Snake Bit! We Drive The Striker F-150 and F-350 Street Trucks

Snake Bit! We Drive The Striker F-150 and F-350 Street Trucks
Photos Copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips,

The Striker F-150 and F-350 custom pickups that debuted at last year’s SEMA show have all the subtlety of AIG retention bonuses, without the toxic financial baggage. Seeing their low-slung shape is enough to cause a stir in the bank accounts of sport truck enthusiasts, but for all the right reasons: The folks at Hulst Customs and Performance West Group know what they’re doing when they create unconventional derivatives.

The F-150 and F-350 aren’t the first Striker trucks to roam the streets. The original Striker paid homage in looks and performance to the 1960s-era Ford-powered AC Shelby Cobra roadster. It was a 2007 Ford F-350 Super Duty dualie with a Gale Banks-massaged 463 horsepower, 800 pounds-feet of torque 6.0-liter diesel engine designed and built by Hulst for the 2006 SEMA show. It was honored with Ford’s coveted Design Excellence Award that year.

For the second round, Hulst teamed up with PWG. Together they drew inspiration for the new Strikers from another classic Shelby creation, the Ford Shelby GT500KR "King of the Road" Mustang. They cranked it up a few notches by making half-ton and one-ton versions -- spreading the wealth, so to speak.

Striker F-150 and F-350 Street Trucks

The Striker reboot visually ties both trucks together using bold front ends with giant black anodized mesh grille inserts, plus "Badass Blue" Le Mans-style race stripes that run the length of each rig. Inside, the visual excesses continue with Katzkin custom leather seats, featuring snakeskin texturing and embossed striking cobras between your legs and behind your head.

Hulst and PWG originally intended to bulk up the trucks’ muscles with powertrain upgrades to match the exterior and interior improvements, but unexpected changes in the 2009 Ford F-150’s engine compartment prevented installation of a carryover Kenne Bell supercharger for its 320 hp, 390 lbs.-ft. 5.4-liter V-8. The only thing that could be squeezed under the F-150’s hood was an AirRaid intake system. At the same time, tough diesel emissions rules -- which didn’t exist in 2006, when the original Striker F-350 was forged -- virtually killed hardware upgrades for the 2008 F-Series Super Duty F-350’s 350 hp, 650 lbs.-ft. 6.4-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8.

Though they lack go-fast components – for what it’s worth, Ford uses standard powertrains in its fancy Harley-Davidson F-Series pickups, too – the running gear and rolling stock have been thoroughly upgraded.

Performance West Group Striker F-150

PWG’s Larry Weiner threw us the keys to both Strikers for a few hours of fun in Southern California, where we checked to see if these snakes could charm in real-world driving as much as they look like they could when standing still.

The Striker F-150’s interior is well-appointed. Like the 2010 Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 -- but almost a half-year ahead of it -- high-gloss piano-black paint richly coats the center stack that houses the Sony LCD head unit. The black leather seats have high-contrast white stitching and firm bolstering. They’re matched by a custom leather headliner that hugs the ceiling.

A Magnaflow cat-back dual exhaust system toughens the 5.4-liter V-8’s exhaust note from ignition to shutdown without being intrusive when you jump on the accelerator or run steady state on surface streets and the highway.

Performance West Group Striker F-150

The Striker F-150’s off-the-shelf DJM suspension is new for 2009. The shock and spring kit sets the truck down almost directly on top of its 22-inch custom-forged 12-spoke aluminum wheels, yet it provides better ride quality than any slammed sport truck has the right to have. Low-profile Pirelli Scorpion Zero Asimmetrico ultra-high-performance speed and load-capable ZR-rated tires hug every corner without skipping or slipping. The only negative is noticeable wheel scrub when you turn the truck sharply, but that’s a compromise that comes with the Striker’s ground-hugging looks.

The F-150’s silver paint and striped body work immediately catch the attention of drivers wherever they go, but that’s nothing compared to the attention that its heavy-duty bigger brother gets.

