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4x4 Ford F-150 - When Worlds Collide

No Bumper Passenger Side Front View
Joel Mollis | Writer
Posted October 1, 2002
Photographers: Mark Werkmeister, Randall Jachmann, Mark Dustin

On common ground:Designed and purpose-built for diverse ends of the off-road motorsport spectrum, a title-bound rockcrawler and a championship-winning Trophy Truck share more techno-design and state-of-the-art components than you would ever imagine.

Form follows function is a concept often associated with military and performance aircraft, sophisticated NASA spacecraft, state-of-the-art hydroplanes, and even a seemingly basic item like a handtool. Form follows function, simply put, is a design philosophy where everything is about function, and the shape of the component is dictated by performance, and nothing else. In the world of recreational and professional motorsport, function before all else is also on display in the form of purpose-built 4x4s.

And what is a purpose-built 4x4? It's a strictly functional machine, fabricated with zero fat; without even a single part installed that wasn't 100 percent dedicated to the cause of winning. However, the definition of purpose-built is forever in flux; it must be since technology, improved aftermarket performance accessories, and necessity, are constantly challenging current notions of what is - and what is not - possible with a performance-bred 4x4. For example, who among us could have predicted the extreme suspension and chassis designs used on todays top rockcrawling machines? And what about open-course, Baja-style race trucks? Though many focused engineers had made all-out attempts to design a front drive axle system to go with the proven rear drive setup, reliability issues with the front CV joints had always been the downfall of 4WD Trophy Trucks.

The point is that the chosen arena, current technology, and the available components dictate how best to set up any particular 4x4. Obviously, a rockcrawler doesn't require a desert truck's ungodly horsepower, just as a desert truck would instantly shred a 'crawler's gum-sticky treads. Interestingly, there is overlap in the components used on purpose-built 4x4s. Just a few years ago, exotic shocks, chrome moly, and suspension linkage systems were seen only on high-end desert trucks and Indy cars. These days, sophisticated suspension components, costly metals, and radical chassis geometry are now de rigueur on all the top rockers.

With the concept of purpose-built 4x4s firmly in mind, we set out to discover - and commit to film - two fine examples of the form follows function concept. When we hooked up with Avalanche Engineering and Terrible Herbst Motorsports, we knew we had hit the mother lode of function. Check out these two wildly diverse examples of high-end 4x4s, and marvel - drool, even - over the sophistication, the incredible fabrication, and the shared motor sport bloodline.

Avalanche Engineering's AssassinMission statement: To Boldly Go Where No 4x4 Has Gone BeforeSimilar to many revolutionary motorsport concepts, the design for the Assassin began when Steve Rumore sketched the initial lines of a radical, purpose-built 'crawler on the back of a cocktail napkin. That rough blueprint was far from polished, but the concept was sound: build a single-seat 4x4 that was virtually unstoppable on any competition rockcrawling course. And unstoppable the Assassin has been, racking up a Sixth Place finish during it's first outing, followed up by a Second Place finish a few weeks later. After a DNF because of mechanical teething problems, the next event saw Steve and Drew Barber - the Assassin's chief fabricator - finally get the 4x4 dialed in, and Steve and the Assassin dominated, grabbing the top spot on the podium. With that initial win, the Assassin is poised to make a championship winning run during next year's national rockcrawling series and has clearly defined what a purpose-built rockcrawler must be.

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