2002 Ford F250 Super Duty 4x4 - Never Give Up!
Sometimes Adversity Is A Great Motivator—It Was For Mike Ayala And His ’02 Ford Super Duty
Mike Ayala, from Brandon, Florida, is a longtime lifted truck enthusiast, enjoying the best of both worlds. Working at Wheels and Accessories in Brandon, Mike has made his truck a part of his hobby and his business. The big ’02 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4x4 is always fun to drive but has also become quite an attention-getter when parked out in front of the store. Getting to that high-altitude position, however, took some unexpected turns.
Mike bought the Ford bone-stock and the customizing process began soon after it rolled into his driveway. Always a fan of lifted trucks, he was determined to make this one special. Initially, the truck was equipped with leaf springs and 35-inch tires, but after some serious kidding from his friends, he upgraded to 36s. While that helped, it didn’t stop the harassment, so the next jump was to 40s. That was enough to silence most of the kidders for a while, but the real problems had just begun. He came out one day to find the truck gone. Although it was recovered only an hour later, all the stereo equipment was gone and the exterior of the truck was badly scratched.
Although no one ever wants to have their truck stolen, there was a positive side to the story. While many drivers might have given up, the thieves motivated Mike to create something even bigger and better. The truck went into the shop—scheduled for major changes inside and out. Most builders buy parts off the shelf but Mike believes a big part of the fun is making your own. With the help of his good friend Ramend Staford, he began modifying the suspension by eliminating everything under the truck that came from Ford.
Beginning with the central cradle, they began cutting and forming 2-inch precision drawn-over-mandrel (DOM) steel tubes. With the cradle in place, they used the same techniques for the triangulated front and rear four-links, fabricated from the same 2-inch DOM tubing and fitted with Heim joints. To ensure optimum strength, they chose a set of Dana 60 front and rear axles fitted with 4:10 gears. Custom shock mounts were welded in place and each wheel received a pair of adjustable Edelbrock shocks. As a unique twist, the truck also boasts a set of heavy-duty Phoenix airbags. Made for semis, the bags are big-rig-oriented and can extend an amazing 19 inches. Pressure for the bags comes from a pair of ViAir 480 compressors from Horn Blasters that fill the pair of 9-gallon reserve tanks.
Now with plenty of clearance for even the largest rubber, Mike decided to silence the kidders once and for all. The process began with a set of Eagle 114 wheels that came stock as 20x10. After discussing his plan with the welding experts at Hall’s Fabrication in Polk City, Florida, the crew modified the aluminum wheels with new centers, creating a good-looking 20x20 rim. Bigger rims means bigger tires, and Mike was ready. Getting his monster rolling are Interco’s most aggressive tires yet, the 54-inch TSL Super Swamper Boggers. Essentially a DOT-legal paddle tire, these super-sized meats work well both on the road and in the mud, plus they create more than a little intimidation among the competition. Since the monster donuts need lots of torque to spin them, the 7.3L Power Stroke V-8 was upgraded with a rugged Garrett ball-bearing turbo with GT wheel design, assisted by an Airaid cold-air intake. Stage 2 injectors ensure plenty of fuel to the cylinders, and a 4-inch MBRP exhaust aids in extraction.
Since big horsepower and heavy tires also put a strain on the transmission, Mike had Brandon Transmission in Brandon, Florida, overhaul the time-tested 4R100 four-speed automatic, upgrading it with a triple-disc clutch pack, Florida torque converter, and shift kit.
Once all mechanics were complete, a little customizing was in order. Body mods were done by Mike Diaz of A Plus Automotive Service Center in Brandon, Florida, and include shaved door handles, a welded gas door, chrome billet grille, and Harley headlights. A heat extraction hood minimizes engine room temps, LED taillights light up the rear, and the Grizzly bars under the cab help Mike’s kids get in and out of the truck. When it was time for paint, the guidance was simple. Mike said he wanted something crazy, something off-the-wall, and . . . “Call me when it’s done!” Mike Diaz chose Sherwin-Williams Planet Color Teal Green for the top, Neon Green in the center, and Silver at the bottom. Tiny Ford emblems are scattered throughout the flowing design.
This comprehensive list of changes would have been enough for most builders, but Mike wasn’t done yet. No truck is complete without a hard-hittin’ stereo system, so Mike called upon the talented team at Excess Sports in Tampa, Florida. Following his previous approach, Mike dropped the truck off with minimum guidance, telling installers Harry and Paul “I want it loud!” The system begins with a Clarion VRX585 head unit, featuring a motorized 7-inch color LCD monitor with touch control that plays CDs, DVDs, MP3s and is Ipod compatible. Energizing the system begins with the dedicated Kicker 1001.1 monoblock amp that sends 500 watts to the four Kicker 12-inch subs in the new fiberglass center console. A pair of Kicker ZX-350.4 four-channel amps under the front seats power the eight Kicker DS650 component sets (two in each door) inside custom fiberglass door panels. A pair of tweets in the front doors rounds out Mike’s high-altitude concert hall.
The completed truck is not only fun to drive but fun to compete with, both at car shows and off-road. As you may have guessed, the kidding has stopped since most competitors now fall considerably short. Future plans include a new, redesigned custom center console, and using the bed area for even more stereo equipment. Since these photos were taken, Mike’s friends at Hall’s Fabrication are just finishing the most unusual change to the truck—converting it from a four-door to a six-door! Is there a moral to this story that talks about bouncing back from adversity? Yes, and you can read it across the windshield!