The Ultimate Adventure is in the bag, the story is written, and the truck we built to lead this event is dirtier than ever, but wait—we never finished telling you about how our new Ford F-250 was built to go lead this wacky week of wheelin! So this month we delve into Part 5 of the project truck.
To recap, we started with a base-model diesel Ford F-250 Super Duty, and by “base-model” we mean a two-door with rollup windows, a vinyl floor, no CD player, and no cruise control (July ’13). Just a tough, simple, work truck that we built to go play in the dirt and mud of the UA. We rolled into Shaffer’s Offroad in Alameda, California, and proceeded to the cut the truck in half. The goal was a regular-cab shortbed truck, a body style not offered in the F-250 model. To that we added a pair of portal axles custom-built from the stock axlehousings, which gave us added ground clearance and gearing. Of course, those axle also got upgraded parts from Nitro Gear & Axle and ARB, so they’re locked and loaded for fun in the sun—er, dirt. Or wherever Editor Péwé takes us to.
Step By StepView Photo Gallery
1. When we last left our illustrious F-250 builders, they had just finished building the stock Dana 60 and Sterling axles with ARB Air Lockers, Nitro Gear & Axle axleshafts, and Axletech portal gearboxes (Oct. ’13). When you multiply the stock 3.55 gear ratio times the 1.5 portal gear ratio, these new axles have a 5.32 final drive, plus they add 5 inches of ground clearance.
2. One detriment of the portal axles is the increased torque loads on the suspension components. We opted to swap out the factory front radius arms with a BDS four-link and track bar kit. This allowed greater movement and articulation while still being able to control the added leverage of the portals.
3. The front suspension uses a track bar, and in order to make it fit we had to trim the front crossmember. When we changed from the stock knuckles to the Reid Racing inner Cs, we removed the stock track bar mount from the axle, so a new one was built of 1⁄4-inch plate. Always build your custom suspension at full compression to ensure that everything fits after a hard jump or landing.
4. We are not fans of bent track bars, as the track bar needs to locate the axle side to side so a bend can be the start of a failure or additional bending, but sometimes they cannot be easily avoided. We needed the front track bar to clear the differential and the steering at full compression, so a bend was added to the 1⁄4x2-wall tubing. The end bushing is from the factory track bar in order to reuse the stock brackets and hardware.
5. With the track bar installed we added the crossover steering to the Artec high steering arms. The angles of the draglink and track bar are identical and almost equal in length to minimize bumpsteer.
6. The big Ford needs to work both on the road and off and must turn 40-inch rubber through rough terrain. A ram-assist steering was chosen to help remove the strain from the massive steering gear. We sent the steering gear to PSC early in the build and received it back ported for the hydraulic ram. The stock Ford power steering pump is sufficient to run the gear, ram, and hydroboost brakes.
7. The front suspension was fitted with BDS 4-inch lift coils. We had to custom-build lower coil mounts because the stock mounts were cast parts of the steering C. The bottom of the coil is captured by the coil mount, but the top isn’t. This would prove to be our only major mistake with the build, as the top of the coil was able to drop out of the coil mounts at times. We will be going back and adding a coil retainer eventually. We added BDS Fox shocks to control the big front end, but you may note the sway bar was deleted.
8. We considered various ways to keep the rear leaf springs but finally opted to build a rear equal-length parallel four-link with track bar to best control the portals. To start this suspension, Sailor Neale cut out large plates to attach the suspension links to the frame.
9. With 14 inches of separation at the frame end, the link mounts appear to hang down low and decrease ground clearance. Since the frame actually kicks up very high under the bed and the fuel tank, transmission, and exhaust all hang down low under the frame rails, it wasn’t really as low as it seemed.
10. Thick 1⁄4x2-wall tubing from Industrial Metal Supply was used for the rear links, and threaded BDS bungs were welded in to receive the BDS Flex Joints. Both ends of the links run right-hand threaded bungs. This makes adjusting lengths a hassle, but it also makes the links impossible to unthread by accident, which can happen with opposite-threaded bungs on both ends, and cuts down on the number of spares we need to carry.
11. The rear suspension uses parallel links with 14 inches of separation at both ends in order to control the big 40-inch Nittos and portal axles. We did lose a slight bit of ground clearance by mounting the lower links a few inches below the axletube, but we opted for strength over ground clearance. The axle link mounts have a rear step that will become the coil mount.
12. The driver-side rear axle mount includes both upper and lower link mounts, the coil mount off the back, an integrated track bar mount, and multiple gussets to keep everything together. The mounts are built of a mixture of 1⁄4- and 3⁄16-inch plate. The frame mount will support the coil but must stay under the floor of the truck bed.
13. The passenger-side rear is even more complex with the heavy-duty track bar mount built off the bottom of the frame in order to keep the track bar close to flat at ride height but beefy enough not to rip off the frame. We also added the rotors and Wilwood calipers to the portal gearboxes.
14. The rear BDS Fox shocks were mounted behind the axle to clear the suspension at full compression. Rear coils are BDS front lift coils for a fullsize Bronco. The packaging of the rear suspension was difficult, but Mike Shaffer at Shaffer’s Offroad has done many custom suspensions and has an innate gift for laying out systems that work well through a full range of motion.
15. Jesse Haines from Jesse Haines Fabrication joined the project to build our rollcage. The cage idea was something that would protect the occupants of the small cab without taking up too much room. Haines and Shaffer worked together to develop an indoor/outdoor cage that was hidden inside the factory B-pillar but visible above the A-pillar and roof.
16. The cage is tied into the cab but also attaches to the frame and rock rails via bushings. This allows the cage to move ever so slightly with the body while still offering protection in a rollover.
17. The front section of the cage hides behind the front fender but still ties into the complex steel body structure and to the front rock rails via bushings. Having the external cage by the windshield protects the glass from protruding branches and brush off-road.
18. One of the coolest parts of the build is where the cage comes down inside the B-pillar. This can still be covered by the factory plastic paneling so that there is only one bar (a crossbar not yet installed in this photo) inside the cab of the truck to help save room and give it a clean look. There is plenty more work to show you, from wheels and tires to gearing and electrical, but we’ll have to catch back up in 30 days.