Back in the Family: Jason’s 1987 Ford F-250 Pickup

Back in the Family: Jason’s 1987 Ford F-250 Pickup

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Making Grandpa proud


A vehicle is so much more than a mode of transportation: It’s a member of the family.

Jason Pawela of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is a detail-oriented automotive enthusiast. While it might not look particularly sexy – and in fact, has its share of age-related bumps and bruises – Jason’s F-Series pickup has special meaning. Finished in two-tone Desert Tan Metallic and Colonial White, this diesel truck has been in his family since it was first sold new on June 15, 1987. Jason’s grandfather, Frank, bought the truck with 21 miles on it that day from Towne Ford in Redwood City, California. The cash price came out to $16,221.97 before taxes.

About 36 years later, that old workhorse is still racking up the miles – although its five-digit odometer doesn’t accurately capture the true 186,200 odometer reading on the original engine and transmission. Like many Ford pickups, this truck was purchased with a utilitarian purpose, and that purpose at the time was to lug around a 24-foot fifth-wheel camper trailer for Jason’s grandparents. Over the years, the F-250 was the subject of many memories for Jason and his family – including being the vehicle that Jason learned to drive on in the late 1990s.

By 2015, the pickup had long-since been retired from trailer-towing duties and left the family for the first time when Frank gave it away to a friend. For several years afterward, Jason lost track of the truck. It left the state and ended up changing hands another time to a family living in Arizona’s White Mountains many hours away. In August 2020, Frank passed away at 96 years old, but Jason recalls that Frank was still driving – manual-transmission cars, even – right up until near the time of his passing.

The nostalgia and sentimental nature of the F-250 were enough to motivate Jason to seek out the truck and bring it back into his family’s ownership. He had attempted to contact the current owners as far back as 2019 to no avail, even getting his hopes up by coming to an agreed verbal price point that later fell through. Finally, after some added legwork, in early 2022, the long-awaited day arrived when Jason could return the F-Series to New Mexico. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on the truck and start restoring it.

And the rest, as you’ll see in our Q&A below, is history.

Pickup Background

Ford enthusiasts are lucky to have Kevin Marti in their community. Kevin’s family operates Marti Auto Works in El Mirage, Arizona and have access to detailed production data for vintage Ford models. Based on a VIN, he can produce a report outlining vehicle specifications, special equipment, and production data. The detailed Marti Report is shown here, but below are some highlights on what he found out on Jason’s truck.

Truck Basic Specifications:

  • 1987 Ford F-250 Regular-Cab XLT Lariat 4-Speed
  • 6.9-Liter Diesel V8
  • Four-Speed Manual Transmission
  • 4.10 Limited-Slip Gear Ratio
  • Camper/Towing Package (Heavy-Duty Cooling)
  • 1 of 116 in this configuration
  • Ordered 10/22/1986, Built 1/19/1987, and Delivered 6/15/1987

I caught up with Jason for some Q&A recently, and below is our dialogue.

  1. What are some of the details on the truck and its backstory?

This truck was originally special ordered and delivered to Towne Ford of Redwood City, CA. My grandparents needed a more capable tow vehicle for their 1985 24ft Alpenlite 5th Wheel. Grandpa’s sister was the sales manager at Towne and took the initiative to special order a truck with a color scheme similar to the Alpenlite and appropriate towing options. I also imagine she knocked a significant amount off the MSRP. In June 1987 (One year after I was born), my grandparents took delivery. They were in the process of moving to New Mexico, so the truck was never registered in California. It remained in New Mexico until 2015.

