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Old 09-03-2008, 01:45 PM   #1
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Stock 2WD E250 on dirt roads...

Hi Everyone,
I have an R50 V8-5.4l E250 on order from the folks in Texas. I bought it from Fresno and shipped it with two other vans to Texas last week. Paul estimates that it will be done some time in October. I live in a high-rise building and, unfortunately, my parking structure won't hold anything as tall as a 4WD conversion, so we are building this as a 2WD van, with the plan to convert it to 4WD if we ever move. The van has the limited slip rear axle option.

I have been reading Peter Massey's "Backcountry Adventures" book, which shows a lot of trails in Southern California that he rates as a 2 on an off-roading scale of 1 to 10. His description of a 2 is "High-clearance vehicles are preferred, but not necessary. These trails are dirt roads, but they may have rocks, grades, water crossings, or ruts that make clearance a concern in a normal passenger vehicle. The trails are fairly wide, so that passing is possible at almost any point along the trail. Mud is not a concern under normal weather conditions."

For those of you familiar with Death Valley, the trails he rates a 2 are:
Cerro Gordo Road
Cima Dome Trail
Hidden Valey Road
Harry Wade Exit Route
New York Mountains Trail
Nipton Desert Road
Owlshead Mountains Trail
Racetrack Road
Saline Valley Road
Skeleton Pass Road
Skidoo Road
Titus Canyon Trail

My question is-- how realistic is it to take a 2WD non-lifted SMB on these trails? The E250 specifications show 7" of ground clearance, which is only 1.5" less than a Pathfinder (which I have taken off road).

Would a winch be useful in a van like this, on these trails? I have never used one before and don't know how much capability this adds-- say we sink up to our axles into sand on the Fonts Point Trail in Anza Borrego, would the winch be much use? Or if it rains while we are camping out and find a dirt road has now become muddy, is the winch enough of a crutch to get home in a 2WD, or would we really just be screwed?

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Old 09-03-2008, 01:54 PM   #2
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We've been on many of those roads, 2wd no problem!

In fact, we've seen normal passenger cars on several of them.

The best advice I would give you is to slow down. Even when the road is smooth and you can see forever, slow down to 40 or less. Somewhere above 40 you start to get flat tires - rears. It seems the fronts throw up rocks and at slower speeds, the rocks fall down. At higher speeds the rears can hit the rocks while they are still standing and puncture the tire.

Some of those roads are quite washboarded. Unless you have a compressor, you don't want to air down - you could be 50 miles from a station. So, just slow down, sometimes to 10 mph.

Most of this country is quite porous, and the water will be gone in just a couple of hours without leaving treachorous mud behind.

Lot's to see, have a good time.

Mike
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Old 09-03-2008, 02:04 PM   #3
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Hi,
Regarding the winch issue it will always be helpfull as long as you have a fixed point to hook on to, a mobile one such as ground anchor or digged in spare wheel or a car that stops to help you out.
It enables to be pulled out gently and in a controlled way in opposition to a rope or strap which might be more brutal.
In sand I find it better to clear the sand and use sand plates, winch come's in after if needed.
In mud, good profiled tyres helps and you can also use snow chains to add profile on the tyre.
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Old 09-03-2008, 02:39 PM   #4
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Just remember you will have to mount a winch. I have a pull pal and think it's the best support backup you can have using a winch. I could put you in contact with a SMB owner who tested this for the military. His van is 2WD and he travels to spots many 4WD's don't want to go.
http://www.pullpal.com/
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Old 09-03-2008, 02:49 PM   #5
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Forgot to mention that side of the winch...
Then will it be mounted on the good side of the car to be helpful!
Front or back... Never ending questions.
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Old 09-04-2008, 10:31 AM   #6
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Peter Massey's "Backcountry Adventures" series is fantastic!

I agree with Mike Ford_6L_E350 -- you should be fine with 2wd on those low-difficulty-rated trails. The 2wd van already has pretty good clearance.

Do you have the Ford rear limited-slip differential? That helps a lot too. I find that even with 4WD I'm pretty lazy about bothering to get out and lock my hubs. That rear limited-slip gets me many places without needing 4WD.

-- Geoff
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Old 09-04-2008, 01:49 PM   #7
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Yes, the van does have a limited slip differential.

I'm glad it will do these kinds of trails. It looks like there are a lot of nice camping spots in Southern California along the easy trails.
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Old 09-04-2008, 02:34 PM   #8
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I am sure that this could go unsaid, but the conditions on those roads / trails change regularly. I highly recommend that you check locally before setting out with 2WD.

DVNP is a great place to explore.

http://blackeye.smugmug.com/gallery/423 ... 9515_pLoXf

Have a great adventure when you go
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