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Project #LoTech: NKCS Students Customize Truck For The 2018 SEMA Show

This year, the SEMA Show floor had a very special customized vehicle. No, we aren’t talking about a Chip Foose build or Ken Block’s newest racing machine. We’re talking about a completely modified 2017 Ford F-150, customized in part by the automotive department at the Career and Technical Education Center of North Kansas City Schools.

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NKCS students put countless hours of work into Project #LoTech under the watchful eye of instructor Jack Stow. Students Marla Hughes and Ashley Erskin were the project leads. (Left to Right): Carl Piraino, Ashley Erskin, Jack Stow, Marla Hughes and Mason Purdon. Photo by NKCS.

This year, the SEMA Show floor had a very special customized vehicle. No, we aren’t talking about a Chip Foose build or Ken Block’s newest racing machine. We’re talking about a completely modified 2017 Ford F-150, customized in part by the automotive department at the Career and Technical Education Center of North Kansas City Schools.

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“These are young folks and they aren’t yet seasoned, but they have treated this as very seasoned veterans,” says automotive instructor Jack Stow of the Kansas City, Missouri-based school. “They did their research, they came together and it’s been an incredible experience.”

Creating Project #LoTech

This summer, automotive instructor Jack Stow of North Kansas City Schools was approached by Chux Trux to help them complete a customized truck for SEMA — one they were calling Project #LoTech.

 “Currently it’s called Project ‘Lo Tech’ because truly there should be no modifications that have to be made to these parts,”

Stow says. “You can just walk in and buy them and they’re supposed to be direct drop-in replacements for the vehicle.”

This low-tech nature of installing a huge list of high-tech parts, proved to be a little more technical than expected, but it was all a part of the journey.

A few days before Labor Day, the students and Stow were delivered the truck and got to work, only having a few months to complete the truck for their October deadline. While working on the truck, the students also created videos of themselves installing and discussing every part they installed for Chux Trux.  

 The plan from Chux Trux was to take the 2017 Ford F-150 Lariat 4×4 (with a 3.5L Ecoboost twin-turbo engine and Ford’s new 10-speed transmission) and turn it into a lowered truck with exterior modifications and rare performance modifications. Plus, the 4WD capabilities would remain intact with the lowering kit. The students would help with a portion of the modifications, while Chux Trux and a few other vendors would complete the rest.

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“The first big thing we did was tear down the engine bay,” says Mason Purdon, a senior at the Career & Technical Education Center (CTEC). “We replaced the stock radiator with a full race radiator, as well as the transmission cooler when we got the truck.” 

“The hot side, a turbo downpipe was already installed, so we went ahead and installed the cold side. We also had to make sure the power was working correctly, and figured out exactly how that works and I got it back on track to work properly.”

“When you take in each part, you’re just expected to learn a lot,” adds Carl Piraino, also a CTEC senior. “It really does accelerate the learning because not only do you have to know about that part, but to understand that part, you also have to learn about the factory part. And, I think this has really accelerated the year for me.”

Finishing the Puzzle

Along the way, the students were constantly learning how to solve problems as things didn’t always go as planned. The throttle body, for example, needed to be installed using an extension for the wiring because the throttle body they received was for an older model engine and connected on the opposite side.

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The students spent a lot of time working on wiring when they went to install the front fascia and custom grille.

“All the stock wiring from the original headlights and fog lights were all scattered throughout the front end of the truck,” Purdon adds. “We kind of organized that in a nicer manner and tucked them in the stock bumper, which we had dropped down a few inches to clear for the new bumper cover.”

Additionally, the custom mesh grille also involved installing dynamic parts that can change colors so the headlights were rebuilt with diodes. Those extra wires also needed to be hidden, as well as any wires from the custom pillar, to hold the water methanol gauge.

A rare modification includes the lowering kit the students installed, that will still allow the truck to have 4WD capabilities. On the fun side, the students also got to install a train horn, which came with its own set of challenges.

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Because the truck is a short bed, with the bigger gas tank, it didn’t have quite the clearance to fit the train horns underneath the truck. That’s where more customization came in.

The students got to work and took apart the smaller horn and shortened it up to fit. Something the manufacturer has taken note of for future fitments.

