F250 Camper Special Review

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A Ford F250 truck with the Camper Special package is one of the rare finds classic collectors search for constantly. What was the F250 Camper Special Package?

Ford offered the F250 Camper Special Package as an option for their F-series from ‘65 - ‘82. Upgraded rear suspension, cooling, and other items were included in the package. The offering sought to take advantage of the love of the open road and the natural beauty of America.

While Ford may not have invented the idea of offering a Camper Special package for their trucks, they were dedicated to offering them to potential buyers. Buoyed by the rising affluence of many Americans during the seventies and desiring to eat into some of its competitor’s market share, the manufacturer decided to offer the upgrade options for their f-series trucks. Americans were anxious to explore the open road, and the popularity of campers that could slide onto the beds of their trucks made it easy for them to do so. Now, traveling families could take their home with them without having to pay for a motel or tow a large RV. Let’s explore this unique option with a Ford F250 Camper Special review.

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What Was The Ford F250 Camper Special Package?

The Ford F 250 camper special offered owners some good stuff as a factory option, like larger rear axles with hefty differentials, dedicated camper wiring, and gigantic stock radiators to handle the additional loads. Ford recommended that these special trucks be equipped with a SelectShift automatic transmission and paired with a V8 motor to have enough power.

As the F250 continued to grow in size and performance with standard features like power steering, disc brakes, and air conditioning, the Camper specials continued to be offered over all F-series models, including the F100. (Even when the F150 replaced the 100). Eventually, the Camper Special was reserved for ¾ tons (F250) and full-ton trucks (F350). The old trucks are known to be very reliable, capable of hauling heavy loads, and a good truck for restoring. While most Ford pickup trucks of that era no longer sport camper shells, the f250 camper special trucks are still sought after by enthusiasts.

When Did Ford First Offer the Camper Special Package?

There is a great deal of debate about which manufacturer first offered a dedicated camper package, but Ford’s earliest mention of the f 250 Camper special is found in the 1965 sales brochures. Ford mentions the Camper Special Package as an upgrade for the F100 and F250 Flareside and Styleside with an 8’ bed and 129-inch wheelbase.

The primary package offered a 4.10 optional differential with beefier rear springs, a heavy-duty alternator, and an oversized radiator. If you opted for Package No. 2 - you could get an emergency flasher, two-speed windshield wipers, a washer, plus a deluxe fresh air heater (along with Camper Special badges). If you wanted seat belts, a chrome front bumper, or a padded dash, Ford sold them as part of Package No. 3.

In 1965, the F 250 camper special offered two distinct sizes of fiberglass campers that an owner could order for the pickup truck. One was a camper box that butted up against the back of the cab, while the other option was a shell that extended the sleeping area of the camper over the cab’s roof.

Over the years, as Ford began to focus more on bulking up the truck’s essential components, the Camper Special package didn’t change much (although current owners enjoyed the extra power from the diesel motors that started coming into play and dual gas tanks for 1980 - 82 models).

While Ford recommended the more powerful V8 engines and automatic transmission as requirements, many items like a dual horn, emergency flashers, and pockets in the door panels made their way off the options list to become standard equipment. Many owners opted for the camping packages offered on the F350 so that their trucks could tow and carry heavier loads. Ford hailed these options for the full-ton as “Super Camper Specials,” but with the introduction of the SuperCab in 1974, the moniker reverted to “Camper Special Packages.”

Ford offered the camper specials on their 4x4 trucks, but because they used a divorced transfer case, the front end tended to be pushed up a bit (sometimes several inches higher than the competition 4-wheel drives. Hence the name “high-boys”). Combined with the weight of a camper shell on the back of the truck, these trucks were prone to be pushed around by a stiff wind. To fix this issue, Ford introduced stabilizing bars and tie-down straps attached to the side of the F250 to provide more stability for the truck.

Was the Camper Special Package Very Popular?

Although there are no production numbers for how many Camper Special packages were sold (the rumor is that Ford throughout the numbers by accident), most owners did not purchase the package.

The advantage of the camper shells was that they allowed customers to take their home on the road with them. The mobility of the Ford F 250 camper allowed vacationers to save time because they could move more quickly between destinations.

These modified trucks were a cheaper alternative for vacationing families, made finding a rest spot easier (you could just find a park or safe place off the highway), and allowed an owner to have some amenities of home.

In addition, the camper shell severely inhibited gas mileage, and as the oil embargos of ‘73 and ‘79 made abundantly clear, gas-guzzling V8s were the primary culprits.

The other issue was that the camper shell severely limited what an owner could do with their truck. Removing the 8’ - 11’ camper shells required a coordinated effort to keep them from getting dented while being removed. Many camper shells sat in barns or fields rotting away during the 70s.

In 1982, the Ford brochure offered its last specifically dedicated Camper Special and, in the following years, combined the towing and camping packages into one overarching option for truck owners. (More and more Americans replaced campers with towable RV units).  

Did Other Trucks Have Camper Specials?

Chevy and Dodge offered Camper Special pickups beginning in the mid-60s, so Ford felt it necessary to follow suit. The packages handled slide-in camper shells and offered many of the same upgrades Ford had offered. Dodge sold eight different pickups (D100, D200m, D200 CrewCab, D200W and had a basic, deluxe, and custom camper package. Chevy required owners to order a 3/4 or full-ton pickup to get the camper special.

Are Camper Special Trucks Rare?

Due to their limited production, many Ford F 250 camper trucks are highly sought after by classic car enthusiasts. Many restorers had found older trucks in original condition, rehabilitated the entire truck, and given it a new paint job only to find themselves owning a very nice truck by the time the restoration was finished. These vehicles continue to increase in price and value and the F 250 Camper Special is a huge reason.