When the Dodge Power Wagon was introduced last year (a purpose-built Ram HD with a two-inch lift, meaty tires, front and rear locking differentials, skidplates, an anti-roll-bar disconnect, and a winch), Ford and Chevy had no response. Nothing else looked like it, and nothing else performed like it on the trail. Now it seems Ford is playing with a similar idea.
We hooked up with some of Ford's 4x4 and towing experts in Moab, Utah, to take one of the company's "experimental" trucks over some of the more famous and scenic trails Utah has to offer. Usually, when a big automotive company tells us about a concept vehicle it'd like us to see, it means we get to look at some far-out speculation vehicle with a futuristic design and little practical function. However, from the moment we saw this Ford trail truck, we knew it could be turned into a production-ready option package very soon.
Harry Rawlins, Ford's resident towing and 4x4 engineering expert (how can we get that job?), discussed the main reasons Ford is seriously considering this package: "We wanted to see, with as few modifications as possible, if the Super Duty chassis could support a hard-core four-wheeling personality.
"We've made a few changes here, but nothing drastic," Harry beams, pointing to the F-350 SuperCab shortbed in the parking lot. In fact, with the exception of the spare tire mounted in the bed, a beefy front bumper, and a cool set of rims, the bleach-white Super Duty is, according to Harry, 98 percent stock. Inside, the Super Duty has rubber floormats, the manual NVG six-speed manual transmission, and floor-mounted lever 4x4 shifter. "We ordered this vehicle the way we'd expect trail enthusiasts would want their truck-with the best gearing ratios and torque numbers possible," says Rawlins. "That's why we never considered anything else other than the Power Stroke diesel for power." The engine controller was modified to allow the turbo to kick in at a slightly lower rpm. This, combined with a low first gear (5.79:1) and 3.73:1 ring- and-pinion gears (4.10:1 gears are available), gives the Super Duty an exceptionally slow crawling speed when in low range. And with the exception of incrementally larger tires (305/70R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R), everything underneath the truck is completely stock. "We do have this vehicle optioned with the snowplow package for the stronger front springs and extra cooling-we wanted everything to be completely factory optionable," notes Harry. That said, like any respectable off-road enthusiast, he felt obligated to make a few "improvements" given that he has some of the best engineers, shop guys, and tools at his disposal.
To beef up the look and capability of the Super Duty, Harry modified a Warn Industries win
Any vehicle planning to do well on a 4x4 trail has to offer good approach and departure an