Long-travel front suspension.
When we first caught wind of the Dixon Brothers Racing Ford Ranger long-travel four-wheel-drive suspension system at the Off Road Expo a couple of years ago, we pondered the possibilities of a project buildup that would highlight the benefits of big IFS wheel-travel numbers on a four-wheel-drive truck. Not only would we be able to hang with those fast two-wheel-drive guys (but with the added traction and handling advantages of four-wheel drive) while out exploring our desert backyard, but we would have a multipurpose truck that would be just as at home tackling the toughest terrain on a low-range trail ride.
The Dixon Brothers, who are best known for their bright red Ford Ranger race truck that won their class in the Best in the Desert Race series in 2003 and 2004, certainly have the right credentials and are now offering long-travel kits for a variety of trucks, including the only 4x4 long-travel system on the market for A-arm Ford Rangers. We were interested in the race-inspired components, such as the tubular chromoly 4130 upper arms, fully boxed lower arms, 4-inch-wider-per-side track increase, as well as the 14 inches of front wheel travel (effectively doubling our stock wheel travel), and the ability to ditch our factory torsion bars and rubber bumpstops in favor of coilover shocks and air bumps.
Long-travel 4x4 kits are the latest movement in off-road suspension system design. Using no drop brackets, this type of IFS suspension modification instead uses stock mounting points with wider arms and race-style coilover shocks to gain high wheel-travel numbers, with a major emphasis on a low center of gravity and a wider track for high-speed performance and stability. While this isn't a lift per se, there is some adjustment on the coilovers for a little increased ride height.
When installing one of his systems, Aaron Dixon, owner of Dixon Bros Racing, typically uses a 2.5x8-inch-travel reservoir shock, but was willing to work with us to fit in our massive 2.65x10-inch Bilstein 9100 reservoir shocks. We went with the 10-inch Bilsteins because of their racing heritage, high quality, and the engineering that goes into each shock, as well as the extra oil capacity that the 10-inch-travel shock offers over the 8-inch shock.
Follow along and we'll take you through the ins and outs of the Dixon Brothers Racing system on Project RangeRunner and show you what makes it so cool.
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So, How Well Does It Work?
In a word, "incredible." It is so much fun to watch the suspension cycle at speed, and the truck can suck up the entire amount of suspension compression inside the front flares without rubbing anything. RangeRunner's ride is unquestionably better than stock around town and on the highway, better than any other Ranger suspension we have sampled. While there is more body roll than stock without sway bars, the wider track gives our Ranger a very stable feeling.
Out on the trail, the extra suspension travel is welcome, and we have found out on fast dirt roads that any cross ditches or washouts that we encounter are soaked up without any drama. We don't plan on jumping the truck on a regular basis, but for the sake of breaking it in, we can tell you that the pillowy landings turned us into giggling schoolgirls. Best of all, we still have a full 13 inches of ground clearance at the front crossmember, a couple inches more than stock.
The ultimate high-speed shakedown run was done in Baja, where we came across the washboard road from hell. While the stock vehicles were relegated to 15 mph or less from crashing on their bumpstops, we were able to run the Ranger in four-wheel drive at a full 68 mph, soaking up everything with no breakage to report.
We don't intend to run RangeRunner this hard very often, but it is nice to know it is tough enough to withstand the abuse. Whether we are hauling or crawling, the Dixon Brothers Racing kit has transformed our Ranger and prepared it for any wheeling occasion. Stay tuned because there is plenty more to come from Project RangeRunner.