Clifford: The Big Red Beast F-350

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of meeting up with Will Shoemaker out at Moonrocks ORV Recreation Area, just a short drive north of Reno, Nevada. Shoemaker’s 2000 F-350 Ford Lariat was certainly more than we had expected given its nickname. Named Clifford, we didn’t know what to expect given the disposition of the childhood book character. Big, red, and an absolute beast, little aside from the color and size does this truck share with its namesake.

Will Shoemaker looking out his window to see where to place his front wheels.

Taking just over one year to build, Will has poured himself into this truck. Many parts were self-fabricated, and nearly all of the work on the truck was done by him. He is appreciative of the help his brother, Alex, and his father, Fred, have been throughout the build.

A father and son working together on a build is a great picture, and this project was an awesome byproduct of the close relationship the two share as Will grew up around the garage and the race cars his dad built.

The custom, fabricated plate steel bumper was made by Reaper Fabrication. Four 3×2 pods and a 30-inch LED bar provide light for the road ahead.

The interior was kept utilitarian, with the frills and usual bling found in typical mall crawlers were intentionally left out to provide the most efficient use of the cab. A Stryker CB is mounted below the radio and is easily within reach. Up on the dash, red switches are lined up like soldiers in formation ready to perform their duty to light up the night.

Taking a look at the front, just about the only thing stock is the grille, and even that’s been given a facelift. Painted to match the vibrant red with a black face to offset the color, it is flanked by Spyder Headlights with LED running lights and huge projectors to keep light aimed at the road ahead. The stock turn signals have been tinted a bit to accent the black and red theme but aren’t so dark that they are unable to be seen.

A massive 52-inch light bar sits atop the windshield for those long, straight roads. Up in Nevada, coyotes are extremely active at night and aren’t the greatest at avoiding vehicles. This light bar allows the driver to see these would-be speed bumps from a distance.

Probably the greatest statement about Clifford’s personality is the huge 1/4-inch plate steel bumper. It was actually designed and fabricated by Will and Fred. Several weekends and late nights, along with a few beers, were consumed in the creation of this behemoth of a bumper. You won’t find another like it. Hidden behind all of the steel is a 30-inch LED light bar, along with four side-facing trail lights. These come in handy when wheeling late at night on the windy trails of the Sierras.

More custom fab work can be found on this beast at the rear of the cab and bed.

Making our way around the truck, the headache rack was also fabricated and is completely custom by Will. More cube lights appoint the top corners of the rack, giving light to either side of the truck. This is especially helpful while camping or loading the truck at night. Another 30-inch led bar, facing rearward assists in illuminating the rear of the truck while backing up or blasting that pesky tailgater with a few thousand lumens.

DSC_0259 (2)Dual four-foot CB antennas are mounted to either side of the bed to radio between buddies while out on the trail, or to radio a friend in town about any emergency situations. A huge diamond plate toolbox hardly encroaches into the bed space, yet has a ton of lockable room to store any gear and tools needed both on and off-road.

Little is left for Will to finish on his truck. After the stock tailgate was damaged, he worked in a 2008 tailgate, and after changing out the stock hardware, the new, dent-free tailgate fit like a glove; so kudos to Ford for not changing much to their trucks over the years. Just a few more LED pods and the exterior is complete.

DSC_0250 (2)

The rear tailgate was taken from a 2008 Super Duty and installed onto Shoemaker’s truck without much fuss, thanks for Ford’s similar design over the years.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill F-350. Clifford lives up to its beastly title with its (far from stock) 7.3-liter Power Stroke. Sure, the traditional bolt-on K&N intake is under the hood, but what you can’t see lies just below some heat tape and insulation. ATS Compressor housing and a Wicked Wheel help get this monster down the road with ease, while Stage 2 injectors offer higher than stock flow rates.

With the Banks Big Head Kit and the turbo upgrades, Clifford is going to need as much diesel as possible to make even more horsepower. Granted, we know engines are essentially big compressors; all that exhaust needs to go somewhere. Hence the four-inch exhaust pipe all the way from the turbo back, allowing ample expulsion of that hot air. An exhaust tip the size of one’s head is turned out just behind the rear tire. As if this amount of tire-destroying, rock-slinging power wasn’t enough, Shoemaker has plans to have a custom turbo made and a few more mods he wants to keep under wraps.

The Dana 50 up front will give way to a beefed-up Dana 60.

With factory Dana 50 front and Dana 60 rear axles, it’s tough to imagine Clifford getting stuck, or even breaking a part of the axles. As with anything, there is a limit to its strength, though. Turns out Will managed to blow up the rear ring gear and subsequently installed 4.11s and an Eaton Detroit Locker in the rear.

DSC_0254He also took the opportunity to add a little eye candy to the front axle. Painting the shocks helps carry the theme, but we’re talking about the Clear Gearz differential cover. Not only is this a cool addition, but it’s also really handy when you want to know the condition of the gear oil. While it may not be as strong as a plate steel cover, the polycarbonate is resilient enough to handle a direct rock hit and keep the differential spinning unscathed.

Comprising the lift are Rough Country six-inch lift springs, with another four inches gained by a shackle. Shoemaker also moved the Dana 50 forward to better accommodate the tires. Out back, he has higher spring rate six-inch leaves, also from Rough Country. Shoemaker fabricated some custom lift blocks to even out the front and back lifts.

Color matched inserts in the Moto Metal 961s with Toyo M/S in the flavor of 38 1550 18s. Wow

Putting the power to the ground is no easy task. 38-inch Toyo M/Ts with a staggering 15.5-inch footprint are the right candidates for that job. These tires are known for legendary quality and superior traction on virtually any dry or wet surface.

These 38s also lift the axles off the ground another four inches over stock, providing greater clearance. Some of the great details of this rig are the color matched inserts on the Moto Metal 961s. The 18-inch wheels provide an aesthetic relationship between with the tires, all while offering more than enough cushion when airing down.

As our readers would agree, a good build is never finished. Earlier, we touched on the future upgrades to the paint and some other superfluous items. Bigger plans are in store for this big red beast.

For some, a swap to a smaller motor seems counterproductive. However, the newer 6.7-liter Power Stroke puts down an extra 125 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. Also, with greater aftermarket support, the potential for the 6.7-liter is nearly limitless.

Rolling coal and spinning wheels make this one fun off-road machine.

Another upgrade that would also affect this truck performance is a coil conversion from the 2005-and-up F-350s. This would give Will better on-road quality and better articulation while off in the dirt or the rocks. A Dana 60 wouldn’t be a terrible upgrade up front, but you didn’t hear that suggestion from us.

Will has built a clean … no, immaculate F-350. The namesake has surpassed our expectations, and with the future upgrades planned, we can’t wait to see how much more of a beast he can make Clifford into.

Clifford, patiently waiting to tear up the trails.

About the author

Kevin Mcgilvery

Kevin has spent most of his time on earth consumed with wanting to travel and explore. What better way to do this than on four wheels? With the advent of the overland culture, he has set out to make his Chevy Colorado a solid axle expedition rig. When Kevin is not wrenching, he works, attends college, and freelances as a contributing writer with Power Automedia.
Read My Articles

Rolling coal in your inbox.

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from Diesel Army, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.