When Ford released the Excursion in the summer of 1999, most of us looked at the mammoth beast and wondered how high we could lift it. It takes a unique sort of person to examine a vehicle with the Excursion's stature and ask how fast it will go down the quarter-mile. That person is Jim Kruger.

If the name sounds familiar, it's because Jim is the proud proprietor of Happy's Custom Auto in Las Vegas and has been building custom show vehicles for more than 35 years. Some have even graced the pages of Truckin'. Most notably is the supercharged '97 Dodge Dakota Viper featured on the cover of our Dec. '97 issue. Like the Dakota, Jim sought to take a hot-selling, newly introduced vehicle and showcase its potential in the high-performance and custom aftermarket. After assembling a group of key players in the business, work on the newly acquired 2000 Excursion commenced.

Performance was the top priority, therefore Jim's Excursion was promptly delivered to Diesel Dynamics of Las Vegas for some serious engine upgrades. While the stock Powerstroke V-8 produced a respectable 212 hp at 2,700 rpm on the chassis dyno, the folks at Diesel Dynamics felt that the full potential of these turbocharged powerplants had not yet been reached. They began by installing a set of True Torque oversized injectors and tweaking the throttle body. The stock exhaust was scrapped in favor of a new unit that features a 3-1/2-inch down pipe mated to a 4-inch straight-through muffler and tailpipe. The larger exhaust system is said to reduce exhaust gas temperatures as much as 150 degrees.

Diesel Dynamics also installed its new Therminator Module, which allows the maximum amount of power to be used until a set EGT limit is reached, which keeps the truck in a safe power zone. They also installed the company's transmission shift kit, and several other components were blueprinted or otherwise modified before the new-and-improved Excursion went back on the dyno.

The result was impressive because the horsepower nearly doubled to 400. Further boggling the mind is the quarter-mile time of 12.8 seconds at 138 mph. With the A-pillar-mounted boost and the exhaust temperature gauges serving as a constant reminder that he could embarrass almost any car or truck on the Vegas highways, Jim turned his attention elsewhere on the vehicle.

Because comfort and driveability were also priorities, Jim opted to leave the Excursion at its stock height. He did, however, find a way to fill up those giant wheel openings. A set of double dubs did the trick.

The chosen ones are Edge wheels by Oasis measuring 22x10 inches wrapped in 305/45/22 Toyo Proxes S/T rubber.

Before Jim's ride was able to see the business end of a spray gun, he installed a complete body styling kit from his friends at Xenon that includes front and rear bumpers as well as side panels and running boards. Next, it was off to Derek at DeZired Auto FX of Las Vegas, who applied the two-tone paint scheme using House of Kolor Purple pearl and Millennium Yellow. As soon as the paint was dry, it was off to Dave at Head Turner Graphics, also in Las Vegas, who performed the airbrush work in Tangelo pearl and the stripe work in Chartreuse Green, also by House of Kolor. For a final touch, a Precision billet grille insert was added.

Turning his attention to the cabin of the Excursion, Jim decided that since it was ordered with the complete leather package, he would leave well enough alone. However, he did not feel the same way about the anemic factory radio, and it was promptly gutted to make way for a state-of-the-art Panasonic and Kicker audio/video system. Beginning with the head unit, John Meyer of Happy's installed a Panasonic VA707 with a flip-up monitor and wired it to a Panasonic DV1500 DVD player and 300 Surround Sound system, all of which powers three more Panasonic monitors: two in the seatbacks and one that flips down from the overhead console. With the visual stimulation under control, it was time for sonic excellence.

The truck was handed to Mike Condor of Auto Truck Salon for the killer sounds. Mike powered up three Kicker amplifiers, a DX700, ZR240, and ZR360, and wired them up to two 12-inch Kicker Solar Baric subs and situated them in an oversized, slight angle ported box built by Steel Water Designs of Las Vegas. Jim also installed custom-built kick panels filled with 6-1/2-inch mids and a pair of tweeters. Located elsewhere are a pair of 5x7s and another pair of tweeters. Everything was then wrapped in matching tan leather by the folks at Santa Barbara Auto Upholstery located in -- you guessed it -- Las Vegas. Putting the power to it all is a pair of Optima batteries. Jim reports that this setup gives the sound of twelve 12-inch subs behind his head (that's what the Dakota has).

It is definitely a team effort when Jim builds a custom show vehicle such as Dawn Rising. First and foremost, Jim would like to thank his daughter Theresa, his staff, and Jesus Christ for all their help and support. Jim is also appreciative of his sponsors, which include Ford, Diesel Dynamics, Xexon, Oasis, Toyo, Optima, Panasonic, Kicker, DeZired Auto FX, Santa Barbara Auto Upholstery, and his club New Era Customs. While the Excursion is not finished in Jim's eyes, he has already taken on a new project: building a '02 Thunderbird that Ford will soon take on tour. It sounds as though Jim's sponsors are appreciative of him too.