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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,162

    Default Anniversary of the Altadena Wildfire -- October 27, 1993

    Here are some photos from the fire that eventually led to the launch of RoadTripAmerica.com.

    Mark

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,162

    Default The Phoenix is still out there!

    1994 to 2005: Phoenix One




    Phoenix II

    Photo by Mark Helmlinger.

    The Phoenix One was transferred to Mark and Suz Helmlinger a few years ago and renamed the Phoenix II. Here is an update sent by Mark Helmlinger on the 25th anniversary of the Altadena fire:


    The photo above waas taken December 2017 of the Phoenix at New Melones reservoir. It’s wearing four new tires on the front axles (BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 LT315/70R17) on ProComp 17” rims. The older tires KOs no longer made. The rear axle is wearing the older 16.5” wheels (painted black to match the ProComps) and older BFG KO All-Terrain tires.

    Off-roading is hard on tires, especially with a 7-ton vehicle. We have punctured treads, torn sidewalls, and run tires completely off the rim. We found out, almost the hard way, that the used tires I was buying will blow out. We had a tire pop on the front passenger side on the way home just outside of Randsburg on Hwy 395 one night. Pulled me into the sand shoulder, was able to make a graceful emergency stop. Could have been much worse if it was on the driver’s side. The Phoenix now has pressure and temperature monitors on all six tires. And as of 2018, all new tires.

    The Phoenix is also sporting Christmas lights and 200W of solar panels over the front cab. The air conditioner has been armored after an encounter in 2016 with low branches on a narrow trail in the volcanic cones near Mammoth. The locker in the back also was a tree victim, and has been replaced with a luggage rack made of PVC. I think in this picture there are chairs bungeed to it. The CB and antennas has been removed, I have a HAM radio with a magnetic antenna that I put on the armor of the AC when needed.

    Also visible is a small 110VAC shop air compressor strapped to the front bumper guard. That’s for the timely re-inflation of the tires after de-inflation for rough and sometimes sandy roads. We just run the generator and an extension cord to the pump.

    What also can be seen on the bottom in front of the middle axle is the bottom of the armored black tank. It is now external to the coach. The old one shifted and bounced around so much it wore a hole and leaked (phew!) under the nook table, which now has a re-engineered rear bench seat.

    Look closely and you will see manual locking hubs on the front axle. We tore up the stock automatics in Death Valley a few years ago. Lots of other changes and upgrades over the years. Nothing radical, tho.

    Since the trip of the picture, the Christmas lights have been taken off. All external parking lights, spotlights, stoplights, backups lights and markers are now LEDs except for the headlights. There are three 100Ah AGM coach batteries. We can boondock quietly as long as the water holds out, and can run a small crock pot off of solar power if we want. The AC and the microwave and a hair blow drier still require the generator, however.

    All tires and wheels are new, the spares are now the old tires and rims. We carry two spares. That way, we don’t have to come out of the back country to get the flat patched right away.

    Brake pads are new, have replaced the spark plugs, cleaned the air filter, changed the oil, all the usual stuff – I thought the Phoenix was ready to go. Then I took it to be smogged, and for the first time it failed. Running rich at idle. The oxygen sensor was four years old, so I replaced that, (I have a feedback control monitor on the dash, and I did not notice sluggish O2 signal behavior, so I am skeptical this will work) but my smog guy’s gas analyzer is in the shop. I also noticed that I have not changed the vacuum lines to the fuel rail regulator. That is also a possible failure point.

    Underbraking has always been an issue with the Phoenix. It’s heavy, beyond the 1-ton F-350 chassis design. I put an increased capacity master cylinder on it a few years ago and that helped. Am also going to re-do the brake balancing. There was an adjustable regulator (proportioning valve) on the front brake lines (presumably to reduce front brake wear), but that increased brake pedal pressure needed for stopping. I am considering a metering valve on the front, (delays front disk action to allow rear drums to catch up) and replacing the factory proportioning valve on the rear with an adjustable one (lots of weight on the rear axles, not as much balancing needed, factory balance is for an empty pickup truck bed). I have rebuilt the tag axle slave valve and the tag axle brake system, verified the secondary master cylinder function, and understand how all that works.

    So, that and a whole lot more over the years has gone on, and more is needed – but the Phoenix still runs great, and runs far.

    Mark Helmlinger

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,162

    Default I like the look of the wheels!

    Mark,

    Very cool-looking wheels.

    I would love to see the truck someday. Glad you are still enjoying it!

    Mark

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,858

    Default

    What year is that Ford? I ask because it is amazingly like our 1993 Ford F350 crew cab. Ours was a dually, it had the bull bar in the front, we'd put on those style mirrors, and we had full length running boards on the sides instead of the steps.

    Looks rather cool!


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,536

    Default

    Donna, I believe it's a 1994. As I remember Mark telling me, it has a 460 (7.5) gas engine.

    2nd edition of their book will be available on December 1:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C6XLX64/

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,067

    Default Love it.

    Even today the Phoenix is a real eye catcher and looks a bit of a brute, personally I love it !! It must be quite surreal looking back over photo's of the fire and knowing now where it all led.

    Dave.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,162

    Default Good eyes!

    Donna,

    It started out in life as a 1993 Ford 350 crew cab pickup. (Good eyes!) It was actually cheaper to purchase the truck and sell off the cab, truck bed, etc. than it was to purchase the chassis directly from Ford. Once body was removed the chassis was lengthened in a couple of places. And then they started building the frame.

    --> But to George's point, now I don't remember if it was a 1993 or 1994 chassis. The conversion/construction was completed in late February, 1994. And the DMV considers it's birthyear to be 1994...


    Early January, left side of the truck -- see another F350 behind it?


    Same day, but you can see the cab body was partially retained


    Inside the Phoenix One -- that is the sleeping area -- wider than a Cal-king-sized bed

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,536

    Default

    Whatever year it is, it proves Ford builds a strong truck - still running 25 years later.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,162

    Default 143,605 miles and rolling on down the road

    As of last week it had accumulated 143,605 miles on the odometer. Part of the reason it is still on the road is the diligent care and maintenance of it's current owners.

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