Circa late 2010, Sage Carli decided there was a gap in the Ford market that no one but he could fill. The Super Duty checked all the boxes; straight axle, diesel, and most importantly, a large enthusiast market looking for something better. Reluctant as any Ram fanatic would be, he picked up a 2011 Super-Duty XLT equipped with every option he wanted and nothing more: 3.55 Gears, E-Locker rear and a center console. After all, it was destined to live the life of a test mule; no frills required. This was the start of something fantastic. Over the past 6 years and 160,000 miles, the truck has seen more dirt and pavement in the United States (and Mexico) than most people will see in their lifetime. As reluctant as he was to daily drive a Super Duty, the platform won him over and it would take an act of God to pry the truck from his possession after all they’ve been through.
Well, all good things must come to an end; 2016 marks the last model year of the C-channel frame, steel bodied, Super-Duty specific cab running the now refined, 6-year-old 6.7L Scorpion V8 Turbo Diesel that we’ve all come to know and love. Given the truck’s potential to become Ford’s “Holy Grail”, Dan (Carli’s Sales Manager) purchased a 2016 F250 so the long-term testing is far from over in the 11-16 platform.
Lucky for us, the end of something great could mean something better is cresting the horizon. Our order was placed and the wait began. Enter the 2017 Super Duty in all its boxed frame, F150 aluminum-cabbed glory. September 16th couldn’t come quick enough.
We ordered the truck in the same XLT package hoping to begin the story exactly as we had the 2011. The test drive didn’t reveal much as we picked her up on a Friday afternoon; seat time would begin the following week. Initial impressions, the truck was large inside (especially the back seat), FAST, quiet, comfortable and… well… stock. Toss on a camper shell and it was ready for Grandpa to take the kids to the park. We were heading in a different direction.
We put in some seat time the following week to find the truck to be comfortable around town on small obstacles, anything over the size of a decent crack in the pavement kicked the unloaded rear end to epic proportions, no different than the last platform. The steering was tighter with a slight wander to the front end. Overall, there was a ton of room for improvement. Word is, this platform was only around 300 pounds lighter than its predecessor. At first glance, the extremities of the revamped undercarriage looked very much the same with subtle differences. It appeared they’d welded the old coil buckets to the frame, increased some bolt sizes and kept pretty much all geometry the same short of a few exceptions to be discussed later. That said, the weight was transferred from the body panels to the frame resulting in a lower center of gravity and better handling which becomes very apparent when you’re fortunate, or opportunistic, enough to jump behind the wheel of both.
First things first, we had to see where she sat, alignment-wise, in stock form. For the first time in a long while, we’re impressed with the result. Ford FINALLY realized 1° of positive caster will not cut it on this platform. This caster reading reflects the truck’s handling; the front end is tight and responsive. There’s still a touch of wander in stock form but we’ll see if that’s just the front end wearing itself in or a byproduct of the “adaptive” steering with which most of these trucks are now equipped.
Onto the frame, the new, boxed chassis means the factory coil buckets cannot be easily removed. In the 05-16 models, you could air-chisel your way to greatness. In a matter of a few hours, you’d be bolting on one of our Coilover, Coilover Bypass, Dominator or Unchained Systems while remaining easily returnable to stock. Well, Ford took a page out of Ram’s playbook and welded everything to the frame. This doesn’t mean the aforementioned kits won’t be available, they’ll just require a bit more commitment to install and it’ll be a while longer in R&D. We don’t anticipate the weld-on Coilover conversions and Dominator Kits to be available until late 2017. If we’re going to provide you a kit of that caliber, we’re going to take our time to ensure it’s perfect.
I digress, we tossed in our 2.5” lift Coil Springs, 2° Caster Shims, Progressive Add-A-Packs and a Commuter Shock Package (Fox 2.0” IFP) and found the track bar design had changed; the ball joint was now installed in the track bar (lifting the pivot point) opposed to being pressed into the axle which should result in better geometry for lifted application. Secondly, the brake lines were changed. We made the necessary call to our brake line manufacturer and got that in the works while we worked on the rest.
The good news, the coil springs worked and shocks cycled perfectly. Even better, we installed our Progressive Add-A-Pack onto the factory leaf springs without the factory block to find the rear sat 3/4” taller than the front. Our Add-A-Pack will now eliminate the need for the 3” factory block and run with a rear bump stop drop to strike off the axle. No block means reduced axle-wrap and wheel hop; that’s a win for everyone. We’re REALLY beginning to like this platform!
Once the Commuter valving was dialed in, we jumped to the Backcountry (Fox 2.0 Remote Reservoir). A slight valving change from the 05-16 and new lower shock bushing in the rear and we were running beautifully. At this point, we swapped in the Full Progressive Leaf Springs to ensure a nice balance in valving between the two rear spring options for the remote-reservoir shock equipped systems. The 2011-16 springs sat perfect. The only annoyance was a slightly larger bolt from the previous year that will now require the fuel tank to be dropped/manipulated to install the springs. We ended up cutting it down and inserting it the other way as we knew we’d be swapping springs again in the near future.
It was then time for the Radius Arms; we crossed our fingers and bolted them up. Our 2005-16 arms went in without a hitch!
At this point, it was time to test 37” tire fitment. The 37×13.5 (14.4” actual width) tires and 18×9” American Force Wheels were swapped over from Dan’s truck to see how they’d fit, even with their non-ideal 4.5” backspacing. The results were as expected, looked amazing and netted us a bit of rub we refused to trim given we still had no extended track bar installed and were going up to a 4.5” lift sooner than later.
We decided it was 37” tires or nothing with how good they looked on the truck and called the guys over at TR Beadlock Wheels. Larry was happy to be a part of the build and sent us some 20×9.5” TR Simulated Beadlocks in a 5” Backspacing with raw centers and black rings. We ordered some 37×13.5” Toyo R/T to pair with the wheels.
Onto the Pintop, we tossed in the shocks and found a valving that worked great on both the Progressive Add-A-Pack and Full Progressive Spring Pack. The only design difference in the shocks, aside from valving, is the larger, 14mm lower shock bolt in the rear up from 12mm in previous years. New misalignment spacers and bushing for other shock packages are in the works!