In case you haven't noticed, the hottest trend in 4x4s is the Radically-Lifted Look. gone are the days when enthusiasts just cared about having the tallest truck, regardless of the truck's ride quality or dependability.
Today, enthusiasts are much more savvy, having become aware of aspects such as ride quality, suspension travel, and proper damping.
To that end, the overall cost of many exotic and tall suspension systems can exceed $50,000. One up-and-coming company that specializes in such extreme suspensions is 4 Play Motorsports of Simi Valley, California.
4 Play's owner Mike Troxler and his crew originally began their business to build and design long travel suspension sandrails. However, upon becoming tired of repairing the suspension systems on its tow vehicles weekend after weekend and feeling as though it needed kidney belts for the harsh drives to the dunes, the 4 Play crew decided to diversify into the extreme lift fabrication market. Its mission was simple: create custom suspensions for Ford F-Series Super Duty 4x4s that exceed the scope of run-of-the-mill bolt-on kits. The company's first suspension kit, a full 10.5 inches, pales in comparison to its newest 22.5-inch suspension kit. "Like most everyone who begins a project, by the time you finish it, it has evolved into something well beyond your original expectations," says Troxler.
The vehicle chosen to showcase the new 22.5-inch kit is an '01 Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab 4x4 with a 7.3L PowerStroke Turbo Diesel. Once the factory front and rear suspension was scrapped, a set of 4.5-inch custom drop spring hangers were created so the custom-milled and machined shackles could hold onto the 18-inch-lift Atlas leaf spring packs that are installed atop the front Dana 60 axle, which has had its pumpkin rotated upward 18 degrees by Dynatrac. The rear spring packs were installed in the factory hangers. Due to the extreme height of the spring packs, a 1.75-inch custom-fabricated 4130 chrome moly stabilizer bar was run between the two packs to completely tie them together laterally.
Providing the SD with a smoother-than-factory ride are dual 2.5-inch-diameter, 16-inch-long King Racing shocks with piggyback reservoirs in front and matching King units with remote reservoirs in the rear. Tasked with keeping the rear Atlas spring packs horizontal with the frame is a set of custom-fabricated traction bars with 1.25-inch Heim joints and 5/8-inch misalignment bushings that allow the suspension to fully cycle. The traction bars are mounted to a set of custom-built shackles that are attached to the truck's tubular frame extension, which was created so the Ford's frame height would be fully legal for street driving. Completing the lift was the exchange of the factory front and rear driveshafts for units lengthened by Ventura Drive Line in Ventura, California. Grade 8 hardware replaced the factory nuts and bolts throughout the entire suspension.
With the suspension at a more than respectable height, the steering system was re-engineered to maximize the aim of the massive 44x18.5x16.5 Ground Hawg tires that surround 16.5x12-inch American Eagle 058 rims. A custom Panhard bar and Panhard drop bracket were created and fitted with 7/8-inch Heim joints at each end. The crossover steering system, with 7/8-inch Heim-jointed steering tie-rods and lateral links, is the major reason the 4x4 is able to be driven down the straight and narrow. Further assisting in the steering duties is a custom-valved King Racing 2.5x 10-inch steering stabilizer.
The big Blue Oval has enough power on tap to move mountains, thanks to the PowerStroke 7.3L diesel engine, modified with a Gale Banks Engineering Power Pack system that works in concert with a Power Elbow and Level 5 Boss Hoss computer performance chip. The end result is a whopping 120hp gain and a staggering 676 lb-ft of torque. To compensate for the increased tire size, a set of 4:56 gears from Randy's Ring & Pinion were installed in both pumpkins by Pure Power & Off-Road of Newbury Park, California.
The truck's aesthetics are as amazing as its suspension. Clearance for the 44-inch tires was obtained by replacing the factory steel front fenders with a set of highly modified Hannemann fiberglass units that have a 5-inch flare built in. Rear tire clearance was obtained after 4 Play's crew pulled the bedsides out 5 inches to match the front fenders. Custom aluminum wheelwells were formed by hand because the stock wheel wells no longer fit.
To further make the truck street legal, the headlights needed to be lowered. Custom brackets holding a pair of inverted Lincoln Navigator headlights were welded into the factory front bumper. Concealing the OE headlamp assemblies is a pair of Lund headlight covers that have been painted to match the body color. After all the fabrication and bodywork was completed, the truck's fenders and bedsides were sprayed to match the factory paint, and a fresh coat of clear was applied to the entire truck to retain its glossy finish.
Applied Powder Coating of Simi Valley, California, powdercoated all of the fabricated suspension and steering components, while the inside of the bed was sprayed by Ultimate Linings in Simi Valley, California.
Upon opening any one of the truck's four doors, Kodiak Sidewinder automatic steps fold down to greet potential passengers; however, because of the increased height of the truck, custom 4-inch aluminum extensions had to be installed for the steps to be beneficial. Inside the cabin, passengers and the driver are able to view the latest DVD releases in pure comfort thanks to the Pioneer in-dash DVD player with 6-inch LCD monitor. The Cerwin-Vega midwoofers and tweeters sing as a result of 350 watts of power, and over 1,000 watts of raw power drive the MTX Thunder Series 8-inch subwoofers.
Now that the 4 Play Motorsports crew has perfected the ultimate in extreme suspension systems for the Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks, it can get back to building and designing its incredible long-travel sandrails. One look at its rig, though, and things begin to get confusing for the boys at 4 Play. Should we take the truck to the dunes or should we take the sandrails? If this is the most difficult question the 4 Play crew has to deal with, then maybe we should assist in the dilemma.
We'll take the truck and it can have the sandrails. Ahh, decisions, decisions...