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Air Strike

Posted in Features on August 21, 2002 Comment (0)
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Like so many of the people who make up the soul of off-road racing, John Holmes and his team Holmes Racing have been a staple name in the sport for many years. Getting his start way back in 1981, John's passion for the dirt began in buggy racing. He and his longtime friend and partner Scot Jones entered the San Felipe 250 in a limited buggy and won their class. Winning their first event ever was just the inspiration they needed to dive headfirst into off-road racing. John and Scot found themselves with the hooks of off-road racing sunken deep into their lifestyles.

Recently, the San Diego duo has set aside all of their buggy history and begun a new adventure. The team decided to test their talent in a high-profile truck class. Class 7 consists of unlimited mini-trucks such as an S-10 or a Toyota Tacoma. John and his team decided to go with an '01 Ford Ranger Edge. Ford designed this model range as its off-road-packaged mini-truck, so it was a good starting point for the new Team Holmes race vehicle.

The big difference between trucks and buggies is how hard they are on the driver and codriver. Because of the overall light weight of a buggy, it tends to skip across the desert, shaking up its occupants like a scrambled egg. A race truck, on the other hand, tends to be much heavier and, hence, provides a much smoother ride for its pilots. The difference is similar to flying through a thunderstorm in a single-engine Sesna or a DC-10.

Starting from the ground up, this truck was built to win. The truck was dropped off at H&M Motorsports in Southern California. The boys at H&M were left with one instruction from John: "Build me the trickest, fastest, most awesome Class 7 truck that has ever been built." They began with the latest chassis Ford has to offer, guaranteeing the newest technology.

The new truck was stripped of just about everything and replaced with race-quality components. The body looks like a stock Ranger, but the entire thing is comprised of fiberglass to save weight. With just a twist of a screwdriver, the panels come off and reveal a beautifully constructed 4130 chrome-moly chassis. Every tube joint is metered to perfection and fused together perfectly using a TIG welder. Dimpled plating makes up many of the key gussets and adds a touch of class to the aesthetics of the mighty Ranger. As if the Grade A-quality metal craftsmanship wasn't enough, the dashboard and much of the interior trim is custom-fabricated in carbon fiber. The truck was dropped off at MGM plastics, where they strategically layered the carbon and baked it to perfection. If F-1 cars went in the dirt, this is the quality of craftsmanship they would use.

The chassis design laid the foundation for the suspension system. Beginning at the front, the guys at H&M went to work. The front suspension consists of a one-of-a-kind A-arm design that took more than a month to fabricate. The unique V-wing-shaped 4130 arms were fabricated to serve with great purpose. With the pivot points at each end equal length from each other, the arms travel on parallel planes to each other.

Although this proved very complicated to design, the final result was worth every painstaking moment. With 20 inches of wheel travel and less than 1 degree of camber change through the entire stroke of travel, the system provides John with a very accurate-driving truck. Using two Bilstein shocks per wheel, the mighty Ranger eats up even the tallest of whoops. The Fortin steering system complements the beautiful A-arms by providing precise steering and eliminating any bumpsteer. This Ranger Edge redefines the stock off-road-packaged Ford truck.

The rear suspension uses a classic four-link design. Since this is an Unlimited Class vehicle, 4130 chrome-moly lower control arms were fabricated and put in place of the stock leaf springs. One coilover shock and one Bilstein position-sensitive shock make up the new spring and damping system on each wheel. When all was said and done, the suspension would deliver 28 inches of wheel travel. With 20 inches in the front and 28 in the rear, this truck starts to resemble a mini Trophy Truck in the suspension department.

The Blue Oval puts out plenty of horsepower with the completely rebuilt 4.2L V-6. Built by Hammes Brothers Racing Engines, the '01 powerplant puts out 400 hp. A K&N air filter helps get the O2 through the Holley carburetor and into the custom intake manifold. The custom headers fit tightly around the skeleton on the Blue Oval racer. Putting the power to the ground is done by a Ford C6 transmission sent through an H&M Motorsports-built rearend.

The truck rides on a set of 17-inch wheels. The larger wheel size helps out in top-end speed as well as fuel consumption. The Baja 2000-winning APP forged wheels complement the truck. The company's one-piece forged design offers one of the stiffest wheels on the market. Combined with the Goodyear GSA 37-inch tires, the setup enables Scot and John to negotiate the tough terrain of the local desert.

Since their first race in 1981, John and Scot have been hooked on off-road racing. Winning all the prestigious events in the desert, including the legendary Mint 400 and the Baja 1000 on three separate occasions, John and his team Holmes Racing bring many successful experiences with them as they take on their latest challenge in Class 7. Surely, they will have no problem once again rising to the occasion. They can be found on the West Coast competing in select SCORE international races and most of the Best In The Desert series events.

SPECIFICATIONS

Owner/hometown: John Holmes/San Diego, California

Make/model:'01 Ford Ranger Edge

Engine: '01 4.2L V-6 by Hammes Brothers Racing Engines

Transmission:Ford C6 by Transmission Depot

Suspension: Four-link with 28 inches of travel (rear); A-arm with 20 inches of travel (front)

Shocks:Bilstein

Wheels/tires:APP Forged 17x8/Goodyear 37x12.5R17

Brakes: CNC four-wheel disc

Additional features:K&N air filter; Mastercraft seats; Crow Enterprises belts; Duralast battery; Holley carburetor; TCS torque converter; Ron Davis radiator; Hella lights; Fuel Safe fuel cell; 76 Racing fuel

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