What to do with a 1976 Ford F150?

I recently bought from a private owner a 1976 Ford F150 for my teenager to more or less drive back and forth to school. I thought we did everything right. I took with me a mechanic (amateur yes) who has a 72 that he restored himself to check it out and he gave his blessing. We paid $2,850 cash.

We took the truck into a professional to have it tuned up and to address engine vibration. Turns out, there is antifreeze leaking into the engine, mixing with oil, creating an acid - all of which is reaking havic on the engine. The lifters are damaged. (I really don’t know what any of this means.)

The mechanic is telling us that we can replace the engine with a used engine which will cost us about $3000 (if he can find us a used engine) or rebuild the engine for about $4500.

Advice anyone??? Should we walk away and cut our losses? If I sell it, I would have to in good conscience disclose what I know, so would I get even a fraction of what I paid for it? If I sink the money into fixing the truck, I imagine I will never recoupe a dime of it.

My teenager by the way loves the truck.

What to do?

For the best results here, please post the engine configuration and size i.e. example V8 390. I suspect it is carburated and does not require smog inspections so that information might help.

The engine is a V8 390i and it does have to pass emissions testing. We live in Colorado and the cutoff for emissions testing is 1975 and older.

In my opinion you overpaid for the truck- its 34 years old,don’t compound your mistake by sinking $3000 + into it.

This is a tough one. I would recommend that you sell the vehicle “as is” with full disclosure to someone who can fix it if possible. Since it has to pass emissions testing it is going to be an even bigger money pit. You can buy a very nice truck for the 6-8K that you would have in this F-150 after it’s repaired. I don’t really see any other choice that makes good financial sense. Take this as a lesson learned.

I bought a nice (I thought) 1978 25th Anniversary Corvette with low miles and it turned into the worse money pit imagineable. I was happy on the day I bought it but I was much happier when someone else drove away in it. Anyone can get burned on a vehicle deal and it happens everyday. I should have known better since I am a mechanic but the roar of the engine and the beautiful paint just made me forget my common sense for a moment.

Another option would be to buy a service manual and rebuild the engine yourselves. This would make a great father-son project, and would save a lot of money. You’ll have to buy parts and pay for the machine shop work (if necessary), but you’ll save all the labor costs.

Maybe it just needs a head gasket.

And what a learning experience this would be!

Well, you overpaid for the truck and definitely should not go into this for another 3 grand or more. I won’t bash the mechanic who went with you but in all honesty he should have inspected the oil and along with this vibration should have told you to cut and run right then.

I know what I would do if the truck were mine. It would get a later model SEFI small block (5.0, 5.4), but this may not be practical in your case.

Since the small blocks can often be found on the cheap you might consider these possibilities seeing as how the son likes the truck.
Find a complete running small block and have it installed. I see these engines going for 250-300 dollars all the time around here (OK) on Craigslist, a local trade paper, etc. The engine swap should be fairly straightforward and run no more than 10-12 hours labor.

Some salvage yards will also install for a nominal fee what they sell and guarantee it to boot. This might be an option.

Unless the oil looks like a chocolate milk shake get a second opinion. If the oil looks OK but you find a gummy residue at the top of the dipstick and on the fill cap you may only need a PCV valve and vent hose replacement.

His quotes for rebuild are pretty high. You can literally buy a new crate motor for that much. I’d get a few more estimates. When I was 16 I had a 1974 F-100. My dad and I found a junkyard 390 and paid about $400 for it. I think we spent maybe $1000 rebuilding it. I suspect your mechanic is telling you he doesn’t want this job.

Try any can medic recipes the auto store recommends, Hopefully it is not too far to school and you may be surprised how long it goes until it actually dies.