While attending the 2022 Midwest Dirtfest earlier this summer, we met Matt Berlin with his 1995 Ford F150. Matt had no fear of sending his truck out on the track, and this clean build caught our eye. After chatting for a few minutes we found out that he not only built the truck himself but is also a small business owner. Matt runs his own shop which is called Speed Metal Motorsports. He’s definitely a hard-working guy for any age, let alone 23 years old.
The Story Of Matt Berlin And His 1995 F-150 Prerunner
We wanted to know the story of this build. There were over 75 registered participants at this year’s Midwest Dirtfest with plenty of rad prerunner trucks. So, to say that his truck stood out against the crowd is really saying something. Plus there were not that many trucks running the event with leaf spring suspension. Not that the leaf springs slowed Matt down any.
Once we spotted him, it was just a matter of getting all the details. We caught up with Matt in the pits in between runs and asked for a rundown of how this rig came to be. Matt explains, “I’ve been racing circle track competitively for 16 years. My dad was funding that at the time but then he got cancer. He’s doing great now but not so much then. At that time we sold all of the racing stuff. Then I came to Michigan and saw these kinds of trucks. So I decided to get a truck. When I got it the thing was a complete nightmare. A guy out in California had owned it before me. It had some simple tube work and needed a lot of work.”
Beginning The Build
Once the build got started, it snowballed from there. Matt removed the motor, and transmission, cut the cage, and pulled every nut and bolt out of it. He removed the I-beams that were on it and the axles. Matt was a busy guy, but he always made time to work on it. That fact goes a long way to show his character and resilience. His family has been through a lot and it hasn’t slowed any of them down one bit.
“At that time, I was going to school for fabrication.” Matt shares, “so some of the welds may not look the best. But it has progressed over the years. There was a plasma table at the school. Because I was the most motivated student, the instructor told me I could use it as much as I wanted. That was pretty cool. After that, I spent the next three years just working on it in my spare time.”
We all have that project that no matter how much we want it to get done, it falters a bit. The key is to not give up and keep going. Matt knew that secret and kept right at it until the truck was ready. He also never compromised his overall vision. The truck is clean and tough. We watched it take big sends in stride and enjoyed that Matt had no fear on the track.
Single Swing Steering
There’s also something to be said for doing things yourself. Not only do you have intimate knowledge of how your project is put together, but you also gain the experience of how to fix it. That experience and ability are always a benefit as things break when you run them hard. Matt understood that from the beginning and spent the time and energy to do it his way. A perfect example is the steering setup.
“I built all of the steering myself. Being in Wisconsin, it’s hard because we don’t have shops like Lenger Racing, or other off-road-specific shops nearby,” Matt explains. “I would be up all night researching. I would eat, sleep, and breathe off-road. The double-shear pitman arm was all hand plasma cut by me and then welded. The actual swinger was a Baker Fab universal DIY kit. So it came in pieces and I welded it up. I also made the pedestal at which the swinger was mounted.” The tie rods were bent and fabricated by Matt as well.
Matt Describes The Basics
A 347 stroker motor resides under the hood. It was built by C&S in Wisconsin. They have since closed. It provides plenty of power currently. It is backed by an AutoTrans Design built AODE transmission. The four-speed automatic uses the fourth gear as an overdrive. While Matt plans to use the truck mostly as a toy, a little overdrive action is always good. You never know, Matt might just end up out west getting sandy in the wide open country where that overdrive will be put to good use.
Matt reveals, “Auto Trans Design cut me a huge deal because I was a local kid just getting started. So that was pretty awesome. Overall, the truck is a super-simple setup. It does have an all-new wiring harness from Painless Performance. I like my stuff to be super clean and functional.” I think we can all relate to that one.
A Holley Sniper EFI system makes sure the go juice gets to where it needs to be. It is fed by an ATL 23-gallon fuel cell. It may not be the fanciest setup but it sure does work great. Matt didn’t experience any problems on the track the whole weekend. That was also after he had participated in the 2021 Midwest Dirtfest. No issues for two years in a row for Matt Berlin and his Speed Metal Motorsports F-150 prerunner. We say well done!
The Bouncy Parts
“I had to redo all of the suspension mounting points after learning about geometry,” Matt says. Looks like all those hours of internet research paid off. The rear suspension features extended leaf spring shackles with Deaver leaf springs. The axle reinforcement support is a Ruff Stuff DIY Truss kit. It originally came in pieces and everything needed to be cut to length. Matt built all custom brackets and mounts to get the bar to fit his axle housing and crossmember. Not a big deal for a guy who went to school for fabrication and has a solid work ethic. He didn’t stop there though.
Matt also modified the leaf spring shackles. The leaf spring hangers are modified to fit the wider shackles. “They are two OEM hangers that I split and stitched together to make them wider. Then I braced them underneath to strengthen them,” Matt explains. That extra time and thought that went into the design process is no doubt what adds to the strength of these components.
King 18-inch x 2.5-inch triple-bypass shocks work in conjunction with the Deaver leafs in the rear. Matt chose a trussed Ford 9-inch rear axle. King 16-inch x 2.5inch coilovers reside in front. Matt is happy with the performance of the suspension. At the same time, he knows there is always room for improvement.
Matt Berlin Knows his 1995 F-150 Prerunner Inside And Out
The interior features a custom dash with Auto Meter Cobalt gauges. A Sidewinder shifter makes sure that the right gear is selected. We also find a Painless Performance switch panel for easy electronic choices. An MPI steering wheel keeps the 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud-terrain tires pointed in the right direction.
The big BFGoodrich rubber is wrapped around 17-inch Raceline Rockcrusher wheels. PRP Harnesses help make sure the truck’s occupants stay where they’re supposed to. The lineup of the Fiberwerx fiberglass body panels and trophy truck race dash is evidence of Matt’s attention to detail. The rest of the interior is fully gutted to facilitate function rather than form. At the same time, all of the interior gauges and features are laid out well to facilitate use.
Matt Berlin Wraps It All Up
Matt doesn’t like to brag but admits there was a lot of work that went into this build. He summed it up by saying, “When you break it down, the beam suspension is pretty simple. The biggest challenge was probably eliminating bumpsteer. I was pretty much able to zero it out eventually. The other big thing was wiring. I had to get a little help on that.” No matter how you look at it, this is one guy that is not afraid to work. Instead of being reliant on others, or complaining, Matt just worked hard and got it done. All those lessons learned along the way make him a better person and off-roader.
Matt Berlin finishes by saying, “My dad wasn’t really into it at first. When he saw me tearing everything apart he was kind of like ‘what are you doing?’ In the end, he kind of fell in love with it. He was always at my shop helping wrench. We pulled the transmission six times last year and he was there for all of it.” Especially after the challenges their family has faced, it’s great to see this project work out. It’s like we’ve said many times before. The family that wrenches together stays together.