the presence of light scratches in the used glass which I had to polish out with Cerium Oxide, polishing pads and electric drill. Limo tinting is next.

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Posted By: Astrocreep66

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - November 26th 2019 9:31 pm

Phone service vans are definitely set up for whatever life throws at you. Nothing wrong with that.
Posted By: newkirkinc1

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - November 26th 2019 10:27 pm

Limo tinting would be nice!
Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - November 27th 2019 4:49 am

Yes limo tint for the phone trucker will be a very good thing for a couple of three reasons smile All three vans have an assortment of codes and phone numbers scratched directly into the plastic doghouse cover as if done by a pocket knife which adds to the nerd factor charm. One is so loaded with graffiti and screw holes where things used to be mounted that I think I will replace it altogether.. I also ordered replacement factory vinyl floor mats from Ford new old stock, to make it nice up front. Surco black ladder can be removed since it attaches to the door with two 1/4-20 black oxide knurled thumbscrews threaded into a pair of stainless steel rivnuts. It hangs from the top lip of the door. The ladder makes it look less commercial and more like an RV. Without the ladder it looks less like an RV and more like a commercial cable splicer. A pair of Harley seat knobs with a dab of blue loctite keep the ladder in place.

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Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - December 08th 2019 6:28 pm

Back from limo tint. Next time I will insist the glass be tinted on the bench off the vehicle and let me cut my own holes afterwards for the hinge and latch hardware. The "expert" I hired cut around the hinge hardware which leaves a square of un-tinted glass which is noticeable. I had to add a small bead of black silicone sealer to cover the gaps where they did not cut it perfectly. I had to take out each window and put it back in again after paying the place $450. I won't be going back there. Not really a big deal it still looks nice, serves the purpose but I will do it differently on the next couple of vans.

May I please ask, if anyone know a good tint shop that does craftsman level work in the Phoenix, AZ area please post here or send a pm? Need 8 more 2010 Econoline cargo windows limo tinted (rear door pair + side door pair for 2 more) using 5% ceramic-for the other two vans. These are currently sitting in a box each pane wrapped in bubble wrap ready to be tinted.

As for the interior cargo window, there is a 1/4 inch plexiglass pane bolted into place on the bulkhead. Next will be to polish out the scuffs and make it clear, then tint with one-way mirror night vision security film.

It says here, this film is 15% silver on the outside and 5% black on the inside, allowing you to see out while preventing vision into the room. This creates an effect similar to what you see in police interrogation rooms. (In optimal lighting conditions) The layer of 5% black on the inside also provides basic night-time privacy. To provide 24-hour privacy, we recommend installing a spotlight on the outside of the glass to enhance the effect as all films are still dependent on light density. This film has been used in a Detroit area police interrogation room. Yup, that sounds like exactly what the PT needs.

DOT reflective tape tells whoever is behind me, to just go around because the PT is conducting some sort of business.

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Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - December 13th 2019 5:37 pm

I realized since all this glass is already off the other vans (another 12 pieces counting a spare set) there should be no reason I cannot tint over the holes myself, let it dry then cut out the holes out later with a razor. I might have to make a simple wooden jig / frame to hold the glass on the bench while applying the film.

I found this place that sells pre-cut film and ordered the complete set for Ford Econoline E350 minus the windshield, for less than $170 (ceramic 5% for the cargo windows and 30% for the driver and passenger. If I can pull it off that is far less cost than the "tint pros in Mesa" no names mentioned, who simply cut the film around the hinges leaving gaps I had to fill in with black silicon. I spoke with Evan on the phone and he was super nice.

I'll let you know how it goes. It took a long time to round up all the hinged glass hardware but it was worth it.

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Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - January 14th 2020 5:41 pm

One step forward, two steps back. So I went to replace the carpet in the cab and found a new little project that needs to be done first. While I search for a good welder, I replaced all the front tie rods, ball joints and replaced the rear axle seals.

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Posted By: kursed

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - January 14th 2020 8:12 pm

OUCH! That sucks.
Posted By: Deathorvictory

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - January 14th 2020 8:44 pm

I bet it was feeling a little drafty in there!
Posted By: newkirkinc1

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - January 14th 2020 10:30 pm

One thing after another lol
Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - January 15th 2020 5:02 pm

Yes the draft goes right up my left pant leg, even with the board in place. I drove it around for a few days without the doghouse while etching the rust out with 85% phosphoric acid, don't know which part was worse, the noise or the fumes.

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Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - January 15th 2020 5:16 pm

It taught me a lesson about not trying to jump ahead with customization until all the basic repairs are done, I had only checked the door sills for rust, not under the floor mat. Mine is not too bad mostly just a flat metal patch will be needed, but getting that rusty body bolt out of there is going to be fun.
Posted By: Phone_Trucker

Re: Phone Truck Obsession - January 15th 2020 5:23 pm

So very true, like a vine I keep pulling and pulling.. how long is this thing?
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