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April 2009 Off-Road Unloaded

Posted in Features on April 1, 2009
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Editor's Note: If you want to say or ask something, email Unloaded at or write: Unloaded, OFF-ROAD Magazine, 2400 E. Katella Ave., Ste. 1100, Anaheim, CA 92806.

Remember, we're giving away swag every month to the author of our favorite letter. Be sure to include your address, so we know where to send your goods. And from now on, please know that we are not going to be copyediting your letter if you are going to be hating on us, so you better check it over well before sending it our way!

Dodge Suspensions
My name is SFC Albert D. Alvarez. I am currently deployed in the Middle East. I have a fairly stock 2007 Dodge Ram Megacab 1500 4X4 5.7 Hemi. I am due to come home in the next five to six months, and I have been looking at lift kits from two separate companies; K.O.R.E. (Recon Series) and Carli (Starter System w/possible Steering Stabilizer). I live in El Paso, Texas, and like to take the family out to have a fun time in the sand. I do a majority of pavement driving but like to get dirty when I go back home to Central Texas (where there is MUD!). I don't want a road queen and don't want to go overboard with a dirt king, either. I'm looking for something in between. Can you tell me which of these two systems would be the better choice for me or some other system?Thanks for your support.
SFC Alvarez

Albert, first, thanks for serving our country. Second, both Carli and Kore make good Dodge parts, as do Shoxspeed, DT Products, and Lorenz. From everything I have been told, the Carli and the Kore kits were started by the same mastermind, so their products are likely comparable in performance. Both produce high-end and entry-level kits that will perform very similarly. You will be happy either way, so it comes down to which name you want on the side of your parts.

I'd check all your options carefully and see what all the Dodge high-performance suspension guys have to offer, and decide based on what you like. I've experienced all levels of these kits in various Dodges, and I can guarantee that any of them will be an improvement over your stock suspension.

Building His Own $5K Machine
I just finished reading the November 2008 issue for about the fourth time, and it was very worthwhile. Thank you for the $5,000 Prerunner article! It makes me want to go build something similar myself. I've been wanting to build a prerunner for sometime, but Oklahoma isn't a hotbed of desert racing activity. We do have dunes, which it would be perfect for though. I will probably look at the '94-'03 S-10s, which, thankfully, you also highlighted in the same issue. Unfortunately, there aren't any cheap front suspension kits that would fit within the budget based on using similar priced items to what you did on the Toyota. I have been looking at different brands of shocks because they are the deal breaker when it comes to budget-minded builds. I came across FOA Shocks on your website and might go that route being they are about half the cost of the other brands. What is your opinion of these shocks? Are they worth saving some money and maybe giving up reliability, or would they do alright in a mild prerunner? High-speed desert running isn't so much of a concern, but severely airing it out might be on the bill at the dunes. As far as the weaknesses of the S-10 frame, which are outlined in the article, those will be dealt with in great detail. I may even do a four-link setup with a 9-inch if the $5K budget allows.

Has the idea of having a desert/dune contest that utilizes these very budget-limited trucks come across the desk yet? I would like to see this or participate. What do you think?
Jay Fleming
Norman, OK

Jay, your plan sounds really cool! We've been wanting to build an S-10 ourselves, so we might just be following you on this one!

Those FOA shocks you're checking out are a pretty good deal for what you get. The reason they are cheaper is because you can get them with cast end caps instead of billet caps. FOA has the more expensive ones too, but those cheaper ones should suit you fine for dunes. We're currently testing out a set ourselves, and will have the story soon in an upcoming issue.

I like your idea of a desert Tuff Truck competition, and we have in fact discussed something just like that. We'll let you know if we come up with some sort of competition that readers can enter soon.

Letter Of The Month
This month, Total Chaos hooked up our Letter of the Month with some sweet tubular upper control arms for a 2007-2009 2WD or 4WD Chevy 1500. They feature a 1-inch uniball in place of the upper ball joint, but bolt directly to the factory knuckle using an adapter. Check them out at

What the Diff?
I have a 2008 Chevy Silverado 1500 and I want to put a locker in my rear differential. I just don't know if I should go with a selectable locker, an auto locker, or a limited-slip differential. What is available for my truck, and what would you recommend?
Jason Dibbs
Santa Ana, California

Jason, I had to research this myself, and because you made me learn something, I'm making your letter the Letter of the Month. You'll be getting hooked up with a set of Total Chaos U.C.A.s for your Chevy.

Now, back to your question. That rear axle you have is very close to the axle that has been in GMC 1500s for the last few decades. It is an 8.6GM axle, and you have a few different options. I like limited-slips because they are always performing, and are really nice not only for dirt but also for street. Lockers are great, too, though. An auto locker like an Eaton Detroit Locker is available for your truck, but these types of automatic lockers tend to have some clunks every now and then, and some people do not appreciate the way they drive on the street. A selectable locker like an Eaton E-Locker (which is also available for your truck) is nice, but you'll have an open differential at all times until it is switched on and locked. All are good options, but if it were me and this was a street driver, I'd go with the limited-slip differential.

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