Out here in the southwestern United States, it’s not uncommon to find a repurposed Ranger or Tacoma sporting solid rear axles, massive fiberglass front ends, and long-arm suspension with a dash of negative camber. Such trucks are labeled “prerunners,” and are lovingly taken from Ocotillo Wells to Stoddard Valley to engage in high-speed adventure across deserts like the Mojave and Sierra Nevada, as well as the Sonoran in Arizona.
Taken to the next step, however, one finds himself looking down the barrel of full-blown racing. Logistics, scheduling, and other stresses pile on, but the fun and enjoyment is also brought up to match. One man who learned this firsthand was Dean Schlingmann of Dean Schlingmann Motorsports (DSM), a 34-year-old resident of Glendora, California, splitting his life between his family, working as a powertrain engineer for a car company, and his life’s passion as an off-road racer.
After we caught a glimpse of the truck at the Nitto Tire Auto Enthusiast Day back in September 2014, we were all but smitten by its paint scheme and rugged demeanor, and had to know more about the man behind the machine. We learned quite a few things from Schlingmann, including how his truck came to be, where he draws his inspirations from, and the virtues of carburetion.
Off Road Xtreme: So Dean, how did you and your truck meet?
Dean Schlingmann: “It was either 2000 or 2001, and I just liked it as a hauler for college. I was going to University of California, Riverside at the time, majoring in mechanical engineering. One summer, I just up and decided to make it a project and turn it into a prerunner, but it became a lot more involving as time went by.”
“I stripped it down to the frame at one point, and decided I wanted a race truck instead. It kind of became a nightmare of taking stuff out and not putting the creature comforts back in, like the A/C, stereo, that kind of stuff.”
ORX: And what was it that made you want to turn the truck into something else?
DS: “I attended an off-road race back in 1998 and was never able to shake the bug. A buddy of mine was racing in a Class 11 Baja Bug at an NDRA race in Lucerne, California, and I was having a blast with his pit crew, seeing how they worked, how they coordinated everything. It really looked and sounded amazing.”
“Afterwards, I was able to get into the sport with a couple of friends, racing in both 1450 and Jeepspeed classes. We won a few races, lost a few others, but I was hooked on it and wanted to go even faster. Fourteen years later, it’s cost me lots of money and personal favors, but it’s brought me a lot closer to my loved ones, including my father, who I found out had actually raced in the Baja 1000 back in its early days.”
ORX: So looking back now, are you glad that the truck is now a full-blown racer versus your initial dream of just having it be a prerunner?
DS: “You know, I get a lot of comments from people saying, ‘Oh, that’s awesome, I’m gonna do that with my prerunner someday.’ My response is half-joking, half-serious when I tell them the worst mistake you can make is to actually build a race car.” (laughs)
“I mean, prerunners are fun. You get to drive them almost on a daily basis. You get to put a lot of miles on them. A race car is entirely different, though. You’re either working on it or driving it, and unfortunately, that ratio is oftentimes 90-percent to 10-percent. It’s not a daily driver, nor will it ever be.”
“Just to be clear, I definitely do not regret any of what we’ve done to the F-150. We have had some of the best experiences I could imagine. But at the same time, for anyone looking to have fun in the desert or outdoors or whatnot, I would recommend against building a racer.”
DS: “We race in BITD, MORE, and SCORE, and we’ve been at it since 2005. Ordinarily, we go by BITD’s classification, which is Class 8000 Production Full-Sized Trucks/SUVs. It calls for the vehicle to use two-wheel-drive, the factory chassis, body, and frame, as well as having the same configuration for front suspension while allowing you to swap in aftermarket things like ball joints and spindles. It almost gives me a feeling of driving a regular truck at full blast; I love it.”
ORX: What’s your take on racing in two-wheel-drive? Do you enjoy the extra challenge, or is it a drag sometimes?
DS: “You know, you’ve got to be careful when driving in two-wheel-drive. Layla has good power but with the 35-inch tires, it can be a little daunting at times. Back at the Mint 400 in March, I really had to finesse it through the silt beds and I’ve probably been stuck more times than not. But that’s part of the challenge and fun behind Class 8000. You’ve got to be more familiar with the terrain over guys who can run in four-wheel-drive, picking good lines and knowing when to feather versus when to stomp on the gas is essential.”
