400K Excursion Transformation Part One - From Paint to Bedliner
With the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour officially wrapped up, I thought now would be a good time to recap where the OPTIMA Batteries Power Pack Nation 400K Excursion started, where it is today and how it got there, starting with it's bedliner exterior.
After previously owning two different gas-powered SUVs and being less-satisifed with the second than the first, I decided to go diesel for the third. Although GM had previously offered diesel Suburbans, they last sold a new one in 1999, leaving the Ford Excursion as the only option for a full-sized diesel SUV for buyers in 2003. When I ordered my 2003 Excursion, I had the option of selecting either the proven 7.3-liter diesel or the newest (and unproven) 6.0-liter diesel. The 6.0's numbers suggested more power and efficiency in a smaller package, so that was my choice.
The truck performed extremely well over the first 180,000+ miles and routinely saw 20 mpg or better on the highway, although usually when my wife was driving. I also left it out in Wisconsin's harsh winter weather and even without an engine block heater, it never left me stranded, even in temperatures that dipped well below zero. The dual OPTIMA RedTop batteries were the only modifications I made for the first eight years and certainly offered plenty of cranking amps during the cold winter months.
The question then is why fix what isn't broken? The truth is that while the Excursion performed very well, the paint was suffering. The hood and roof paint had cracked in several locations even before the first 100,000 miles and began peeling back, exposing bare metal. I used to do a pretty good job of keeping the paint as pristine as possible, but once that happened, I decided to let it go and rarely washed or waxed (polished) it. As I was on the 2010 Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour, surrounded by Detroit's finest, I knew the harsh winter weather was getting the best of my truck and I began to feel like I needed to do something to preserve it for at least another 200,000 miles, especially since Ford had discontinued the Excursion and no other automakers seemed anxious to make a full-sized diesel SUV.
Since I frequently strap surfboards to the roof of the truck, I thought it might make sense to coat the entire roof with bedliner, to prevent it from getting scratched up and rusted from all of that activity. I even asked a body shop guy at the Power Tour Mid America Motorworks lunch stop if it was possible to apply bedliner just to the roof of a vehicle and he said it was. Almost immediately, I asked myself, "Why stop there?" and the idea to coat the entire truck in bedliner was born.
As I began exploring my options, my brother-in-law suggested a dealer near him, who could do the work for a fair price, considering the lifetime guaranty that accompanied it. After a few phone calls were made, a side trip to Gulf Coast Rhino Linings, in Gulfport, Mississippi was made during one of my regular drives to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While most bedliner applications are black, Rhino gave me an option of several different colors and I ended up selecting Indigo Blue.
A few weeks after making that choice, I found myself out in Colorado and realized I wasn't the first or only person to pull the trigger on coating their entire SUV in bedliner. I knew the off-road crowd, specifically the rock crawlers, were big on doing this and I had begun to see lower rocker panels being coated with bedliner on some pickup trucks. I even saw a storm chaser sedan that had been entirely coated in bedliner, but this Suburban was the first big SUV I saw with the coating and it confirmed my decision as a good one, although I began to second guess my color choice, as the Industrial Tan looked so good on this truck.
I ended up staying the course and went with Indigo Blue, which was more expensive than standard black, but not quite as expensive as tan. The entire process for coating the Excursion basically took one man two days, including all the prep work, like the removal of the front bumper and running boards and taping off the windows and roof rack. I also opted not to retain any of the factory Excursion logos, as chrome trim pieces just didn't seem like they'd look right on the truck after all of this was done.
The end result was a very different look, but one that I really liked. If you look at either a picture of it now or see it in person, you'll probably call the color black or dark gray. Truthfully, the color sample doesn't look anything like the end result, but I'm not at all disappointed by that. At certain angles and in certain light conditions, you can see the blue in this finish, although it is subtle. It is starting to be more noticeable and that may continue as the finish fades with time spent in the sunlight. Rhino does make a Rhino Shine Ultra product, which they indicate will rejuvenate the look of the coating and restore color, but I don't think it is anywhere near needing that.
The response the truck received on the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour was greater than I expected. Everyone had questions about what I did and the most common were:
- What is that/who did that to your truck?
- Did that add a lot of weight?
- Did that hurt your fuel economy?
- Is it bullet-proof?
I hope I don't find out if it's bullet-proof or not, but I was concerned about how much this would weigh and how it might impact my fuel economy. I decided to weigh the truck before and after, with a full tank of fuel. The results were within ten pounds of each other and in the interest of full disclosure, I did have my mother-in-law's casserole dish with me when I weighed it a second time.
Even though the weight gain was neglibile, would the rougher surface catch more wind at highway speed? That too proved to be an invalid concern, as I also tested fuel economy on the same stretch of road at 62 mph, both before and after. While there was no difference in fuel economy, I also tested the interior noise level and found it to be one decibel quieter after the coating was applied. However, as with the weight and fuel economy, I found that difference to be negligible as well.
However, with one problem corrected, another problem was created. The bedliner coating seems like it will fend off exterior rust, but the Excursion no longer looks right with polished aluminum wheels or white lettering on the tires. New rolling stock is definitely in order, but with nearly 200,000 miles on the odometer, other upgrades will also be happening. Stay tuned for more updates!