Suspension, Wheels & Tires
Meet Jane. As you can see, she isn't real pretty. But as your mom might have said, though she's kind of plain, she's got a great personality. Actually, she's got multiple personalities, or will have. She'll be a tow rig, a camper, a four-wheeler and a part time daily driver. So we'll focus on the things we did to change the performance of the truck.
This particular Plain Jane is a 2000 Ford F-350 Super Duty with a Power Stroke diesel. Jane started life with exactly one option on her window sticker-the diesel engine. She is as plain as they come: a white regular cab with rubber floor mats and wind-up windows. But along with her winning personality, she's got a great build: a six-speed manual transmission plugs in behind the Power Stroke and feeds a lever-controlled NP271 transfer case. Axles are a Dana 50 up front (with hubs) and a Ford 10.25 in the rear. Stock gearing is 3.73 with open diffs.
Jane has many shoes to fill. The truck's main use is for towing a 9,000-pound (when loaded) enclosed trailer filled with a Jeep or a race car. On these tow trips she needs to be comfortable enough to live in, yet still be compact enough to perform as a daily driver when needed.
Obviously, Jane's got to have 'wheeling ability. She must be capable of 'wheeling into, and out of, some nasty places, and suitable for traveling in Baja. In this case, having a terrific tow truck is more important than building an all-conquering 'wheeler so the truck won't become an all-out flex-mobile. A high-clearance, good riding but stable suspension is needed for Jane's mission in life. Aggressive tires and lockers will make up for any lack of flex in the rough stuff.
The first thing on our must-modify list was the stock suspension. We figured we should add a lift system, the better to fit bigger wheels and tires. Fabtech Motorsport's five-inch suspension kit was chosen to get Jane up and level. Fabtech Motorsports is a Southern California company that has been around for 15 years. Until recently, the company's main focus has been on off-road racing and 2WD pre-runner-type trucks. Today, the company is incorporating its racing lessons and technology into bolt-on suspension systems for 4x2 and 4x4 trucks. Using computer-aided design and CNC equipment, the company's engineers are cranking out some state-of-the-art suspension systems.
The Fabtech leaf-spring pack for the Ford Super Duty, for instance, is a good example of this. Ten leaves make up the front springs, compared to half that many used in most other suspension lifts available for the Super Duty. Fabtech claims that by using thinner leaves and more of them, its engineers can build a spring pack that is more flexible, offers more articulation, and a smoother highway ride, yet still retains its load-handling capability. This philosophy, along with features like a military-wrapped main leaf for strength, nylon anti-friction pads between each leaf, floating leaf clamps for articulation and vulcanized rubber bushings instead of squeaky polyurethane, lead us to choosing the Fabtech product for pumping up Jane. Before-and-after testing has revealed some mixed results. Check it out.