Building For The Best Of Both Worlds: Tow-Haul-Chase Project FordPosted in How To on December 1, 2012 Comment (0)
After 40,000 trouble-free miles and trying out a number of suspension combinations, heights, types of shocks, and tires on our Ford 3/4-ton diesel 4x4 truck we finally figured out what we wanted for our 2011 Super Duty.
We simply wanted a package that would improve on-road ride and handling, be able to go fast down dirt roads and through small whoops, take us into places we shouldn’t be with a crew cab, and handle heavy loads in the bed and on a trailer. Was this so much to ask? It turns out that most of the time, it is.
If it rides really well over fast bumps, then it probably can’t tow worth a dang. And if it’s really good at towing, then it’s probably rough as heck in the dirt. Having a “do-all” truck is the dream of most 3/4- or 1-ton 4x4 diesel owners, but most of the time there is something sacrificed in the build.
From the day we picked up this Super Duty from Ford, there was a plan for the truck’s intended use and build theme: Towing, hauling, and chasing. We’ve figured out what we believe to be the best of both worlds for our Super Duty’s suspension—allowing us to pound around in the dirt in comfort while still being able to tow more than most passenger vehicles could ever dream of.
After a fair amount of trial and some error, we’ve had a successful few months of testing on this current suspension package with a combination of pieces from Atlas Spring, Daystar, Hellwig, Pro Comp, Pure Performance, and Trail Master. We’ve tried to include all the best suspension options for a 3/4-ton, plus a couple new ones.
No, this is not a complete package you can buy out of the box. We based most of this around a Pure Performance 4-inch-taller four-link conversion kit, but then we added air bags, a sway bar, full leaf springs, a track bar drop, and a new pitman arm. Like many enthusiasts, we enjoy custom tailoring our trucks.
01. Mike Gold at Revolution Vehicle Dynamics helped us remove the previous taller suspension we had on our truck to swap to the shorter Pure Performance Chase kit. The Chase Series kit uses a 4-inch-taller-than-stock progressive-rate coil spring, 11-inch-stroke Prodigy shocks, and a four-link kit to convert the Super Duty suspension from a radius arm to a four-link design.
The Chase Series kit also comes with mid-rate, mid-travel replacement leaf springs (not shown here). It can be ordered without springs if you have your own plans out back.
Revolution Vehicle Dynamics in Apple Valley, California, helped us piece together a front end that includes Pure progressive-rate 4-inch-taller coils combined with a four-link conversion (from the stock radius arm design), a Hellwig sway bar, Prodigy 2 5/8 shocks, and a Trail Master track bar bracket and dropped pitman arm.
In the rear, we have Atlas leaf springs combined with Prodigy 2 5/8 shocks, Hellwig air bags, and Daystar’s new Air Bag Cradles that allow full droop while running air bags.
We could have made the suspension more impressive by adding external-bypass shocks, linking the rear while using air bags, or increasing the cost a number of other ways, but we didn’t want to overcomplicate the suspension with more moving pieces, nor did we want to build a package that costs more than what we see as a reasonable amount of money for a new diesel truck’s suspension.
We’ll no doubt add a few more parts to this Tow-Haul-Chase project truck in the future, but we believe this suspension is staying since it does everything we ask of it and gives a comfortable ride to boot.
08. Too much body roll makes a vehicle handle poorly and also difficult to tow with. That’s why Hellwig offers replacement sway bars with increased spring rates. This (pictured, lower bar) Hellwig Super Duty replacement sway bar has a 255 pounds per inch rate—a 38-percent increase over the stock Super Duty sway bar (pictured, upper bar).
While increasing a sway bar’s spring rate is generally not what you’d want to do for the dirt, it’s exactly what you want to do for towing applications.
We used our Hellwig bar for similar reasons: Since Super Dutys were made with radius arm suspensions, the stock sway bars have a softer spring rate than they likely would have if they’d been built with four-links from the factory. Adding the Hellwig sway got our truck back to “stock” street handling and towing traits when combined with the four-link conversion.
Towing With Our Air Bags and Cradles
With 37-inch tires and a 6-inch lift kit (using blocks and mini-packs instead of the factory overload leafs) our Super Duty squatted a lot when loaded down with our Carson trailer.
With the (even softer) full replacement leaf springs in our 4-inch lift kit, our truck’s rear ride height remains the same when loaded down thanks to the Hellwig air bags. They offer our truck better control when towing a trailer.
At some point, we’ll probably add an onboard air compressor, but for now we just use an external pneumatic source to fill up our air bags through their Schrader valves.