A lot of my best childhood memories involved this truck, even learned to drive on it! When it wasn’t towing an RV, it was hauling wood, gravel, boards, sand, rock, you name it. I was noisy, smelly, rough-riding, hard to shift, hard to start in the cold, but it was solid and never let us down. As my grandparents got older and I was out of the house at college, the truck slowly began to just sit and seldom used – often for weeks at a time. In 2015, grandma unfortunately had long passed, and grandpa decided to eliminate some of his possessions. Being the generous guy he was, he gave the truck to his good friend and neighbor, Matt, who was moving to Arizona at the time. Matt kept it for about a year before selling it to the family I eventually bought it back from. My transaction took a miserably long two years, but I persevered and eventually bought it in 2022. Since then, I’ve slowly been restoring it back to how I remember it.

  • What is your earliest memory of this pickup?

My earliest memory is riding through Death Valley National Park with my grandparents in the middle of July, A/C blasting, sun beating down, and the truck’s cooling fans constantly roaring. I was six years old – just tall enough to peer over the dash at the road ahead. It was at this time I first became acquainted with mirages and as grandpa was explaining the science behind it, Bing Crosby’s, “Cool Water,” cassette happened to be playing. I will forever associate mirages with this experience, and I dare not listen to “Cool Water” or I’ll find my eyes making cool water. I still have that same cassette.

  • Were there any travels with the truck that stuck out as your favorites?

I was raised by my grandparents and when school was out for the summer, we nearly always hit the road in the truck and RV for road trips. One that stood out was my first time in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). By living in New Mexico most of my life, the PNW was quite the contrast and truly magical. Sitting in the middle seat of the truck (horribly uncomfortable) and riding through the enchanted rain forests on Highway 101 with the clatter of the diesel engine working hard tugging the 7,000lb Alpenlite is an experience I’ll never forget. I was about 10 at the time. We kept heading north to Olympic National Park, then squeezed our rig on a ferry to Whidbey Island. From there, we followed the Lewis and Clark trail into Great Falls, MT before heading south to Yellowstone. Grandma was quite the experienced navigator by expertly fumbling through the AAA paper maps, estimating mileage between each next stop, and finding RV parks for the night. Those were the days.

  • What has been the most challenging part of the restoration process?

Many challenges have come my way, and I could easily focus on a few mechanical ones or how quality parts are virtually impossible to come by (try finding an OEM oil filter) – pretty much your typical classic vehicle restoration woes. However, I will say the most challenging is superficial. One I still deal with – originality. I often prefer vehicles in my collection to be as clean and free from defects as possible. I strive for show car status. This truck is far from that, and I struggle with the decision moving forward: Do I keep the exterior original which means a patina finish and leaving many of the dings, or do I go all out and completely refresh the exterior with concours-quality paint? I often hear the phase, “It’s only original once” and, “preserve the stories each imperfection tells.” Some of those imperfections I’m responsible for back in the day. A truck this old with absolutely no body work and original panels is pretty cool to flex. I’m still undecided and consider this my biggest challenge. For now, I’ve polished and ceramic coated the original paint to look halfway decent if you’re 20ft away and squint.

  • What are your future short-term and long-term plans for it?

Short-term plans are to get the truck in perfect running order. Original motor is strong at 186,200 miles, but is awaiting a rebuilt injection pump. I already replaced the original clutch, and the transmission is still solid. Suspension, brakes, interior sound insulation and exhaust will be coming soon. Long-term will be making a decision on the exterior paint and adding an overdrive unit to the transmission, which now screams on the highway with only four gears. Otherwise, my goals are to keep this rig looking as original as possible and reliable enough to hop in and revisit the PNW if I so choose. There could even be another 80’s Alpenlite in the future to complete the package?

Next Steps

What does the future hold for Jason and his F-250? It’s clear that we haven’t seen the last of this pickup’s story. On the horizon it will undoubtedly be shown at some of the region’s car show events that cater to 1980s and 1990s vehicles such as RADwood. And in the meantime, Jason will put it to use on the occasional hardware store run. Even if it means annoying the neighbors with that clacking V8 diesel powertrain.

Stay tuned to our blog for a future update on Jason’s truck as he takes it to the next phase.

If you’re in the market for an F-Series pickup parts, check out the product lines here.