King Of The Hill

A lifetime Ford loyalist puts the new 2015 Super Duty to the ultimate test: a day of work on his 1,500-acre farm outside of Cunningham, Kansas.

By Sam Martin
Photography by Bridget Barrett

Farm work waits for no one. So when My Ford rolls up at a homestead in central Kansas with a 2015 King Ranch F-350, our test driver is hardly sitting around waiting for us. Bob Renner, 54, is prepping the hay baler on the back of his 2000 F-350, getting ready to feed 100 head of cattle and almost 90 baby calves.

Renner is a quintessential midwestern farmer. His manners are old school, his smile is broad—his stories are told with a sparkle in his eye. Like most people who have worked the land their whole life, he has seen his fair share of trials and tribulations. In 1984, while driving to a dance in his hometown of Cunningham, Renner was involved in a serious car accident. After being airlifted to a hospital in Wichita, he awoke from a coma seven days later without his left arm.

“The doctor told my father there were two ways people reacted to an injury like mine,” Renner says. “They either complain the rest of their life, or they yell at you to leave them alone. Well, we were leaving the hospital, and my dad opened the car door for me. I yelled at him, ‘Dad, I only lost one arm. I can do this myself!’ I was tough to be around for a few years there, but I was lucky enough to have a lot of people who loved me.”

Spend a day with Renner at his 1,500-acre farm and its neighboring townships of Cunningham, St. Leo and Zenda, and you’ll quickly see there are still plenty of people who love this man. You’ll also see that the loss of a limb has done nothing to slow this father of three. Renner, along with his wife, Donna, raises cattle and grows wheat and alfalfa on his land, a part of America that has been in his family for three generations.

CARGO CHECK
MOBILE OFFICE
HAY DAY
FARM FITTING
RUGGED BEAUTY
LUXURIOUS UTILITY
HAY TOSS
GET HITCHED
FARM PAW
King of The Hill
BOB'S BALES
ONE TOUGH TRUCK
HOMEWARD BOUND
HAT'S OFF

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His method of farm management relies on squeezing every last drop of production out of his fleet of five Ford pickup trucks. Listening to the genealogy of Renner’s trucks is like listening to his family history. “My dad always ran Ford trucks,” he explains. “So I always, always, drove Ford. I’ve sold some, I’ve wrecked a few, but they’re awfully tough pickups.”

“My red pickup [the 2000 F-350], that’s my overall work truck that I feed cattle and haul hay with all the time. I just about live in it. It has about 300,000 miles on it and is still going strong.”

The tough miles that Renner puts on his trucks make this the perfect setting for today’s test: putting one of the very first 2015 King Ranch F-350 trucks through its paces on a working farm. “When I woke up this morning, I was excited,” Renner says. “I’d never thought I’d have people from Detroit come to my place to let me drive a brand-new F-350. So I’m ready to put it to the test.”

 

WHAT A FARM NEEDS

A typical day for Renner begins with a trip to inspect and feed his herd of cattle and, at this time of year, baby calves. “I don’t brand my cattle, but on any given morning I may have to tag calves, check to see if anything’s wrong with them, and give them a feed.”

He keeps his bales of alfalfa on the second story of a tall white barn with red trim, built by his grandfather in 1919. Renner opens a small hatch 20 feet in the air and throws four green bales down into the tray of the waiting F-350. As he steers the truck down toward the nearby paddock filled with the waiting herd, he reflects on what he considers when purchasing a vehicle for his farm.

“When I buy a truck, I’m mainly thinking about weight. I do a lot of hauling: I haul a very heavy swather, cattle, a lot of hay—sometimes upwards of 16,000 pounds. You need good towing capability to do that.”

Luckily for Renner, the 2015 Super Duty has been designed to work. The second generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke® Turbo Diesel offers best-in-class power. This is a truck built to tow, to increase productivity for its owner, and to do so as efficiently as any truck on the market.

