Dale Amy
July 1, 2007
Here's how the give-away Herculiner '07 F-150 Thundertruck looked when it arrived at Paul's High Performance during a bitter February cold spell. Already looking sharp with its Cervini's body kit and tri-color paint scheme, there was still much mechanical and dress-up work to be done, starting with lowering this beast's center of gravity.

Ok, simple question: Who wouldn't like to win a hot-rodded new F-150? Exactly. Last time out, we began telling you about just such an opportunity to pick up a pickup thanks to the folks at Old World Industries Inc. (OWI) and its various project partners including Ford Racing Performance Parts, Cervini's Auto Designs, Paul's High Performance, T&R Auto Body, Air Ride Technologies, Stainless Steel Brake Corporation, and Bridgestone tires. Oh, and your good friends here at Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine-thank you very much.

In case you're just coming onboard, we'll recap: OWI is the corporate parent to such prominent automotive product lines as Herculiner bed liners, Peak antifreeze, and SplitFire spark plugs. After having so much fun and positive reaction to tricking out and giving away a Mustang GT last year, the OWI powers-that-be decided to do it again in 2007 with this 5.4L regular-cab F-150. In our previous installment, we showed you the fitting of Cervini's aggressive CT-Series body kit and the laying on of a trick black, red, and silver paint scheme, all by the body wizards at T&R Auto Body in Hammond, Indiana.

This time we move a bit further east along Interstate 94 to the Jackson, Michigan, shop of Paul's High Performance, where the bulk of the truck's muscular mechanical transformation will take place. We thought we might as well begin to document these changes from the ground up, so this time we'll have a look at the manly F-truck's responsive and great-riding new chassis bits from the airheads at Air Ride Technologies.

Many of you may think of just airbag springs when you hear Air Ride, but the Jasper, Indiana, firm engineers complete replacement suspension kits for many applications. For instance, the "AirBAR" rear setup that you're about to see going on our subject F-150 completely dispenses with the factory leaf springs and substitutes a four-link axle location, while also having a Panhard bar.

Now don't get us wrong: If all you want to do is sling hay or other weighty commodities into the bed of a pickup, the Flintstone-era leaf springs are a functional and proven way to go. But when unladen, the downside is a compromised ride, a skittish rearend, and a butt-high stance that evokes subconscious imagery of Brokeback Mountain. Take our word for it: A quartet of control arms and a Panhard rod are generations ahead of leaf springs when it comes to taming a stock axle. Team these with adjustable, self-leveling air springs, front and rear, and you have a pickup that looks and rides way cooler, and can probably chase down Mustangs on the twisty bits-especially with its screw blower tucked neatly underhood (ah, but that's a story for another issue.)

So sit back, relax, and enjoy as the Air Ride crew takes over the Paul's High Performance shop to completely transform the stance, ride, and handling of this too-cool F-150 that somebody out there is destined to drive away with.

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We're skipping all of the air-line plumbing and harness routing. Finally, it came time to mount the processor and controller. Ever the perfectionist, Mason decided to eliminate the coin holder the factory had placed to the right of the steering column and create a precise mounting hole for the controller. The ECU went out of sight in the kick panel.

The PHP Touch
We'd be remiss if we didn't throw out big-time props to Paul Svinicki and his gang at Paul's High Performance. As many of you know, PHP is a full-service Ford performance shop specializing in all facets of street performance and racing. Despite our tight deadline, Paul dug in and completed much of the Thundertruck buildup in just two weeks.

PHP has more than a decade of experience in the aftermarket industry and has worked closely with Ford Motor Company, Ford Racing Performance Parts, and many other top-notch firms. PHP uses a NASCAR-approved Dynojet and tunes using SCT software.

You may not know that Svinicki is also an accomplished racer having competed from age 10 in soap-box cars and on road bicycles. He then went into motocross, winning races on a 500cc Yamaha, before moving to-of all things-flat-track motorcycle ice racing. From 1978 to 1984 he ran a dirt Sprint car; then he stopped going in circles and found drag racing to be the motorsport of choice. He currently runs a team of cars in NMRA Mod Motor, where his best finish was Second Place in 2001, though he's been a multitime Top-10 finisher. His Shelby GT500 recently ran 10.60 at 138 mph in Bradenton, Florida, in March and his V-6 car went 10.80 at 122 mph.

Paul says, "THUNDERTRUCK was a real challenge, but we got it done, and I think whoever wins it will be very happy. Cervini's did a great job, and the Air Ride suspension install was sweet. It took only two hours to do the front and four to do the back. A few more hours was needed to run the wiring.

"Then we did the SSBC brakes. It was a two-hour bolt-on, and we noticed improved braking. The blower was the last part, and it was easy. The Three-Valve truck engine made 400 hp at the wheels, and torque was outstanding. It made a huge difference."