As we all know, nothing stays the same. There is always a continual evolution wherein landscapes change, trends are re-invented, and yes, even our project vehicles take on different forms and functions. Over the past six months, OFF-ROAD's '03 Ford F-350 has looked like it's been on an episode of MTV's Pimp My Ride. Originally touted as a fullsize prerunner, OFF-ROAD's trusty leader, Phil Howell, mapped out a new direction for our fullsize rig. The criteria for the rebuild were simple: It needed great ride quality, a usable bed, and the capacity to seat five adults. With marching orders in hand, the truck was delivered to Terry and Lynn McClanahan at American Outfitters in La Mesa, California, for assessment and upgrades.
Upon receiving the truck, Terry and Lynn cleared their schedules and focused solely on getting the truck prepped for paint. This entailed filling the massive holes that had been cut out of the bed floor for the previously installed race shocks that were attached to the bed-mounted race cage. Using pieces from a salvaged bed, Terry and Lynn were able to rivet and seal each penetration. The dynamic duo also acquired a new tailgate and hardware for the truck, since the original unit was somehow snagged by someone's sticky fingers. A new fuel door was installed into the fiberglass bedside; during the installation, new fuel lines were installed since the previous lines leaked. The front and rear bumpers were removed and replaced with stout Hanson Enterprise bumpers. For those of you who have never seen these units, they are constructed of solid, 1/4-inch-thick steel plates and have built-in trailer receivers that could tow your house if required. The front bumper had the optional prerunner bar installed for that race look.
Prior to its arrival at L&G Enterprises in San Dimas, California, for the new paint scheme, a quick detour was made to visit Line-X of Kearny Mesa, California. After a few hours of prepping the bed and filling in any voids with body filler, the spray-on bedliner material was applied and instantly bonded to the bed and tailgate surfaces. For aesthetic purposes, Line-X's new UV coating material was applied to protect the liner from any fading from exposure to the elements.
With the bedliner installed, the team at L&G started the painting process by stripping the entire truck of everything but the body panels - even the truck bed was removed from the chassis for a more thorough prep and paintjob. After block-sanding, priming, and re-aligning the body panels and Hannemann fiberglass fenders, bedsides, and bumpers, the application of the custom-mixed silver, blue, and black House of Kolor paints began. To separate the blue and silver paint fields, Theresa Contreras, owner of L&G Enterprises, airbrushed a centerstripe detail by combining black, pewter, and silver House of Kolor paints. Finishing off the detail is two-tone pinstriping around the edge. L&G also smoked the rear taillights and the roof-mounted third brake light.
Beginning to take on the look of its new function, the rig was delivered to Steve Kramer of Full-Traction Suspension in Bakersfield, California, for the installation of the company's new four-link conversion system for '99-'04 Ford F-350s. As anyone who has ever driven one of these trucks knows, the front leaf spring setup is not very forgiving in the ride-quality department, so the conversion to the four-link system will not only improve the ride quality, but the overall performance of the truck. The 8-inch lift utilizes Full-Traction's instant center geometry (ICG) design for true and correct caster curve throughout the entire range of the truck's linear wheel travel. A 70-percent reduction in the total caster change throughout the suspension's movement improves the "on-center" feel and control when driving or towing. All components in the system are built from commercial-grade materials and are able to withstand maximum off-road punishment.A clear sign of the system's durability is the heavy-duty rod ends and 2-inch-diameter by 0.250-inch wall thickness DOM tubing that constitute the lower leading control arm assemblies. Of course, the 1/4-inch, steel-plate, laser-crafted bracketry provides exceptional strength too. Perhaps the best part of the system is that no welding is required. The rear suspension was revamped with a set of Full-Traction's multileaf rear springs that have been computer-designed to provide maximum travel and deflection, while maintaining their durability and capacity. The dampers for the truck consist of single, 3-inch King coilover units with remote reservoirs up front and single, 3-inch King nitrogen-charged units with remote reservoirs in the rear.
Upon completion of the suspension system's fitment, all of the components were unbolted from the truck and sent for powdercoating before being reinstalled. The rolling stock was updated with new 38x15.50R18 Toyo M/T tires and 18x10-inch Weld Racing Dune 8 rims with polished beadlock simulators.
To turn the big Toyos more effectively, we called on Precision Gear for a pair of 4.56 ring-and-pinion sets. A pair of Detroit Lockers provides outstanding off-road grip. PDC Motorsports installed the new components in our rear axle, and Dynatrac Products did the same up front. Dynatrac further strengthened our front axle by adding its Combo Kit. The Combo Kit provides stronger steering knuckles, wheel hubs, locking hubs, spindles, and wheel bearings while improving steering response and ride quality. An uber-strong Dynatrac front diff cover topped off our front-axle upgrades.
With the new paint, suspension, and wheel and tire combination, improving our 6.0L Power Stroke diesel's performance was a given. We took the truck back to American Outfitters to have these modifications addressed, and a Gale Banks Engineering Big Hoss Bundle performance package was installed. Included in the kit of goodies are the Six-Gun Diesel Tuner and Banks PowerPDA Vehicle Command Center kit, a Techni-Cooler intercooler assembly with huge 3.5-inch boost tubes and streamlined High-Ram intake, and a 4-inch stainless steel Monster exhaust system with a 5-inch polished-stainless double-wall tailpipe tip. Additional Banks Engineering gauges were installed in a neat pillar mount assembly so that the additional 155 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque created by the performance system could be monitored.
The final touches in the renovation of the truck came when the previously installed front and rear bucket seats were removed and replaced with MasterCraft's new Baja RS adjustable seats up front and a custom-fabricated and -covered MasterCraft rear bench unit. The installation of the MasterCraft units required the crew at American Outfitters to fabricate new brackets for the seat mounts and for the electronic seat controllers.
To light up the night sky, a set of Hella's famous Rallye 2100 HID rectangle lights was wired up and placed neatly in the openings of the front bumper.While countless hours were devoted to this renovation, the end result is a rig that symbolizes the quality and construction of the numerous aftermarket products that their manufacturers contributed and the dedication and expertise of the painters, mechanics, and suspension specialists who put their best feet forward to make our truck and magazine shine. Thanks again to everyone!