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2006 Ford Super Duty - A Fitting Tribute

Posted in Features on September 19, 2006
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Sooo... how 'bout it? Can you sneak silently onto an enemy beach in pitch-black darkness and affix explosives to an enemy stronghold? Can you jump out of a perfectly good airplane wearing a wetsuit, fins, and a parachute? Can you dive through murky waters to recover a .50 caliber machine gun from the deck of a sunken warship? Can you trudge through waist-deep snow undetected and draw a bead on an enemy target? Yeah, you may be tough, but there is an elite fighting group that's even tougher: the U.S. Navy SEALs.

First conceived and deployed in World War II to clear underwater obstacles and gather intelligence before invasions, the SEAL acronym stands for Sea, Air, and Land. SEALs are expected to be experts at completing missions on Earth's every surface, as well as in the air.

By now, we've showcased enough trail-capable Super Dutys that the big Ford's trail prowess and potential is no longer in question. The RRD-equipped F-250 is ready for the road or the rocks. It's as tough and versatile as Navy UDT-SEAL Conrad Purick himself.

UDT is short for Underwater Demolition Team, and these are charged primarily with clearing beaches, shorelines, and rivers of mines and other obstacles prior to a naval landing.

Until 1983, UDTs and SEAL teams existed as separate entities within the U.S. Navy. Since their missions and methods overlapped so extensively, the two entities were combined and have been known simply as SEALs ever since. Most of the personnel who were in UDTs and found themselves redesignated as SEALs refer to themselves as UDT-SEALs. The word "dangerous" only begins to describe the work environment of a UDT-SEAL. Think about all the hazards that await an off-roader in the dirt and add nautical and aviation hazards to the list. Oh yeah, you also have to avoid deadly enemy attacks. Risky, isn't it? Consider that UDT-SEALs are among the "first over the wall" in combat, and it's obvious that we collectively owe these brave men a debt of gratitude for their service to our country.

Saranac, New York's Conrad Purick is elite among the elite: he's a retired UDT-SEAL, which means he not only held one of the most dangerous jobs in the military, but he survived it as well. Conrad's son Jeremy is a key player at Rock Krawler Suspension/RRD Racing. The father-and-son team coordinated a plan to build a truck that would not only pay tribute to Conrad's fallen UDT-SEAL brothers, but would also showcase a truck as tough and versatile as the combat heroes it commemorates.

An '06 Ford Super Duty was chosen as the tribute truck's canvas. Yes, the SD was already a rugged offering, but the '05-'06 models benefit from key updates that set them apart from their forebears. A stronger frame combines with a pair of monster-sized radius arms that suspend an upgraded Dana 60 front axle using a pair of captured coil springs. The front '60 is controlled using an equally stout Panhard bar and a tie rod and drag link that overshadow those of the '99-'04 model years. For motivation, the UDT-SEAL tribute truck relies on the latest 6.0 Power Stroke diesel engine - powerful, refined, and reliable.

With a sturdy canvas to work on, Jeremy was able to put his suspension in place. The stock axles are a Dana 60 front and a Ford 10.5-inch full-floating rear axle, so there was no reason to swap them out. The UDT-SEAL tribute truck was the recipient of Rock Krawler's 8.0 Coilover Desert Race suspension system. Up front, the factory radius arms were deleted and a pair of Rock Krawler Racing Development (RRD) triangulated radius arms were bolted in their place. Ford's new-generation 4x4 Super Duty trucks use smooth-riding captured coil springs in place of the front leaf packs of the '99-'04 model years. Even with the smoothness of the captured coils, RRD replaced them with a pair of 2.5-inch-diameter RRD coilovers. The coilover combines the coil and the shock into a single unit that boasts far cleaner mounting than the parallel-mounted coil and shock it replaces. The RRD Desert Race system completely replaces the OEM rear suspension in both componentry and concept. The leaf packs are unbolted and set aside, after which a pair of RRD radius arms take their place in a set of custom mounts which must be welded to the frame and to the axlehousing. Axlewrap is completely eliminated, even with the biggest tires and the most torque-laden engine. As with the front, a pair of RRD coilovers now suspends and damps the rear of the truck.

To answer the burning question of "how does it ride?" we can't give it anything less than a resounding thumbs-up. Yes, the Super Duty is still a Super Duty, which is to say that it's a fullsize 4x4 with heavy-duty components and a solid front axle. With that said, it's a smooth ride, and the smoothness comes without a mushy feel or unpredictable handling. Better yet, the radius-armed rear suspension means that axlewrap is a nonissue no matter how big the rocks or how heavy the payload. We came away impressed. The buildup went quickly, and Conrad notes, "Building a cool truck is pretty easy with great aftermarket parts."

After the hard parts were in place, a set of Bushwacker Pocket Style fender flares added width and tire coverage to the fender openings, and were painted to match the rest of the truck. Making the tribute known was handled by Infamous Graphics, which wrapped the U.S. Navy SEALs graphics on the sides, tailgate, and windshield.

Researching the duties of UDT-SEALs made this writer do a bit of reflecting: Yours truly doesn't relish air travel, let alone jumping out before the flight is through, and prefers warm and dry to cold and wet, which is probably why I like the dirt so much. One can't help but be thankful to the men who sacrifice comfort and safety to be the "first over the wall" in defending the freedom so widely enjoyed in this country. One of America's most rugged trucks built with an equally rugged, smooth-riding suspension is a fitting tribute to fallen UDT-SEALs and a worthy ride for an elite member of the elite: Conrad Purick.

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