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2007 Ford F-150, F-250 Harley-Davidson

This has been a rough year for celebrities. Just look at the tabloids, chock full of angst-ridden beautiful people calling it quits on each other.

This has been a rough year for celebrities. Just look at the tabloids, chock full of angst-ridden beautiful people calling it quits on each other.

 

But not all famous couples are in jeopardy. Harley-Davidson and Ford (both of which turned 100 in 2003) are still going strong and their union will be extended to at least 2009.

 

Hollywood can learn a lesson in commitment from these two. Then again, the lesson might lie in their superior marketing sense.

 

This automotive duo have sold more than 50,000 Harley-Davidson editions of the F-150 since they got together. You can credit their special sales hook: each model year of the Ford-Harley has been different, making them all collectible.

 

First introduced in 2000, the original Ford Harley-Davidson was an F-150 SuperCab, then followed a 2001 Ford Harley-Davidson SuperCrew. In 2002 and 2003, the Supercharged Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 SuperCrew models arrived.

 

These two were unique because they featured SVT engines, borrowed from the Lightning pickup (though slightly detuned to about 320 hp) and unique suspension set-ups.

 

This was in stark contrast to the millennium and '01 models that carried only appearance and badging packages. Still, they sold every one they built.

 

For 2007, an F-150 SuperCrew and a F-250 SuperCrew will be available dressed in a monotone black paint with subtle blue hot-rod-style flames.

 

The new look also includes a menacing front end with blacked-out headlights, a chrome billet grille and a front air dam that gives the truck a lowered appearance despite the standard 22-inch wheels on polished forged-aluminum rims. A second exterior colour, dark Amethyst, will also be available.

 

I drove the 2006 F-150, which is done up in (what else?) monotone black paint and commanding a price of just over $50,000.

 

Much more subdued than in previous years, the colour-and- accent theme offers a dark, smouldering look highlighted only by the twin chrome-tipped exhaust, 22-inch aluminum wheels and a chrome billet grille.

 

A blood-red stripe pulls your eyes to the beltline of the truck, where the Harley-Davidson name is featured in understated red letters.

 

But, if admirers happen to miss that painted cue, then they're sure to catch the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle bar-and-shield logo, done in chrome badges on the sides and rear of the truck.

 

Dark tinted glass and a blacked-out bumper add to the smoky mystery the truck exudes.

 

Frankly, that look is what you're paying for when you plunk down an extra $5,000 for the 63H Harley-Davidson Package.

 

So, does it work? Heck, yes.

 

This unit cranks heads around fast enough to make a chiropractor smile, and it does it right across a wide demographic swath. Young, old, male and female, pedestrians, drivers — they all look. Long-hairs, short-hairs and no-hairs checked out the truck, on the road, in parking lots and in my driveway.

 

If I measure the cost against the value to my ego, I'd say it would be money well spent.

 

But this much attention can't help but be vaguely flattering, despite my sense that I'd be pretty vain to think people were actually interested in me — not just the truck.

 

The exception, though, was the lady walking by with her dog while I was taking photos who asked me if I also owned a Harley motorcycle.

 

I told her I didn't, to which she replied, "Well, I own one and you have the truck."

 

Inside you get a premium Ford Lariat interior with carpet, door-trim inserts and steering wheel in ebony as well as four black embossed leather bucket seats, with centre consoles front and rear.

 

On the instrument panel, a spun-metal facing is used with Harley gauges. Brake and gas use special black-and-chrome pedals.

 

A centre-mounted chrome logo with the 2006 limited build number (and VIN number) engraved on it is built into the console just behind the chrome-capped dagger shifter.

 

The leather-wrapped steering wheel has redundant controls. Power-adjustable pedals with a memory function move in concert with the heated, powered driver's seat.

 

The successful relationship between Harley and Ford is just the latest collaboration of companies with the Blue Oval.

 

Throughout its history, Ford has lent its name to people who could help it build better (or new) products. Often it was the first to market with items that other companies would subsequently become famous for.

 

For instance, before Massey and Ferguson got together, Ford and Ferguson build several million farm tractors together.

 

Ford even built products unrelated to automobiles such as passenger airplanes, satellites and televisions.

 

It was during the start of the SUV craze that Ford and Eddie Bauer hit on this new kind of "automotive branding" partnership. Teaming up with the wilderness outfitter, Ford created a premium Explorer model that would go on to sell tens of thousands of SUVs.

 

Using famous-name recognition set Ford's premium products apart from the rest; an exercise that Lincoln also repeated successfully with fashion designer Bill Blass.

 

Still, once you get past the glitz, at the heart of every Ford-Harley is the latest generation of the F-150 truck, making it a fully functional pickup with all the hard-working traits of its unadorned cousins.

 

Completely redesigned for the 2004 model year, the F-150 pickup is built on a fully boxed frame with hydroformed front rails that make for a stiff chassis and a solid on-road ride.

 

Rack-and-pinion steering makes the drive feel precise.

 

The coil-on-shock double wishbone front suspension works well with a new rear suspension that features outboard shock placement for better stability on choppy surfaces.

 

Driving around for a week in the Harley edition truck, I also appreciated the fact that, unlike Harley motorcycles, the truck is not noisy at all.

 

New sound deadening foam in the frame and items like liquid-filled motor mounts keep noise and vibration to a minimum — though the tuned muffler did offer up a nice rumble as I pulled away from my stoplight admirers.

 

The one technical change that is exclusive to the F-150 Harley is sport-tuned shock absorbers (front and rear).

 

Otherwise its powertrain is the standard three-valve Triton V8 that makes 300 hp and is coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission.

 

That makes this truck more than a poser, but somewhat less than a hot rod. But then, the marketing folks have proven that this combo is more about the showing than the going.

 

For the first time during this limited run, Ford offered both the F-150 and Super Duty F-250 and F-350 in Harley trim — 15,000 limited-edition trucks in all. Only about 1,500 were allocated to Canadian dealerships.

 

The 2006 truck is also available with a 4WD system that works as a full-time all-wheel- drive set-up, a benefit in our climate.

 

Also (in keeping with Harley riders who tow more than they ride), this truck will haul a payload of 1,388 kg and tow up to 4,491 kg. That makes it pretty and useful as well.

 

The Super Duty Harley pickups will also be available with a 6 1/2-foot box (368 cm wheelbase) that will make them ideal for hauling fifth-wheel type recreational trailers.

 

You know, the type where you can garage your bike in the rear, drive to Daytona, then unload your Hog and cruise the main drag pretending you just did a 2,000 km iron-butt haul from Toronto.

 

Okay, I kid. The F-150 Harley and the image it exudes is all about fun and playing grown-up pretend.

 

At its heart, though, you'll still have the truck you need (chances are, you won't want to get it dirty) and all that attention might make you blush, particularly if a nice dog-walking lady stops to talk to you.

 


wheels@thestar.ca;

 

powersports@sympatico.ca

 


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