A Quest to Save OBS Ford Pickups in Texas
The Rutledge brothers are on a personal mission to save 1992-1997 Ford pickups, one truck at a time.
Ford's last "old bodystyle" pickup cleared the assembly line in 1997. Twenty-five years later, the trucks that are endearingly referred to as "OBS" are some of the most popular 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-ton rigs in the world.
Thankfully, thousands of 1992-1997 pickups are still in service. Although their conditions range from mint to poor, the trucks maintain a cult-like reverence with enthusiasts regardless of the shape they're in. The Rutledge brothers, Paul and Chris, owners of Complete Performance, are hard-core OBS fans who, thanks to social media, have become the unofficial custodians of almost everything associated with the rigs.
The brothers are longtime OBS fans, and they're preserving the trucks and culture through a rapidly growing collection of rare or special-edition trucks, original parts, and historical data about OBS Fords, at their 6-acre campus in Jasper, Texas. "Our parents purchased their second new vehicle in February 1998. It was a green-and-white, crew cab, shortbed, two-wheel-drive rig with a 7.3-liter Power Stroke engine. That's where the love started," says Paul. "In 2009, we opened a diesel shop [for all makes] but always loved dealing with the OBS platform." (They seem to have a penchant for duallys and trucks with 7.3-liter Power Stroke diesel engines). "So, in 2018, we decided to start a one-stop shop for the OBS market, supplying parts customers need to keep their trucks on the road or restore them. We also got into designing new and innovative parts for the old-bodystyle rigs."
In addition to its own product line and inventory of new old stock (NOS) hardware for 1992-1997 F-Series Fords and Broncos, Complete Performance also seeks and forms partnerships with smaller, innovative, OBS-specific parts manufacturers. An impressive collection of diesel-powered rigs, as well as memorabilia of the period (Ford dealership signage, rare parts, brochures, service manuals, etc.) is also being accumulated, and Paul and Chris hope the area they're creating at the Complete Performance compound will one day be a museum that's solely dedicated to OBS trucks.
"We have very big plans for the future. We want to be able to have people come from all over and see these trucks in low-mile form, and for some of them, in their 'work clothes' (dump trucks, fire trucks, rail trucks, etc. )," Paul says.
During a Texas trip that included covering the Mecum Auctions event at Houston's NRG Center, Truck and Off-Road Group Senior Content Producer KJ Jones spent an afternoon with the crew at Complete Performance. The following photos and captions highlight some of the standout OBS rigs in the Rutledge brothers' impressive collection.
Multiple "rare" OBS trucks are common for the Complete Performance collection. When it comes to rigs that ride on rails, there are two. The 1992 F-350 on the right is a former Denver and Rio Grande Railway truck that was discovered in a small town near the brothers' vacation spot in Colorado.
The major difference between the rigs is in the hardware that enables them to drive on train tracks. The Colorado truck's gear is 100 percent mechanical (foreground). The second rail truck, a 10-lug F-Super Duty, has rail wheels that are deployed hydraulically. "One of the coolest things about the Denver and Rio Grande Railway truck is that it was purchased with a standing invitation to bring it back one day and ride the rails on the short line through the mountains of Colorado," says Paul. A full restoration is on deck for that one.
The pristine red-and-white 1997 F-250 was acquired in Montana in 2012, but ironically originated at a dealership only 40 miles from Complete Performance headquarters in Jasper, Texas. "The owner of G&J Diesel asked if we would be interested in his customer's creampuff OBS," Paul says. "After finalizing a deal with the owner, he gave us the truck's history, including the fact that it was purchased at Sabine River Ford, literally right down the highway." This fine specimen is updated with the company's lights and fascia dressings.
By a show of hands, who knows what a DaBryan Coach Builders Ford Bronco is? Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the Missouri-based limousine company built only 35 four-door versions of the popular SUV (using an actual Bronco chassis), and according to Paul, this is one of five that still exist (the other four are "brick-nose" 1987-1991 models). "This isn't just any DaBryan Bronco—it's the 1992-1996 body style, and therefore the only OBS that's known to exist, or possibly ever built," says Paul. "We hope to bring it back to its former glory one day soon."
On the other side of the four-door OBS Bronco coin is this Centurion Vehicles-built beauty. Technically a 1995 F-350 pickup sporting unique "Classic-350" badges, this converted rig features all the bells and whistles that made it the epitome of status symbol during the '90s (woodgrain interior trim, big seats, leather everywhere, TV/VCR, etc).
Close-up shot of the aforementioned "Classic-350" badge.
Elaborate (for the period) exterior graphics are signature features for Centurion's F-Series rigs. Paul says he found this one-owner, 138,000-mile 1996 F-350 in 2021, and actually ended up getting a rebate after making the purchase. "Logan Schiender from CenTex Diesel was able to pick it up and hold it until I could meet him to pick it up … What's funny is, as they were detailing it at CenTex, they found roughly $200 in the glove box that was left by the original owner [for fuel/repairs]."
This red two-wheel-drive dually is one of the company's latest acquisitions. The Rutledge brothers purchase OBS rigs in almost any condition imaginable, with "vision" for restoring some, and making a few bucks (from parts sales) on others.
Not a holy grail, but very desirable nonetheless, is this regular-cab, four-wheel-drive F-250 with a Power Stroke diesel under the hood. This is a great example of the cool 1992-1997 F-Series rigs that make up Complete Performance's awesome collection.