Driving a (monster) show truck on the street

It left me laughing, smiling, and terrified. That says it all.
A group of high school guys came running over to the truck as I gingerly navigated it through the parking lot, doing my best to act as if I’d done this before. They were feet away from my intended path, but that was still close enough to make them seem as if they were directly in the line of fire. Driver window down, their questions began to fly at me faster than I could process; on top of not running the group over, it was all I could to keep repeating, “Not mine. Friend’s.”
After parking the behemoth Ford, I took a moment to reflect: minutes earlier, with smoke erupting from the stacks, I had driven what has a good chance of permanently maintaining the position of most insane vehicle I’ve ever driven. It’s a truck so outrageous and insane that what you’re about to read, despite my best efforts, will in no way do justice to the experience.

I met Mike a few years ago, and he’s been a friend since. Not a heart-to-heart, hang out on a Saturday night friend, but one of those friends you talk to primarily, and almost entirely, about cars/trucks/etc. He’s a no-bullshit, upfront kind of guy, and one of those people you’re glad to have on your side should a situation arise. While at the gym a few Fridays ago I approached him and casually and asked to drive his truck, inwardly hoping that he would oblige but not expecting so. Mike’s truck is something that even the casual bystander knows isn’t “normal.” If you can even call it a truck. It’s no more a truck than a tube-chassis Nova is an average commuter, no more a truck than a King of the Hammers entrant is a casual weekend off-road toy.
Realistically, as far as being a pickup goes, the only thing it’s good at hauling would be the nitrous tanks sitting in the bed. Mike’s been building the rig for years, long before the bro truck craze took off. It’s his baby, as the saying goes. Such explains my shock when there’s no hesitation whatsoever in his response, a huge smile spreading across his face to go along with the affirmative “go-for-it” reply. And he wants me to go alone. Encourages me to make sure I fully get into boost, not to be easy on it. I don’t know if my surprise was in that he was so quick to say yes or that I was now obligated to attempt to drive the damn thing, but I stood there motionless for roughly thirty seconds before slowly shaking my head.
He asks me straight-up why I’m hesitant to go alone, without him riding shotgun, and my honest answer is that I’m afraid of running over people and small cars. Eventually I accept my fate, acknowledging this could go great or miserably. It wouldn’t be the full experience if I hadn’t walked out of the gym to see the truck parked in a normal tight-quarters spot, uncomfortably close to the surrounding obstacles parked cars. No sweat; just “drive it like a normal truck” as Mike says. Who am I kidding…I was shitting my pants trying to get out of that parking spot.
Looking at it from a normal human’s perspective, the F-350 is downright absurd. Climbing in is accordingly so: you open the door by reaching well above your head, hoist yourself vertically onto the chest-level power steps, then step up another foot into the cab itself. But as you sit down, you realize that inside it’s all kind of…ordinary. The seats, the dashboard, the stereo, etc…it’s all regular truck stuff. Aside from the A-pillar boost gauges. And the NOS toggle switch. Oh, and that when you look outwards you realize you’re sitting in the trees with views of the sky and the roof of every car around you. Let me put it this way: there’s another lifted Super Duty that frequents the gym lot, a red one on 37” tires, and Mike’s truck towers over it.
Once safely out of the world’s most nerve racking game of don’t-crunch-a-subcompact, I moved the transmission into the slot for forward and eased it out of the parking lot. Slowly rolling onto the gas pedal, something became immediately apparent: this isn’t a normal truck. Well, no shit, you say. No: this thing is quick, boosted to the point of being unpredictable. Just a dabble of throttle sends the turbo into full spool mode as the skyscraper Ford makes its way down the road. Methane injection helps it make its power, as do a massive turbo and matching upgrades. It feels faster than a heavy duty pickup has any right to, let alone one that is likely exhibiting an incredible amount of drivetrain loss. Mike plans to sort out that on/off personality later this month. He’s scheduled for a full dyno tune, complete with the addition of bottled power reserve by way of the two nitrous tanks in the bed.
Back to the road. The truck charges forward, revs climbing with the speedometer, as noise and fury shoot upward and outward raising hell for everyone in range of eye or ear to witness. The sheer volume of air the truck seems to be taking in and ejecting out is incomprehensible. It’s like the world’s biggest lifted atmospheric vacuum, complete with working drivetrain and seats. And it sounds like pure evil.
Then I realize those huge 46” tires aren’t exactly predictable when it comes to staying on one’s intended path, or even in one’s lane. They wander an unhealthy amount, enough so that most would consider it straight-up unsafe. If you don’t pay full attention there’s no doubt in my mind you’ll end up in the woods, in oncoming traffic, or, in spectacular fashion, both. Nothing I’ve ever driven has been so attention-demanding, certainly not so at 40 MPH. That didn’t stop me from laughing like a fool though; no, it contributed to it significantly.
I rounded a ninety-degree turn, scanned for potential hazards, and put my foot down. People make jokes about high-power diesel trucks putting the Earth into reverse spin, and when the turbo on Mike’s truck got fully spooled it damn-near made me believe those clichés. Things went from noisy to scary-quick faster than I was prepared for, and the first dose of ferocity made me back off the throttle to keep myself in check. It’s not classically fast, but there’s something about the feeling of a monstrous wave of torque forcing you back in your seat that opens your eyes and forces you to laugh like a child, all while holding on for your life. It’s totally different from the feeling of a Corvette, Mustang, Challenger, Camaro, even WRX or the likes of turbocharged gas motors…it feels like a never-ending force, a moon-bound rocket in ascent rather than a personal jet in takeoff.
