Finishing the Front and Laying Stripes
Our Ultimate Adventure F-150 is a project to push boundaries from our other projects over the years. We started with an ’11 Ford F-150 with the new EcoBoost V-6, a groundbreaking twin-turbo, direct-injection engine designed for power and mileage. The truck was taken to Randy Ellis Design, where the body was armored and the suspension overhauled to better control the 40-inch Nitto Mud Grapplers over whatever extreme trails our Ultimate Adventure troop may encounter. Our biggest challenge was to build an independent front suspension (IFS) that would be strong enough to withstand the rocks, ruts, and roads of the UA while leading the 20-some 4x4s filled with readers, sponsors, and cronies for a week.
The IFS upgrades we did were not inexpensive; in fact, a solid-axle conversion may have been cheaper, but that has been done numerous times. So we bit the bullet and rounded up the best axle parts we could find to make the front suspension strong. Making IFS work better than a solid-axle was not the goal this time ’round—we were simply going for strength.
After the F-150 was rebuilt stronger, we headed for AutoBody and More in Santa Rosa, California, for a paint job that would set it apart from the everyday F-150s and Raptors cruising the trails. The Gulf livery colors are a tribute to Ford’s performance heritage. And though it may be hard to imagine your truck in baby blue and bright orange, it did its job of making ours stand out in the crowd.
Come back in 30 days to read the final installment of our buildup, where we’ll go over all the little parts and pieces. We’ll also give you the down and dirty of what broke, what we’d change, and just maybe some hints about next year’s UA buildup.
Until then you can get your fill of trail and build up photos on our website, www.4wheeloffroad.com.
We rarely have time to testdrive our Ultimate Adventure truck prior to the event. The build timeline is always tight, and we often fill the timeline with upgrades until there is no time for testing. In fact, the majority of UA vehicles have their initial testdrive either to the event or on the first trail day of the event. With the unique nature of the IFS upgrades, we and Randy Ellis determined that we needed a day of testing prior to the trip, since it was unknown whether the truck would work. Our scheduled day got moved once or twice, but before it left Arizona it hit the rocks for a shakedown and we were delighted with the results. This may seem ridiculous, but it’s true. Getting some dirt under the tires before we went for paint is rare, but the F-150 ran down the highway, climbed over some rocks, and, other than a steering overheating issue, returned to the shop with nary a concern.
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