Breaking out of the custom car world comfort zone that was so familiar over the last 17 years of business, Rich Martsolf, of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, opted to branch out and build a truck. It takes cojones to try something new when you're used to working on an import, high-end exotic for an athlete, or an audio demo car, and Rich must have a brass pair because his first truck was a brand-new '09 Ford F-350. Starting with a $56,000 truck with 7 miles on the odometer, Rich, and his team of six guys at Auto Illusions, began a three-month build that would see the cost of the project nearly double the new truck's value. How did a truck being built by one-ton newbies turn out? It may not be their typical bread and butter Mazda RX-7, but it still deservingly landed on our issue 4 cover and left us shaking their hands with congratulatory praise.
Rich humbly told us, "We overlooked no detail on this truck," and after walking around the huge rig, examining the smoothed welds, new stainless hardware used throughout, and listening to the eardrum-pounding audio system, we concur. Quite simply, Rich wanted a potential customer to see this truck and be impressed. What better advertisement than a 4WD with an air suspension, custom paint, and suede-covered interior? The adventure began in July and concluded at the end of October as he and shop manager Tim Skolnekovich watched the truck drive away strapped down on a transporter headed for the SEMA show in Las Vegas.
Driving the F-350 off the dealership lot, Rich arrived at his Auto Illusions shop, located just 5 miles from Pittsburgh airport, with the stock 4WD rig, and teaming with Tim, they tore into the suspension first. Ordering a four-link suspension with air-ride from Kelderman, each component was stripped down, welds smoothed, and then sent out to Prism Powder Coating Services for a coating in candy red. Each piece of the suspension was either powdercoated or chrome-plated for a show-ready shine. Off came the bed, and on went a fresh coat of satin black paint to the entire frame. Once the new AP Racing big brakes were delivered, they too were stripped down, smoothed, and candy red powder coat applied to the six-piston calipers with metallic silver-inlayed AP logos. The massive 15-inch rotors can bring the one-ton rig to a halt with ease. To offset all of the candy red and chrome, each axle was sprayed metallic silver and capped with candy red-coated PML diff covers. Also used on the Ford, dual Kelderman 2.0 shocks with remote reservoirs from Sway-A-Way, stainless steel brake lines, and an AccuAir E-Level air-ride control system. Keeping plenty of air in the 'bags, four Air Zenith compressors were plumbed to four 4-gallon air tanks and can fill those tanks to 150psi in just over a minute. Using new, high-strength polished bolts from Totally Stainless, the color-transformed Kelderman air-ride suspension was bolted into place, and after spending a few seconds looking at it, will leave you shaking your head with appreciation for the attention to detail.
It takes more than just a chromed undercarriage to make a real attention-grabber and Rich worked with Paul's Auto Body to get the Super Duty ready for color. Steve Chaszeyka, of Wizard Graphics, in New Middleton, Ohio, made the trek over to Pennsylvania to lay out the two-tone graphics and Paul sprayed the PPG Laser Metallic Red paint on the top half. Steve then stepped back in and used his airbrush gun to apply the real-fire graphics and pinstriping. Five coats of clear and a quality cut and buff later, the Ford Super Duty was looking stunning.
Every component of the Kelderman air-ride suspension was smoothed and either powdercoated
PPG Laser Metallic Red paint provides the top-half hue and Steve Chaszeyka, of Wizard Grap