A moon-bound rocket with pretty decent ride quality, actually. With so much lift I was expecting it to be ultra-firm, but it handled potholes and imperfections quite well. It doesn’t ride like a Cadillac, but it rides well enough to be road-trip worthy. How you’d road-trip it though is beyond me; you really have to pay so much attention that it would be tiring within an hour unless you’re entirely used to it. It’ll pull one way then when you correct pull the other way, with no warning for either. Or, more concerningly, it will start pulling the opposite direction before you even have a chance to correct, leaving you to battle a frenzy of “I got this” and “this could go very, very poorly very, very quickly.” There’s about 10-20 degrees of play in the steering each direction from dead-center which varies based on how the it feels like acting in that exact moment, the result of the lift and tires and everything related. The Jeep Cherokee might have had the most numb on-center factory steering of anything I’ve driven, but Mike’s truck has the scariest steering of anything I’ve driven, period. A few years back a friend of mine told me he didn’t want to drive my Avalanche over 70 MPH because the steering was so sketchy (it was); Mike’s truck makes the Avalanche’s steering feel like that of a Miata.
Other than that, and much to my surprise, it does drive like a normal truck. There’s no strange start-up procedure, everything works that should, and if you ignore the steering and the part where you’re wondering if you’re going to take out low-hanging tree branches, you drive it just like you would anything else. And then the turbo spools, scares the crap out of you, you’re going faster than you should be, and you hit the brakes to keep your life in check.
Rolling into boost really never got old. I did it over and over again, never tiring of the feeling of the turbo hitting its sweet spot or the massive vehicle doing what it looks like it shouldn’t. Even better though was the noise: there’s so much of it, so much roar and boom and whistle and bellow, that every time is like hearing it for the first time again. The noise alone made me laugh nearly to the point of tears, pushing me to continue dipping into boost even pulling back into the parking lot simply to hear the beautiful sounds of a built diesel motor doing its thing. It was beautiful. Horrific, a combo of noises that could scare children and wake the dead, but beautiful. I went to sleep dreaming of owning a turbodiesel just to listen to it.
And I have to mention the height of the rig: you’re sitting in the sky. It puts a totally different perspective on things, a view of the road and the houses and landscape you so regularly pass but get a different view of when in Mike’s truck. You almost feel invincible, though you know you aren’t. I was sitting substantially higher than the driver of the FedEx truck that passed me, his face showing utter disbelief, and even he had to look upward to see the monster Ford that was taking up the whole of the road (figuratively and literally).
As I re-entered the parking lot I passed a group of high-schoolers who have claimed one small section as their regular hang-out spot. Their slew of cars isn’t bad at all: WRX/STIs, Lancer Evo’s, 5.0 Mustang GTs, and so on. And yet, they came running over to me as I pulled in, windows down, stacks screaming and turbo whistling. The questions flew at me faster than I could process, and I rolled slowly past them just repeating, “Not mine. Friend’s.” I parked the truck as far away from threat as possible, jumped down, and returned the keys to Mike. I had no words to offer him except expletives and continuously repeating that his truck, and he, are both insane.
I’m used to a bit of attention out on the road. My daily-driver is a red Challenger, not exactly invisible in the land of Subarus and crossovers that is the Northeast, and the VehiCROSS is a stare-magnet. But the attention of both of those combined has nothing on what Mike’s truck garners. Everybody is looking at you, in ways both good and bad, and there’s points and thumbs up and side-to-side head shakes and dropping jaws nonstop as you drive by. But none of it matters, because you’re (literally) above all of those people, and you’re laughing like a fool and they aren’t.
Mike’s F-350 is made up of equal parts insanity, horror, and needlessness—but, as I’ve written a bunch of times over already, it put a huge smile on my face, made me laugh extremely hard, and for those reasons alone I loved driving it and totally appreciate it for what it is. It’s the antithesis to the StanceNation world, the commonality being their inherit near-uselessness. It’s a vehicle that requires two hands and a clear mind to pilot, one that will leave you scared but also shaking your head amidst laughs. The noise, the scene, the view from the sky; it’s the most insane vehicle I’ve ever driven, bar none.
If this is what a show truck is about then I’m fine with it; on board, even. It’s a truck that sounds like the apocalypse, looks like it wants to (and can) kick your ass, and drives in a way that’s totally unique if not better than I expected. It might not be what I want to do with my time and money, but having driven the thing I sure as hell can understand why Mike loves it and why people take this up as their chosen path of automotive enthusiasm. It’s vehicular insanity, maximized. A real-life monster show truck for the street; that it has the brawn to back the looks and actually hustles is a bonus. Is it good by the classic definition of driving characteristics? No. Absolutely not. No, no, no. But if you have a chance to drive a truck like this, or even ride passenger, take it—it’s a unique, eye-opening experience, and one that forces you to smile. Nothing wrong with that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. CruisinTime Avatar

    Needs more yellow.

