Hemmings’ Godzilla-Powered 1997 Ford F-250 Overland Rig
Although things seem to be slowly getting back to “normal” (for now), the COVID pandemic has changed a lot of facets of our lives that might impact our long-term outlook on where we go next. One thing that this ordeal has changed without a doubt is the process of building full custom vintage trucks. Getting the parts you need when you need them has been a struggle the last two-plus years due to strangled supply chains, but where there’s a will, there’s a way (most of the time).
Another aspect that is different for some of us now is switching up the type of truck we decide to build and what to do with said truck once it’s finally completed. With the forced closure of public indoor spaces, we collectively looked to the great outdoors for consolation. Camping and spending more time away from the noisy city are activities that have gained traction in a major way, and to celebrate this desire to be outdoors, Hemmings Motor News embarked on a full custom pickup build that encapsulates how they perceive the current custom truck culture.
Classic and Overland Ready
Of course, as a publisher of magazines that cater to traders and collectors of antique, classic, and exotic sports cars, Hemmings has had its finger on the pulse of classic autos for decades now. The company selected a 1997 Ford F-250 to serve as the nucleus of its next big build. It saw this OBS model, and others of similar vintage, to be the next highly sought after and collectable pickups among enthusiasts across the board. While a good number of folks are actively looking to buy and ‘bag these specific Ford F-series models, Hemmings was also looking to throw its hat in the ring in another hot trend that is currently in a major upswing—overland camping.
What exactly does “overland” mean? Well, the activity combines off-roading and camping by placing the truck (or any other type of desired vehicle) at the center of the adventure. While this method of enjoying time outdoors isn’t a new thing, it is currently a popular thing—and for good reason. Instead of having to make a reservation at an existing campsite somewhere, the truck becomes its own campsite, which promotes exciting, open-ended journeys into regions beyond.
Pairing an OBS F-Series truck with true overland capabilities was just too ideal of an adventure for Hemmings to wait any longer to embark upon. They dubbed the build “Project Artemis” after the Greek goddess of the wilderness, and the name couldn’t be any more fitting.
Crew Comes Together
Since most modern truck owners prefer the four-door crew cab configuration, that’s exactly what Hemmings looked for in a ’97 F-250. To help with the entirety of the build process Kurt and Crystal Lawrence, husband and wife co-owners and operators of KTL Restorations in Danville, Virginia, hopped aboard as project managers to ensure that the Ford was built right the first time around. With a solid fabrication shop at the project’s helm, Hemmings’ new endeavor with the Ford began gaining attention, as well as offers from companies looking to participate in the process.
The first manufacturer to join the fun was Ford. As a company, it was interested in seeing its brand-new 7.3L Godzilla crate engine power Hemmings’ off-road adventure machine. The team was stoked to say the least about this huge addition to the project but due to tight supplies, Ford was not able send a transmission to go along with it. This was the first bump in the road that Kurt and Crystal encountered, but their persistence in calling every junk yard they could find phone numbers for finally paid off. Since there aren’t very many brand-new Ford donor vehicles out there yet (which is a good thing), tracking down a compatible transmission proved to be highly difficult but not ultimately impossible.
Next, the KTL team began working on the F-250’s suspension system. The truck was torn down to the bare frame, and to give the truck better overlanding capabilities, the factory twin traction beam setup was removed for a solid front axle configuration complete with custom trailing arms, adjustable Fox external reservoir shocks all around, an RYD Motorsports 8-inch lift, along with a custom 4-link suspension swap at the rear. To complete the F-250’s heavily upgraded chassis, a set of 20-inch Method Racing wheels along with 37-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Boss AT rubber will allow this rig to adequately take on any stretch of land off the beaten path.
With the power and suspension portions of the build well taken care of, the crew at KTL began rolling out their plan for the F-250’s exterior. From the start, the team already knew that a throwback ’90s style paint and graphics would be an absolute must. And to properly outfit the truck to live out its true overland intentions, Complete Performance Addicts joined the build as a major sponsor since the company is a commanding steward of classic early 80s-early ’00s full size Ford pickups.
The first order of business was to add Warn bumpers at both ends, outfit the truck with front and rear recovery winches, and attach a Leitner Designs cargo rack over the bed that is complete with lockable cooler boxes and fuel cans on the sides. Topping the bed is a FreeSpirit Recreation rooftop tent that provides the accommodations under the stars after a long day’s trek.
Underneath the canopy and inside of the bed await everything one could possibly need while out on a days-long trip off the grid: a full-size spare, onboard air, a total of five XSPower batteries (two to power the truck and three for accessories), and a Nomad four-stage water filtration system that can provide better-than-tap purified drinking water from just about any body of water. Lighting the way forward (and on all other sides as well as underneath the truck) is an assortment of KC HiLiTES that guarantee there’s always more than adequate illumination in all areas of the truck and its surrounding environment.
More Creature Comforts
Speed & Design of Nashville joined the build with its custom seats that are covered in Moore and Giles leather upholstery that is designed to withstand heavy use and abuse. A custom insert was then fitted onto the dash to mount an iPad that runs Holley’s digital EFI instrumentation, the column shifter was relocated to the floor, a set of Lokar Goolsby Edge edition pedal pads make for a bold appearance underneath the dash. Even though the Ford’s cabin space may appear to be kept relatively mild, a lot of thought went into its streamlined, comfortable redesign.
With appearances at SEMA, Overland East and Lonestar Throwdown already in the books, this F-250 has many more stops planned for this rest of this year. While a project of this magnitude isn’t a light undertaking, the folks at Hemmings wished to make the effort to combine two popular trends in the pickup truck segment—a classic Ford F-Series pickup that is able to blast off into the horizon for an extended period of time without looking back even once. We’d have to say that everyone involved with this project is responsible for its overwhelming success.
Hemmings Motor News
1997 Ford F-250
- Shop: KTL Restorations, Danville, VA
- 2021 Ford Performance 7.3L V-8 Godzilla crate engine
- Custom dual 3-inch exhaust system
- Flowmaster mufflers
- 2021 Ford 10R40 transmission
- Lokar shifter
- Summit Racing transmission cooler
- Tom Wood’s custom driveshaft
- 2021 Raptor transfer case
- 2005 Superduty Dana 60 front and rear axles
- 3.73 axle ratios
- Shop: KTL Restorations
- Factory 1997 F-250 frame
- RYD Motorsports 8-inch lift kit
- Fox external 2.0 reservoir shocks
- Hellwig rear springs and stabilizer
- Custom 4-link suspension swap
- Front of chassis modified to fit Warn bumper
- Two factory dual 20-gallon tanks
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
- 20-inch Method Racing wheels
- 37-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Boss tires
- Wilwood braking components
- EastSide Motorsports master cylinder
- Shop: KTL Restorations
- BASF Glasurit 55-line / Tri Coat pearl with custom 90’s inspired stripe graphics
- Complete Performance Addict grille
- Warn bumpers for 2017 Superduty
- KC HiLites underneath hood, undercarriage, wheel wells, cap, top, storage and inner cab
- Shop: Speed and Design, Nashville, TN
- Custom seats
- Moore and Giles leather upholstery
- Custom dyed interior
- Holley EFI instrumentation
- Complete Performance Addicts custom steering wheel
- Jensen stereo
- Column shifter removed, custom shifter cover made