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2003 Ford F550 - Big Black

Posted in Features on June 1, 2004 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Randall Jachmann

The first time we laid eyes on this ridiculously large Ford F-550 wasn't in person, but on the Internet. We were checking out diesel power parts for Fords online and came across the Rolling Big Power Web site. After checking out what the site had to offer in the way of performance diesel upgrades, we clicked on the project photo link and did a double-take at the first photo to come up. There, in between the black-bordered computer screen, was a gigantic Ford doing a burnout while towing a really big Eliminator powerboat. This wasn't any ordinary lifted Super Duty, either. This black behemoth was smoking the skins off a set of tires we estimated to be at least 44 inches in diameter, while the boat had to weigh at least 5,000 pounds. We didn't know of any street-driven truck capable of such a feat, so we made a mad dash to seek out the deranged owner of this truck.

It turned out that the truck is the poster child for Rolling Big Power's owner Roland Trudell, a guy who goes big with everything he does, and he put a ton of time, effort, and cash into building a truck to showcase RBP's performance products. Shock value aside, this truck does work in the dirt - just ask anyone who's seen this Ford bully its way up Competition Hill in the Glamis sand dunes in California. To the casual onlooker, this truck is a monstrosity that doesn't belong on the highway. To the most jaded off-roader, the truck is too tall to work in the dirt. To Roland, this truck does everything he wants and more. We set up a photo shoot so Roland could put his money where his mouth was, and his exact words were, "Let's jump this thing; if it breaks, that'll be an excuse to build it even bigger." True to his words, he hucked the F-550 over and over again for our cameras, and the truck didn't break. He's since lifted the truck another 6 inches, just because he can.

The credit for this truck's on- and off-road prowess belongs to several shops and fabricators. RBP grew from Trudell's dissatisfaction with the diesel parts on the market years ago, and their prices. RBP's products were the end result of Trudell's passion for upgrading his own truck and wanting the best parts possible. The work on Big Black began as RBP added new programming to the factory Ford ECM, with a new computer chip that had the fuel injectors adding more diesel fuel to the mix. A new high-flow air intake system was also installed to augment the increase in fuel supply with the appropriate amount of air. Finally, RBP's 4-inch exhaust system was bolted between the framerails of the Ford to finish off the engine mods. According to Roland, the diesel now pumps out more than 500 hp and 1,200 lb-ft of torque. We wonder if the transmission is happy about having to transfer all that power to the driveline.

Next, Roland dropped his truck off at BTW Performance Inc. in Azusa, California, for the truck's most inspiring changes. BTW's owner, JP Thornton, teamed up with Atlas Spring of El Monte, California; Donahoe Racing of Anaheim, California; and King Shock Technology to lift the truck more than 22 inches higher than stock, enough to tower over a set of 48-inch tires. Now, we've seen tires this large on fullsize pickups before, but Roland's stomper takes on a look all its own because he outfitted his rolling stock with 22.5-inch-diameter Alcoa wheels. The oversize semitruck wheels are a fitting combination with the huge tires beneath Big Black's chassis.

Lifting any truck this high in the air doesn't come without its consequences. Huge blind spots at all corners of the truck are one, but making the 4WD system functional again is another. JE Reel solved the driveline-angle woe by machining an index ring to split the transfer case, twisting it downward and decreasing the negative angle of the driveline. The angle was still too great for a conventional U-joint-equipped driveshaft, so Reel then fabricated a CV-joint driveline capable of operating at a 45-degree angle. It was a perfect fit and the last thing Big Black needed to be off and running.

Nothing about this truck is ordinary - not even the body. If you go to your local Ford dealer and order an F-550 truck, you'll be quite surprised when a cab and chassis arrive at the dealer. That's right: They don't come with beds. These trucks are built to work, and construction companies and heavy-equipment operators usually equip them with flatbeds or storage boxes. Roland is neither, so he had Brea Hills Autobody in Brea, California, stretch an F-350 bed 6 inches to accommodate the long-wheelbase Super Duty chassis. The company also added new headlights to the front bumper that would actually point at the ground instead of the sky, and a new Grill Craft grille. Troy Downy finished the job after the body shop resprayed the factory black paint by adding RBP's signature graphic scheme to the exterior of the truck.

In true extremist fashion, Roland finished off the interior of the truck with a deafening audio/video system. Visual Audio of Covina, California, handled the chore of installing several 7-inch monitors throughout the interior of Big Black, as well as a DVD player and MP3 audio system. The beats are played through Phoenix Gold subwoofers and coaxial speakers, giving the leather-clad interior an even richer feel.

By the time you read this, Roland will have rebuilt this truck, as well as embarked upon several other even larger endeavors. Keep your eyes peeled for his next outrageous creation in the pages of OR.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner Roland Trudell
Year/make/model '03 {{{Ford F-550}}}
Engine/drivetrain 6.0L diesel/{{{Sterling}}} axles with 4.88 gears; JE Reel
  45-degree CVs
Suspension BTW Performance 22-inch custom lift with King
  coilovers and Atlas leaf springs
Tires/wheels 48-inch Michelin tires/22.5x12-inch Alcoa wheels

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