As far as the eye can see, there's nothing friendly about South Dakota'sBadlands. The size of an ocean, it stretches across the horizon, sculpted into canyoned mazes with lots of ways in, but seemingly no way out. Legend has it that even the tough Native American Indians of the region stayed out of this place.
But today, if you're a guy toting a fat salami or a girl with big twins, the Badlands are the place you head every August. And these select individuals bring the following with them every year: beer bellies, sagging tattoos, wind-burnt skin, and stereotypical leather clothing that looks like it all came from the same catalog.
The event is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and it's right up with Bike Week in Daytona if you're into the Harley-Davidson thing. In its 66th year, the event draws 500,000 people to the western side ofSouth Dakota. This increases the state's population by 75 percent, and literally transforms towns like Sturgis, Spearfish, and Deadwood into temporary HOG heaven or hell, depending on your point of view. (For you non-bikers, HOG stands for Harley Owners Group, fat salamis are exhaust pipes, and big twins are large-displacement V-twin engines.)
Town main streets are lined with bikes and bikers and babes. Campgrounds and hotels are filled, and locals even rent out space in their front yards for bikers to pitch tents. City-funded port-a-johns take care of that need for tent dwellers, while some enterprising individuals offer shower stations for five bucks a rinsing. Along with these small-time gigs, major commercial commerce follows the two-wheeled crowd to the rally, so anything related to the biker lifestyle is available for purchase. Plunk down your cash for everything from temporary tattoos to custom bikes to tricked-out semi-trucks with enclosed bike haulers.
2007 Ford F-150
It was this classy environment that Ford chose to introduce its latest edition wearing the Harley-Davidson shield. Unlike so much of what happens in Sturgis every August, this new 2007 Ford relies on tasteful custom touches to make the scene. No flaming skull graphics. No naked chicks airbrushed in perfected detail. Damn.
The base for the Harley-Davidson edition is the F-150 four-door Super Crew equipped with the Triton 5.4-liter V-8 engine that produces 300 horsepower. The truck stands tall on forged and polished 22-inch rims – the first production use of wheels so large. Chrome letters stretch the length of the 5-1/2 foot bed and spell out HARLEY-DAVIDSON. Weighty cast HD shields appear on the tailgate and on the front quarters. A unique grill, blacked out surfaces within the headlights, and a black chin spoiler give the truck a decidedly menacing look from the front. Smoked rear lamps carry the look to the back of the vehicle. Slash-cut chrome exhaust pipes finish off the exterior transformation.
Inside, custom touches include an instrument cluster that has the look of machined steel. Designers placed a chrome outline of the shield on the seat backs. Ebony trim, glints of chrome, and surfaces textured with the shield graphic significantly alter the appearance of the otherwise stock F-150 interior. It's rich. It's slick. It's totally custom. As a finishing touch, look for the VIN plate on the lower edge of the center stack.
Mechanically, the HD-edition F-150 can be had in 4x2 or AWD configurations. The AWD system is borrowed from the Lincoln Navigator. The suspension is tightened up as well, with firmer shock valving sourced from Ford's enormous F-150 parts bin.
Our ride for Sturgis was a two-wheel drive model in Dark Amethyst, the color of a ripe and polished eggplant. It stood out from the stark browns of theBadlandsalmost as much as the pretend-bikers walking the streets of Sturgis trying to look like they belonged. Everywhere the truck stopped, it drew stares normally reserved for only the coolest custom bikes. Nothing but respect.
2007 Ford F-150
Roads to nowhere
One of the reasons people do The Rally is because of the variety of roads and the unbelievable scenery that are all within an easy day's ride. Head North to arid high plains. TheBlack Hillssouth of Sturgis are densely forested. All aroundMt.Rushmoreare roads so curvy you have to look out your side window to see where you're going. Some tunnels cut through these hills are barely one lane wide. Tunnel walls are striped with the colors of mirrors that sacrificed their exterior finish acting an expensive curb feeler.
The new Ford handled everything, including the washboard gravel roads that took us along the northern rim of theBadlandsabout an hour east of Sturgis. Of special note, the truck's quick rack-and-pinion steering was appreciated on several occasions. During the rally, weekend-warrior type bikers often ride too long after partying too hard the night before. This translates into sloppy riding. As I didn't want a biker to become a new hood ornament for the Ford, on several occasions I had to dodge scooters that crossed the double yellow into my lane. The sharp handling of the huge Pirelli Scorpion tires helped keep the Ford's hood biker free. These stock tires measure out like a steamroller at P275/45R22.
As competently as they performed, the Pirellis couldn't help in one instance. Here's the story … I was stopped at a light minding my own business. A truck approaching the intersection from my left missed the fact that his light was red and shunted a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide that was heading toward me in the oncoming lane. Thankfully, the rider wasn't moving too quickly. The high-sided bike scrubbed off most of its speed before coming to an abrupt stop under the front air dam of my truck. Ford PR was most gracious about the light damage.
2007 Ford F-150
Sans bike under the bumper and back out on the open road, the truck's new suspension was smooth and never jarring. The added stiffness, however, did send some shakes and quivers through the body structure when the right kind of bump was hit. While the F-150 was new in 2004, its structure feels like it could be a bit stiffer to keep pace with the new models from General Motors and the imports. This said, the truck never squeaked or rattled, and our ride already had several thousand miles on the odo.
Also different on this model, Ford modified the exhaust. While it doesn't offer any more power, the baritone rumble sounds much tougher than stock. We had hoped Ford would have made their V-8 exhaust go "potato potato potato," but Harley-Davidson probably has a copyright on that sound.
Regardless of where we drove, the 5.4-liter Triton gave us the kick we needed. With 300 horses, this is biggest and most powerful gasoline V-8 Ford offers (the supercharged GT motor notwithstanding). But after our experience in the Roush Stage 3 F-150, we couldn't help wish for a supercharger and the extra 145 horsepower that comes with it. Come to think of it, the lowered suspension from Roush wouldn't hurt this truck either. To finish off the custom look, getting rid of the excessive stock wheel well clearances is just what this truck needs.
Ford realizes that to sell three quarters of a million trucks, they need to add some sizzle to help sell the steak. Ford also knows that bikers often own trucks, so this targeted effort makes sense. The company expects to sell approximately 7000 copies of this model, which is also available in Black.
Both Ford Motor Company and Harley-Davidson began building vehicles in 1903. It was not until 1999 that marketing types thought it a good idea to team together on limited-edition trucks. This cooperative effort has born six F-150s, plus Super Duty F-250 and F-350 models. Sales of all models since 1999 total nearly 50,000.
If you're looking for a truck to match your Harley-Davidson lifestyle, this is it. If you don't own a HOG, the truck is stylish enough to drive based on its own merits. -Rex Roy
2007 Ford Harley-Davidson Edition F-150
Base price: $36,225 (4x2); all-wheel drive, $39,225
Engine: 5.4-liter V-8, 300 hp/365 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Four-speed automatic, two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 224.0 x 78.9 x 71.5 in
Wheelbase: 138.5 in
Curb weight: 5300 lb (est.)
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 14/19 mpg (est.)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags; anti-lock brakes
Major standard equipment: Air conditioning with electronic temperature control; rear-window defroster; message center with trip computer; leather-wrapped steering wheel with duplicate controls; power driver's seat; AM/FM/CD audio system
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles