Centaurus Conversion: 1996 Ford F350

What do you make of these aftermarket conversions of otherwise ordinary vehicles? I suppose in an era where manufacturers weren’t getting away with charging $50K (or more) for a pickup truck, the aftermarket was the only choice if you wanted one with every bell and whistle imaginable. This 1996 Ford F350 pickup features the Centaurus conversion package with lots of period enhancements inside and is listed here on eBay for $16,500 OBO.

I just can’t really even begin to understand the conversation that took place leading the buyer of an already top-shelf pickup to want to add more features to it that even the factory couldn’t match. This one obviously has leather captain’s chairs with lots of bolstering; wood trim, including on the top of the big center console; suede inserts on the seats and door panels; and a CB radio and TV, along with built-in radar.

The 7.3L turbodiesel is a nice feature, but that’s just how the factory would have built it – no special enhancements there, other than a “Pac Exhaust Brake” that the seller mentions has been added. I suppose what it gets down to is needing a dependable tow rig and wanting to be surrounded by every amenity while you haul a camping trailer or a working trailer full of horses. The former scenario makes sense, as your luxury R/V shouldn’t feel like a faraway country when you step into the driver’s seat.

Of course, the other enhancements include numerous cosmetic add-ons, like brush guards, side steps, spoilers, fender flares, and more. These are all very much from the period in which the truck was made, along with the two-tone paint. The question in my mind is whether these conversions are still considered desirable by Ford fanatics, or if the money put towards it would be better spent on a new truck with a warranty – and most of these features now offered as options.

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Comments

  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    This is a ‘Cowboy Continental.’ We’ve had many of these through our shop. A good puller right out of the gate. The 7.3 Powerstroke was a good engine and even responded well with a performance chip. Ford really blew it when they came out with the 6.0L. But then, you could blame it all on emission control changes; the 7.3 could no longer meet the requirements. I might add that the 6.0L hurt Ford pretty badly. Navistar said they would only warrant the 6.0 to 250 hp, and Ford required 300. Binder sold the engines to Ford with no warranty. The customers immediately wanted performance chips, many of which were dealer-installed. The result was often a very loud, expensive noise just forward of the firewall, and a new engine with the same performance chip. Then came the 6.4 which was a band-aid until the Ford-Built 6.7 could be finished and ready for sale. IMHO, the 7.3 Powerstroke was one of the best light truck diesel engines ever made. You would find some difficulties melting one of these down. The 5.9/6.7 Cummins is very strong but you can melt them, especially #5 and #6. Some will disagree and put the Cummins 5.9/6.7 ahead of it. And that’s fine with me. I see them all on an almost daily basis, and I also see their drawbacks…

    Like 18
    • jf85tr99

      I couldn’t have put it any better, you hit the nail right on the head(bolts). I worked for a local public works dept. in 06′. They purchased a fleet of new F350s with the 6.0L that just came out. Talk about instant regrets, as you can imagine all of them ended up in the shop needing a teardown within the first year. We had an old yellow 94′ F350 with the 7.3 that was donated to the highway dept. after beating around NYC for 150k miles. Its durability and reliability shamed all of the other trucks, when I left there in 11′ it was still kicking around with nearly 300k around town/hard city miles on it. Totally agree, 10 or more drivers tried to melt the thing cause they wanted something newer, none succeeded while I was there.

      Jay

      Like 7
  2. Howard A Member

    Ford’s Ultimate Behemoth. Just a tick shy of a CDL. Perfect for the horsey set, who seem to have money to burn anyway. Too much of a truck for the rest of us,,,I think.

    Like 5
    • ford Truck

      Ford newer trucks all seem to get the cam phaser making the noise right out the gate on some with others under20k on the odometer.
      I have three neighbors with new Ford F-150 four door custom and all the toys with this issue. One repaired and five thousand miles later came back . It’s sad to drop 35 k on a truck that has bad engine issues .

      . See this video for further explanation (it does a good job explaining what it takes to fix it, IMO). He has another video that explains why it happens, too.

      Listen to the noise at 3:50 and compare it to the noise your engine makes.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZuArjvEfRc

      Like 1
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Good for the horsey set, and oftentimes just a part of a horse…

      Like 2
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Interesting you say: Just shy of a CDL. I’ve had customers want to install a full-fledged jake brake on both the Fords and the Dodges. I show them the PAC exhaust brake and they tell me that they want to hear the blowdown of a Jake when they turn it on. I just tell them to get a Class 8 with the Jake installed…

      Like 3
  3. Darrell Hart

    Was the Beechnut standard or an add on?

    Like 1
  4. LMK Member

    Bet it is very comfortable….

    Like 2
  5. Mike

    Many of these were purchased by “Hot Shot” drivers who ran them 100k/year as a mobile office. I’ve even seen some with the back seat replaced by a small bed to avoid the cost of motels. I’d be much more willing to spend $16,500 on this even if I had to put that much more into it compared to a brand new one for $70,000 and all the emissions garbage that they have.

    Like 7
  6. Coventrycat

    The only reason manufacturers “get away” with charging what they do is because we let them. I understand the value and need of trucks like this. Every person on the planet doesn’t need an SUV or pickup pretending to be a Peterbilt like the manufacturers would have you believe, though. I think it’s the same reason there are aggressive faces on cars – just a bunch of insecure humans putting their first impressions out via their vehicle. How did pickups become status symbols? Only by bragging how much you spent on it.

    Like 6
    • Howard A Member

      That’s true, and for the record, trucks became so popular because the cars are terrible.

      Like 4
  7. TimM

    I have a 99 Ford F-350 with a 7.3 it’s my daily driver with 285,000 miles on it! It’s an automatic and I’ve plowed with it in upstate New York since it was new!!! I also have an F-550 dump with the same motor and it’s an 02 !!! I can’t say enough about these two trucks they are some of the best vehicles I’ve ever owned and I would still take my 350 to California tomorrow if I had a reason to go there!!!

    Like 3
  8. Nitehawk770

    No way is that a 96. I believe every full size (including Bronco) had the old “brick” airbag as standard…….unless this truck was originally a zero-option XL practically body-in-white, then perhaps the airbag delete was a special order option?

    • Steve83

      Trucks above 8500GVWR were not required to have SRS until ’98 (or maybe later). A loaded ’96 F350 would have that non-airbag steering wheel, just like ’92-93 F150s.

      Like 1
  9. Little_Cars Saul Member

    In 1996 my horsewoman wife and I looked at a Centaurus-converted Ford new–with TV, leather, crew seating–on the lot of the local Ford dealer. Our thought was exactly as stated here, the more comfort on the road the less concern that we might have to sleep in the dang thing with no hotel rooms available. Not sure automotive emissions or safety regs were any worse in the mid 1990s as they were out of the gate in late 60s with the dawn of PCV valves and padded dashes or late 70s with fuel vapor recovery, bumper height, etc. Many a brand gave up instead of fighting the Fed. AMC, British Leyland, et.al.

    Like 1

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