1996 Ford F-350: Party in the Front, Business in the Back
Form, Function, and Fun
Brand loyalty is a very serious commitment for many truck owners. In some instances, diesel guys (and girls) will stick with their favorite brand or model for life. We love our trucks because, in a way, they’re loyal to us. But what happens if we flip the loyalty equation on its head? Instead of the truck being a steadfast companion for the owner, what if the owner is the one who won’t ever let his truck down? Sounds weird, right? Well, when you consider the story of John Lovshin and his ’96 Ford F-350, that type of adoration makes perfect sense.
John truly loves his truck and has since the day he bought it in 2005, with nearly 200,000 miles on the odometer. Their journey began as innocently as many others have. Days after buying it, John fabricated a homemade cold-air intake for the engine, added an MBRP exhaust, and loaded a hot tune into the ECM that gave the 7.3L engine a little more power. Life was good, and the Power Stroke sounded better and was much peppier than it was with the stock calibration.
Because this truck puts in hard work during the week, its power is not just for fun—it’s also for function. Having an older rig that can keep up with today’s modern stuff isn’t just a point of pride, it’s a very necessary element of having a valid work truck. Sure, being able to brag about owning an older truck is cool. But if that rig can’t pull steep grades and fly on the flats, it’s not impressing anyone.
With those mild upgrades, the truck went another 300,000 additional miles before the original 7.3L Power Stroke decided it was time for a permanent vacation. Undeterred by this turn of events, John took the opportunity to create the beast you see here. “The first engine went out with a bang when I was hauling some snowmobiles on a trip,” John tells us. “I went hammer down to pass a guy, and an injector went dead lean. I split the piston in that cylinder in half.” As the owner of Outlaw Diesel & Auto in Missoula, Montana, John took on the work of rebuilding the busted engine himself, choosing to use restraint and keep the truck’s function at the top of the priority list. “The rebuild was kept very close to stock,” John says. “The engine is overbored .030 inch, but I did not go for a more aggressive camshaft or anything like that. S&S Engines of Missoula, Montana, did some porting work and a really nice valve job on the cylinder heads.” Receiving more fuel via a DieselSite Adrenaline high-pressure oil pump, more air thanks to BD Diesel Performance’s Turbo Thruster II turbocharger, and better fuel delivery to the cylinders by way of Industrial Injection Stage 2 injectors, the 7.3L may not make world-beating power, but it makes a bunch and will do so virtually forever.
This rig has rock star looks and the heart of an ironworker. It’s designed to be as capable as a brand-new truck but retain the old-school look, sound, and feel John fell in love with when he bought it. Since that day, he has created a workhorse that makes modern power (450 hp and 890 lb-ft of torque), fills the cab with modern stereo sound through 12 speakers and 1,200 watts of audio power, and—with its killer aluminum flatbed—can pull, haul, or straight up relocate anything his heart desires. There is always something cool about a truck and an owner that have been together as long as this pair. Together, they have morphed into a unit that can take care of each other’s needs.
“I put the flatbed on the truck because I had gotten really tired of having to put my snowmobile-sled bed in the truck and then rip it out every Monday when I went to work. This truck constantly has motors, axles, and whatever else I need to move for my business either on it or being pulled by it, so the flatbed was a great way to gain some convenience and increase the functionality of the truck,” John says. That bed also happens to look awesome on a truck where literally everything else is blacked out, from the wheels to the bumpers.
If you are wondering how the man keeps the paint and bodywork so perfect despite 20 years of using this rig in the field, the answer is that he kind of hasn’t. “Harrison’s Auto Body did all the paint and bodywork on the truck in the spring of 2016, and it looks great,” John says. “Before it was done, the truck was pretty rough looking. A couple of the doors had faded really badly and were looking pretty beat. I think one of my favorite things about the F-350 now is the front end with the blacked-out grille and all. They really did a nice job, and I’m very happy with the way the work turned out.”
Lest you think this truck does not see anything but the wide-open highways of Montana, John has no problem getting himself into and out of trouble with his F-350. “One New Year’s Eve, we were out on a snowmobile trip, kind of a party,” John says. “I went to blast around another rig, and I found a nice big drift and buried this thing right up to the doors. That’s why the truck has a winch on it now.” With 37-inch-tall Cooper Discoverer STT Pro tires and a 4-inch Rough Country lift, he’s got the traction and the clearance to take this crew cab as deep into the woods as he wants. The guys at the body shop may not be as excited about that as we are, but hey, John’s not concerned about building a trailer queen, and we doubt he’s going to quit having fun just to keep a couple of measly scratches out of the paint.
We have lots of respect for every owner-built truck we see. There’s dedication, money, hard work, and sweat in each of them. A truck with the form and function of John’s ’96 F-350? That’s a rare breed and a rig that every hardworking, hard-playing diesel enthusiast can appreciate rolling down the road—regardless of whether it is hauling for fun or profit.
Fast Facts:Year/Make/Model: ’96 Ford F-350
Owner: John Lovshin
Hometown: Missoula, Montana
Odometer: 520,000 miles
Engine: 7.3L Power Stroke V-8, Outlaw Diesel & Auto remanufactured short-block, cylinder heads reconditioned by S&S Engines, and Edge Products Evolution programmer
Fuel: Stock lift pump, DieselSite Adrenaline high-pressure oil pump, and Industrial Injection Stage 2 injectors
Fluids: Rotella 15W-40 engine oil, synthetic fluids in transmission and axles
Air: BD Diesel Performance Turbo Thruster II, stock intake manifold, S&B Filters cold-air intake, S&B filter, ’01 Ford Super Duty intercooler
Exhaust: MBRP 3-inch downpipe, Diamond Eye Performance 5-inch
Transmission: E40D four-speed automatic by Brown’s Auto Service, shift kit, Precision Industries Stallion 2,300-rpm-stall torque converter
Power: 450 hp
Torque: 890 lb-ft
Tires: 37/13.5/18 Cooper Discoverer STT Pro
Wheels: 18-inch Moto Metal
Suspension: Rough Country 4-inch lift kit, leaf springs and shocks (rear), and coil springs and shocks (front)
Axles: Dana 60 with 4.10 gears (front), Dana 70 with 4.10 gears and limited-slip differential (rear)
Body: LMC Truck cab lights and third brake light, Iron Cross front bumper, Mile Marker 8,000-pound winch, and Hillsboro Industries aluminum flatbed
Interior: 1,200-watt sound system, Pioneer 7-inch DVD screen head unit, Alpine and Kicker amplifiers, two JL 12-inch subwoofers, six tweeters, four midrange speakers, A-pillar–mounted three-gauge pod with DiPricol pyrometer and transmission temperature gauges, ISSPRO Products EV boost gauge