F-150 Project Truck: Bottom To Top Stunner

ProjectF150LEADART_1_edited-1The F-Series half-ton has long been Ford‘s bread and butter, continuing the legacy of having dominated much of the full-size truck market for the better part of thirty years. Our 2013 EcoBoost model, dubbed Project F-150, has gone through a host of changes over the past couple of months, and has come out looking and performing far better than we’d ever imagined.

REWA_59Among the list of upgrades done to the truck are a Livernois tuning enhancement and AIRAID intake kit, as well as a Prolift two-inch leveling kit, Dick Cepek Gun Metal 7 wheels, and Toyo Open Country A/T II tires. Now riding with 15 inches of ground clearance on those beefy Toyos and the Prolift leveling kit, the truck is riding high both on and off road, granting its passengers greater capabilities when the mood for adventure strikes. However, with those added features enhancing both grip and visibility, the F-150 is lacking in compensating factors to help ease with issues like ingress and egress, as well as protection for the body panels against the elements.

Here to help are a couple of terrific aftermarket companies. On the one hand, there’s Bushwacker, the Portland, Oregon-based firm focused on Jeep and truck accessories, which brought us a set of their fantastic Ford Pocket Style Fender Flares (p/n 20929-02). On the flipside, Bestop, hailing from Louisville, Colorado, has just rounded off 60 years of being in business, mainly in constructing OEM soft tops for Jeeps. Trucks have been a relatively new market to navigate, but the PowerBoard NX kit (p/n 75641) proves that the company has the savvy and smarts to create interesting, innovative parts.

As Above, So Below


The Pocket Style fender flares from Bushwacker lend the rugged, exposed-fastener look without making permanent modifications to the truck’s sheet metal.

Our beloved Blue Oval has been earning its off road credentials step by step, and today, the task at hand will be to get the truck’s lower half helped out in terms of not just protection, but convenience as well. The first half of that equation is solved by Bushwacker‘s fender flares, as we learned from none other than the company’s Public Relations manager, Andy Lilienthal.

Pick And Choose

Bushwacker offers its fender flares in quite a few styles to choose from, depending on your application. Each one offers unique qualities to match the aesthetic or practical desires of the end user.

  • Street Flares: complement stock or low-profile wheels and tires, and look great on lowered vehicles; available for trucks only
  • “OE” Style Flares: affect the look of an upmarket trim package to complement the vehicle’s style lines; available for trucks or SUVs
  • Extend-A-Fender Flares: Great protection for the weekend warrior truck or SUV with oversized tires; available for trucks or SUVs
  • Pocket Style Flares: Recessed stainless steel bolts are a Bushwacker original and icon in the off road realm; available for trucks, SUVs, and Jeeps (pictured)
  • Cut-Out Flares: Top-notch defense against the elements that requires cutting of the sheet metal; available for trucks or SUVS
  • Flat Style Flares: Minimal drilling and cutting required; available for Jeeps only
“The defense of a vehicle’s body panels is an area of concern for many offroaders,” said Lilienthal. “We sought to address those concerns with the introduction of our fender flares, which come in several styles to meet customer needs.”

Several styles are indeed available, numbering seven in total including Jeep models. The Pocket Style we selected for Project F-150 combined the look of a dedicated, serious appearance (the Cut-Out style flare), short of drilling through the sheet metal. In essence, this option afforded us the extra tire coverage we craved, without making a permanent modification that the next owner might not appreciate very much.

“At one and a half inches of additional coverage, the Pocket Style flares can handle many wheel and tire combinations on the market,” said Lilienthal. “Fitment will depend upon offset and tire width, however, so we caution potential users to look before they leap.”

The fender flares are expected to do their job well thanks to the DuraFlex-2000 composite material used in their manufacturing process, which Lilienthal explained as “an ABS material, 100% UV protected and will not chalk thanks to a special coating.” And out here under Californian DOT laws, any vehicle owner looking to give his vehicle a wider stance is mandated to have fenders that cover his tires – so, there’s that incentive too.


The PowerBoard NX system, which will deploy and retract electronically motorized running boards based on door position.

On the flipside, the issue of the F-150’s lifted-ness cannot be ignored. Although the truck originally came with the slick chrome running boards on either side, the simple fact of the matter was that these units weren’t going to cut it if our truck was to ever be a true off roader (gag).

This was where Bestop‘s role came into play. The company’s PowerBoard NX running boards have been a hit in the truck aftermarket since their debut back in 2013, and have since expanded from the GM Silverado and Sierra to include other makes and models, such as the 2007-13 Toyota Tundra, 2002-present Dodge Ram 1500, and the 2004-14 F-150.


The PowerBoard NX’s unique wireless capabilities use magnets and sensors to tell the motors when to retract or deploy the running boards. Photo credit: Bestop

We spoke with Bestop’s Rick Vermeil to better understand what makes the PowerBoard NXs special: “The PowerBoard is all about function without failure; stepping in and out of the vehicle with a true six-inch step from the floor pan for the sake of convenience and usefulness.”

Central to the NX’s practicality is the electronic retraction and deployment of the running boards, which it does wirelessly as an improvement over the original, cable-wired PowerBoard. Sensors are sticky-attached to the B-pillar, and send a signal to the hidden relay once a door-attached magnet moves far enough away – in this case, a half-inch or more is all it takes.

