This month's prerunner comes to us from the heart of Southern California's off-road areas. Residing in Holtville, California, this Ford's owner, 35-year-old Todd Thornburg, lives the off-road enthusiast dream. His town is centered about a half an hour away from several popular off-roading spots. Glamis, Mexico, Placer City, and the Colorado River all sit less than an hour's driving time from Todd's house. With a location like that, it's no wonder Todd owns such a clean 'runner.
Todd's love for off-road began as a young lad of just 5 years old, watching his brothers race motorcycles in the local desert. With a family of desert enthusiasts, Todd found himself with no choice but to involve himself in off-roading. The biggest influence came from his older brothers, Gregg and Billy, who were both experienced motorcycle racers in the desert. Todd, looking for a bit more safety than his siblings, opted for a rollcage and seatbelts rather than the free-riding fun of a motorcycle. Unlike many trucks of this caliber, this truck was not built in one session.
Todd's dream truck began when he purchased the '96 F-150 in 1997. Having grown up watching off-road racing and seeing all kinds of technology in prerunners and race cars, Todd knew exactly what he wanted. Unfortunately for Todd, he didn't have the factory support that many of the high-end prerunners have. Like any dedicated enthusiast, Todd set out a plan to convert his F-150 as quickly and economically possible.
Todd's quest began with a simple I-beam lift kit from Camburg and some bigger tires. A set of 35-inch BFGoodrich tires was mounted to American Racing wheels. The kit worked well but didn't seem to give him all that he yearned for. Inspired by his need for speed, Todd dropped the truck off at H&M Motorsports for a little frontend revamp. Buff and Kevin went straight to work on the frontend, busting out a set of 4130 chrome-moly equal-length I-beams, matched with a pair of 14-inch Sway-A-Way shocks. The new one-piece radius arms and I-beams would produce 20 inches of wheel travel. Like tumbleweeds blowing across the desert, Todd's project was quickly gaining speed, evolving into something bigger and faster.
Todd takes advantage of his proximity to the desert as often as possible. At least once a week he is out pushing the limits of the latest improvements on his truck. After several months of collecting parts and testing the new frontend, Todd was ready for the next phase of his journey. With his goal to get the rear suspension to keep up with the front, he dropped the truck off at Currie fabrication. With the new-and-improved speed of the truck, it was time to involve a rollcage and a safety gear in the dream truck. The 4130 cage was fabricated in the cab and integrated with the front suspension system. A set of PRP seats was mounted up with a pair of Crow Enterprise seatbelts. In the rear, the chassis was chopped off where it came out of the cab. It was then reproduced out of 4130 chrome-moly tubing to make a home for the new four-link rear suspension system.
With the cage built, it was time for Todd to produce a rearend for the fabricator. Todd went looking for a Ford 9-inch rearend, the most sought-after rearend in the off-road industry. Not wanting to spend the money to extend the width of the rearend and buy new axles, Todd located a '78 Ford panel van in a local junkyard. This particular year and model of van was 2 inches wider than standard 9-inch rearends. Once the rearend was reworked and attached to the truck, Todd dropped it off with the transmission at John Wood Automotive, where they rebuilt the rearend with 4:86 gears and prepped the transmission to be ready for many years of fun in the sun.
Quickly now, Todd's dream prerunner was metamorphosing into quite a nice truck. The chrome-moly rear cage would now be home to a state-of-the-art four-link suspension design that would put out 25 inches of travel. Two Sway-A-Away shocks per wheel were installed: one 16-inch coilover for spring rate and one 18-inch position-sensitive keep the truck settled through a minefield of boulders.Since Todd spends much of his time in areas of Mexico where high-octane gas is not readily available, he opted to only make a few minor external changes to the engine. He put in a K&N air filter to help the truck breathe more efficiently. On the exhaust, he installed a set of Summit Headers and a Bassani muffler system. The final product is a little more power without any reliability loss. Todd is ready to drive to the tip of Baja on pump gas.
Although it took some time and Todd had to be creative with his resources, he is the proud owner of a prerunner that can go up against the best of them. The popular four-link rear and I-beam front suspension has proven to be a reliable and effective combination. In a sport that is built from the people involved, this F-150 says a lot for Todd's contribution to his sport.
"Todd's quest began with a simple lift kit from Camburg and bigger tires."
Owner/hometown: Todd Thornburg/Holtville, California
Make/model: '96 Ford F-150
Engine: 5.oL V-8
Transmission: E40D by John Wood
Suspension: 20-inch, equal-length I-beam front, 25-inch four-link rear
Wheels/tires: American Racing 15x7-inch/35x12.50R15BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain
Additionalfeatures: Bassani exhaust; Crow Enterprises belts; K&N air filter; Glassworks front fenders; Haneman rear fenders; Hella lights; Kenwood six-disc changer; PRP seats; Summit headers; Transfer Flow fuel cell