The Twin-Traction-Beam (TTB) Dana 44 HD was stuffed with a Trac-Lok limited slip with 4.56 gears to keep the front wheels moving while hauling the mail through the soft silt beds of Baja. After successfully running a set of custom National Spring leaf packs up front, Tom decided a custom coilover suspension was in order to survive the higher speeds he was encountering in Baja. He designed and built a custom cut-and-turned TTB Dana 44 HD suspension that uses 14-inch-stroke 2.5 Sway-A-Way Race Runner remote reservoir coilovers with Hypercoil dual-rate springs to soak up the whooped-out race courses of Baja. Tom also reinforced the beams with heavy skidplating and trussing to keep them true and straight through their 18 inches of wheel travel.
Tom enlisted the help of Darin at AUTOFAB Off Road Trucks in Santee, California, to build a complete rollcage for the F-250. The 1.75-inch, 0.120-wall DOM cage structure was painstakingly integrated into the cab and dashboard while Auto Meter gauges allow Tom to closely monitor the truck’s vital signs at all times. A Lowrance Baja 540C GPS navigation system keeps the minty green F-250 moving in the right direction throughout Baja while a Motorola Maratrac VHF race radio allows Tom to maintain contact with race trucks when he’s chasing during races. Although the early F-250’s had roll-up windows, Tom added power windows and door locks with custom power window control housings that seamlessly integrate into the custom aluminum door panels.
Tom built the Baja F-250 to drive hundreds of miles through the desert on end while also doubling as a reliable daily driver so he needed a tire that had good road manners as well as a tough carcass that could get him through the grueling deserts of Baja. He decided on a set of 315x75R16 BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM2s mounted on 16x6.5-inch Centerline HT II aluminum wheels with fly cuts to allow the use of Alcoa flange nuts rated at 140 lb-ft of torque. Not surprising, Tom tells us he has yet to encounter a flat while blasting through Baja.
A Winters gated shifter sits atop a custom fabricated shift tower to allow Tom to row through the gears during hard charging off-road runs. Since this truck sees high-speed desert action, Tom decided a custom set of forest green tweed MasterCraft Safety Sportsman suspension-seats were just the right ticket for those long drives through the desert. The truck can still seat three people comfortably via a late-model Dodge 2500 center console/seat that was covered in the same forest green tweed material as the MasterCraft seats. You’ll notice that the driver and passenger MasterCraft 3-inch five-point harnesses are different colors – Tom tells us his very understanding wife of over 30 years loves Baja just as much as he does and as such he wanted to make the truck as comfortable as possible for her during long trips, camping and chasing. Robbie Pierce, the owner of MasterCraft Safety, helped fit her into one of their Sportsman seats to make it a perfect fit all the way around and when it came time to choose the harness system, she wanted the blue harnesses with the sternum clasp and sewn-in shoulder pads.
Tom’s goal was to build a stealthy prerunner that would not attract unwanted attention while driving through Baja so he tried to keep the truck as stock looking as possible. He even had C&H Auto Body & Paint in Santee, California paint the truck in its original Mint Green Metallic two-tone paint scheme. It’s no surprise then that he kept the original front bumper and built the 1.75-inch chromoly tube bumper and 3/16-inch aluminum skid plate around it to continue the sleeper theme. A set of Autofab fiberglass fenders with 3-inch-larger wheel openings and 2-inch pulled bedsides allow the 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM2s to stuff all the way up into the wheel wells while a pair of Hella Rallye 4000s light up the night in case Tom needs to venture through the desert in the dark. Hella 200mm E-code glass-lens headlights were fitted with a BajaHID 4600 K 50-watt conversion kit to provide adequate lighting while driving through dark desert backroads.
There’s no question that lots of thought went into building the bed cage and since the truck doubles as a chase truck, Tom made sure to make accommodations for all the necessary gear. Despite the bed cage being tied into the cab cage, Tom tells us that the camper shell is still removable – although it takes a couple of hours to undo the cage mounts. Any serious desert truck carries at least two fullsize spare tires and Tom made sure to factor this into his design while leaving more than enough room for a large storage box as well as safety and recovery gear. Things like this are important when chasing race trucks through Baja.
Under the hood lives a fire breathing 351W out of a first-gen Ford Lightning. An E303 camshaft along with GT-40 cylinder heads, stainless steel shorty headers and 1.7 roller rockers give the big Ford plenty of power to blast through the desert. Backing up all that power is a Ken Mogi-built E4OD automatic with a Derale oil cooler as well as a TSC Performance 1800 rpm stall torque converter. Although the engine is no slouch by any means, Tom tells us his future plans involve building a high powered 393ci stroker motor... we suspect it’s just in case he decides to nerf a trophy truck or two!