The motors that run the PowerBoard’s linkage might be cause for concern for off roaders, as they seem to sit open and unprotected against the elements. Vermeil reassured us, however, of the motor’s capabilities: “It has an IP rating of 65, making it totally protected from dust, and generally protected from water to make it capable of fording a river or puddle. And in snowy conditions, the PowerBoardNX has a resistance threshold that won’t burn the motor out trying to deploy if ice happens to freeze up the system.”

Taking Care Of Business

We test the electronics on the PowerBoard NX system  and find it all in working order.

We test the electronics on the PowerBoard NX system and find it all in working order.

We kicked the installation off with the PowerBoard NXs, which Bestop begins by first establishing that all the parts work as they should. After plugging in the controller, receiver, motor, and lighting element into the provided wiring harness, we took a magnet and moved it back and forth from the sensors for both sides, watching to make sure the motors did their duty as expected.

The wiring harness is placed, with its long leg routed through the cowling to the driver's side and down to the receiver.

The wiring harness is placed with its long leg routed through the cowling to the driver’s side and down to the receiver.

Since everything looked to be running smoothly, we carried on and installed the mounting clips and linkages to the driver’s side of the truck. Every nut was finger-tightened for the time being and left alone as we reopened the hood and went about installing the controller and wiring harness, the latter of which was hooked up to the battery and held in place with seven-inch cable ties.

Next, we threaded the long leg of the wiring harness through the cowling and down to the driver’s side wheel well, running it along the length of the frame to reach the final spot at the receiver. The running boards were now attached to the linkages, and tested to ensure free movement before we pressed on.

The motor is installed onto the rearmost linkage.

The motor is installed onto the rearmost linkage.

After that, we took one of the motors and installed it onto the rear linkage with three 35mm socket cap screws and M6 flat washers. The wiring was hooked up, and left alone as we got off our backs and onto our feet to address the magnet-sensor setup.

Bestop allows users to choose between using any of the three pillars of the F-150, but its main recommendation is the B-pillar, since its proximity to the receiver is the closest. We saw no reason to go against the grain, and found suitable space to apply the sensor and magnets in appropriate locations. We then repeated these steps on the passenger side and found the results to be satisfactory when everything functioned as intended.


Top: The magnets and sensors are attached to the B-pillar and doors. Bottom: The PowerBoard NX demonstrates proper function as the door is left open.

Lastly, the LED lights were installed to both the motor and idler linkages on either side, and the magnet holders slipped over the magnets to complete the installation. Alternatively, we could have also installed the optional PSA bumpers to prevent the boards from striking the body, but found this step to be unnecessary after testing.

The edge trim is worked onto the inner side of the flare.

The edge trim is worked onto the inner side of the flare.

Moving onto the Bushwacker installation, we gave the F-150 a once-over with some degreaser to prevent any adhesive components from not sticking to the vehicle. Right away, we went about removing the vinyl backing of the edge tape and worked it onto the flares’ contacting surfaces.

The factory screws holding up the fender well are removed to make way for the fender flare's inner piece.

The factory screws holding up the fender well are removed to make way for the fender flare’s inner piece.

The washers and bolts went together onto each flare one by one and were held in place from behind by half-inch nuts. Across the four flares, a total of 34 holes exist, so this process can get kind of tedious if done by one person.

The wheel wells were up next and came off after unscrewing the three 7/32-inch screws. We inserted the 10A-4 Magni black clip and inner fender piece into place, and screwed back in the three factory screws.

At this point, the instruction directed us to hold the fender flare in a mock-up position as we drilled a hole into the bumper cover. The forward-most hole served as the guide for our drill, after which we inserted the provided retainers into their respective locations.

Drilling is required to insert the forwardmost retainer.

Drilling is required to insert the forwardmost retainer.

Out back, the installation was a different story. Here, we had to mark the locations of where the flare’s holes lined up with the fender and then place the 1×1.5-inch black tabs over each of the marker dots. A clip for each of the four tabs provided mounting locations for the next step.

Still holding up the flare, we screwed in the last of the hardware to secure the flares in place, and lo and behold, our project was complete. A pass over each of the flares with the Edge Trim Tool got rid of any kinks or gaps created during the installation.

The flares look fantastic when completely dialed in.

Change From The Ground Up

REWA_15We’re happy to report that in the weeks following the install of both the PowerBoard NXs and the Pocket Style flares, both products have proven to be earning their keep. Several drives around the dusty trail near our office have done nothing to slow down or impair the use of the PowerBoards, even on high-temperature days (102º Fahrenheit or more) when we were sure the system would overheat.

REWA_11Opening and closing the door at least seven times a day for the past month or so, there have been no issues with the PowerBoard’s operations. Washing the units is as easy as removing the inline fuse, which lets the boards droop down for quick rinsing and scrubbing.

Meanwhile, Bushwacker’s fender flares perform their duty admirably, looking terrific even after a harsh romp through sand and dirt. Even after so many days of repeated direct sunlight and other harsh elements, you’d be hard pressed to point out any scuffs, scrapes, or stains.

Bestop's PowerBoard NX really did the trick for ingress and egress from our lifted 4x4, while the Bushwacker fender flares stayed tough as the going got rough.

Not to mention, there’s always the open option to seek out painting the flares. We’d have to remove them first, but fortunately that’s a relatively painless process when all you need is a flathead screwdriver.

Check out all there is to see from both Bestop and Bushwacker by viewing their contact information below. As always, keep it here on Off Road Xtreme for more awesome projects and builds, including Project Sgt. Rocker and some top secret builds coming soon.


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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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