Our 2006 F-150 2WD project has come a long way, and we’re nearing the end—maybe—of our build. We’d already had the guys at JD Fabrication install one of their long-travel front suspension kits combined with Bilstein 9100 coilovers and bumpstops. The front end has seriously changed and is setup for playing in the dirt.
We had previously swapped in a set of Deaver long-travel lift springs. The nine-leaf packs made a huge difference in the rear suspension, increasing travel significantly while keeping a supple ride. However, we had not yet addressed new shocks to take advantage of our targeted travel of just over 12 inches. It was time to step up in the damping department and capitalize on the performance of our new spring packs.
We turned to Bilstein once again and got a set of their 9100 Series 60mm smooth body shocks. To fit the shocks, we set out to fabricate a new set of upper shock mounts off the frame. You may recall, we wanted to preserve as much bed cargo space as possible, which meant a bulky bed cage was not in the plan. Instead, we worked to keep the 14-inch travel Bilsteins under the bed and did a little sheetmetal massaging to accomplish this task. We also added a set of Bilstein 2-inch diameter, 3-inch travel bumpstops to halt the leaf spring travel in the rear.
To finish off our bed after the sheetmetal mods, we rolled on some Durabak bedliner material to add a good-looking, tough finish. A hinged spare-tire carrier went in the bed and was secured with a strap solution from Mac’s Custom Tie-Downs. Next, an air compressor from Smittybilt was sourced to put our tires back to street pressure once we came back on pavement. Finally, we addressed the factory battery tray by installing a metal battery cage from JD Fabrication to ensure our battery stays where intended while bouncing around in the whoops.
We’ve finally now got our truck suspension complete and our 37-inch BF Goodrich Baja T/As tucked under fiberglass fenders. We should be ready to take a break from building our project truck and actually have time for some off-road fun.
Step By Step
For rear damping, we opted to use Bilstein’s 9100 Series 60mm smooth body shocks. Fourteen-inch travel shocks were used with remote reservoirs. These shocks are fully tunable and rebuildable, allowing us to dial them in and ensuring years of service.
The Bilstein 9100 shocks also have spherical balls on both ends and accept a 1/2-inch bolt. Misalignment spacers are included with the shocks.
We started the rear shock installation by slicing open part of each wheelwell in the bed to make room for the upper mounts just forward of each factory wheelwell. Our goal was to avoid fabricating a bulky bed cage that would eat up a lot of cargo space.
Tubular upper shock mounts were fabricated for each side using 1 1/2- and 1 3/4-inch steel tubing. These were welded onto the frame and braced forward and rearward. With our upper shock mounts complete, we sealed up the holes we had cut in our bed. After that, we bent some replacement panels from 18-gauge steel sheet and extended the wheelwells forward to cover our mounts and reseal the bed floor.
Next, we fabricated a mount bracket for each of the Bilstein shock reservoirs. Each reservoir sits in a length of split steel tubing and is held in place with a pair of screw clamps.
Here’s the final shock mount configuration. The shocks are tilted about 30 degrees from vertical and attached to lower mounts at the axle centerline. We tucked each of the reservoirs up inside the bedside, forward of the tire. This keeps them higher, out of harm’s way and away from debris that might get thrown by a tire.
We acquired a set of 2-inch diameter, 3-inch travel Bilstein bumpstops and mount cans to control the final inches of our compression travel.
A set of mounts were fabricated for the Bilstein bumpstops. Each structure serves as a mount for the bump and as a frame support spanning the weak area in the rear frame rail on F-150s and Raptors. Both of the bump mounts bolt to a frame rail, and the two mounts are bridged together with a connecting tubular member to further strengthen the assembly.
We choose a Durabak bedliner to finish the interior of the bed. Durabak is quite durable and deadens sound as well. Another plus, it’s available in a wide range of colors, but we selected plain black. An angle grinder with a flap disc was used to roughen the rest of the bed while preparing to add the bedliner coating.
With the bed prepped and cleaned with Xylol, Durabak bedliner was rolled on. The coating is made for the do-it-yourselfer and can be rolled, brushed, or sprayed. It goes on with a strong odor, but it dissipates in a couple of days, leaving a very tough surface finish. You can see one of our extended fenderwells here.
We had fabricated a hinged tire carrier to hold our 37-inch BF Goodrich Baja T/A spare. When laying flat, we secure it with a ratchet strap connected to two floor anchors. The strap and anchors are from Mac’s Custom Tie-Downs.
The tire is flipped to the upright position when we need to haul dirt bikes or cargo, strapping the tire to an anchor strip from Mac’s bolted to the bed’s side rail. We simply told the guys at Mac’s about our tire-carrier design, and they recommended a strapping solution that easily took care of our needs to secure the tire in both positions.
One of our needs was an air source to restore our tires to highway pressure after airing down for the dirt during our off-road travels. We chose to use a Smittybilt 2781 portable 12-volt air compressor. It comes with a coiled air hose, pressure gauge, and power cord in a cloth storage bag.
We tested the pump on one of our 37-inch tires. We were able to inflate a tire from 15 to 30 psi in two minutes flat, running the pump from our truck battery. The Smittybilt air compressor draws about 45 amps and is provided with a set of battery clips for easy hookup. It has a maximum restart pressure of 150 psi and provides up to 160 L/min. of air output.
We wanted a more secure mount for our Optima Yellow Top and purchased a steel battery cage from JD Fabrication.
We bolted the JD Fabrication battery cage to the factory battery shelf and can now drive over rough terrain confident our battery is fully captive in a solid mount.