If NASA is looking for missing engine bells from its Saturn V moon rocket, it’s probably because they’ve been turned into the 24-inch wheels on Hulst Custom’s F-350 Striker II. The 10-lug American Force-forged wheels, installed using an eight- to 10-lug adapter, look massive, even on Ford’s one-ton dually diesel. They’re shod with low-profile Pirelli tires designed for a different kind of hauling than Ford Super Duty trucks typically do.

Hulst Customs Striker F-350

The F-350 also uses a DJM lowering kit, but it’s only springs and shocks, no airbags. The components are all available today, and none of it is custom fabricated.

We’re amazed the F-350’s ride proves to be acceptably compliant and livable when there’s so much wheel weight and mass, with so little sidewall in the tires. It only beat us up on a patched, broken stretch of frontage road next to I-5. In fact, it was as comfortable, if not more so, than the stock 2009 Ford F-250 4x4 we drove in to see the Striker trucks. Like in the F-150, though, there’s wheel scrub through almost every turn because the tire and well tolerances are so tight.

It’s a no-apologies sport truck, but it’s also a Super Duty. You couldn’t put a fifth-wheel or gooseneck on it, but it’ll still take a conventional hitch and tow a lightweight SCCA racecar to the track.

Hulst Customs Striker F-350

The interior isn’t quite as bedecked as the Striker F-150, but it’s not the inside that grabs attention as much as it is the outside, which slowed and stopped traffic at almost every intersection we passed and on the freeway. Other drivers couldn’t help but notice this giant, slammed pickup, even if they were talking on a cell phone, eating a burger and steering with their knees.

When we put both trucks together for some on-road photography, the jolt awakened even the most jaded drivers on SoCal freeways. Almost every age group and size and shape of car slowed to get closer looks. And unlike the scrutiny the U.S. economy and Wall Street compensation packages have invited since last fall, the Striker pickups welcome all the attention they deserve.



Nice. First 09 I've seen with a front-end that looks decent...other than the (drool) Raptor.

If this is the first that looks decent, I guess you like low front chins and mesh grilles. I prefer the regular F-150 trim levels.

Wow I got to get that grille and put it on a FX4.... that would look real nice. I wonder if/when someone will offer a grille that looks like that...

The trucks look good.

20" wheels are not for performance, ask any seasoned road racers and they will tell you anything above 18" is useless and hinders performance.

Cornering ability will improve with its lowered stance but in reality I read nothing that would help its lateral grip and with a sealed rear bed with no wing is dangerous at higher speeds. The rear-end is light and with little rear downforce at higher speeds could force the loss of traction into turns.

Rear brakes? What about front brakes? This is a heavy truck and brakes should be key to any upgrade like this.

Any bracing underneath? You can have all the power you want but getting it to the ground is difficult with trucks, especially at the track.

Maybe they should run this truck at a road course and see what she is really made of?

I need one of these grilles to tow heavy load 6 times a year. Myabe I will get the 6.2 We will have to see though.

The GM Sierra with the 6.2 is the best truck in the world.

Is the 5.0 the engine to look out for?

Hilarious. Seomone out there is so distressed by what I say that they take the time to impersonate me on another forum.

RE: 5.0l - this is not the engine to watch for torque. Especially compared to the overtoqued 5.4l (it has the torque of mych larger and much more powerful engines). However, the 5.0l is a great example of what Ford can do with eight cylinders. It will have great power, great torque and great FE ... but it will not be a tow monster like the 5.4l or the V10.

I always liked the looks and proportions of the F-150 but they really need to catch up under the hood. The latest model is dead slow in acceleration and can barely break a 16 second quarter mile according to a recent test in this magazine. Putting racing stripes and ground effects on the slowest truck in the class harkens back to the late '70s. Things should improve when the bigger engine turns up, but hopefully they make it available across the line and not just in a super expensive limited edition truck.

Wheres the regular cab version? A super cab will never look as good as a regular cab pick up.

Chevy,Dodge who cares, They look sweeeeet. And I want the f350 striker . That's really BAD ASS LOOKING and it will look very sweeeet with a nice 34 foot regal boat on the tow. How soon will they be available?

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