  2. karonetwentyc Avatar

    That’s one hell of a steering linkage. Surprised he hasn’t gone hydraulic on it.
    Interesting read; I’ll admit to having always wondered what driving one of these is like, and parts of the article were surprisingly close to some of my preconceptions.

    1. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
      Joe Btfsplk

      Not a problem … simply use a FIAT 500 to “nudge” the truck into it’s parking berth.

  3. Dutch Avatar

    My God, am I glad I don’t have that jones!!!

  4. dukeisduke Avatar

    When I saw the New York plates I thought, “You gotta be kidding me – in New York?”. It looks like a blast and a chore to drive, at the same time.

    1. Ross Ballot Avatar
      Ross Ballot

      That’s a spot-on way to describe it, actually
      As @disqus_f1wxGuWQku:disqus says below, trucks like these are everywhere. I’ve seen them in Maine, in Colorado, in Florida, Pennsylvania…

  5. boxdin Avatar

    These trucks are everywhere here. Most of them run their driving lights along with mis adjusted headlights blinding the rest of us. I’ve learned to dislike them a lot, and I used to build them.

    1. Senor Frog Avatar
      Senor Frog

      I’ll assume you’re in Edmonton, Alberta too? Yeah, every third truck here is one of these. Don’t forget the 500W LED light-bar blazing at all times too.

      1. boxdin Avatar

        Actually I’m in Albuquerque, guess its the same up there too.

  6. LeaksOil Avatar

    (Flame suit on)
    I’ll never understand making something handle worse “to look cool/savage/whatever they say/wicked, bro”. I don’t like show-anything. A vehicle is a functional item, ergo I like functional vehicles.
    I don’t like these because it’s too showy to take off-road (which to me, is the point of lifting), and as you acknowledge , can’t use the truck bed. I don’t know about towing, but I can’t see how this would do any better than a stock height F350 for towing. And it’s a pain in the butt to use for the only functionality it has left- hauling people around. It also is way more dangerous to other drivers around them (can’t stop as well, can’t swerve to avoid accidents as well, likelihood of running over other cars and/or doing more damage than a reasonable height truck).
    I’ve also yet to see a brodozer/lifted truck with stacks where the driver wasn’t tailgating relentlessly, standing on the go pedal and smoking everybody out every chance he had, switching lanes all over, …etc. (yes even a guy I used to see once/twice a day shuttling children to and from school l!)

    1. GTXcellent Avatar

      Can’t tow, can’t haul, what good is it?
      See, you’re looking at this all wrong – this truck is essentially a hot rod, just done differently. The amount of work he’s put into this is pretty incredible. Although not really my bag, I think it’s still pretty awesome.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Looks like a reasonable tow rig to me.

    2. Ross Ballot Avatar
      Ross Ballot

      All a matter of taste…
      Driving this truck was the kind of thing that makes me appreciate that the subculture exists. I can wholeheartedly say that I would never build a truck like this myself, but– if it’s a solid build, properly executed– I get why people like it and can understand why they choose to spend their money on it. Is it mostly pointless? Yes. But so is a track car, a StanceNation car, or anything with such a defined purpose that it sacrifices functionality almost entirely. But a lot of those purpose-driven things are a ton of fun, take on a personality of their own, and help carve the sub-culture niches that make the automotive world so great. Do we have to like it all? No, but it’s still cool to see.
      So, er, to conclude: I agree with you, I like functional vehicles. But if a not-so-functional vehicle can warrant its existence, for example by making you laugh or smile, then it’s alright by me.

  7. Lokki Avatar

    Some years back I knew a kid who made his truck into a Monster like this… He sold it shortly after buying his second set of tires….

    1. Ross Ballot Avatar
      Ross Ballot

      Can’t be cheap, I’d guess $400-600+ per tire

  8. neight428 Avatar

    Why, yes, bro, as a matter of fact, I do doze, and doze well, might I add. Jolly good day, sir!

  9. neight428 Avatar

    Would like to try a stock ride height truck with that powertrain out on the highway (or drag strip).

    1. Ross Ballot Avatar
      Ross Ballot

      I’d be weary of it on a drag strip (from a standstill), but in a roll-style race it would be a ton of fun.

%d bloggers like this: