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2001 Ford F-550 - Root Beer Float

Posted in Features on December 1, 2003 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Jeremy Cook

They say that if you want to get something done right, you have to do it yourself. While this philosophy easily rolls off the tongue, the reality of the situation is that with most projects, the DIYs can do a lot themselves but get help here and there from friends along the way. Rick Walker, from Ontario, California, built this truck himself, receiving help with some of the detail work. Rick splits his time between working as a refrigeration contractor, a trade that taught him about custom fabrication, and spending time in his private shop, a spot where he can enjoy his truck-building hobby. It was in his shop that he spent three months, off and on, building this '01 Ford F-550. His shop, called B.T. Motorsports, is where he does high-end custom work. While it is currently a side project, he hopes to someday turn it into a full-time gig.

It wasn't that long ago that Rick found himself in a curious position. He needed to buy a work truck, yet he also wanted to buy a project vehicle. He had been looking at an F-550 for work but instead of buying a second truck, decided to build this truck to his liking. Rick had been inspired by an F-550 that Ford built and showed at SEMA and realized he could build a truck that size the way he envisioned. The F-550 was originally a cab and chassis configuration, but Hemborg Ford, in Norco, California, put the shortbed from an F-350 on the back of the truck for him. As you can imagine, the proportions were not quite right, starting Rick on his project path.

When he began this project, Rick knew he wanted to give the Ford a dramatic suspension lift, so driveshaft alterations were already part of his plan. He had no qualms about framework either, so making the truck fit the new bed was not as daunting as it seemed. Rick is not sure the exact amount he cut, but he estimates that he removed a couple of feet from the frame. Once the length of the truck was made right, he could work on the height. He did extensive work to the truck's suspension system, raising the Ford 23 inches above stock height. He used 14-pack Atlas leaf springs front and rear, and a set of Firestone airbags to help when he tows his trailer. He installed Rancho RS 9000 shocks and fabricated the rest of the suspension system to create what he wanted. There are also chrome-moly ladder bars and HM Engineering Heim joints. Rick also installed ORU crossover steering and added an AGR Rock Ram hydraulic steering system, using his own custom brackets. In addition, Kreg Donahoe, president of Donahoe Racing Enterprises, helped out with the truck's track bars and hangers. These came from the company's Edge Advanced Suspensions line. Once Rick built the parts that made up the majority of the system, he sent them to G&A Metal Polishing, in Riverside, California, where the metal pieces were polished, and then to Millennium Polish and Chrome in Ontario, for the final prep work and chroming. With all of that new space in the fenderwells, Rick had the freedom to put 19.5/44-16.5LT Interco Super Swamper TSL/Boggers at all four corners, with 16.5x12-inch Series 058 Eagle Alloys. Rick also installed a set of TRW brake pads and aircraft-quality stainless-steel brake lines. One glance at the photos explains why Rick named this project Big Thang.

Just about the only type of engine that is truly capable of hauling this much metal around is one that offers insane amounts of torque. Rick's F-550 is powered by the venerable 7.3L Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8. This engine, when it was stock, offered 250 hp at 2,600 rpm and 505 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm, when backed by the automatic transmission.That wasn't enough power to satisfy Rick, so he installed a Hypermax turbo with 24 pounds of boost, and a BD Power chip, intake, and custom-built 4-inch down pipe. Behind the engine is a 5-inch stainless-steel MagnaFlow exhaust. As mentioned earlier, Rick was prepared to replace the driveshafts with custom units, so he called on JE Reel, in Pomona, California, to do the job. JE Reel also took care of the heavy-duty U-joints the truck now has. These U-joints have 190-degree pivots. The transmission was given a Mag-Hytec cooler and pan. The frontend uses a Dana 50 with an ARB Air Locker and Warn hubs, and the Sterling 10.5-inch rear was given Precision 4.56 gears and its own Air Locker. Rick added a 5-gallon air tank for the lockers and airbag suspension, and four Optima batteries. Because Rick tows with this truck on a regular basis, he had to fabricate a custom tow hitch.

Rick knew he wanted to give the Ford's body a new look and began modifying the F-550's appearance. He filled the grille with Trenz billet and added a set of APC clear corners to the rear end. The grilleguard bears KC HiLiTES and a 12,000-pound Warn winch. Also, Rick added Bushwacker fender flares, and a SnugTop Expo shell protects the bed. The cab was given a sunroof, and the shell was given an electric ragtop; both were installed at Sunroof Performers, in Los Angeles. Rick bought this truck in Harvest Gold and took it to Merzee's Paint Designs in Santa Fe Springs, California, where it would receive its new look. Jeff Mersey smoothed and painted the door handles and fender flares, and touched up the Harvest Gold hue. Merzees then added marbleized Root Beer Brown tribal flames, outlined by hand with Tangerine Orange pinstripes. Extreme Tint provided the window tinting, and Meguiar's products keep the truck looking perfect.

Rick wanted the interior to have style and versatility that would match the body, so he had the cab redone. The seats were given tan Katzkin leather inserts, which matched the tan carpet and headliner. The door panels were filled with three-way Audiobahn speakers, and Elegance Auto Interiors, in Upland, California, wrapped the panels in two-tone imitation leather. An Eclipse AV8132 head unit controls the mobile electronics system, which includes three-way speakers in all doors and eight 12-inch Audiobahn subwoofers. Four of the subs were ported to the cab and four were mounted in a custom enclosure in the bed. Four Audiobahn amps, a total of 1,200 watts, power the speakers, and 7,200 watts of amplifiers power the subwoofers. There are three IconTVs in the Ford: two 6.4-inch units in the front seat headrests and one in the rear-view mirror. There is a PlayStation 2 on board, as well as a VCP. The head unit has its own motorized screen. Rick roughed out the subwoofer enclosure setup, and G&M Stereo, in Ontario, California, helped install the stereo system and completed the enclosure with Plexiglas and fiberglass.

Rick did a lot of the work on this truck himself, but could not have done it without the support of his friends and family. While B.T. Motorsports started out as a hobby, word-of-mouth has caused it to grow into a budding business. Rick takes his truck to numerous shows throughout the country, including monster truck shows, truck jamborees, and SEMA, and has won several awards. Even with the accolades, Rick hasn't stopped working on this truck. Since our photographers captured his Ford on film, Rick has put a new custom hitch in the rear. The new unit was chromed and has a three-link setup. The bed is now full of speakers, with four more Audiobahn 12-inch subs in the back, and six more TVs, ranging in size from 6.4 inches to 15.5 inches, for a total of 10. His eye is on future projects as well. Rick hopes he can make his next project an '04 F-150. After seeing what he can do with this platform, we'd be interested to see his craftsmanship applied to the new pickup.

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