Enough is enough. We had smiled too many sheepish grins and shrugged our shoulders one time too many. Our embarrassed responses to the question, "When are you guys going to build a Twin-Traction Beam vehicle?" were making us feel inadequate. It was time to get our hands on one - no more excuses would suffice. We've discussed the design and the impact of the setup in a prior issue ("The First Long-Travel Suspension," April '08), but until now, we haven't had a vehicle of our own equipped with TTB to thrash mercilessly. After searching for our white-knight Bronco, we came across this '93 black beauty, and in honor of that guilty, er, innocent gem of society, we're calling our Bronco "The Juice." (Don't worry about us - we have security doors and none of his sports memorabilia up here.)
One of the most attractive aspects of TTB-equipped vehicles is that truck owners don't have to spend the budget of a successful race team in order to modify them to the point of having a capable desert vehicle. Available suspension upgrades are produced by several respected companies, they're relatively cheap, and they work well. In the TTB heyday of the mid '90s, one suspension manufacturer advertised 13 inches of front-end wheel travel when its lift kit was utilized.
Although we plan to build this Bronco into a capable prerunner, we purchased it about a week before the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, and decided to quickly get some parts on it to have some fun up there. We knew 6 inches of lift would clear 35-inch rubber, so we went with a tried-and-true Skyjacker system, providing us with 1/2-foot of increased clearance for the tires and much improved approach and departure angles.
We turned to Dick Cepek for our tire and wheel needs. We knew the current-generation Mud Country is a tire with exceptional traction, and we had used its predecessor, the MC-II, with great success on a couple of previous builds. We chose 35x12.50R17s and mounted them on handsome 17x10 DC-1 wheels, which allow for increased brake-caliper clearance - something we'll be thinking about in the near future.
With four days until our intended departure from Southern California to Moab, we got our hands on the Skyjacker system and made a frantic visit to the venerable Off Road Evolution shop in Fullerton, California. The week before the big yearly Moab event is probably the worst possible time for us to ask a shop to install a new suspension kit, but Mel and his crew worked after hours to get the new components bolted on, the wheels and tires mounted, and the front end aligned - all with a day to spare.
We ended up getting to Moab without a problem and had a blast once we were there. Although we had not yet outfitted the Bronco to be a performance vehicle, we ran moderate-to-difficult trails without incident, and the clearance provided by the Skyjacker 6-inch system and the 35-inch Cepeks was indispensable.
Being that this introduction of our new project Bronco lands within the pages of our tire-test issue, we thought we'd take a closer look at the Dick Cepek Mud Countrys that now reside under the vehicle.
The 15-hour drive to Moab from Los Angeles gave us ample time to get a feel for the tires on the road. We were surprised at the lack of noise produced by them. The absence of tire drone made for a more peaceful trip. The tires handled fine on the highway. They stayed balanced and felt as round as any radial we've used. We encountered some wet snow during the drive and were able to plow through it with confidence. The minimal siping within the individual lugs seemed to do the job.
Being that we do not yet have a locker or an aftermarket limited slip in the Bronco, we ran the tires at very low pressures (about 9 psi) in both sand and rocks. Be prepared to lose a bead if you run tires at this pressure without beadlocks (we were), but luckily, the tires stayed true on the 17x10 DC-1 wheels, and no bead-related mishaps occurred.
The Mud Country tires gave us exceptional traction in each of the environments in which we tested them. Being that our first week with the tires took place in Moab, we obviously ran them on slickrock, and with impressive results. The sidewalls of the tires flexed and balled up over the bumpy rocks, much to our satisfaction. Steep climbs were no problem.
We were able to get ourselves to a small sand dune near Moab, and once there, we ran the Bronco pretty hard. To see what would happen, we ran the tires first at 25 psi and then at 9 psi. Airing down created a world of difference. Once we aired down, we cruised the dunes with ease, kicking up rooster tails on dune faces. We didn't get much time in mud, which is a shame considering the name of the tires, but we'll get a chance soon, and we expect good things. We soon plan to flog the tires at a high speed through rough desert terrain as well.
The Dick Cepek Mud Country is an exceptional tire for our uses. No complaints on the road, stable through snow and wetness, mega traction on rocks, and pretty good in the sand too. We plan on keeping these tires mounted on the Bronco for some time. We'll tell you about how they wear and hold up. We really liked the wheels too. The chrome DC-1s look great (we admit, that's why we chose them), but it's worth mentioning that the rim of the wheel is out of the way enough to not get scraped by rocks hugging the sidewall of the tire, and although they feature simulated beadlocks, they did an admirable job of holding onto the tires at low pressure.
The Skyjacker suspension system did the job without giving us any problems. We plan to modify this kit in the near future, transforming our Bronco into a vehicle that can handle rough desert conditions at high speeds. We're going to take baby steps, pausing several times to look at various states of the Bronco's evolution while discussing the vehicle's strengths and weaknesses at each stage. Project "The Juice" has begun!
Make/Model: Dick Cepek Mud Country
Size on Sidewall: 35x12.50R17
Load Range: D
Tire Hardness: 65 on tire durometer
Tread Depth (in):19.5/32
Number of Plies in TREAD: Six
Weight Of Tire (lbs):78
Measured Diameter Unloaded (in):34.9
Measured Width Unloaded (in):12.7
Measured Tread Width (in):9.8
Mounted On: 17x10 Dick Cepek DC-1
Available Tire Heights (in):31-40
Available Wheel Fitments:15-,16-,17-,18-, and 20-inch-diameter wheels