x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A work in progress

Driving what he describes as his very own "monster truck", Colin Mercer lets his hair down at the weekends in this massive king of the sand.

Colin Mercer, who is originally from Scotland, bought his Ford F-150 FX4 in 2006 after Ford managed to convince the authorities to relax the rules on private pickup ownership.
Colin Mercer, who is originally from Scotland, bought his Ford F-150 FX4 in 2006 after Ford managed to convince the authorities to relax the rules on private pickup ownership.

If it looks a bit like a remote control car on steroids, don't worry - it's close. Driving what he describes as his very own "monster truck", Colin Mercer lets his hair down at the weekends in this massive king of the sand. Equipped with huge off-road suspension, house-sized 20-inch wheels and 35-inch tyres, there really aren't many dunes that will worry this oversized Ford F-150 FX4. "It's great in the desert," says Mercer, who is originally from Scotland. "I can tow a trailer full of bikes deep into the sand without any trouble, which was the original reason why I bought it."

"However, with standard height suspension the wheelbase is too long to be great in the dunes. The simple solution is to raise it up and fit bigger wheels and tyres." But it didn't end there. He followed up an original, smaller suspension lift with the current skyscraping system. All the work has been done by Icon, a Dubai off-road garage, and professionally fitted by its technicians. Mercer even got it signed off by the RTA.

"I didn't want any problems at registration, so I spoke to the RTA and got all the work approved. As long as it is done by a garage that knows what it's doing and the kit fits properly, there isn't an issue," he advises. Colin bought the truck in 2006 after Ford managed to convince the local authorities to relax the rules on private pickup ownership. As soon as it was allowed, Mercer was at the dealership picking up his new ride-with-a-tray.

"I'd always wanted a pickup truck, but it's a bit of problem back home with petrol prices and small roads," he says. "It allows me to carry all my bike gear and my bikes to wherever I need them. But when I'm just out and about, it's as comfortable as a normal four-by-four." Mercer, who has been in the UAE for 15 years, also owns a Volkswagen Touareg, but hasn't driven it in three months. So it seems there isn't much wrong with the Ford F150?

"The only problem I've come across is that the bonnet is so big it can be difficult to see over the dune you're going over. Luckily you can take it easy, as it doesn't get stuck very easily," he counters. "If I'm being really picky then the tyres can be a bit noisy on the highway, but it drives perfectly at higher speeds, as everything has been fitted correctly." Colin's car came with an optional, full leather interior, which gives it the air of a top-of-the-range 4x4. With its double cab, the Ford can seat four adults in comfort. However, the story doesn't end there. Mercer has also added a few of his own extras to the car.

"It has a sports exhaust, a new air intake and a superchip. I didn't go for a really loud exhaust, as I didn't want registration problems. It just has a deeper sound." But his favourite addition is the rear facing towing camera. "As the truck is pretty big, I can't see what's going on if I am towing. But I can flip the switch and the AV screen in the dash constantly shows me what's going on behind. It's like having an extra rear-view mirror," he explains.

Somehow you can tell this truck is still a work in progress. As with any modified car, the list of extras you can add is endless and Mercer has plans for the big pickup. "I am planning to add a supercharger soon. It won't go much faster as the wheels are so big, but it'll give it more power to get up the bigger dunes. I am also investigating larger brakes, especially if I fit the supercharger. Apart from that I might go up one size with the wheels."

With this many modifications you can see how good this truck is in the desert. It looks great and has fantastic road presence. Would he keep it if he left the UAE? "No way. It simply wouldn't fit anywhere else." motoring@thenational.ae