“Getting all of these parts for things that we already have, and having to take stuff out and putting it back together, I think that’s probably the best part of it,” says Marla Hughes, a CTEC senior and one of the two female project leaders. “It’s usually not fun in the moment, but after you’re done, especially at the show, this is something that we can look at and say, ‘Wow, we did that.’”

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 Some final touches came in toward the end, including the students learning how to wrap the top half of the vehicle.

“Not a lot of people in general get this opportunity, but especially people our age don’t get this chance,” says Hughes.  

Modifications

Rendering of the finalized truck by Chux Trux.

Performance Modifications

Snow Performance – Water/Methanol injection kit

Edge Products – CTS2 computer tuner & monitor

Edge Products – Amp’d Throttle Booster

Odyssey Battery – High-performance AGM battery

BBK – 73mm Power Plus Throttle Body

Mishimoto – Intercooler

Mishimoto – Radiator expansion tank

MBRP – Hot & cold side intercooler pipe kits

Design Engineering (DEI) – Intercooler water sprayer

Design Engineering (DEI) – Intercooler CO2 chiller

Design Engineering (DEI) – Turbo blankets

JLT Performance – Oil separator

aFe Power – Dual cold air intake

TurboSmart – Smart Port Supersonic blow-off valve

TurboSmart – Boost Tee boost controller

Full Race – Oversized radiator

Full Race – Transmission cooler

AutoMeter – Dashlink Bluetooth gauge package with OBDII splitter cable

AMSOIL – Fluids including antifreeze, brake fluids, differential fluids, transmission fluid, brake fluid, engine oil

Interior Modifications

Katzkin Leather – Ebony & carbon fiber leather with heated and cooled seats

Built Right – Velcro tech 3-pc. under-seat organizer

Built Right – Rear seat fold-down quick release kit

Built Right – Dash mount

E&G Classics – Locking center console vault

Husky Liners – X-act Contour custom-fit floor liners

Husky Liners – Gearbox under-seat storage

Cup Holder Hero – Interior compartment liners

Covercraft – Custom sunscreen

Bulldog – 45-qt. cooler

Carbon fiber dash kit and more!

Exterior Modifications

Extang – Prototype hard folding tonneau cover

Undercover – SwingCase

Husky Liner – Wheel well liners

Truxedo – Truck luggage bulkhead trays & tailgate seal

RK Sport – V2 Ram air hood

Striker Trucks – Custom front grille, bumper cover and roll pan

Air Design – Fender vents & tailgate spoiler

All Sales Mfg. – Billet license plate frames & antenna

Bedrug – The world’s best truck bed liner & TrackMat

Billet Badges – Custom-made billet front and rear Chux Trux logos

FuelpaX – 2.5 gallon spare fuel tank

Built Right Industries – Bedside rack 4-panel system with custom mounts for FuelpaX and other accessories

Curt Mfg.- Rear hitch-mounted license plate holder

EGR – Cab spoiler

PIAA – Silicone wipers

Fastway Trailer – Fortress coupler lock & Flash solid tow ball mount

3M – vinyl wrap

Croftgate – Detailing kit

Suspension & Chassis

Airlift – Slam Air airbags, compressors & Smart-Air II auto-leveling kit

Bell Tech – 3”/5” lowering kit

Hellwig Products – Front & rear (anti) sway bars

Power Stop – Extreme series brake rotors, pads & calipers

Calvert Racing – CalTracs traction bars

G2 Axle – Brute series differential cover

TIRES & WHEELS

Niche Road Wheels – RS10 forged Monoblock wheels 22”x9.5”

Toyo Tires – 305/40R/22 Proxes STIII

Schrader Performance – TPMS wheel sensors

McGard – Spline Drive lug kit with black PVD

12-volt

Diode Dynamics – Stage Series LED light bars, Bluetooth Demon Eyes & Switchbacks

PIAA – RF-18 Ion yellow widespread LED light bar

Rigid Industries – D-Series SAE-compliant clear LED fog lights & D-series amber LED driving lights with custom fit brackets

Switchpros – SP9100 8-switch panel power system

Kleinn – Onboard air & train horns with a vehicle-specific mounting kit

Redcat Racing – Dukono series 1/10th scale 4×4 R/C truck

Waylens – Secure 360 video dash cam with video alarm

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