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Dreaming of a 1990 Ford F150 with King Shocks- Thinking Outside The Box

Posted in Features on December 1, 2001
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Contributors: Randall Jachmann

Got sand? Got mud? Got dirt? Got rock? Every year, every month, every issue of OFF-ROAD magazine factors in all of the above. Our weekly staff meeting consists of ideas bouncing everywhere. While we all don't agree on everything, it's the creative environment that keeps this magazine fresh. Staying on top of current trends, technology, and vehicles that fit in the purpose, form, and function prerequisite is our main focus. While paint and interior mods are a bonus, the prerequisite is, well, the prerequisite, since our purpose is to appeal to off-road enthusiasts who use their daily drivers for diverse means of off-road function.

So where am I going with this? Is diversity the spice to a long and enjoyable life? It may not be the answer to eternal happiness, but in off-roading, thinking outside of the box can bring on new off-road adventures. It can also keep our favorite pastime alive and well. The reason I'm on my soapbox about this topic - again - is frankly because I can, and as an off-road enthusiast I have a responsibility to do so.

The other day a friend of mine asked me what vehicle would I buy to build the ultimate prerunner? I said, that's easy, an early '90 Ford F-150 4x4 with twin traction beams up front. Being a die-hard two-wheel-drive enthusiast, my friend almost hit the ground in shock. He ranted and raved about blasphemy and how I was a sellout. I just chuckled and let him settle down.

My response to him was purely thought out and calculated, but more importantly, a truthful answer - at least my truth. The fact of the matter is that a 4x4 equipped with the same amount of travel as a two-wheel drive is more efficient and functional. On the West Coast, two-wheel drivers are the rage; sure, some of it is a trend, but it's also economics. Long-travel 2WD suspensions cost a lot less than long-travel 4x4 suspension. The desert is well suited to blast through with long travel and a limited-slip in the rear. But, it also takes a toll on the drivetrain. A two-wheel drive needs momentum, so it needs to run at higher rpm, thus straining the components more than its 4x4 brethren. A 4x4, on the other hand, is very costly due to the cost of CV joints or U-joints just to twist the front wheels.

But again, in theory, a 4x4 with equal long travel will have the advantage every time. Look at the most feared of the Trophy Truck competitors, Herbst Racing, and their awesome 4x4. It dominates and agitates the competition. So again, if you were to ask me what I would buy to build a prerunner, I'd have to answer the same - an early '90s Ford F-150. I'd bump up the twin traction beams to get 18 inches of travel, four-link the rear, cage it, and throw on a set of King shocks.

I am an advocate for individuality - you have to appreciate others and their individuality. While desert racing prerunners and the related technology is really close to my heart, just as interesting is crawling through a challenging technical section at the Rubicon. My advice to everyone is to think out of the box and be grateful for the opportunity we have to play in the land of the free.

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