With the right mindset, you can look at any truck and make it a badass off-roader. That’s what drew us to Nick Ganotice and his red F-250 out at this year’s King of the Hammers.
As the day was drawing to a close and the sunlight was dimming, we noticed the dark crimson pickup mobbing about in a trailer camp outside Hammertown. We pulled up and noticed the truck was rocking linked suspension front and rear, and instantly realized there was more to this truck than met the eye.
Nick’s drive to transform his F-250 from a dismal diesel to a fearsome 4×4 was quite interesting. We caught up with Nick and got the full scoop on his Blue Oval build.
Nick and his friend both lived in Las Vegas at one point, back when the F-250 build was in its early days. Originally, the F-250 was a two-wheel-drive long bed. “My friend did a D60 swap on the front end to make it a 4×4,” explained Nick. “It basically took off from there.”
After the friend moved to Hawaii, Nick took ownership of the truck. “I wanted to keep building it,” he said. “The idea was to make it an expedition rig, something we could take anywhere and then hit up the desert, the mountains, wherever and whenever.”
It’s not often that we run across a long bed truck with upgraded suspension and drivetrain, unless it’s going to be a chase truck. That’s a role that this F-250 might perform one day, but for now, Nick is content to use it for good drives and good times.
Nick started focusing more on the build in 2019, putting more time and attention into the front axle. “I wanted to get it fixed up and stronger,” said Nick. “I re-linked it, gave it a truss to stiffen it, and installed new coilover shock absorbers all the way around.”
Following the shocks, Nick did some work on the rear axle. “I got rid of the leaf springs out back and four-linked the axle,” he said. “I did upper reversed trailing arms, and that was about it. It had to get ready for King of the Hammers this year.”
Surprisingly, this event was the maiden voyage for the rebuilt F-250. “It’s been like this for about six days now,” Nick admitted. “We’ve just been having a good time with it so far.”
We did a walkaround on the truck to see some of the highlights. “Out back, it’s running a Branik sway bar on a cantilevered setup,” said Nick. “I came up with the idea to do it cantilevered. It works really well, just a great ride now and tame to drive.”
The trailing arms linking the 4.30:1 axles reinforce the truck’s stable ride. Supporting these arms are beefy King 3.0-inch-diameter, quadruple bypass coilover shocks, offering 26 inches of travel, even with limit straps attached.
A lot of work went into the bed. Here, Nick cut out parts of the wheel wells and bed floor to weld in a proper cage. The coilovers mount to the cage, as does the spare tire and some Rigid Industries pod lights. Not to mention, an RCI fuel cell rests nestled between the tire mount and cabin. “I also kept the factory fuel tank, but I moved it to the rear,” Nick pointed out. “Altogether, I have about 42 gallons of fuel. Just enough to get around!”
The heart of the best is the venerable 7.3-liter Power Stroke V8. Diesel fans love this engine, not only for its displacement, but also for its great power potential when given the right parts. For this build, Nick upgraded just about everything. “I put in larger injectors, a turbo, a larger plenum, and converted it to electronic fuel injection,” he said. “I also tuned the injector driver module, boosting the voltage to the injectors for better fueling.”
With these upgrades all installed, the 7.3-liter V8 is a force to be reckoned with. “I’d say it’s making about 500 horsepower, and about 1,200 pound-feet of torque,” said Nick. “She’ll do some towing for sure.”
Mated to the Power Stroke is an interesting choice of transmission — a ZF6 from a scrapped F-650. Nick gave the ZF6 a new transfer case, and he said it works like a charm.
Lighting is thanks to Baja Designs. Nick installed pod lights all around the F-250, giving it better visibility after sunset. “We came out to events like this before with no lights, and I learned my lesson,” he laughed. “I’m never doing that again.”
Long-lasting Long Bed
King of the Hammers always holds a few gemstones in the rough of the desert. For this F-250, Nick elevated it from the average to the amazing. “Everything on the truck is how I wanted to build it,” he said. “It’s a great all-around vehicle.”
Nick plans to do some more modifications as time allows. “Next up will be the cage and harnesses,” he said. “The stock seatbelts won’t handle us doing 80 miles an hour when we’re in the desert.”
The F-250’s arrival at King of the Hammers was a special one, as Nick and his friends used up most of their vacation days to make the trip from Vegas to Johnson Valley. Still, these guys will make time to have fun in the Mojave Desert, and the upcoming Mint 400 near their hometown will be one they don’t want to miss.