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2002 Ford F150 - The Desert 'Crew-Zer

Posted in Features on April 18, 2008 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Collette Blumer

How many times have you tried to explain off-roading to a nonenthusiast? Descriptions are good. Magazines and DVDs are better. In the end, nothing compares to actually taking someone out on the dirt and bringing him or her into the center of the action. Mike Jenkins has the F-150 to do just that. Better yet, Mike's truck can carry not one, but three firsttime off-roaders in a single trip.

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This tale is a bit different from the familiar "stocker to stunner" truck metamorphosis, ecause this '02 was partially built when Mike purchased it used. A mild long-travel kit combined with a pair of coilovers and flared fiberglass front fenders gave Mr. Jenkins a daily driver that doubled as a fun truck for the desert. Hundreds of Baja miles were put on the SuperCrew chasing for stepfather Bob Land. A long-time racer, Bob first exposed Mike to desert racing at the Mint 400 in 1992. From his years of racing with Bob, Mike knew that although chasing was fun, racing was that much better. It was time to morph the SuperCrew from an able chaser into a competent racer.

The suspension was first. The F-150's popularity meant that aftermarket companies like H&M Motorsports and Newline Products had developed suspension kits that were on the shelf and ready to install. H&M's long-travel front suspension bolts to the stock upper and lower control arm mounts and features boxed chrome-moly construction. In place of the stock rubber bushings and OEM ball joints, the H&M kit uses desert-proven rod ends and spherical bearings. A fully fabricated H&M spindle connects the upper and lower control arms. The H&M hardware equips the front of the SuperCrew with 17 inches of desert-smoothing suspension travel. King coilover and bypass shocks provide the damping at all four corners of this truck. Newline Products' four-link rear suspension is on par with the front. Built from 4130 chrome-moly tubing and plate, the TIg-welded upper and lower links cycle through 30 inches of travel.

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Stock suspension combined with high speed usually equals sore backs and a battle-worn truck. Long-travel suspension combined with high speed usually equals a smooth ride and smiling faces. Smiles turn to frowns if the rest of the chassis can't keep pace with the suspension. To be durable, as well as race-legal, Mike's SuperCrew needed a bumper-to-bumper rollcage.

Anonymous Dirtwerks of Mission Viejo, California, fabricated the 'cage. In the past, SCOrE rules allowed using mild-steel tubing for 'cage construction. That is no longer the case. The new rules mandate either 4130 chrome-moly or DOM carbon-steel tubing. Tubing diameter is also dictated per SCOrE rules. Any vehicle 4,000 pounds or over with a closed cockpit (like a steel cab) must have the main tubes of the rollcage built using 2-inch, 0.120-inch-wall tubing. Mike and Anonymous Dirtwerks decided that 2-inch, 0.120-inch-wall 4130 chrome-moly tubing would be used front-to-rear for maximum strength.

With the truck now benefiting from the strength of the Anonymous 'cage, it was time to connect the rest of the dots. The stock rearend was shelved to make room for a Tubeworks Ford 9-inch boasting burly trussing and a 6.00 ring-and-pinion. The extralow gear ratio was needed because there's a 4.6 under the hood instead of a 5.4. The tactic worked; the 6.00 and 4.6 combo does a fine job of accelerating the SuperCrew. Aft of the engine, the stock tranny was left in place but was fitted with an Art Carr shifter for precise gear changes in bouncy terrain. Finally, a quartet of Sparco seats and g-Force harnesses let Mike give three lucky people a proper introduction to the desert.

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