Offgrid Transportation Colossus: TinyHomeToyHauler’s Overland Ford F-450 Build
Modified with the latest in overlanding innovations, the 2023...
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With an 8,600-pound curb weight — roughly equivalent to three Toyota Corollas — and 35,000-pound maximum towing capacity, this Ford F-450 is about as much truck as you can get before graduating to a commercial-grade model. Unlike its F-250 and F-350 Super Duty siblings, the 2019 F-450 was only available with a 6.7L turbo-diesel V-8 that produces 450 horsepower and 935 pound-feet of torque, and only offered in dual-rear-wheel (aka “dually”) configuration. It’s perfectly suited to driving coast-to-coast with a massive trailer in tow but might be considered overkill for an overland vehicle build — that is, unless you’re the Peru family (@tinyhometoyhauler).
Photos by Charna Peru
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 60 of our sister publication Recoil magazine.
Justice Peru writes, “What you see today definitely wasn’t our Plan A or even our Plan B. If I had to guess, I’d say we are on Plan E or F at this point.” In 2019, he was spending about 85 percent of the year traveling for work. “I was missing my son’s milestones and being omitted from family memories. I told my wife [Charna] that she and our son should join me on the road.” Charna was hesitant to spend most of the year bouncing between hotels and airports, so the two settled on the idea of creating a tiny home on wheels. Unlike a cumbersome RV that would be relegated to highways and truck stops, the Peru family wanted a truck that was ready for any adventure, on-road or off-road.
The first version of this project was inspired by Earthroamer, a company that builds custom, turnkey overland rigs on the Ford F-550 4×4 chassis. However, prices for those trucks start at $665,000 and can easily surpass $800,000. The Peru family wanted to spend far less than that, yet retain most of the capabilities. It wouldn’t be easy.
Above: To switch from a dually rear end to a “super single” setup with square track width, Justice added custom Stazworks forged aluminum wheels and wider McNeil Racing front fenders.
After leaving the dealership in their new Ford F-450, the first step was to switch the towing-oriented dually setup to an off-road-friendly single rear wheel and widen the front track width to match. “I spent a lot of time researching the components for the super single conversion. This wasn’t a catalog build by any means. More times than not, we had to go with the only option rather than what we’d prefer,” Justice recalls. A local diesel mechanic — 321 Auto in Merritt Island, Florida — installed the Carli suspension, wider McNeil Racing front fenders, 20×10-inch Stazworks wheels, and 41-inch Goodyear tires. The front bumper contains a Smittybilt XRC Gen2 12,000-pound winch. The rear bumper features containers for water and fuel, as well as a prototype reinforced tire carrier that was needed to support the hefty 206-pound full-size spare tire.
Above: The F-450’s gargantuan spare tire weighs 206 pounds, and most swing-away carriers aren’t built to handle that kind of weight. So, ExpeditionOne used the truck as a test bed for a new beefed-up prototype Dual Swing rear bumper (available by special order).
Initially, the truck was configured with an aluminum camper in the bed, but limited capabilities and structural issues led the Perus to ditch that setup after a few months. Now, the truck is configured to tow a Black Series HQ17 off-road camper. That left the bed open for a prototype Mule Expedition Equipment rack, which offers adjustable height to clear dirt bikes and other tall cargo. The rack supports a 23Zero Kabari roof-top tent and two Peregrine 180 awnings, so the Peru family can still have a comfortable place to sleep when they’re not towing the camper. A second Mule rack was added to the truck’s roof, and carries four AluBoxes loaded with gear, plus a 23Zero Peregrine shower enclosure.
The Ford F-450 rides on a Carli 4.5-inch Pintop suspension kit with King 2.5-inch shocks up front and Carli heavy-duty leaf springs with 3-inch lift blocks in the rear. Since the new camper weighs up to 9,000 pounds loaded, Air Lift Load Lifter airbags were also installed, along with Daystar airbag cradles that are detached to maximize off-road suspension travel when they’re not in use.
To illuminate the highways, trails, and campsites where this truck resides, Justice added an array of LightForce products. These include four HTX2s and two Strikers on the front bumper, six more Strikers on the roof rack, four Nightfall ROK 40s on the rear bumper and ditch brackets, and a handful of ROK 20 and ROK 9 utility lights all around the bed rack. An RCR-Force-12 control unit from Switch Pros toggles all the lighting on and off.
Inside the cab, two-thirds of the Lariat trim rear bench seat have been removed to make room for a DIY platform that contains toolboxes, a storage cubby, a Goal Zero 500X portable power station, and a Dometic CFX3 35 fridge. A smaller Dometic CCF-T fridge was installed in the center console to keep drinks and snacks cool. There’s still enough room in the back of the cab for the Perus’ dog and one passenger. Up front, 67 Designs phone mounts make it convenient to check downloaded OnX Maps for off-grid navigation, and a RAM floor mount holds an iPad that monitors the F-450’s vitals through the EZ LYNK Auto Agent app. Handheld Rugged Radios allow communication with spotters on difficult trails.\
Above: Justice, Charna, their son, and their dog live on the road year-round. The truck is a centerpiece to all their adventures, from hiking and camping to shooting and dirt-biking.
Justice writes, “Our truck is our only vehicle. With about 100,000 miles in 2.5 years, it has made multiple cross-country trips transitioning from pavement to dirt with just a change in tire pressure.” He and Charna — who took all the photos seen in this article — have bombed through trails in Baja, crossed Imogene Pass in Colorado, and even completed the famous Top of the World trail near Moab, Utah. “Due to our longer wheelbase and the lines being more for Jeeps, my wife had to walk most of the trail just to spot me on the technical parts. Slowly but surely, we made it to the top just before sunset. If you’ve ever been, you know that view is absolutely worth it.”
Year/Make/Model: 2019 Ford F-450 4×4 Lariat
Drivetrain: 6.7L Power Stroke turbo-diesel V-8 with S&B Filters intake, intercooler pipe, MAP sensor spacer, and 68-gallon fuel tank; TorqShift 6R140 automatic transmission with Proven Diesel tune; PMF Dana 60 front axle truss and front diff cover
Suspension: Carli 4.5-inch Pintop front suspension kit with torsion sway bar, radius arms, and King 2.5-inch remote reservoir shocks; Carli Deaver HD rear leveling leaf springs on 3-inch lift blocks, Air Lift Load Lifter 5,000 airbags, Daystar airbag cradles (all components from CJC Off Road)
Wheels & Tires: 20×10 Stazworks 3-Piece Forged Super Single wheels with G275 335/80R20 Goodyear tires
Above: When the F-450 isn’t towing a trailer or weighed down with cargo, the Air Lift airbags and Daystar cradles can be disconnected from the axle to allow full suspension articulation.
Body Modifications: McNeil Racing 6-inch bulge front fenders, ExpeditionOne Ultra HD front bumper (modified to fit wide fenders) and prototype reinforced Dual Swing rear bumper, Ford OEM upgraded LED headlights and black XL grille, Mule Expedition Equipment roof rack and customized 8-foot bed rack, Icky Concepts bulkhead MOLLE panel
Lighting & Accessories: 23Zero tent, awnings, and shower enclosure; LightForce LED lights with Switch Pros control unit, Smittybilt winch with Custom Splice 3/8-inch Diamondback Mainline rope and Factor 55 UltraHook, dual Extreme Outback Magnum air compressors, Equipt1 AluBox cases, Dometic refrigerator, Goal Zero Yeti 500X power station, iPad in RAM Mount