A True Show Stopper

May 2020 Feature Colin Peterson

We haven’t talked about the smaller trucks as much as we have the three-quarter-ton and larger trucks, as historically the half-tons didn’t have a diesel engine option and they don’t present themselves as boldly as the larger trucks. However, this black-and-red 2019 3.0L V6 Power Stroke-powered Ford F150 is a major reason to really emphasize those newer half-tons. It truly catches the eye, especially with the bold color scheme of a Cherry Dr. Pepper can. It was built by Custom Auto LLC in Idaho Falls, Idaho, as a major promoter of the 2019 Ultimate Callout Challenge (UCC).

As the owner of Custom Auto for more than 18 years, James Brendle has extensive experience beautifying trucks in many ways. Though the shop’s services include everything from repairs and modifications to spraying bedliners, Custom Auto is known on a national level for producing high-horsepower trucks and on average completes about two to three SEMA-worthy truck builds per year.

To get some perspective on this 2019 F150, we took the time to interview the shop owner and get the details behind this build. Custom Auto spent nearly two months building the truck prior to the unveil at the UCC last April. The shop completed the lift kit, wheels and tires, but the rest of the mods were completed at the UCC.

“This truck was my daily driver, but I mainly built it for showcasing UCC,” says Brendle. “The bold accent colors on this truck, along with the fact that it is a diesel half-ton, really make it a unique figure, because it encourages vehicle diversity for performance events in a powerful way.”

Standing Out

With the amount of mods it has on it along with its color scheme and the aggressive newer F150 design, this brand-new truck actually looks and feels quite a bit more like something larger than a half-ton. Of course, Brendle wanted to give his F150 an ultra-tough look, but felt an all-black truck would look too bland so he went with the red accents to give it unique character.

“You need the accent,” Brendle says. “The lava color is where the idea for it came from.” When you take a close look, the color very closely resembles that found on Cherry Dr. Pepper cans.

“I really wanted to change things up and try something different and it really worked out well,” Brendle adds. He makes a bold statement when he says that, as it makes a new audience turn up their ears. For those who still like diesels but don’t like the added vehicle weight or size, or who feel all the massive stock power and torque is unnecessary and not worth the higher fuel consumption, this is quite a time to be alive. All the smaller trucks from Ford, Chevrolet/GMC, and RAM are now available with a diesel option. Sure, they don’t have as much power and torque as their larger brothers, but even with that better fuel economy, they’re still good for towing something around the weight of a small yacht and still have a high payload capacity.

Big Ride & Looks

This truck has quite the raise, and it goes well with the front and rear bumpers and chase rack in the bed. The half-ton beast boasts a 6-inch lift kit by Rough Country, capable of some serious off-road riding while still sporting an aggressive look that gives the truck some big character. The Fury 37-inch Country Hunter R/T tires also provide a strong balance between highway and off-road use; they’re great for everyday driving and also provide a quiet ride as they sit on SOTA wheels.

For the bumpers and chase rack, fabricated by Addictive Desert Designs (ADD), Brendle went to Alligator Performance in Hayden, Idaho. The bumpers really emphasize the new F150’s improved capability over previous generations, and they make the truck great for work or in this case for show as it was purpose-built to help promote the UCC. The chase rack sets the beast apart as a show horse, but it also works well for night adventures as it features folding lights with an actuator to raise and lower them.

“I was trying to go for the full Raptor design,” says Brendle. He implied that the truck would be missing out on a lot of good looks if it didn’t have the chase rack included with the bumpers. The Royalty Core grille and Dezert Lighting headlights, taillights, and mirrors also add character in the same way. A CW Wraps protective film provides a clean and elegant finishing touch on the vehicle.

High Performance

The tuning on this truck was perfected by Kory Willis Tuning through the EZ Lynk AutoAgent 2, and it provides a boost of roughly 80 additional horsepower. The device quickly and easily programs the engine and transmission and also sends and receives data with technicians in real time! The intake and exhaust also enhance the tuning. The S&B cold air intake provides an airflow improvement of more than 20 percent over a stock unit and is well protected from dirt and engine bay heat, thanks to an enclosed air box. With this intake, you’re sure to not have any wasted energy. The exhaust, manufactured by Diamond Eye, tops off all that muscular performance with an improved exhaust note, and the black tips add more to the aggressive look.

With these tunes added to the engine and transmission, of course, Custom Auto had to modify the end of the powertrain with it; the stock differential cover was changed to one made by aFe Power. The aFe cover offers 5 quarts of fluid capacity and built-in internal and external fins to vent fluid heat outside to maximize cooling. The magnetic drain plug also captures those loose metal particles for optimal differential life.

For an extra long run time, Brendle added a 48-gallon TITAN fuel tank to his F150. Additionally, the tank is tapered and features a unique low fuel trap design so virtually every last gallon gets used. The tank is easy to install, and at rated highway mpg, it can allow a diesel F150 to achieve a full-tank range of more than 1,400 miles!

Closing Thoughts & Looking Ahead

It now serves as a daily driver, but Brendle admits he has a lot of people interested in it so he might not have it much longer. Either way he’s learned a lot from his experience with this truck. Originally, he wanted to give the truck even more of a “Raptor” look by adding Raptor fender flares. Those, however, didn’t happen, though the truck still maintains uniquely stylish looks with the Bushwacker fender flares instead.

“It’s a common occurrence that we come across parts that don’t seem to work out, but we learn from our experience and still figure out good alternatives in the end,” says Brendle. “The smaller diesels will make it big here, since they’re huge overseas!”


Addictive Desert Designs

aFe Power

Alligator Performance


Custom Auto LLC

CW Wraps

Dezert Lighting LLC

Diamond Eye Performance

EZ Lynk

Fury Offroad Tires

Kory Willis Tuning

Rough Country

Royalty Core

SOTA Offroad

TITAN Fuel Tanks

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