How can you not like a sport truck that comes from the factory with ghost flames warming the rocker panels and 20-inch alloy wheels? Ford recently dropped just such a truck at our door and handed over the keys for an extended driving impression. The '05 Harley-Davidson F-250 Super Duty is a bad boy with manners; a classy factory custom that doesn't overwhelm with too much of a good thing. There's a fine line to walk when you start hanging Harley logos on a pickup - you need to know when to say enough - and the '05 HD Super Duty gets the message across without going over the top.

In the corporate world, this would be called a "cross-promotional marketing effort," two brands teaming up for a mutual image boost. Ford and Harley-Davidson formed an alliance back in 1999 to produce special-edition trucks. In the marketing game, timing is everything, and the Ford/Harley relationship was such that the two industry giants could celebrate their 100th anniversaries together in 2003. Fortunately, the alliance continues, with new models such as the recently introduced '06 Harley-Davidson F-150 introduced on an annual basis.

So what's so special about this special edition? To give the truck true custom appeal, Ford is applying a unique wet-on-wet paint process that yields a super-slick finish. The aforementioned ghost flames on the rockers are optional, but they're done right and are a nice one-off touch that really sets this truck apart from the rest of the fleet. The flames disappear at some viewing angles, just as ghost flames should. Naturally, there are Harley-Davidson "bar and shield" logos in all the appropriate places, complemented by a billet grille treatment, blacked-out headlights, chrome tube steps, and a big polished exhaust tip. The polished 20-inch wheels are fitted with LT275/65R20 performance rubber that can still handle a load. As equipped, the test truck carried a tow rating of 12,500 pounds off the receiver; 15,900 pounds with a fifth-wheel rig.

The lower-profile tires do a nice job of tightening up the Super Duty's handling on the pavement. Steering response for a truck with this much mass was quite good with a very linear, direct feel. Surprisingly, since the Super Duty is already stiffly sprung, the lower-aspect-ratio tires don't seem to adversely affect ride quality. The ride isn't plush and you aren't likely to forget you are in a truck, but this is no hardtail - the Harley-Davidson Super Duty is very accommodating for the long haul.

The Crew Cab longbed configuration is built on a 172-inch wheelbase, which gives the Harley-Davidson Super Duty a very substantial, confident on-road presence. The new Super Duty uses a new coil spring front suspension with massive radius arms. The new frontend design allowed Ford engineers to trim 5-1/2 feet off the turning radius, a very welcome change in parking situations or while maneuvering a trailer in tight quarters.

Inside the Crew Cab, you'll find four big two-tone black-and-gray-leather-bound captain's chairs. Tiny Harley logos create a carbon-fiber-like pattern on the dash and trim panels, and the white-faced round gauges mimic those on a contemporary Harley-Davidson bike. Every Harley truck is numbered for authenticity, with a serial number laser-engraved into an ID-plate that is mounted on the center console. Our test truck was number 00002.

This truck had the muscle to back up the attitude. The base engine is Ford's three-valve head modular 5.4L V-8 that uses variable valve timing to produce 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque. Our tester was fitted with the optional 6.8L V-10 and five-speed TorqShift automatic. For '05, the V-10 was upgraded with three-valve cylinder heads and variable intake runners for improved throttle response and a wide, flat power curve. The result is 362 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque; a 52hp and 42-lb-ft gain over the '04 V-10. There's enough muscle to propel the big four-wheel-drive Crew Cab from 0-60 mph in 9-1/2 seconds when empty. The 6.0L Power Stroke turbodiesel is also available for those looking for big torque and improved fuel economy. The V-10 TorqShift combination yielded an average of 12 mpg for combined driving.

The '05 Super Duty is the first pickup to come from the factory with an integrated trailer brake controller. The Harley-Davidson Super Duty is a superlative tow platform, and the new TowCommand system makes hitching up all that much easier. Importantly, the new Super Duty also benefits from an upgraded brake package that includes bigger rotors and larger, stiffer calipers.

The '05 Harley-Davidson F-250 Super Duty merges the best hardware from two American icons. As factory customs go, this one delivers the goods.

Harley-Davidson F-250 Super Duty SpecificationsMSRP: $41,040MSRP as tested: $46,200Engine: 6.8L SOHC V-10Horsepower: 362 @ 4,750 rpmTorque: 457 @ 3,250 rpmTransmission: five-speed autoAxle ratio: 4.10:1Tire size: LT275/65R20EFuel capacity: 38 gallonsBase curb weight: 6,682 poundsGVWR: 9,800 poundsGCWR: 23,000 poundsGTWR: 12,500 pounds15,900 pounds (fifth wheel)Wheelbase: 172.4 inchesLength: 22.0 feetFront suspension: coils/radius armsRear suspension: leaf w/ antisway barBrakes: four-wheel vented disc w/ ABSObserved fuel economy: 12.3 mpg0-60 mph: 9-1/2 seconds