Tradition, tradition, tradition. Every year, the go-slow off-road community meets in Moab, Utah, for a week of crawling some of the gnarliest, nastiest, and most scenic trails around. Although it's called the Easter Jeep Safari, we wonder if Easter Wheeling Safari wouldn't be more fitting.
Every year, we see more and more non-Jeep vehicles in Moab taking on the trails. While we do like the traditional Jeep platform, there's a spectrum of 4-Lo-equipped vehicles completely capable of taking on the otherworldly terrain of southeastern Utah. Tony Owens is the proud owner of one such wheeler.
"I grew up in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, where there were lots of places to go four-wheeling," he tells us. Although, Tony hasn't always been a 'crawler.
"I was in the sand drag/quad world, but as I got older I felt it was time to get off of the quads. At that point, rockcrawling became a lot more interesting."
Many SDs get left behind in the parking lot, attached to trailers while their drivers spend quality time with more nimble machinery. This one leaves the parking lot behind. The formula?
"Choosing the Super Cab instead of the crew cab saved 8 inches of wheelbase," explains the owner.
The shorter wheelbase makes the truck more maneuverable, but it's still quite a bit longer than a familiar trail rig, such as a Jeep CJ-7 or an early Bronco. Sand washes and hillclimbs are places where the extra length is an extra advantage. Another SD-favoring situation is when encountering two ledges in a row (think Moab's Double Whammy): "It just boogies right up."
The advantages don't stop there. A meatier truck makes for a more competent recovery vehicle, which tends to win friends and influence people on the trail (and sometimes nets a little extra cash).
Is the XXL 'Crawler the be-all, end-all rig that everyone should build? Sorry.
"I've realized the limitations of a fullsize," Tony confides. "Out of necessity, I'm building a smaller rig for the tighter, more technical trails."
Smaller rig or not, Tony still has a Super Duty that can be driven daily, haul gear, recover stuck rigs, and tackle all but the tightest of trails. Don't hesitate to build and bring your Super Duty to Easter Jeep Safari. Traditions, like rules, are sometimes meant to be broken.
As driven home from the dealer's lot, the F-250 was equipped with a Dana 50 front axle. While this unit is fairly stout, the ring-and-pinion is Dana-44-sized and not up to the tasks that Tony wanted to put his truck through. To ready the rig for the trails, Tony obtained an F-450-spec Dana 60 through Currie Enterprises. Additional fortification came in the form of a Dynatrac Combo Kit, which supplies stronger wheel bearings, locking hubs, outer axleshafts, and knuckles. The Combo Kit also improves steering precision and suspension compliance via better drag-link and track-bar geometry. Tony broke out the wrenches and put the Combo Kit in place himself. We can't recall the last time we've seen a tweaked Dana 60 housing, but we're sure the next one we see won't be Tony's thanks to a truss fabricated and fused into place by Mark Owsiany. The front driveline was lengthened courtesy of Precision Drive Shaft of Phoenix, Arizona. Bilstein 7100s damp all four corners. Behind the diff cover, a Yukon 5.38 ring-and-pinion set encircles an ARB Air Locker. Credit goes to Mark Mason of AZ Force in Phoenix for the axle, locker, and gear installations.
Most of the flatbeds we've seen have a look that shouts "workaday" instead of "weekend." This one gets a thumbs-up. We liked the slick mounting bracket that facilitates a functioning parking brake system, and the hinged tubular tailgate gives easier access to the bed-mounted spare. As heavy as 42-inch tires are, anything that makes muscling them around a little easier is a big plus.