Why a van? With Truckin' celebrating it's 30th anniversary last year, we decided to reintroduce custom vans of yesterday to our readers. Heck our current readers under the age of 40 would have missed the van craze of the '60s and '70s. Truckin's solid foundation was formed during this time period.
After noticing that van interest was peaked, we decided to step back in time and create a van with today's styling and technology.
Initially, we were going to build a sick custom boxer: 'bagged, slammed, and rollin' on a set of 22s with O-ring-size rubber. But when the original idea was turned down, we reloaded and fired again, this time a multi-purpose van that would be used as a tow-and-go vehicle, which meant a 1-ton with diesel power. A whole new concept would have to be pursued. The only way to make a 1-ton Ford E-350 diesel van look Truckin'-worthy was to go the other direction and vertically enhance its ride height, giving it an off-road flavor both externally and internally. An off-road chase vehicle needs a few key features: a lifted suspension, some off-road wheels, knobby tires, and off-road lights.
When contemplating a full-scale project, the best initial step is to sit down with a rendering artist. We consulted with one of the industry's icons: Steve Stanford. After sitting with him and tossing out our thoughts and ideas, he thumbnailed some rough sketches. Two weeks later, we were invited over to his studio to checkout his Ford Big-E renderings. He stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. The rendering was sent off to Ford along with a written proposal. Ford was ecstatic.
We took delivery of an '04 Ford E-350 Econoline 6.0L turbodiesel van in August with the intention of debuting Big-E at the upcoming SEMA Show. Time was of the essence.
To transform this heavy hauler box into an off-road desert assault vehicle, its ride height needed a lift. Camburg Engineering in Huntington Beach, California, was responsible for installing its 4-inch suspension lift to get that off-road stance. The kit consists of specially designed and fabricated front radius arms, longer coil springs, a pair of nitrogen-filled Bilstein reservoir shock absorbers, and Beard suspension travel limitation straps. The rear suspension was lifted by installing 2-inch blocks between the rear leaf spring pack and the rear axle housing. Bilstein nitrogen-filled 5100 shocks were installed to dampen the rear suspension during both mild on-road and vigorous off-road terrain. To achieve the aggressive off-road assault vehicle grip and appearance, Mickey Thompson in Corona, California, was called on. A set of Mickey Thompson polished aluminum Classic 17x9 inchers with simulated bead locks were wrapped with Mickey Thompson Baja Claw rubber 32x17-12.5.
A road trip from Truckin's Anaheim office to Bully Dog Technologies in Aberdeen, Idaho-2,650 miles round trip-would allow us to break in the mighty Power Stroke before we increased its torque, horsepower, and fuel mileage. To increase the engine's flow, a new air cleaner was dropped into the air intake box followed by installing a Bully Dog Rapid Flow after-cat 4-inch polished, stainless steel exhaust system. The major contributor to increase the engine's torque, turbo boost, and horsepower was the Bully Dog Dominator module. To program the torque and power increase, Bully Dog's Out-Look Adjustable Programmer/Sensor Monitoring System was used. This on-the-fly power programmer allows users to increase horsepower with four power settings of 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent.
After receiving the Steve Stanford rendering that would turn heads, the team at L&G Enterprises in San Dimas, California, brought Big-E to reality. The scallop-like graphics were laid out over the factory silver paint. Luis mixed and applied the House of Kolor Tangerine basecoat followed by some lighter airbrush highlighting. To achieve a more distinct separation of the basecoat and scallops, a gray pinstripe was applied. Luis buried the entire painted surface in multiple coats of clear, color-sanded them, and then buffed and polished it to achieve the glistening shine. To add some style to Big-E's leading edge, Precision Grille in Santa Fe Springs, California, designed and installed its billet aluminum grille. For added night vision, The Baja Shop in Orange, California, fabricated a front bumper lightbar to house a pair of Hella 4000 Rally pinpoint lights.
After achieving the new beauty and rugged attitude, Big-E was delivered to Al & Ed's in Ontario, California, where Glenn Parker applied a layer of HushMat sound damping material to the floor, walls, door panels, and ceiling. Then Darren Sprayberry, an audio sound engineer for Al & Ed's, installed the Rockford Fosgate RFX Head Unit with CD player, a pair of Rockford Fosgate four-channel amplifiers, and a Super Carbon capacitor that monitors the power output digitally. Darren designed handmade fiberglass front door panels using gray with orange leather inserts to house the six Rockford Fosgate 6-inch coaxials and dual tweeters. Separate side and rear door panels were also designed and handmade to house the Rockford Fosgate 6-inch coaxial speakers. Darren also designed and constructed massive rear-corner chambers for the four explosive Rockford Fosgate Stage 2 12-inch subwoofers. To satisfy the visual senses, two Icon 17-inch monitors were modified and mounted on the rear driver sidewall for impressive DVD viewing in surround sound.
To fulfill the off-road package, Big-E's interior received the off-road essentials, including four Master Craft Racing prerunner orange and gray tweed seats complete with Master Craft Racing black five-point safety harnesses. The interior rear walls and wheelwells were covered with DuraLiner polyurethane gray-ribbed panels. For added strength, rigidity, and occupant safety, A.J. and the team at the Baja Shop bent, fabricated, and welded a snug fitting 1-3/4-inch, eight-point rollcage.
Every time we roll in Big-E, the mighty Ford E-350 6.0L turbodiesel van receives attention and thumbs-up. We have received hundreds of positive e-mails and letters during the Big-E project. The following pages reveal Big-E unplugged.