As far as the eye can see, there's nothing friendly about South Dakota's Badlands. The size of an ocean, it stretches across the horizon. There is only rock that God Himself sculpted into canyons with mazes and lots of ways in but seemingly no way out. Legend has it that even the tough Native Americans of the region stayed out of this place.

But today, if you're a guy toting fat salami or a girl with big twins, The Badlands are the place you head every August. 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 of South 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 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, bikers, and babes. Campgrounds and hotels are filled, and locals even rent out space in their front yards for bikers to pitch tents. Commercial commerce followed 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 and tricked-out semi-trucks with enclosed bike haulers.

It was this 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 '07 Ford relies on tasteful custom touches to make the scene. The base for the Harley-Davidson edition is the four-door SuperCrew, equipped with the Triton 5.4L V-8 engine that produces 300 hp.

The truck stands tall on forged and polished 22-inch rims-the first production use of wheels so large on a pickup. 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 grille, 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 seatbacks. 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, you'll find a classy 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.

Our ride for Sturgis-what the bikers call the event-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 the Badlands, almost as much as the pretend-bikers walking the streets of Sturgis, trying to look like they belonged. Everywhere the truck stopped, it drew the kind of stares that the coolest custom bikes got-nothing but respect.

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. The Black Hills, south of Sturgis, is densely forested. All around Mt. Rushmore are roads so curvy you have to look out your side window to seewhere you're going. Some tunnels cut through the hills are barely one lane wide, and their walls are striped with the colors of mirrors that sacri- ficed their exterior finish, acting as an expensive curb feeler.

The new Ford handled everything, including the washboard gravel roads that took us along the Northern rim of the Badlands about an hour east of Sturgis. Of special note, the truck's quick rack-and-pinion steering was appreciated on several occasions, helping to avoid a biker hood ornament. During the rally, weekend warrior-type bikers ride too long after partying too hard the night before, which translates into sloppy riding. Aside from the rack-and-pinion steering, the sharp handling of the huge Pirelli Scorpion tires alsohelped keep the Ford's hood biker-free.The stock tires measure out like a steamroller: P275/45R22.

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 all-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 odometer.

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 its V-8 exhaust go potato-potato-potato, but Harley-Davidson probably has a copyright on that sound.

Regardless of where we drove, the 5.4L Triton gave us the kick we needed. With 300 horses, this is biggest and most powerful gasoline V-8 that Ford offers. But, after our experiences in the Roush Stage 3 F-150 and drives in the no-longer-produced Lightning, we couldn't help wish for a supercharger and the extra 145 hp 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 wheelwell clearances is just what this truck needs.

Ford realizes that to sell three quarters of a million trucks, it needs 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 7,000 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 was a good idea to team together on limitededition trucks. This cooperative effort has borne 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. If you don't have plans for this August, head to Sturgis. We guarantee you a good time in the Badlands.

The 411

YEAR/MAKE/MODEL:
'07 Ford Harley-Davidson Edition F-150

BASE PRICE:
$55,000
Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x2: $33,000
Harley-Davidson Option Package: $21,000

EPA FUEL EPA CITY/HIGH WAY):
14 / 19

ENGINE:
5.4L V-8, 300 hp, 365 lb-ft of torque

DRIVE TRAIN:
Four-speed automatic, two-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive

DIMENSIONS (L XWX H):
224x78.9x71.5 in

WHEEL BASE:
138.5 in

CURB WEIGHT:
Approximately 5,300 lb

SAFETY EQUIPMENT:
Front airbags, anti-lock brakes, available traction control

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 seat, AM/FM/CD audio system

WARRANTY:
Three years, 36,000 miles bumper to bumper; five years, 60,000 miles on powertrain components; five years, 60,000 miles roadside assistance

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