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The Ultimate 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Part 4

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2011 on October 1, 2011
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The Ultimate Adventure is a weeklong wheeling road trip where we head to a small segment of the United States (different each year) and explore the trails and tarmac. The trip is made up of around 20 vehicles, including selected readers, sponsors, old cronies, and staff. The lead truck is our official Ultimate Adventure vehicle. For 2011 we are building a new Ford F-150 to lead our expedition of off-roading.

Above all that aluminum skidplating and plastic cladding on our EcoBoost F-150 is the infamous independent front suspension (IFS). IFS has good ride characteristics, but when modified for large tires the many adjustable mounting points can loosen and cause added tire wear and steering woes. Add to that the lack of gearing and locker options and the fact that most half-ton axle CVs are not up to the stress of big tires, and you can see our qualms with the average IFS.

Our ’11 F-150 is equipped with a twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost engine touted as having V-8 power and V-6 economy, which is good since this truck will be spinning 40-inch rubber in both mud and rocks as well as down the highway. To build a unique and capable off-roader from this truck, we headed to Randy Ellis Design in Phoenix. Ellis has experienced all types of off-road racing and rockcrawling, and his shop has a full line of bolt-on light bars under the Sleekster brand. If that’s not enough, Ellis also has years of experience doing custom fabrication on both two- and four-wheeled vehicles. Best of all, he isn’t scared to try out-of-the-box projects such as this F-150 with one unique request: Build an independent front suspension (IFS) that can survive 40-inch tires.

We know that IFS gets a bad rap, and we claim some of the responsibility for that view. We have seen many examples over the years of IFS failure from severe off-road use and have reported on such. But as much as we despise IFS, there are only three new 4x4 vehicles available in the U.S. with a solid-beam front axle, so it’s time to set our prejudices aside and delve into the merits of an opposing A-armed off-roader.

The Ford IFS isn’t bad; in fact, it does its intended job just fine. We just want to complicate its job with larger tires, lower gears, locking differentials, and hitting bigger obstacles off-road than it was designed for. With these considerations, we pulled the aluminum housing and halfshafts out for upgraded replacements as well as the A-arms, EPAS (electric power assisted steering), and front bumper.

We recently came across some top-of-the-line components that we feel will give the IFS strength that has rarely been seen before on a street driven truck. These are parts from major axle manufacturers mixed with a good bit of custom fabrication resulting in a front end that (crossing our fingers) will survive the week of wheeling and road tripping known as Ultimate Adventure. Some of the best names in the business—Randy Ellis Design, Dynatrac, RCV Performance, ARB, Fox Racing, PolyPerformance—are supplying parts to assemble this front end. Only time will tell if it can withstand the same abuse we have been throwing at solid axles for years. But even if it fails in a blaze of glory, we can at least say we tried something different.

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Huntington Beach, CA 92647
ARB 4x4 Products
Renton, WA 98057
Poly Performance
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
RCV Performance
Loves Park, IL
PSC Motorsports
Azle, TX 76020
Competitive Metals

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