ORX: We noticed you still use the stock carburetor in the truck. Would you care to explain why you decided to keep it around?
DS: “Sure. First off, it’s a Holley 750 that was built and tuned by the Carb Shop in Ontario. We use it because the rules for Class 8000 dictated that we could use a stock fuel injection system, or we could choose an unlimited carb setup. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of sticking to carburetion, since we could change them out the bigger the engines got, while also making it more in tune with my skill set.”
“What it boiled down to was that first, I’m not very good at reprogramming and ECUs and all that; I’m a lot more mechanically-inclined, and the strength behind carburetors is that they’re quite simple and intuitive. There are a few things that will truly fail, but for the most part, it’s a physical fix that can be done without electronics.”
ORX: What’s your setup like under the hood?
DS: “It starts with the 410 ci V8, a small-block Windsor motor we had made by the guys at Southwest Racing Engines in Covina. It’s a terrific engine, all balanced and blueprinted and using a SCAT Stroker kit. It has a custom-ground cam from COMP, high-volume mechanical oil pump, Moroso high-volume oil pan, and SRP pistons, among other things.”
“The intake manifold is a Victor Junior from Edelbrock, and its goes into the heads, which are are ported and polished Air Flow Research 185 Renegades. Ignition is powered by MSD, with a practically bulletproof DC Power Engineering 300-amp alternator. Mated to the heads are custom Husler headers from Hedman. Oiling comes from an Accusump oil accumulator system and ARP oil pump drive shaft.”
ORX: And what goes on with the rest of the powertrain?
DS: “I use a good ol’ Ford C6 transmission, which people say goes against their better judgment. They’ll tell me it’s heavier than a Turbo Hydramatic 400, yada, yada, yada. I just say to them if you’re good to it, then it’s good to you. We had it modified with a Culhane manual valve body and servo. In addition, we shift it with a B&M Pro Ratchet, and cool it with a B&M trans cooler and PRW radiator. This was all done by Harrell’s Transmissions in Covina.”
“Out back, G-Machine Racing did our rear end. It’s a full-floating setup with 40-spline Sway-A-Way axles in a four-inch chromoly housing with a Currie Enterprises third member spool. We use Pro Am’s Pro 2 spindles and hubs on the back, Desert Specialties spindles and hubs on the front, as well as some excellent Wilwood four-piston disc brakes on all fours. The wheels are 15-inch Monster beadlocks from Raceline, and the tires are 35-inch BFG Project KRs.”
ORX: What’s the situation with the chassis and suspension?
DS: “We fabbed up our own fully boxed frame with a SCORE-legal chromoly cage. The shocks are Sway-A-Way three-inch coilovers with three-inch triple bypasses and four-inch hydraulic bump stops. We use H&M for the front J-beams, as well as a four-link system out back. This gives me 24-inches of travel in the rear, and 20-inches of travel up front. We can really soak up a lot of the terrain with this setup.”
ORX: Has Layla ever gotten you to the podium?
DS: “Back in 2008, when Mojave Desert Racing was still a thing, I managed to be crowned Class 8 Champion in the High Desert Series. That was a great feeling! It was just sad that they had to break up after that crash in 2010.”
“In recent times, we’ve had a bit of a bad streak with overheating and the occasional flip off of the track. I guess you could say we’re in a a rebuilding stage right now, but we’ll come around again soon.”
What’s Next For Dean And Layla
As 2015 rounds the corner, the hopes are high and prospects are bright as Schlingmann will give the racing scene another go. We’ll be cheering them on from the sidelines as they enter the SNORE Series, racing at five events; the Battle at Primm (February 20-22), Motion Tire 300 (April 10-11), Race Fuel 250 (May 29-30), KC HiLiTES (September 11-12), and Rage at the River (December 11-13).
To conclude, the man would like to acknowledge the following; “This truck was built by volunteers. Everyone involved was a friend, a family member, or somewhere in between. We run a grassroots program, but focus on winning and representing our sponsors in a manner they would expect from a top tier team. We would like to throw out a special ‘thank you’ to Jay Crouch at Injen Technology who has been a big supporter of our efforts!”