J. BARUTH: It’s rare for us to not misuse our press-fleet trucks for race-car-hauling duties, but there weren’t any events during our time with this rather chrome-bedecked Super Duty. Instead, we took it to a Pat Metheny concert at the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Kind of a hoity-toity thing to do with a three-quarter-ton truck, but that’s okay, because there’s a lot of velvet glove surrounding this particular iron fist.
Story by Jack Baruth – Disturbingly poor photography by Jack Baruth
And… we’re back! The reaction to the first Towin’ Speed:Sport:Life article has been good, so it appears that we weren’t totally crazy to think that a lot of our readers are dragging various clapped-out race cars to tracks and events across the country. With that in mind, then, we’re trying again, this time with an epic 1,400-mile journey to the SCCA Solo National Tour event in Atlanta, Georgia. Last time we had a positively luxurious Lariat Crew Cab, but this time we’ve got a truly hardcore tow rig – a regular-cab, diesel-powered, six-speed manual F-250 4×2 in XLT trim.
Once upon a time, regular-cab trucks were pretty cramped affairs, causing taller drivers to assume all sorts of odd positions on the completely flat vinyl bench seats common to most trim levels. At 6’2″, your humble tester found his 1995 F-150 Regular Cab to be a real bow-legger of a truck – and the competition was even worse in that regard. It’s hard to look cool in your new rig while simultaneously rubbing your earlobes with your knees, and as a result, over the last ten years the market share for extended-cab and crew-cab body styles has risen to the point that most Ford dealers don’t bother to stock any regular-cab Super Duty trucks on their lots. Note, also, that unlike the F-150 Regular Cab, which now has a reasonably-sized cargo area complete with mini-window behind the door, the Super Duty is still an old-school short-cab.
The rarity of regular-cab Super Duty trucks means that we instantly achieved hardcore trucker status the moment we stepped up into our test rig, but this particular truck had a few more features to endear itself to non-sissies everywhere. To begin with, we had the monstrous PowerStroke diesel, complete with six hundred and fifty pound-feet of torque. That’s like having a Lamborgini Murcielago and a Mazda RX-8, torque-wise. With that much twist, accompanied by the angry compression-ignition rattle and audible turbo spool on each shift, we were tempted to start demanding access to the “professional driver” showers at our local Pilot station – but just to make sure we felt totally hardcore, Ford thoughtfully provided the truck with a six-speed manual transmission. Make no mistake – were Ernest Hemingway still alive today, he would insist on having the shift-it-yourself model. He would note with immense satisfaction that the eighteen-inch-long shift lever and super-vague gating makes every shift a voyage of discovery, while nodding approvingly at the amount of double-clutching required to uncork the PowerStroke’s savage pull up a long hill or smoke a Civic Si at the stoplight outside a movie theater. He’d also probably be completely cool with the regular cab, noting that the slightly pinched interior would still be more luxurious than the ambulance he drove in The Great War. The only question would be: in an era of male manicures, would we be able to cope with Hemingway’s truck? Read More
Story by Jack Baruth – Photography by Dave Everest and Jack Baruth
Welcome to the first installment of Towin’ Speed:Sport:Life. In this series, we will be trying out different trucks with just one purpose in mind: towing to races and other auto events. We aren’t going to talk about residual value, slalom speed, or global warming – we’ll save that for the mainstream press, who typically “review” these rigs by driving little Austin and MacKenzie to their local Goddard School. Instead, we’re loading them up and running them hard. Each review will focus on Ten Important Questions For Your Race Rig, which isn’t a trademarked phrase as far as we know. Without further ado, then, let’s meet our truck: the 2008 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 Crew Cab Lariat Styleside Triton V-10 156″ Wheelbase. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?
The Super Duty pickups were kind-of-new for 2008, featuring a revised frame, upgraded interiors, and a new front end designed to produce involuntary urination in five out of six Prius drivers. The list of options and configurations possible in a Super Duty makes for literally millions of possible combinations, and we’ll be trying more of them in the next year, but for now we decided to start with a variant that is relatively common among club racers – the 4×4 crew cab. Although having four-wheel-drive in a tow rig seems like a waste of money and fuel economy, it only took one start in wet grass to convince us of the benefits. Since then, we’ve found plenty of uses for 4×4 in towing, including backing the trailer up a steep hill, using the Low Range to tow a disabled race car out of the weeds, and dragging a stuck trailer out of six inches’ worth of mud. We’re not the only people to understand this, so more and more Super Duties are showing up at the races with the “4×4 Off Road” sticker on their beds. While it may be tempting to go out and buy a new 4×4 so you can enjoy all these features, one alternative to this is investing in 4wd conversion which will allow you to keep your current car and have the joys of being able to go off road.
Where this truck does deviate from standard club racer doctrine, however, is in the short bed and 6.8L V-10 gasoline engine. For the committed race driver, bed space is like money in the bank. It’s just not possible to have too much. However, this F-250 has a trick up its sleeve to help bridge the gap, as well see. We were also a little unsure about the Triton V-10, which serves up 362hp at a relatively lofty 4750 rpm and 457 lb-ft of torque at 3250 revs. Compare that to the 6.4L Powerstroke’s 350 horses at 3000rpm and 650 lb-ft of torque at a basement-level 2000 rpm, and it’s easy to see why many racers choose the diesel. Could the V-10 compete? Let’s ask the questions and find out.