Keeping It All in the Family
Father and son duo Mark and Keith Growe campaign an affordable '90 Ford Ranger in the SoCal Desert Off-Road Race Series. The two live in sunny Placentia, California, not far from our editorial office. Mark is an engineer at a local corporation, and Keith is a fulltime student at California State University, Fullerton. Mark began his off-road fun way back in 1979 when he attended his first SCORE off-road race as a spectator. Since then, he has owned many vehicles, including everything from fullsize trucks to dune buggies. As a very responsible off-road enthusiast, he has forced a life sentence of off-roading on his son. Nineteen-year-old Keith has had an opportunity not too many people get - to be a driver in a Class 14 race truck. Class 14 is a class in off-road racing designed with strict vehicle restrictions to keep racing affordable and fun. It is sometimes referred to as the Run-What-You-Brung class of off-road racing. One of the main rules is that the truck must be street-legal. Since this is the case, another aspect to their racing team is that the two drive the trustworthy Ranger to and from every event they attend, thus emphasizing the true spirit of fun in the prerunner racing class.
This project began when they purchased the Ranger XLT in the beginning of 2000 for $8,000. They picked the two-wheel-drive Ford after many years of watching the Rangers win in the desert. Its proven reliability made for an affordable, competitive desert race truck. The project began with the rollcage, which was put in by Penhall Fabrication in Costa Mesa, California. This masterpiece was created using the highest-quality TIG-welded 4,130 chrome-moly. The cage extends through the cab to the front and the rear of the truck. Penhall was also responsible for the mounting the front Camburg I-beams and radius arms. Damping is limited by class rules to one shock per wheel, and so they went with a King shock on each corner. Sets of Deaver leaf springs brought the rear suspension right up to the rule limit of 18 inches of total wheel travel.
With the major fabrication complete, the father-son duo worked together to complete their project. The engine was the next component to get beefed up.
Due to the rules and reliability, the 4.0L powerplant was left internally stock. Externally, they added a racing-must K&N air filter. The exhaust system was the next upgrade. They bolted up a set of JBA headers and a Flowmaster exhaust to complete the system. The combination has proved to be consistent and reliable for the new racing duo.