A Cut Above The Rest: Craig Sharp’s 1996 Ford F-150

If you’ve got the cash, then you’ve got the means. Some people have a large disposable income that they can spend on their favorite hobbies. Other people have to save up over time for every new part or upgrade they want. Whichever group you fall, into one thing is for certain. No matter how you do it, there is just something special about being able to put together your dream ride and tear up some terra firma.

Craig Sharp built this amazing 1996 F-150 prerunner mostly by himself, but also with the help of some great friends.

Speaking of a dream ride – we recently ran into Craig Sharp and his long-travel Ford F-150 at Midwest Dirtfest this July. His truck caught our eye because with one glance, we could see how much personality the truck had. As we took a closer look, we could quickly see that Craig had built the truck himself. That’s not to say that his building skills are not good. The truck is well put together and held up to some major abuse throughout the weekend.

Craig built his vehicle to take it on any terrain that strikes his fancy.

When someone builds a rig in their garage or driveway, there is typically a lot more attention placed on function rather than form. That is the case with Craig’s truck. Craig built this truck with a lot of late nights and sweat. In the process, quite a bit of himself was injected into this ride, and it shows.

It’s A Twenty-Footer

When we say we could tell he did it himself, we mean that we saw personality in this build. “It’s kind of a twenty-footer, so you may want to take a couple steps back,” Craig joked. The truck is anything but a twenty-footer. However, we appreciate a sense of humor as much as anyone. All the personal touches on this truck exemplify Craig’s personality and his sense of humor. Examples include the custom-fitted armrests, a Mountain Dew coolant overflow bottle, and a custom Miller Lite box under the hood.

Craig doesn’t shy away from any of these details. Instead, he owns them and smiles a big old grin every time he describes how he ended up with any of those particular elements. It’s the kind of pride that comes from doing things yourself. It also breeds some of the best stories that you will have in your lifetime.

Craig personally designed and built the spare tire rack on his F-150.

The Basics

The truck started out as a completely original 1996 F-150. Craig got it back in 2003. When he first laid eyes on it he knew he had to have it. Craig explained, “I didn’t really know anything about prerunners. I just thought to myself that maybe I could build a truck that I could drive like my quad. Then I found this truck. The seller took great care of it. He had ordered it with the 351 Windsor motor and hand-crank windows. I knew I just had to have it.”

Craig drove it for a couple of months and then decided to add an entry-level Camburg kit. It contained coil springs and some decent shocks for the front. Craig went ahead and added some Bilstein shocks for the rear at the same time. Then it was time to head off-road. “I took it out in a field and it was amazing. I knew I had to go to the next level,” Craig admitted.

Under The Hood

At this point, the original engine remained in place but had seen some significant upgrades. The 351W was built into a 408ci motor and is bolted in place with a set of Jeff’s Bronco Graveyard motor mounts. A Comp Cams cam, Scat crank, AFR heads, and an Edelbrock intake were all also added. From there a BBK throttle body, Pro-M mass airflow sensor, and injectors got installed. The whole thing has been tuned by Paul’s High Performance shop. A set of Mad Dog headers puts the exhaust out. The powerplant is then bolted to a Broader Performance C6 transmission, and a custom driveshaft by Advantage Driveline connects the transmission and rear axle.

The rear axle consists of a custom nine-inch full floater rear axle assembly from Schreiner Enterprises. It was designed to be eight inches wider than stock. This creates the proper footprint in line with the front track width. A Strange center section is filled with a 31 spline Spool to ensure proper traction at all times.

Suspension Goodies

For the rear suspension, Craig went with custom three-inch Deaver leaf springs that are mated to homemade shackles. Sway-A-Way 2.5-inch bypass shocks control dampening. They are also backed up by Fox air bumps. Craig did all of the shock mounts, roll cage, spare tire carriers, and other tube work himself. He used 1.75-inch DOM tubing for all of it and learned a lot along the way.

Craig made some custom cuts into his door panels to accommodate the roll cage he built for the F-150.

Craig admitted, “It was a big learning curve. I set up things incorrectly and went through a bunch of rear ends and driveshafts. I  jumped it too big and bent the frame. Once, I even scared myself and let it sit a couple of years.”

The front suspension is made up of Camburg extended I-beams and Camburg radius arms. The stock steering components also continue to provide flawless service with Camburg extensions. Sway-A-Way coilover and bypass shocks were used to control the big hits. This time Sway-A-Way air bumps keep things safe.

This F-150 definitely stands out in a crowd.

One of the first things that we noticed on the truck is the stance and exterior styling. Glassworks Unlimited fiberglass bedsides and front fenders provide the needed bulge for long travel. The 15-inch Ultra bead lock wheels were also a point of notice for us. They are wrapped with 35-inch General Grabber ATX tires.

As with most prerunner builds, Craig upgraded the wheels and tires on his F-150.

Good Friends Make For Great Results

Craig added, “I had a lot friends help me along the way. Without them, the truck would not have happened.” Friends helped Craig build his engine and straighten his frame with a tractor. A friend of Craig’s even did the welding on the roll cage to ensure safety. From people stepping up to help figure out design problems to lending “metal witch” skills, help was constant.

Friends can be a distraction, or they can be the reason you stay motivated to get a project finished. Great people even let you borrow a welder for a couple of years. They give you a spare engine to run when you burn a piston in your motor. They are also always there to get a rig ready and even use their own truck to haul it around. Some friends are cool enough to store your truck in their barn for the winter. Others are willing to fix something that you can’t figure out. No matter what they do, good friends can’t be left out of a good build story.

The F-150's interior is mostly stock, except for the racing seats and fire extinguisher.

Craig had to admit, “Even my mom put up with letting me take over the shop at the farm to build the truck. That is one of the reasons that inspired me to keep building it. The support from my friends and the fun times. Believe me, there were many late nights. Many cans of Miller Lite were consumed. I am sure there will be plenty of late nights and empty beer cans as this continues.”

Two of our favorite elements of this F-150 build are the custom door panels and the stock seatbelts.

He went on to say, ”This summer has been the best summer yet for this truck. I never would have thought that I would be able to run on a dirt motocross track like for the Midwest DirtFest. The only real reason for these kinds of trucks is that we want to push them hard. The prerunner scene in this area has always been small, and it’s been fun to push each other to go bigger.”

Future plans for the project include additional trips to western states to hit some new trails. There is also the possibility that Craig may add a four-link suspension. Of course, that kind of an upgrade would probably require other upgrades as well. Like many projects, the list never ends.

Right now, Craig plans to enjoy the truck for a while. He added, “Some of the wiring needs cleaning up. I’ll probably redo some smaller items just to make them a little more clean and professional looking. All in all, though, it works so much better than I ever could have hoped for, so I’m really happy with it.” We hope to see him out sending it big at some of our local trails.

About the author

Christie Materni

As a photographer, and self-proclaimed "magic maker" for over 12 years, Christie loves to create anything from amazing images to great chocolate chip cookies. Traveling the country with her camera, husband, and sometimes a dog, in search of fast cars and tough trucks is her favorite way to spend the day.
Read My Articles

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