Our photo session captured the truck's first foray back into the dirt with the newly placed four-link and the accompanying rear 'cage work. We ventured forth on a triple-digit day in Lucerne Valley, hoping that the joy of fresh upgrades would drown out the misery of the heat. Mission accomplished. Gatorade, sunscreen, and a smooth, fast truck made for a completely cool experience. The S.I.mple Approach proves that good things happen when twin I-beams meet a small-block Chevy.
The Left Seat
I've occupied the codriver's seat more times than I can count on both hands and both feet. It's been fun, but I've always envied the one seated to my left. I'd rather participate than spectate, and I'd rather sit behind the wheel than sit behind the GPS. For these reasons, I'm building my own truck, so I can get all the left-seat time I can handle.
I never ask to drive. I know what kind of time and money goes into trucks like this one, and I'm not about to be the one to turn someone's finely crafted pride and joy into a metallic pretzel. In light of all this, I was floored when Jeff offered to give me a turn behind the wheel.
We'd finished the photo shoot and were cruising along the desert floor, taking the scenic route back to the trailers and tow rigs. When I heard the offer, I joggled my head side to side, discovering that yes, I was fully awake, and it really was going to happen. I wanted to make sure Jeff knew what words had just left his mouth. "Are you sure?" I queried. "Yeah, no problem," came the reply. At that point, I shut up lest he change his mind.
We coasted to a stop. Jeff got out, and I handed him my camera. I should have asked him to take a photo of me in the driver's seat, but I didn't want to give him a chance to rescind the offer before I strapped in and hit the skinny pedal. Safety harness in place, I ratcheted the shifter through the gates into First gear. I cranked the wheel and eased into the throttle. The hot-rod motor and spooled rear end drifted the truck's tail section around, ATV-style, until the grille pointed the direction I had in mind. I stepped on it. The motor snapped the chassis to attention, and the three of us (driver, motor, and suspension) headed toward the whoop section Jeff and I came through minutes prior. I found Second and finally Third gear. A pass through the whoops deepened my appreciation for smart design and expertly executed fabrication. The truck handled the mayhem beneath sans drama, bucking, or steering in funny directions. Were they deep whoops or rolled-up newspapers? It was hard to tell. I concentrated on the terrain stone-faced, but inside I wore a silly grin and was doing an embarrassing football-fan victory dance.
The Chevy's suspension, handling, and power made me want to push the truck harder and faster to see what it could do, but the little voice in my head kept reminding me, "Not your truck." I've mentioned the scorching weather; I glanced at the gauges. The water temperature was fine, but the oil temperature had climbed into the red zone. It was time to back off the throttle and cruise the truck back to its owner. I handed over the truck, and Jeff handed over the camera. I can only hope that when I'm finished building my own truck (Project TrailRunner, a '92 Ford Ranger) that it's half as good as this I-beam-equipped, hot-rod-powered Bow Tie. Jeff Larson is one lucky individual.
Sitting in the codriver's seat is certainly fun, but the left seat is infinitely better. I can't say "thank you" enough!
Suspension Innovation Motorsports