Custom Off-Road Pickup Truck

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Pickup truck (Custom Off-road)

The custom off-road pickup truck is a specialized off-road vehicle designed to traverse extreme terrains such as steep-angled hillclimbs, mud bogs and boulders.

The custom off-road pickup truck is characterized by a high ground clearance production 4WD truck chassis with a high-horsepower engine and large all-terrain tires. The suspension is built with long travel to accommodate the large variations in the surface terrain it will be driven over. Most trucks used in situations where roll-overs are possible will have a roll bar structure.

Racing events take on my different forms. Some events test the truck and driver's ability to cross large mud bogs, while others test the truck and driver's ability to climb near vertical hill sides. Other events involve testing the agility of the truck and skill of the driver in traversing a terrain of large boulders. Events are run worldwide where suitable challenging terrain exists, but are predominantly in North America.

Power and Weight Stats
Horsepower (Typical Range) 300-650
Race Weight (Typical Range) 2043-3632 kg
4500-8000 lb

Design and Construction

Race Car Models of This Type

Domestic and import production trucks by Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GM, Hummer, Jeep, Land Rover, Mazda, Nissan, Range Rover, Toyota and others.

Build Your Own Custom Off-Road 4WD Truck

Knowledge Level

In building your truck there are two approaches you can take which require different levels of knowledge.

The first approach involves the use of aftermarket lift kits and powertrain components, which essentially enable you to build a custom truck using packaged design and components. There is nothing wrong with this as for many their ultimate desire is to produce a workable truck. It is however recommended that you have a working knowledge of handling, chassis, suspension, powertrain and safety systems. Understanding why your truck handles the way it does goes a long way to troubleshooting issues.

The second approach involves understanding the operation of the individual components in the suspension and powertrain, and learning to modify them yourself. This is a more difficult path and requires a higher level of knowledge about handling, chassis, suspension and powertrain. However, in gaining that knowledge you will have a full understanding of how your truck's systems work. You will also have control over how you engineer your truck, even if you choose to ultimately work from kits or packaged components.

Because of the varied environments where custom 4WD trucks can operate, knowledge of the terrain is important to ensure the vehicle will handle the demands of the terrain.

Design Challenges

Weight Distribution: Typically the front will be heavier in front/rear weight distribution due to the front-engine configuration. Left/right weight distribution will ideally be 50/50 to provide predictable cornering. The higher the CG (Center of Gravity) the more prone to roll-over a vehicle will be, so in the case of competitions where roll-overs are likely, having a lower CG, and creating more ground clearance with modifications to the driveline, suspension and chassis may be beneficial (but costly).

Suspension: Maximizing the contact patch of the tires with good suspension geometry is of key importance to traction. If long front suspension travel is desirable there can be significant camber change in the tires if the suspension geometry is not also changed. However, it won't have a significant impact at low speeds unless a full contact patch is required to maintain traction.

At higher speeds on a dirt circuit for instance, some camber may be of benefit in cornering, but excessive camber will likely mean less traction. CG height will usually be a more limiting factor than camber.

Chassis: With some custom off-road pickup truck events, very uneven terrain places large demands on the production chassis. Reinforcing the chassis can help to prevent it from becoming permanently twisted or damaged.

Powertrain: Changes to the height of the engine relative to the differentials require alterations to the driveshafts. If angles of U-Joints or CV joints become too extreme, modifications to the geometry may be required.

Aerodynamic: The environments these vehicles operate in do not require drag reduction or downforce.

Safety: Providing a substantial crash/rollover safety cell for the occupants along with racing seats and racing harnesses is recommended if competing. A fuel safety cell may be useful for competitions where serious damage to a fuel tank might result. It also enables the fuel tank to be relocated at the same time.

If you intend to race under a sanctioning body, always read and understand the regulations of your chosen racing class before designing or building any race vehicle.

Design Resources

Learn the basics about race cars and race car design from our free online knowledge series

Download our free race car design aids to assist you designing your race vehicle.

In-depth books and learning resources we recommend for custom off-road pickup truck design.

Join our forum to ask and find answers to your custom off-road pickup truck design/construction questions.

Construction Challenges

Safe supports are required for the truck while it is being constructed.

Having sufficient space for the build is important, as a cramped workshop can be difficult to work in.

Build Costs

Most components for a custom off-road pickup truck can be sourced through aftermarket manufacturers. All major pickup brands have an aftermarket following of one type or another. Depending on the final use of your truck, it is worth investigating the available parts before purchasing the base vehicle. Costs for most aftermarket components are akin to the niche they fill—specialty components cost specialty prices.

Conversely, many customizations to your truck can be made through your own design and fabrication--Taking cues from available parts and improving them for your purposes. The costs may not be significantly lower and the build effort will be greater, but the results may be more tuned to your build concept.

Build Effort

If building from aftermarket components only, your effort will be focused on replacing stock parts with aftermarket upgrades which, given basic mechanical skills, a person should be able to accomplish.

If building scratch-built components or a combination of scratch-built and off-the-shelf components, then there will be more significant effort in design and construction. There is however, an equally great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment in building your own unique truck design!

Racing Cost

Tires and fuel probably form the single largest consumable expense along with engine rebuilds and repairs. A dirty or gritty working environment will usually translate into parts wearing out sooner.

Transportation and Support Equipment

Custom off-road pick trucks are generally street-legal, but will require trailering if not.

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