We bump down to where the cattle are mingling, and Renner pulls down the tailgate to get to the feed. The F-350 comes with a step built into the tailgate, as well as an available assist bar for easy entry. Renner grips it and steps up into the bed with ease. The cattle swarm the truck, eagerly munching on the bright green bales Renner throws down from the bed.

Once they finish feeding, Renner needs to inspect the fences in an outer paddock. He pushes the accelerator on the F-350 and guides it across the bumpy terrain. “This is a beautiful truck,” he says, looking at the leather trim of the King Ranch, inspecting the smart technology such as the SYNC® with my MyFord Touch®*, which helps transform the Super Duty into a mobile office. “And it feels safe. I bought a dually [dual-wheel truck] for the simple fact that it’s more secure under you—it’s steady pulling a trailer.”

HEAVY-DUTY PERFORMANCE

When we’re done taking a tour of Renner’s property, it’s time to put the F-350 to the ultimate test: hauling a trailer loaded with eleven 1,500-pound hay bales. The task is to load them up at Renner’s home base and transport them more than five miles to a remote part of the farm.

As Renner slips the gooseneck attachment easily into the back of the bed and winds the trailer in, he voices some thoughts about the new Super Duty’s ability to handle the job.

“I’ve never tried to haul a load like this with an automatic transmission,” he says. “The truck feels great to drive, has great power and handling, but I’m interested in how the transmission will do.”

He checks to ensure that the trailer is fully attached, tests the brake lights, takes his place behind the wheel, and eases out onto the highway. He looks instantly at ease. A broad smile comes across his face. “Oh wow,” he says with genuine surprise. “That power is incredible. How many horsepower has this got again?” 440, he’s told. “That’s amazing. You can feel it—this has so much more power than my current truck, and it gets the job done easily.”

He pulls the more than 16,000-pound load off the paved road and onto a bumpy, narrow dirt lane. The truck hums along with ease, rumbling at a good pace between long, straight barbed-wire fences, Renner pointing out a herd of deer as we go.

After a few miles, we reach a gate bookended by two giant oak trees. Renner stops the truck, opens the gate, and, after inspecting the clearance, eases the Super Duty up and over the built-up channel. The hay has to be delivered to the very top of the paddock, a drop zone that lands us right at the top of the few hills in this part of the world.

It’s a steep climb, enough to have a person puffing if they walked to the top. But the second generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke Turbo Diesel handles it with ease, hauling the loaded trailer to the top of the slope as if it were cruising along a flat, open highway.

“It completely changes my mind about automatic transmissions,” Renner says as he pauses at the top of the hill, the sun setting behind him. His 14-year-old dog, Snuff, is perched beside him on the passenger seat. “I knew the power would be pretty good on this truck. I knew it would be able to get the job done. But the power and transmission combination is just great. It hauls so effortlessly.”

The million-dollar question is posed to Renner: Would you buy one? He laughs. “I would love to own this truck,” he says. “Would absolutely love it. Are you sure you can’t just leave this one with me?”

FAST FACTS

2015 SUPER DUTY

 

>MAXIMUM TOWING The 2015 Super Duty has a best-in-class maximum 31,200 pounds tow rating.

>PLENTY OF GRUNT A more powerful 6.7-liter Power Stroke® Turbo Diesel engine gives best-in-class power rating and class-leading fuel economy.**

>POWERFUL GEARBOX The 6-speed TorqShift® SelectShift® Automatic is built with big, strong gears purpose-built to handle heavy hauling.

 

*Driving while distracted can result in loss of vehicle control. Only use SYNC®/MyFord Touch®/other devices, even with voice commands, when it is safe to do so. Some features may be locked out while the vehicle is in gear. Not all features are compatible with all phones.
**Based on Ford simulated city-suburban drive-cycle tests of comparably equipped 2015 Ford and 2011-2013 competitive models, consistent with SAE Standard J1321.

 

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