One of the best things about this line of work is that meeting one person often leads to meeting others. Sometimes, connections are made at a campfire after a long day on a trail. Other times, they are made doing a trail repair.
In the case of Doug Strimpel, I came across him and his amazing 1996 F-350 while doing another story. The story was on a Humvee built by Doug’s employer Mountain Machine. I could see Doug’s ride in the Mountain Machine parking lot a mile away; mostly because of its size, but also because of the build quality and how clean it is.
When you drive into any parking lot, you have to make a choice on where to park. This is especially true when you pull into a parking lot and see a bunch of cool off-road builds. Now is the time when you choose which one to park next to.
Being a Ford Raptor owner, it’s almost guaranteed that when I pull into a parking lot and there is a huge F-350, I will probably park right next to it. Doug was happy to show off his little project and gave me the lowdown on all the work he did.
First and foremost, it must be said that Doug, along with his girlfriend Jessi Liedel and friends Andrew Shown and Shawn Haddix, did the entire build. Everything was done in Charlie Strimpel’s pole barn. The only shop work that was done is the alignment. Doug and his friend even built their own powder-coating oven out of a water trough. “It’s just kind of a redneck way of doing it I guess,” Doug said. Doing all of the work in a pole barn posed some challenges, but Doug feels it was all worth it.
“I was just finishing up my associate’s degree at the time,” Doug explained. “I was working at a greenhouse and I wasn’t making that great of money. So, it was kind of like a budget build. We priced out how much it would cost to get all of the powder-coating done. We figured that for the money, it would make more sense for us to just get a really nice gun and do it ourselves. It was also a really cool experience getting to figure out how to do it.”
The entire truck was taken down to the frame rails for the project. Every bolt was taken out and only two crossmembers were left in place in order to facilitate moving the rails around the pole barn when needed. From there, every part was sandblasted and covered in POR 15 or powder-coated for durability. This truck will spend its life in harsh Michigan winters, so salt and corrosion are a constant concern.
A five-inch Sky reverse shackle kit starts the height gain on the big F-350. Four-inch BDS springs locate the stock one-ton axle in the front. A Sky crossover steering kit and custom track bar help handle steering duties. The 40-inch Toyo Open Country M/Ts are wrapped around the 20×12 Hostile Sprocket wheels. The combo is then finished out with Metal Lugz spiked lug nuts.
Eight-inch custom lift leafs reside in the rear. Pro Comp traction bars locate the stock rear axle. A Ruff Stuff rear disc brake conversion was also used to ensure the big truck can be brought to a safe stop. Ballistic Fab two-inch spacers are used in the rear to create the wide stance that accentuates the size of the build. Bronco Graveyard stainless braided extended brake lines were used all around so you can be sure the juice gets to the stock brakes.
While Doug chose to bring the motor down to the bare block, he didn’t really find anything in bad shape. As a result, he was able to focus on power and reliability.
Doug started by adding 140cc split-shot injectors. From there, a 444 Fab Premium E Fuel kit and 140v modified injector driver module was added. These helped to maintain performance while not sacrificing reliability. A Power Hungry Performance Hydra chip (with custom tunes from 1023 Diesel) handles the calibrations.
Doug also decided to install a CNC Fab high-pressure oil line crossover kit. A DieselSite Wicked Wheel 2 compressor wheel follows up the upgrade. Additionally, a Riff Raff Donaldson Blue 6637 intake kit got the nod.
The exhaust is handled via Riff Raff stainless bellowed up pipes. A stainless Diamond Eye three-inch downpipe then goes to a four-inch straight pipe. The exhaust finally axle dumps with an eight-inch tip. All of that power and torque is backed up by a built E4OD. It is linked to a Precision Industries triple-disc torque converter.
Keen eyes will spot out some pretty unique interior choices. An example would include the first-generation 40/20/40 Ford Lightning Seats front and rear. These seats are pretty rare and Doug gets a lot of comments on their use in the big F-350. There is also a brand new black headliner and carpet. The power sliding rear window is a feature that took some doing to get. Doug had to scour local pick-a-part yards. Eventually, he was able to wrestle one out of a rusty, old wreck of a work truck.
On the outside, most people just notice the sheer size of the truck. However, there are a lot of details to take in if you look closely. For example, a 2008 Super Duty front bumper replaced the original. It also holds a 22-inch light bar. The bar augments the clear headlights with halos to light up the night. Doug also added RGBW rock lights from Vengeance LEDs for those late-night runs.
As we mentioned before, Doug likes to do things himself. That dedication to being self-sufficient led him to create the custom-made diamond plate inserts in the front bumper. They look great under the Cerivinis ram air hood.
Duramax mirrors with conversion plates from Absalute Diesel provide Doug with excellent visibility behind the big ride. Super Duty smoked Recon cab lights and the custom diamond plate doorsills are also not to be overlooked. Doug even thought of getting in and out by adding N-Fab steps that are powder-coated in white. In the rear of the truck, the weld-on steel roll pan and smoked taillights, including the third brake light, give the rear a bit of attitude.
Overall, the entire build went pretty well for Doug. “I think there were a lot of times when you were pretty frustrated that things didn’t go the way you wanted them to,” Jessi said. When everything is done and you have a great ride to enjoy, the tough times don’t seem so bad. “I think it went pretty well honestly,” Doug admitted. “Money was the biggest thing really. I would buy a part and then have to wait a couple of weeks for the next paycheck. I have a lot less into it than it is worth.”
Next up for the F-350 is a custom driveshaft from Mountain Machine. In addition to that, Doug wants to do some touch-ups from the build process. Even window tinting is on the list of upcoming upgrades. From there, Doug will be working on the installation of an air ride suspension. This would allow for ride height adjustment, as well as a sweet and comfortable ride.
A comfortable ride is important to Doug, as he plans to make many road trips to the Silver Lake sand dunes this year. Doug explained, “I don’t ever plan on selling it. I’ve already gotten a few offers for it, but I want to drive it and enjoy it. I plan to daily drive it and take it to truck events. The big cab is perfect for that since half the fun is bringing other people with me. We’ve been down to some four-wheel jamboree events and it’s funny that it looks small there.”
I know that Doug will get years of enjoyment out of his F-350. Possibly the best part of this build is that it was done on a tight budget. With the help of family, friends, and a supportive significant other anything is possible. I see it again and again.
While I believe that this job is pretty cool, I have to admit that the people are what really make it worthwhile. I love getting the chance to find out the stories behind the builds. Sometimes, I even get to learn a life lesson or two about hard work paying off. If you have a project dream, go after it. If Doug and his friends can do it, you’d better believe that you can do it too!c