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Are you a fan of OEM Plus but didn’t know it?

Have you ever cross-shopped parts from different generations of your vehicle in search of better performance or more appropriate aesthetics? It’s a simple notion: Acquire components that are high quality, easy to find in new condition (or on the second-hand market), and made by a vendor with deeper pockets for R&D excellence than any parts store. The benefits exist because you’re buying from the same company that made your vehicle in the first place!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2020/03/24/fan-of-oem-plus-but-didnt-know
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OEM interchangability has a long history. Odds are someone will post a story of taking the big V8 out of their parents new early 60s full size car to street race in their smaller car. Go back farther and you have the A-V8 conversions and so on.

Not sure the term “OEM Plus” will catch on, but the premise is valid.

An example I have been looking into is that I am possibly acquiring a 1992 short box flareside F150. Pretty basic spec truck. I’ve been researching putting the factory Lightning suspension bits on but am getting very mixed information about what you need and how bolt on it is (or if you even can as they apparently used an F250 4x4 frame for the Lightnings and that is different --though no one seems to say how).

The lack of clarity has me thinking of just doing the belltech 2" & 4" thing (or not bothering at all) but I do think using factory bits to reimagine the truck could be the coolest way.

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The one upgrade I’ve made in this vein is adding a backup camera to my Kia Optima. While my Optima didn’t come with a backup camera, Chinese manufacturers have made standard backup cameras that will fit into the slot where the factory camera would have gone. I spliced into power and ground for the reverse lights, and hooked the camera up to a Pioneer double-DIN I installed at the same time. (That Pioneer also transformed the stock speakers from worse than the bundled earbuds that came with iPods to decent.) This has been a great quality of life upgrade.

I would’ve liked to swap out the manual climate control for the auto climate control from up-level Optimas, but Kia uses an entirely different wiring harness and pinout for the auto climate control.

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@pepperalls - I have to admit I have always want to home-brew a Lightning, but never spent much time actually investigating part numbers and fit. I liked the daydreaming side of it a lot more!

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I am certainly a fan. I haven’t made a lot of modifications this way, but the high flow exhaust from a Volvo 240 Turbo and the 16x6.5 5-spoke “Hydra” alloy wheels off of a same year 740 Turbo sure do make my 1990 240 DL look and sound good! I tend to lean towards the purist side of things, but sometimes period correct modifications are just perfect.

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That camera upgrade is impressive. Makes sense too, cameras need to be somewhat modular to keep costs low in this age of technology creep and ever increasing sticker prices!

That’s a great example of OEM+ for sure! One thing I like to see on 240s are the Euro-headlight/signal light swaps, not only a big upgrade without looking out of place, but on the flush lenses of the later models, you get to swap to a clear set of lenses too.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard of the possibility that Lightnings used the F250 chassis, that just doesn’t seem likely considering they weigh less than F250s even with the big 5.8 underhood. (if my googling is correct)

Checking the Mustang restoration sites (LMR, for example) and Rock Auto it seems like Lightning shocks are easy enough to procure, the tough part would be the springs. I was surprised/disappointed to see that Rockauto didn’t have the SVT/Sport designation in their catalog. Ditto the disappointment in finding swaybar(s) on Addco’s website.

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I have done that too! I should’ve saved up for an OEM set, I got an aftermarket set, but they do look better than the yellowed plastic ones and they make lights are much brighter and sharper.

various F150 truck forums mention the frame difference. But nobody links a source of the info… so like I said, google/internet confusion.

Example of part of a discussion from oilburners.net

"Diesel_brad said:

Frame is no thicker than a 4x4 frame.
Has 4:10LS factory .
Only interior difference is the lightning seats and 120mph speedo.
Dark charcoal interior is from 87-93. the light opal gray is 94-97.
It is lowered 1" in front 2.5" in the rear and has slapper bar
Steering box has 17:1 ratio…not sure if any different from any other f-series
functional front air dam with fog lights
My lightning

hmm, the lightning frame was thinker, 0.170 versus the 0.143 inch on the regular F150- and it had brace plates welded on the kick-up over the rear axle. this kept chassis flex to a mimimum and contributed to the gen 1’s amazing handling.
the lightning had a special gray interior, WITH fully adjustable sport seats with embroidered lightning logo and full xlt trim.
it was 1 inch lower in frt and 2.5 in rear with a slapper bar, and bigger frt and rear sway bars and monroe formula GP shocks
yes it has a quick ratio steering box, but im not sure of the measurements.

