Photos Copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips, PickupTrucks.com
The and custom pickups that debuted at last year’s SEMA show have all the subtlety of AIG retention bonuses, without the toxic financial baggage. Seeing their low-slung shape is enough to cause a stir in the bank accounts of sport truck enthusiasts, but for all the right reasons: The folks at Hulst Customs and Performance West Group know what they’re doing when they create unconventional derivatives.
The F-150 and F-350 aren’t the first Striker trucks to roam the streets. The original Striker paid homage in looks and performance to the 1960s-era Ford-powered AC Shelby Cobra roadster. It was a 2007 Ford F-350 Super Duty dualie with a Gale Banks-massaged 463 horsepower, 800 pounds-feet of torque 6.0-liter diesel engine designed and built by Hulst for the 2006 SEMA show. It was honored with Ford’s coveted Design Excellence Award that year.
For the second round, Hulst teamed up with PWG. Together they drew inspiration for the new Strikers from another classic Shelby creation, the Ford Shelby GT500KR "King of the Road" Mustang. They cranked it up a few notches by making half-ton and one-ton versions — spreading the wealth, so to speak.
The Striker reboot visually ties both trucks together using bold front ends with giant black anodized mesh grille inserts, plus "Badass Blue" Le Mans-style race stripes that run the length of each rig. Inside, the visual excesses continue with Katzkin custom leather seats, featuring snakeskin texturing and embossed striking cobras between your legs and behind your head.
Hulst and PWG originally intended to bulk up the trucks’ muscles with powertrain upgrades to match the exterior and interior improvements, but unexpected changes in the 2009 Ford F-150’s engine compartment prevented installation of a carryover Kenne Bell supercharger for its 320 hp, 390 lbs.-ft. 5.4-liter V-8. The only thing that could be squeezed under the F-150’s hood was an AirRaid intake system. At the same time, tough diesel emissions rules — which didn’t exist in 2006, when the original Striker F-350 was forged — virtually killed hardware upgrades for the 2008 F-Series Super Duty F-350’s 350 hp, 650 lbs.-ft. 6.4-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8.
Though they lack go-fast components – for what it’s worth, Ford uses standard powertrains in its fancy Harley-Davidson F-Series pickups, too – the running gear and rolling stock have been thoroughly upgraded.
PWG’s Larry Weiner threw us the keys to both Strikers for a few hours of fun in Southern California, where we checked to see if these snakes could charm in real-world driving as much as they look like they could when standing still.
The Striker F-150’s interior is well-appointed. Like the 2010 Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 — but almost a half-year ahead of it — high-gloss piano-black paint richly coats the center stack that houses the Sony LCD head unit. The black leather seats have high-contrast white stitching and firm bolstering. They’re matched by a custom leather headliner that hugs the ceiling.
A Magnaflow cat-back dual exhaust system toughens the 5.4-liter V-8’s exhaust note from ignition to shutdown without being intrusive when you jump on the accelerator or run steady state on surface streets and the highway.
The Striker F-150’s off-the-shelf DJM suspension is new for 2009. The shock and spring kit sets the truck down almost directly on top of its 22-inch custom-forged 12-spoke aluminum wheels, yet it provides better ride quality than any slammed sport truck has the right to have. Low-profile Pirelli Scorpion Zero Asimmetrico ultra-high-performance speed and load-capable ZR-rated tires hug every corner without skipping or slipping. The only negative is noticeable wheel scrub when you turn the truck sharply, but that’s a compromise that comes with the Striker’s ground-hugging looks.
The F-150’s silver paint and striped body work immediately catch the attention of drivers wherever they go, but that’s nothing compared to the attention that its heavy-duty bigger brother gets.
If NASA is looking for missing engine bells from its Saturn V moon rocket, it’s probably because they’ve been turned into the 24-inch wheels on Hulst Custom’s F-350 Striker II. The 10-lug American Force-forged wheels, installed using an eight- to 10-lug adapter, look massive, even on Ford’s one-ton dually diesel. They’re shod with low-profile Pirelli tires designed for a different kind of hauling than Ford Super Duty trucks typically do.
The F-350 also uses a DJM lowering kit, but it’s only springs and shocks, no airbags. The components are all available today, and none of it is custom fabricated.
We’re amazed the F-350’s ride proves to be acceptably compliant and livable when there’s so much wheel weight and mass, with so little sidewall in the tires. It only beat us up on a patched, broken stretch of frontage road next to I-5. In fact, it was as comfortable, if not more so, than the stock 2009 Ford F-250 4×4 we drove in to see the Striker trucks. Like in the F-150, though, there’s wheel scrub through almost every turn because the tire and well tolerances are so tight.
It’s a no-apologies sport truck, but it’s also a Super Duty. You couldn’t put a fifth-wheel or gooseneck on it, but it’ll still take a conventional hitch and tow a lightweight SCCA racecar to the track.
The interior isn’t quite as bedecked as the Striker F-150, but it’s not the inside that grabs attention as much as it is the outside, which slowed and stopped traffic at almost every intersection we passed and on the freeway. Other drivers couldn’t help but notice this giant, slammed pickup, even if they were talking on a cell phone, eating a burger and steering with their knees.
When we put both trucks together for some on-road photography, the jolt awakened even the most jaded drivers on SoCal freeways. Almost every age group and size and shape of car slowed to get closer looks. And unlike the scrutiny the U.S. economy and Wall Street compensation packages have invited since last fall, the Striker pickups welcome all the attention they deserve.