Hey…look at that, it’s 2012.  Happy New Year! It was a crazy and wild ride coming into the tail end of 2011 and between work and life in general, I fell behind updating the blog on Project Ironhide, so lets kick off 2012 with an update to what a lot of you have been waiting on…the suspension.  One of my requirements for this project was that I be able to take this rig off road into just about any conditions I could encounter here in WA and the western half of the US.  I want this rig to be able to handle Snow, Mud, Sand or river rock and do it with ease.  As good as the Ford FX4′s stock suspension may be, it is a stock factory configuration and we all know that anything stock can be improved upon.  One thing I did NOT want to do, however, was lift the truck using conventional lift kits.  I know there’s a lot of debate and opinions about this, but the bottom line is that when you lift a truck, you change the geometry of the suspension and how things were designed to work.  No matter how good the lift kit, at some point, components WILL fail (but that is the price you pay to play and any responsible truck enthusiast should know and understand that).  There are also center of gravity issues and just a host of problems I didn’t want to deal with on a new truck (like my wife and kids needing a ladder to get into the rig).  So how do I get the clearance required to get big meats under the truck and improve the ride quality at the same time?  After exhaustive research on the best way to do this, I decided to go with the Camburg 4WD Performance Kit. Camburg’s kit is absolutely amazing.  This kit allows you to add up to 3 inches of lift and over 40% more wheel travel over the stock F-150, bringing it almost in-line with the travel of a Raptor. The Upper A-Arms alone are just night and day from the stock A-Arms.  Comparing them side by side, there’s no doubt you will see the quality and beefiness of these UA’s.

The Camburg kit also includes Fox Racing 2.5″ Long-travel Coil-overs in the front and a set of 2.5″ Piggy Back’s in the rear.  These are OEM bolt-on replacement parts so there is no special machining, welding or modifying of anything to get these on your rig.  That being said, they are exactly what I just said, OEM replacements and that means that if your application goes above and beyond the factory application, you might be in for a surprise like I so rudely discovered.

My rig is carrying more weight than a typical user might carry.  I’ve got the ARE canopy on the bed, several hundred pounds of SAR and recovery gear in the bed, and a hitch-gate with full-sized spare hanging off the rear of the truck.  This added weight wasn’t designed for the stock OEM suspension and once everything was in place, the rear end was drooping pretty bad.  Now some folks like that CA Ridin’ Dirty look, but I prefer mine level.  If I take out too much of the pre-load on the front coil-overs. I’m not going to clear the 33.6″ Toyo Open Country M/T meats on the front, so how do we raise the ass-end of this rig?  I knew the answer, but wasn’t in any position at the time to do something about it as I needed a way to drive this rig home.  My mechanic, Buff, at Bickford Ford is a rock star.  He had a set of add-a-leaf’s in the back which we thought might do the trick.  After installing them, believe it or not…we were still ridin’ dirty.  So at this point there was really only one thing to do, which is what I was trying to avoid at all costs…blocks.  We threw in a set of 3″ blocks and sure enough, it did the trick.  But at what cost?  Now I have a real problem.  The Fox shocks for the rear are not long-travel shocks and I just tore 3″ of travel out of them with those blocks.  To say I wasn’t a happy camper was an understatement.  But this is the price you pay when building a customized rig…you live and learn.  So I’ve got 2 options…beef up the leaf springs in the rear and/or get some long-travel shocks like a set of take-off OEM Raptor shocks.  Anyone seen what those cost these days?  Sweet mother of…

So for the time-being, this is a temporary fix until we do things right.  As for the tires, You’ll see in some of the pics a set of chrome wheels with some 35′s wrapped around them.  As much as I wanted to fit those in there, there simply isn’t enough room without going full-on lift kit.  I could possibly trim an insane amount from the front valance, but that really isn’t the right way to do things so I downsized the tires to just a hair below 34′s (LT275/70R18 or 33/11.0) which is what you’ll see on the black wheels (Fuel Offroad “Gauge” Wheels in 18×9 with a 4.5″ Backspace & -.20 offset).

I’m going to leave you with some pics of the install and you can take a look at the results.  It looks great, but I’m not about to take this off road anytime soon until I get things done right (just to be safe).  And that’s where part 2 of this series comes in.  In part 2 I’m going to cover how I solved the block and shock problem in the rear, and I’m also going to show you something that nobody in the F-150 community has seen before.  Trust me when I tell you, this is going to blow you guys away.  I’ve got some new friends in California that know a thing or two about Ford Raptors and Baja 1000 trophy trucks that have some incredible new stuff coming out for the Raptor, that just happens to work for the F-150 too. You’re going to dig this, and you’re going to want this…stay tuned…