Advice From Those Who've Done It
Let's just start this off on the right foot: We can't tell you how to build a truck for mud. You know why? Because we'll say to do this, try that, and swap this, and then when you don't win races or you get mocked by those fishing you out of the soup, you'll curse us and our immediate family. However, what we can do is toss out a plethora of homegrown ideas and some tried-and-true-for-others tips from people who play in the mud so that you can build the ultimate mud truck.
What's on the following pages can be applied to your truck whether your goal is purse or play. Everyone from a pro-racer with an extreme bogger to a guy who four-wheels and daily-drives his rig-when he's not using it for search and rescue-has provided valuable building tips for this story. Each of these drivers has scored well in his class, and all of 'em are pretty happy with their current setups. And remember, they got to that state of mind after frustration, experimentation, and advice from others. Sound familiar?
Here's the thing-driving through mud is like driving through water, only not as clean. Therefore, it's wise to have your truck and its moisture-sensitive components up and out of the goo, with either a suspension or body lift. You don't need a lot of articulation for mud, but you do need some travel so the suspension can handle bumps without bouncing off the ground, as some mud bogs can be fairly rough when they start to harden.
One of the key steps to building a successful mud truck is to trim as much weight as you can from the vehicle. A lightweight vehicle is generally a fast vehicle. When it comes to the suspension, this can mean using a coil-spring setup rather than leaf springs. However, most of the guys we spoke with stuck with leaf springs and added as much as a 12-inch lift.
Jim Bamford of Kearney, Nebraska, owns a '90 Chevy S-10 Extended Cab but didn't lift it at all because he wanted to keep the center of gravity lower for more stability. To fit larger tires, he simply cut the body until the tires cleared. But if you want to fit bigger tires without hacking sheetmetal in the process, you can add a body or suspension lift to your to-do list.
Ted Farmer, from Lakewood, Colorado, has been doing the gumbo for about 17 years and says his '77 Ford F-250 had 4-inch springs on the front, which he re-arched before taking out a leaf from each pack for a softer suspension. The rear has custom-made shackles, and he removed the lift blocks and four of the leaves to improve the ride and gain more travel.
Another key to a successful suspension is having the right shocks. Bamford runs heavy shocks in front for better damping and light ones in back so that when he steps on the gas, the front end will lift while the rear sinks for better traction. Farmer has dual shocks in front and singles at the rear, while Fountain, Colorado's George Gallegos runs double shocks at each corner of his '73 Chevy Blazer.