A desert-worthy suspension system.
The OE suspension on new 4x4 trucks is the single most serious limiting factor when it comes to real four-wheeling performance. So it is with our '99 Dodge project vehicle, the Baja Bomber. We needed stronger suspension components, with a bit of lift to allow fitment of 35-inch rubber. But there's more. The Bomber is intended to be a true multipurpose truck. We intend to take advantage of the Cummins turbodiesel's torque to tow heavy loads when required. And on race day, we'd expect the truck to run competitively in the fast-growing diesel drag-racing circuits. It's safe to say raising the center of gravity was not an option. Was this too much to ask? Well, yes, it was, at least from a traditional lift kit.
We were stumped, and then we discovered T-Rex Engineering of San Diego. T-Rex offers a Baja-derived system available for all three generations of Dodge Ram trucks. T-Rex suspension systems don't change the OE suspension geometry, yet they significantly increase wheel travel. What they do change, however, are the dynamics by which the suspension works. Instead of using only the springs to absorb impacts, the T-Rex system adds hydraulics precisely tuned to the vehicle, just like a trophy truck suspension does. The result is a desert-friendly system that retains the design life of an OE setup. Follow along as Rock Star Trux of San Jose, California prepares the Baja Bomber for lift-off.
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The T-Rex system was designed to allow jumping. Here in the paved confines of L.A. this can be a hard thing to find. We asked Kent Kroker, the owner of T-Rex, where he suggested we go. His answer surprised us. "Lets run the Baja 500 race course this weekend," without hesitation. We couldn't find a better answer, so on the next Friday we headed south to the wild countryside of Baja, Mexico. Along the way the T-Rex kit surprised us with its pleasing road manners. Smaller bumps seemed to completely disappear, and larger ones felt tiny. This velvety response to the road imperfections seemed like the hot ticket for stiff-suspension 31/44-ton trucks. The new progressive coil springs up front responded to bumps much faster than before. The 211/42-inch Fox remote-reservoir shocks created a rollercoasterlike feeling of stability with only a few degrees of predictable body roll.
Once we were comfortable with the truck's new dynamics, we found a place to catch air. We took it easy at first, and then as our confidence climbed we took the jump at around 50 mph. We launched the truck up in the air 3 feet and just as we expected, the suspension soaked up the landing without even bottoming out. So the ride quality was improved, and we could even jump now, but what did we sacrifice in heavy-hauler functionality? To test this, we decided to tow Teal-J to Moab for the annual Easter Jeep Safari. The truck felt stable at all times. We carved confidently into corners wishing a jump or two lie ahead.
The final test for the T-Rex system was Moab's Hell's Revenge trail, with its steep inclines and off-camber stair steps. The increased suspension travel and better approach and departure angles made negotiating the slickrock a breeze.