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Part Tow Rig, Part Trail Rig: This Super Duty Does It All

Posted in Features on May 18, 2016
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The name Ned Bacon should be familiar to most in the off-road community. A pioneer of rock crawling, a longtime Top Truck Challenge judge, and a contributor to our sister publication Four Wheeler, Bacon is no stranger to the pages of magazines. He famously spearheaded projects like the TrailLex, Killer Bee, and Plain Jane in the pages of Four Wheeler. More recently he and his wife Kat Wiechert drove their Volkswagen Synchro from their home in Nevada to Patagonia, at the southern tip of South America.

Enjoying as much time in the backcountry as possible, Bacon ordered a Four Wheel Swift Camper (designed for a mini-truck) for his Ford Raptor to facilitate camping out of the truck while keeping the overall width as narrow as the cab. Unfortunately the Raptor met an untimely demise before Bacon took possession of the camper. He replaced the truck with a regular-cab Super Duty—not that different than his previous Plain Jane project. Left with an extra small camper designed for a mini-truck and a new longbed 3/4-ton truck, Bacon got creative. He did an excellent job turning lemons into lemonade and ended up with a platform that makes excellent use of the available space. This truck can tow, wheel, and act as a basecamp for mountain biking, hiking, and kayaking adventures wherever he and Kat choose to take their next adventure.

When you start with a 3/4-ton truck you don’t have to make a lot of upgrades in order for it to be reliable in the backcountry. Ned Bacon retained the entire factory drivetrain, including the 6.7L diesel engine (with all emissions components), automatic transmission, and front Dana 60 axle. It still has the factory 3.54 gears and an open differential.

The Sterling 10 1/2 axle came from Ford with a selectable locker, so no upgrades were necessary to the rearend. Load capacity is another issue though. The factory leaf springs were supplemented with a pair of Load Lifter 5000 airbags from Airlift. Also note the Titan transfer tank that lives where the stock spare tire was. From the factory the Super Duty only had a range of around 200 miles, so Bacon felt that more fuel was critical.

Crank windows, a rubber floor mat, manual door locks, and a lever-operated transfer case mean lower cost and less to go wrong, both benefits in a vehicle that you plan to take deep into the backcountry. Bacon made his own center console out of a pie plate and cup holders from coffee cans for the automotive equivalent of shabby chic.

The spare tire sits upright in front of the camper, similar to an M1079 military truck. The spot also provides enough space for two Wedco cans (one for water, one for fuel) and a 5-gallon water cooler.

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Bacon is running a front bumper that Trail-Ready developed for our 2013 Ultimate Adventure project, Super Dirty. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. His bumper is filled with a massive Warn 16.5ti winch that has been on the last three trucks he has owned and is still going strong.

Traction comes from 37-inch Interco M16 tires mounted on Trail-Ready HD wheels. While they seem super-aggressive, by Interco standards this is a tame tire! A Daystar spacer was added to the factory coil springs to make room for the tires, and the stock shocks were swapped out for Rancho RS9000X ones.

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An ARB twin air compressor with a 100 percent duty cycle fills tires, airbags, and anything else requiring pressurized air. The 2x6-inch, 0.120-wall subframe that Bacon built for the camper doubles as an air tank, complete with air chucks at the perimeter to ensure that you never had to worry about the hose being too short for the task at hand. Bacon had Alltizer Powder Coating coat the entire flatbed frame for corrosion resistance.

The shortbed mini-camper allowed Bacon to get creative in the back. He built a “porch” where muddy boots could find a home or snacks and drinks could be served. The steps fold up to create a tailgate when the truck is on the move.

Everything you need to be comfortable can be found in the Four Wheel Swift Camper, from the propane furnace to the two-burner stove. Bacon opted for no plumbing to keep things simple. An Engel fridge keeps food cold, and the queen mattress makes for a comfortable night’s sleep. The fabric sides are great for ventilation and light but can also be easily zipped up to retain heat.

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Bacon and his wife Kat like to be outside as much as possible, and the popup camper and Fiamma awning allow them to do that in style. The Knapheide side boxes hold camp chairs, a stove, and other camp essentials where they are secure yet easy to access. When you really think about it, a standard pickup bed wastes a lot of space for the sake of aesthetics.

The low profile of the collapsible roof and the flat solar panel make for a fairly sleek package when traveling down the road. The solar panel on the roof is rated for 100 watts and keeps the dual deep cycle batteries charged.

Tech Specs
2015 Ford F-250 Super Duty
Drivetrain
Engine: 6.7L Powerstroke V-8 diesel
Transmission: 6R140 Torq-Shift 6-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NV271
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 3.54 gears and open differential
Rear Axle: Sterling 10 1/2 with 3.54 gears and factory electric locker
Suspension
Springs & Such: Factory coils with Daystar spacer (front), factory leaf springs with Airlift airbags (rear), Rancho RS9000X shocks
Tires & Wheels: 37x13.5R17 Interco M16s on 17x8.5 TrailReady HD wheels
Lighting: 30-inch LED light bar (front), 20-inch LED light bar (rear)
Other Stuff: Trail-Ready front bumper, Warn 16.5ti winch, custom flatbed with Alltizer powdercoating, Four Wheel Camper, Knapheide side boxes, ARB twin air compressor, Titan 30-gallon transfer tank, Engel fridge/freezer, 1,250-watt AIMS inverter, Hypertech speedometer calibrator

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