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Building For The Best Of Both Worlds: Tow-Haul-Chase Project Ford

Posted in How To on December 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Agustin Jimenez

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.

View Slideshow
05. This adjustable track bar comes with all of Pure’s four-link conversion kits. It allows you to make side-to-side adjustments without having to remove one side of the track bar. The jam nuts are not yet tightened in this picture.

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.

06. Since the 4.0 Chase kit lifts the truck only four inches and keeps the track bar and steering draglink at reasonable angles, there is no track bar drop bracket, nor drop pitman arm. For our intended purposes we liked the idea of the bars being almost parallel with the front axle, so Revolution Vehicle Dynamics incorporated a track bar bracket and forged drop pitman arm made for a Trail Master 6-inch lift kit.

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.

07. The front package was effective, robust and, without question, much more prepared for a life with OFF-ROAD than the stock suspension would have been. But the four-link conversion did create one possibly negative (possibly positive) effect: Four-links move more freely (less binding during articulation) than radius arm suspensions do. When we converted the truck to a four-link (from radius arm), our Super Duty’s front suspension allowed the truck to lean over more easily. The suspension articulated better in uneven terrain, but it created a little more body roll on pavement.

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.

View Slideshow

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.

Sources

Daystar
Phoenix, AZ 85043
800-595-7659
www.daystarweb.com
Pure Performance
Green Island, NY 12183
518-270-9822
http://www.pure-performance.biz/
Atlas Spring Co.
n/a, CA
626-333-7373
http://www.atlasleafspring.com
Trail Master Suspension
Chino Valley, AZ 86323
928-636-7080
http://www.trailmastersuspension.com
Pro Comp USA
Compton, CA 90220
800-776-0767
http://www.procompusa.com
Hellwig
800-435-5944
www.hellwigproducts.com
Revolution Vehicle Dynamics
760-247-8000
http://www.avoffroadshop.com
Elite Mobile Diagnostics
480-464-8846

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