Most consider platinum, silver, and gold to be precious metals. For others, aluminum and heat treated steel is much more treasured. One such person is SDR Racing’s Keith Smith.
With years of hands-on experience prepping and racing off-road trucks, Smith can spot precious metal when he sees it. Like a miner who spots ore, Smith discovered a Ford Ranger chassis sitting at SI Motorsports that captured his interest. The chassis was modified for strength and fitted with the interior cage structure, but little else.
Smith had walked into SI Motorsports looking for an equal length I-beam suspension kit for his existing race truck. After seeing the quality of work done by SI Motorsports owner Tom McKenzie, Smith left with a plan to build a new race truck based on the Ranger frame.
The Ranger frame was a project that began at NewLine products. The work done at NewLine was sound but somewhere along the way, the project stalled. After several years and multiple owners, it eventually ended up at SI Motorsports. It had great bones but lacked an owner with the determination and funds to see it completed. Just as ore is refined into pure gold, SI Motorsports spent the next ten months turning the bare chassis into a functioning work of art.
Everywhere you look on this truck, you will see the quality of fabrication and meticulous attention to detail that SI Motorsports is known to deliver. A Class 1400 door slammer (working doors and a steel cab), it’s not a “money is no object” build. At the same time, you won’t find a single corner that hasn’t been cut.
In fact, the truck has a level of fit and finish typically found on high-end show cars. The powder coated frame is complemented by nickel-plated suspension components courtesy of PSC in Chino, California. Under the hood, a FAST fuel-injected 420ci LS3 from Redline Performance drinks fuel from a redundant system using Aeromotive pumps and filters, and puts out 610 hp.
It breathes through a custom air intake system built by SI Motorsports that uses dual UMP pre-filters and belts out beautiful noise through custom stainless headers and exhaust by Mike Davis. Engine oil is cooled by Fluidyne coolers and the coolant sheds heat with a custom radiator by Ron Davis.
Fuel is safely stored in a Kevlar bladder inside the custom Fuel Safe fuel cell. The ample horsepower goes through a Culhane Racing Transmissions Turbo 400 to a Currie Enterprises-fabricated 4130 housing filled with a 10-inch third member and 5.14:1 gears.
Heading inside the cab, we can’t help but admire the beautifully fabricated dash built by Curt Beam of CRB Alumifab. Vital information is displayed to the driver and co-rider on dual Racepak displays. The co-rider also has a Lowrance GPS to keep them on course. Communication is handled by a Kenwood race radio and PCI intercom system, and PCI also supplied the fresh air system.
The electrical system and switches were fabricated by Brian Dague at BDR. Sparco racing seats and MasterCraft harnesses and window nets keep the occupants safe. The driver controls the truck with a quick-release MOMO steering wheel, a Winters Brothers shifter, and a custom 4130 brake pedal assembly built by SI Motorsports.
The most important part of any desert racing truck is the suspension. The front suspension consists of SI Motorsports nickel-plated equal length I-beams and radius arms. The front hubs ride on SI Motorsports billet king pin spindles. Steering is accomplished with an SI Motorsports long travel, equal length “swing set” style assembly that maintains proper geometry throughout the suspension’s 20 inches of wheel travel.
Steering hydraulics are handled by a custom box, pump, and reservoir by Lee power steering. Suspension damping is handled by a King 3-inch coilover and 3.5-inch, six-tube, position-sensitive external bypass shock with finned reservoirs to dissipate heat at each wheel. King hydraulic bump stops manage the last bit of travel at full bump.
In the rear, an SI Motorsports bolt-on four link kit allows 25 inches of useable wheel travel. King Shocks coilovers, bypass shocks, and bump stops are used at each wheel. The same King 3.0 inch coilover used up front is used in the rear, but the 3.5-inch, position-sensitive external bypass shock with finned reservoir has seven bypass tubes to allow precise control of the additional five inches of wheel travel.
Contact with the dirt is handled by one of the best in the business: Toyo 37×13.50R17 Open Country M/T Race Tires, wrapped around Ultra 17-inch beadlock wheels. The truck’s speed is controlled by CNC 630, four-piston calipers and Brembo master cylinders for the front and rear.
The Ranger has function well taken care of, but form is also important. The factory Ford cab is complemented by a one-piece fiberglass front clip and rear bedsides that are cloaked in a beautiful satin silver gray wrap by LA Wraps in Torrance, California. For protection, the firewall and underside of the cab have been coated with black Rhino Lining.
The window glass has been removed for racing, but due to the design of the stainless steel mesh inserts built by Curt Beam of CRB Alumifab, factory glass can be installed at a future date when (or if) the truck becomes a street-legal prerunner. The silver body is paired by the gold SDR Racing graphics on each door. Taken all at once, the metal tones on the body give you a hint about this truck, you can see the precious metal that lies below the surface.