Click for Coverage
Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

Anatomy Of A Tough Truck

Posted in Features on April 19, 2013
Share this

Mark Noto of Springville, New York, is the champion of the 2011 and 2012 Mickey Thompson Tough Truck Challenge series, and he has earned those titles behind the wheel of his '04 Ford Ranger-bodied truck.

Tough Truck racing is a staple of the 4-Wheel Jamboree Series and it has been for decades. In this wildly popular type of off-road racing, competitors typically compete on a dirt course that includes turns and jumps. The Tough Truck courses are unique in the world of off-road racing because they are usually quite compact compared to other off-road racing courses. This hard-and-fast action means that for a vehicle to be competitive in Tough Truck its attributes must include a potent powerplant for quick acceleration, outstanding cornering and general handling, good weight balance for lengthy jumps, and a suspension that can "settle down" after a jump and withstand repeated high-speed landings. Failure in of any one of these areas means the vehicle won't be competitive and/or it'll self-destruct.

The other component to a winning rig is a focused, fearless driver. As previously noted, these courses are compact, so each run happens very quickly. Drivers don't get warm up laps, so they have to go into each round of racing with their game on if they want to win. Drivers will typically walk the course before each race and mentally note course conditions and obstacles. But there's a twist. Often, in between rounds of Tough Truck racing portions of the course are used for monster truck racing, so obstacles and conditions can change dramatically. This forces the drivers to adapt quickly if they want to be competitive.

Noto, a mechanic by trade, is the founder of Super Crew Racing (SCR), which consists of him and three other racers. The winning Ranger-bodied truck you see here is called Supertruck and Noto says he has approximately 800 hours into its design and construction. The truck adheres to the Modified Class rules of the Tough Truck series. The core of the truck is a '72 Ford Bronco chassis, and every facet of the truck has been built to handle the rigors of being flung around a track at speed. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that that the truck is carbureted and not fuel-injected and that much of the work was done with readily available parts and materials (like the trussing and gusseting on the axles).

Judging by his winning record, it's apparent that Noto has found the magic formula. Read on to learn what he has done to make his Ranger one of the toughest trucks.

Front axle

  • Dana 44, Drive Train Specialists-sourced Detroit Locker, 3.50:1 gear ratio, Yukon 4340 chromoly axleshafts (Noto says using these axles reduced his axle breakage by 90 percent), disc brakes, significant trussing and gusseting of the axlehousing using ¼-inch-thick steel (this reinforces the axlehousing so it will survive repeated 8- to 12-foot jumps)
  • Denny's Driveshafts-built front driveshaft (long, with carrier bearing, due to the increased length between the transfer case and the front axle because of the relocated engine), 1350 U-joints
  • Custom steering using a 2WD Ford ½-ton steering box, lengthened pitman arm (for quicker steering response), 1.0625-inch-diameter solid drag link and tie rod (drag link was raised to reduce bumpsteer), Rod End Supply spherical rod ends mounted to welded-on 1.375-inch-diameter sleeves

Transmission/ Transfer case

  • Modified C6 transmission, zero balanced flex plate, custom torque converter designed using the engine output and axle gearing specs, B&M shift kit in the valvebody, modified Third gear drum to accept more clutches, aluminum Napa Auto Parts cooler
  • with 10-inch-diameter electric fan
  • Stock NP205 transfer case

Rear axle

  • Ford 9-inch, Moser Engineering full spool, 3.50:1 gear ratio, Moser Engineering 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, significant trussing and gusseting of the axlehousing using 18-inch steel plate (14-inch plate for upper link mounts), rear disc-brake
  • conversion using the same rotors, calipers and pads as the front brakes to reduce the number of spare parts needed
  • Denny's Driveshafts-built rear 'shaft, 1410 U-joint at the transfer case, 1350 U-joint at the differential


  • Custom sheetmetal panels
  • Summit Racing seat with Simpson five-point restraints
  • Napa Auto Parts engine temperature and oil pressure gauges
  • Art Carr transmission shifter
  • Ford Bronco transfer case shifter
  • SCR rollcage built from 1.750-inch-diameter, 0.120- and 0.095-inch-wall tubing


  • '72 Ford Bronco chassis, modified to allow the rear axle to travel freely upward without contacting the chassis
  • Rear-mounted custom aluminum radiator with twin 10-inch-diameter electric puller fans, custom SCR fan shroud
  • 8-gallon fuel cell with Aeromotive electric fuel pump
  • Dual Optima RedTop batteries


  • Ford 416ci bored and stroked Windsor V-8 relocated rearward in the chassis 17 inches (helps to distribute the vehicles weight evenly on all four wheels) and 5 inches downward (to help lower the vehicles overall center of gravity)
  • Probe Industries forged pistons
  • Air Flow Research 205cc heads with Scorpion aluminum roller rockers
  • Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold
  • Willy's 750cfm four-barrel carburetor
  • Custom SCR headers
  • Dyno-measured 595hp @ 5,800 rpm, 584 lb-ft of torque @ 5,100 rpm


  • Speedway Ford Ranger fiberglass roof, Boatec Ford Ranger fiberglass body
  • Blue and red base paints applied by Joe Maul
  • Cape, Supertruck logo, and all other airbrushing applied by Mark Petrillo
  • 31x10.50R15LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claw MTZ tires (front)
  • 31x10.50R15LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires (rear)
  • 15x8 Mickey Thompson Classic Lock wheels


  • Custom 12-inch-travel three-link front suspension, 2-inch-diameter, 0.250-inch-wall links, custom round socket joint at the lower link frame mount and large Rod End Supply spherical rod ends everywhere else, Stage I Knight Stalker nitrogen shocks, 4-inch-travel Sway-A-Way bumpstops, two steel limiting chains (to keep the front suspension from overextending), 1.5-inch-diameter custom sway bar with custom ¼-inch boxed steel ends and Farm & Fleet-sourced end links
  • Custom 16.5-inch-travel four-link rear suspension, 2-inch-diameter, 0.250-inch-wall links with large Rod End Supply spherical rod ends, Stage II Knight Stalker nitrogen shocks, 6-inch-travel Sway-A-Way bumpstops, Poly Performance limiting straps, 1-inch-diameter custom sway bar with ends made from ¼-inch square tubing and Farm & Fleet-sourced end links

About This Series
This is the second installment of the "Anatomy of a" series. In this occasional series we'll take a look at the tech (or lack thereof in some cases) that's integrated into four-wheel-drive vehicles that we may not normally feature. Some of these vehicles are packed with tech, others may be surprisingly simple, and some may have unique features that are specific to their type of wheeling.

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results