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Story by Jack Baruth
Hey, club racers! Are you interested in envy? Would you like to be envied by others? Sure you would; you’re only human, after all, and there’s nothing more human than a bit of showing-off. Here’s the problem, though: the world of amateur racing is full of money. Like, chock-full of it. Like, some guy brought a friggin’ Daytona Prototype to Mid-Ohio for a NASA race last month, and he Didn’t. Even. Win. Fast cars, shiny parts, and perfectly polished trophy wives are part and parcel of the club racing scene. Think your Gallardo will wow the crowd? Forget it; there was a Superleggera here two weeks ago. Maybe a Ferrari Scuderia? That’s the second one we’re seen here today.
No, if you want real envy – the kind of envy that causes people to talk about you when you leave the lunch table – you need a serious race rig. We’re in the middle of a tow-vehicle arms race out here. It used to be you could get some attention with an F-250 Crew Cab or a Cayenne S. Not any more. Shiny new one-ton trucks used to pull the eyeballs in your direction, but today they’re thick on the ground. To win this battle – to assert your supremacy over the guy in the next paddock space before you do so much as clip an apex – it’s gonna take a new level of heavy-duty.
Towards that end, Ford has performed some cut-and-paste in their Super Duty Lego Set and created the F-450 Crew Cab 4×4 Dual Rear Wheel King Ranch. To understand the truck, we have to take all those designations in order. First, F-450. That means a commercial-class front axle that is six inches wider than what you’d find in a standard Super Duty, a shorter turning radius courtesy of big steering angle, and a unique suspension design to make twelve-ton towing loads easily controllable. Next, we have Crew Cab. There have been F-450 Crew Cabs in the past, but now we have one with a regular eight-foot pickup bed attached, courtesy of wider rear frame rails. 4×4: electronic shift-on-the-fly to drag those big trailers out of slick situations. Dual Rear Wheel: it’s a necessity for serious fifth-wheel hauling, plus it just plain looks cool. King Ranch: Ford has now made its highest trim level, complete with free-range-look leather and country-club-friendly two-tone paint, available on the F-450. The result is a truck that pushes all the buttons, combining a previously-unavailable 24,000-pound tow rating with an Expedition-style level of interior ambiance.
Among club racers, this big hauler, dipped in Dark Copper Clearcoat Metallic, drew more attention than a stack of free Hoosier DOT-R tires. It was the talk of the paddock wherever it went, even rating an admiring mention from the event director in the driver’s meeting on the first Saturday we took it to the track. We’d come back from yet another frustrating qualifying session to find drivers aimlessly circling the F-450, poking their heads into a window or crawling underneath the front suspension to marvel at the sheer size of the components. There were few questions, because this was an educated crowd and they knew exactly what they were looking at, but there was plenty of admiration and, yes, envy.
Was it justified? Is it worth paying more than sixty-one-thousand dollars for a tow vehicle? To find out, we made a cross-country two-weekend journey between track weekends, using the infamously demanding Interstate 68 as our primary thoroughfare. I-68, the so-called “Home Of The Seven Percent Grade”, demands the absolute most from a tow rig. And since we were in a hurry, we wouldn’t be sparing the horses, either. Sure, the F-450 looks like the perfect race rig. Did it deliver? Hell, yes.