out of a brochure for the lightning, which i guess ford could be sued for if it was wrong. and that looks like a nice lightning, but there are some things i guess you didnt know about it, i do like the newer rims on it and where you put the lightning emblems on it"


Which seems to be clarified by a poster named tjc transport at the Ford Truck Enthusiasts Forums:

“250 and 350 frames are the same. 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive frames are different.
both 2 wheel and 4 wheel 250/350 frames are much heavier than the 150 frame.”

So it gets tricky to plan the factory interchange bolt ons (OEM plus) swap as you are trusting unconfirmed forum info and it isn’t actually answer the question of “it will fit and work properly” whether you have a specific frame or not.

Never cared for the “chicken wire” grill F-150 grills like my '03 Stepside came with. I ended up getting an aftermarket grill that fit over it with horizontal chromed bars.

I have seen the differences in light patterns between the repros and the OEM stuff, it’s a big difference but still you are way better off than before. And you aren’t gonna blind anyone if you stick with legal bulbs inside.

Yeah and I’m not thrilled with this new grille’s chicken wire, but the grille I really wanted (from a 2007-ish Sport model) never showed up for a reasonable price. So chicken wire it is!

This is great insight. I wonder if you can draw a line between what Ford did to stiffen the CVPI chassis versus a normal Crown Vic and see if they did the same with the Lightning.

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Maybe there’s an aftermarket insert for your “new” grille?

None of the aftermarket ones I saw for Rangers really spun my crank. It was either the Edge or Sport grilles for me, and I know going with them ensured OEM quality. And ensured me I’d have a good photo for this article. :upside_down_face:

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I didn’t know what it was called but I like it. I put a complete 08 Jaguar grille in an 04 XJR. Also, swapped the regular wheels for a chromed set of 5 spokes off a Vanden Plas. Much better look.
Recently I discovered a Europe only OEM Mercedes single disc in dash CD radio for my 99 SL500. Took a chance and bought it. Fifteen minutes of magic at the indie and it works like a dream. Beats that skipping rear mounted changer but that still works too…mostly. OEM Plus is definitely a good way to go.

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Not so much for the “toy” car, but for my daily driver 2007 Toyota Sienna I have been looking for a set of European spec tail lights with yellow blinker light lenses. If anyone knows where I can get those I would really happy about installing them.

When I had my 1985 Fiero I slapped a set of Buick Skyhawk 5 spoke rims on it because I liked those way better than the Pontiac factory mags that came on it.

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Understood, afraid I never checked into the Ranger parts. Was thinking something like I did on my '03 F150, which also had the chicken wire grill. This “chromed bars” metal one mounted right over it once the Oval was removed. They had a model with an oval opening for the OEM Ford emblem, but I felt it broke up the clean lines of the half-round parallel bars. Best truck I ever owned.
Truck4sm Truck5sm

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I’m definitely a fan of OEM plus, though have yet to delve far into it. My favorite recent OEM-plus discovery was the base steel wheels on from certain CUVs as winter wheels. Not having paid much attention to the segment, I had forgotten that, until fairly recently, the base trim of many car-based crossovers, like the CR-V, RAV4, and Forester, came with silver-painted steel wheels with spokes–not the typical base, black steel wheel with a bunch of holes. These wheels will bolt directly on to many cars from the same manufacturers, respectively, making them a pretty good option for winter wheels. They have all the advantages of steel wheels for winter use (e.g., heavier, easier to repair corrosion or bends, generally slightly smaller than stock alloys), but look significantly better without the need for wheel covers (which tend to trap the snow anyway). They can be found in serviceable condition in a lot of salvage yards, and quickly made to look pretty decent with a respray. Even getting new ones from the dealer would probably be cheaper than most sets of aftermarket alloys.

If I were doing it over again, I would definitely pursue this option on my Accord (currently using 16-inch alloys from an older LX as winters) and BRZ (which wears black TireRack steelies in the winter).

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