Used diesel trucks can be a hot commodity or the bane of your existence. High mileage and worn-out parts can certainly dig right into your bank account and run amuck, if you are not careful. The best plan of attack is to go over any possible purchase with a fine-tooth comb. After all, used vehicles are definitely guilty until proven innocent. Damage caused by the daily rigors of towing or ranch life can be easily hidden thanks to a good detail, a little spray paint, and plenty of shiny liquid squirted everywhere.
We recently found ourselves in the used diesel truck market perusing the many classified ads online. We were searching for something that could fill our desire for show and go. All we seemed to locate were questionable vehicles that appeared rough, but were selling for outrageous asking prices. It was by pure happenstance that a “friend of a friend” deal popped up for this low-mileage ’12 Ford F-450. We slid in way under market value.
| (Before) Being a Platinum edition only meant that the truck had a few pretty accessories. Our goal was to expand on that by leaps and bounds.
The first call we made went to McGaughy’s Suspension for an 8-inch Phase II lift system. It’s surprising how tall trucks can get with zero cutting nowadays, and this kit is no different. Being a diesel 4x4 dualie, our tastes ran to that beefy, big rig look that nobody but American Force could provide. Ultimately, the McGaughy’s 8-inch lift made room to clear 37-inch Toyo R/T tires inside 22-inch American Force wheels.
Westminster, California-based 714 Motorsports handled the whole build from start finish. For more information on the components used in the build, check out the respective manufacturers’ websites that follow.
| The McGaughy’s 8-inch Phase 2 lift kit (PN 57383) comes in silver powdercoat and includes four-link drop-down brackets, upper boxed four-link bars, lower boxed four-link bars, coil springs, and all the brackets and hardware. We also upgraded the standard-issue shocks for Fox units.
| With the truck safely supported, the crew at 714 Motorsports went straight to work removing the OEM wheels and disassembling the suspension. First to be removed was the front sway bar. Many of the parts were reused, and were simply set aside for later.
| The track bar was next to get removed. These are a common wear item and have been blamed for many a “death wobble.” Larger wheels and tires only serve to make the situation worse. We’ll be swapping this piece with a brand-new replacement.
| Geometry plays an equal roll in keeping the front suspension under control with a coil-sprung straight axle. This track-bar bracket would see a fabricated McGaughy’s unit replace it very soon.
| Getting an OEM pitman arm off of one of these is definitely tough. It took a two-jaw puller, plenty of heat, and a big hammer to get this one off. Those of you with high-mileage trucks will have a fight on your hands.
| The OEM Rancho shocks were in good shape still and had service life left in them, but they were not up to the new task at hand. They found themselves in the scrap pile.
| We also had no need to hang on to the original front coil springs. Once the shocks were removed, the front axle was free to swing down just far enough to free the springs. It was only necessary to retain the rubber isolators.
| Ford has been running its Super Duty series on radius arms for more than a decade now and they really haven’t changed much. Stamped steel and non-adjustable, these were relegated to the used parts bin.
| McGaughy’s offers three series of front options for our F-450. Phase I is a drop bracket for the OEM radius arm. Phase II upgrades to fabricated boxed steel radius arms, as we chose here. Phase III converts the front suspension to a four link.
| Wound and sized specifically for this truck, the McGaughy’s front coil added 8 inches to the gap between the frame and axle.
| Upgrading to Fox 2.0 shocks with reservoirs was a bit of overkill, as we will not be hammering this behemoth off road. But the added benefits in the looks and ride department made the upgrade perfect in our eyes.
| Relocation brackets were supplied in the McGaughy’s kit to allow the original brake lines to span the distance of the lift. Instead, we went ahead and ordered braided stainless steel lines from Crown Performance.
| A dropped pitman arm was tightened onto the steering box. The difference in height allowed the drag link to remain at original angles.
| Fabricated to match all the rest of the components in the kit, this McGaughy’s dropped track bar bracket added form and function to our otherwise dark undercarriage. Once installed, 714 Motorsports replaced the track bar and drag link disconnected earlier.
| Lowering brackets allowed us to maintain the correct function of the front sway bar, with all the OEM bushing and endlinks.
| Ford supplied this F-450 with a very underwhelming steering stabilizer shock. With 37-inch tires coming, we went ahead optioned for the McGaughy’s dual stabilizer kit. With a large axle bracket and these ingenious tie-rod brackets, two stabilizers were easily added.
| In keeping with the theme, Fox 2.0 shocks were once again added to help maintain our truck’s driving manners.
| Beginning under the rear of the F-450, 714 Motorsports began by removing the rear sway bar.
| Once again, the stock Rancho shocks were still good, but saw demise in the name of progress.
| Next on the chopping block were the rear U-bolts and nuts.
| With the leaf pack separated from the rear axle, both of the OEM lift blocks were detached from their home.
| To bring the rear suspension height up, a fabricated block and add-a-leaf were supplied from McGaughy’s. We chose to install the blocks, but we did not use the add-a-leaves. That left the rear a little lower than level.
| Longer replacement U-bolts were slid into position over the new upper retainer and tightened in place with the stock lower retainer. Fox 2.0 shocks with reservoirs were called upon to keep the 1-1/4-ton rear suspension under control.
| This billet spacer was installed to keep the rear driveshaft from being stretched too far. A number of additional spacers were provided to lower the carrier bearing, but the final tally required driving the truck and checking for vibration first.
| As we eluded to earlier, McGaughy’s sent us its rear traction bar system to help control axlewrap produced from the torquey diesel coupled with large tires and added leverage from the taller lift blocks.
| Both front and rear brackets were leveled and clamped around the axle. The arm itself was set into place loosely.
| This is where things got tricky. Finding the locations to drill required swinging the entire assembly up to the frame and marking where the frame bracket landed while the snubber distance was set about 1/8 inch from touching.
| Then, we were required to disassemble the traction bars from the pivots, placing the frame bracket into place, drilling, bolting, and then reassembling the swinging linkage.
| As you can see, the crew at 714 Motorsports handled it without breaking a sweat. The snubber setting was on point, and we’re excited to be nearing the finish line!
| Oddly, Ford made the F-450 for a couple model years with the smaller eight-lug wheel pattern. And wouldn’t you know it? Our 2012 was one of those silly model years. Luckily, American Force is accustomed to these fitments and set us up with some humongous 8-lug to 10-lug adapters.
| Going through the American Force website is maddening. There are so many colors and finishes to choose from, but we wanted a classy and understated look. Translucent gunmetal with machined edges was the perfect complement to our rig. Toyo Open Country R/T tires filled the wheel openings under the fenders with LT37x12.50R22 sizing that was seamless for our show-and-go desires.
| The finished product is a huge improvement over stock and a definite road warrior with a combo of some of the best parts on the market.