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
With the paint in place, a new RBP RX-2 mesh grille and RBP mesh side vents were bolted on, Road Armor front and rear bumpers with PIAA foglights installed, and AMP Research powered running boards put in place. Superwinch front and rear winches are ready and able to rescue others or pull itself out of a hole if needed and a built-to-order G&T Truck Products flush tonneau cover protects valuables in the bed. Capping off the 1-ton's good looks, Toyo Mud Terrain tires, sized 40x15.50R22 were mounted around 22x11-inch RBP 91R chrome wheels and provide a hint of the Ford's ruggedness and off-road prowess. Turning those big wheels and tires is the factory twin-turbo 6.4L diesel equipped with an H&S Performance Black Max tuner, and Auto Illusions fabbed up a 4-inch TIG-welded stainless exhaust system with 5-inch tips. New Yukon 4.56 gears keep the tranny happy and do the best they can to help mileage. With the rig looking and running strong, Rich and Tim quickly turned their focus to the interior.
Building SQ cars for years, Rich and Tim are no strangers to installing crystal-clear audio systems with thunderous bass. This truck would prove to be an easy one to build. An Eclipse AVN-726E navigation/iPod/DVD head unit serves as the brain of the system, which consists of four Diamond Audio HEX 700-watt amps for the 10 pairs of Diamond Audio components found in the doors and dash. Four more Diamond Audio HEX 750-watt amps power four Diamond Audio 12-inch D6 subs in a pass-through box cut into the bed. The system pounds so incredibly hard, when driving to a show, the Auto Illusion F-350 can be heard well before the extra-large truck can even be seen. Fine-tuning the system is simple thanks to the Audio Control Three.1 installed right in front of the 10-inch all-in-one Vizualogic drop down mounted in the charcoal suede and leather headliner. Keeping the entertainment going, each front seat also received a 7-inch Vizualogic screen. Speaking of those seats, they're the factory FX4 black leather with white stitching, but Rich did have the A-,B-, and C-pillars wrapped in charcoal suede with charcoal stitching. Auto Illusions teamed with Wicked Stitch to make sure the interior looked its best. Powering all of the audio and electronics, four Optima yellow-top batteries were installed under the hood and inside the bed.
Finishing the truck just hours before the transporter was scheduled to pick up the Ford, Rich and Tim had worked together to create one impressive Super Duty. Wanting to prove to themselves that Auto Illusions truly was a one-stop shop, they were thankful to call the project complete and looked forward to checking out the custom truck world's reaction. Seeing onlookers at SEMA drop their jaws and say 'wow,' when they saw it provided the validation that they had indeed built a show-stopping truck. After Rich told us, "People really like this truck and we're doing more customers' trucks now than we've ever done before, I'm definitely going to build another one," we can't wait to see how great their second one will be.
Forty-inch Toyo M/T tires are mounted on 22x11-inch RBP wheels. peering behind the wheel's
"We might not have the TV show to prove it, but we pretty much do the same thing as some o