Icon Upgrades on the SoCal SuperTrucks Ford Raptor

Jun. 12, 2014 By Scott Rousseau
Fordís Raptor is already one tough truck for extreme-duty off-road use, but the team at SoCal SuperTrucks wanted even better ride quality out of its Raptor shop truck, which serves as a rolling test bed for the products it sells. SoCal SuperTrucks decided to upgrade its Raptor with a variety of Icon Vehicle Dynamics suspension and accessories, and we were there to document the upgrade.

Since 2009, Fordís F-150 SVT Raptor has stood at the top of the heap of truly off-road worthy half-ton pickup trucks. With its snarling 6.2-liter engine and awesome suspension provided by aftermarket suspension giant Fox Shox, the Raptor not only looks the part of a true off-road warrior, it performs like it as well.

Even so, the boys at SoCal SuperTrucks, one of our favorite off-road hop-up shops, can never leave well enough alone, and when co-owner Casey Coughlin invited us to spend a day with the SoCal SuperTrucks crew as it tore into the companyís practically brand-new SVT Raptor shop truck for a suspension upgrade, we just had to see what he had up his sleeve. In this case, it turned out to be a whole lot of trick hardware from Icon Vehicle Dynamics, including the companyís 3.0Ē Coilover Front Shock Kit, Billet Aluminum Uniball Upper Control Arms and Lower Control Arm Skidplate System up front, along with its Quick-Release Midflap System, Rear 3.0 ZETA Piggyback Reservoir 3-Tube Bypass Shocks and Rear Bumpstop System, along with a new set of Deaver heavy-duty leaf springs out back.

The stock Fox 2.5 Raptor shock is very competent, but Icon Vehicle Dynamics offers an even larger 3.0 coilover shock that adds more adjustability in the form of a remote reservoir with a 10-position compression damping adjuster. SoCal SuperTrucks decided to swap to the Icon shocks and also add its billet upper A-arms to the front end.

Coughlin says that upgrades like these account for 25 percent of So Calís annual revenue. Itís a one-stop shop for any customerís needs, whether they be mild or wild.

With everything on the agenda, we had to wonder if all of the work could be accomplished in a single day, but it was clear right from the time that the first bolts were unfastened on the Raptor that morning, that SoCal SuperTrucks technician Ryan Poe had done this a time or two before. Poe worked with the skill and precision that you would expect from a veteran mechanic, but it didnít hurt that he had the proper tools at his disposal, such as a 6500-pound lift to get the big Raptor off its wheels. We couldnít imagine it being done any other way.

SoCal SuperTrucks technician Ryan Poe handled every aspect of the Raptor upgrade. Poe starts by using an impact gun to free the spindle from the upper A-arm. One smart strategy that Poe employs is to loosen the nut that holds the disc brake to the spindle, gaining a little more work space to access the lower shock mount.

But the Icon parts are mostly a bolt-on operation, and all of the kits that Poe installed come complete with all of the necessary hardware, including new bolts, nuts, washers and bushings, along with a fairly comprehensive set of instructions to explain the installation procedure. Other than a few minor mods required to ensure that everything fits properly, the entire swap could be done in a weekend by a novice mechanic with the proper tools.

The difference between the CNC-machined Icon billet A-arm (left) and the stock Raptor A-arm (right) is readily apparent. The Icon A-arm also uses a Uniball pin rather than a ball joint. In addition to being stronger and able to accept longer shocks for more travel while retaining the stock A-arm length, the Uniball and heim joint on the Icon A-arm also make front end alignment easier.

Icon Ford Raptor SVT Uniball Upper Control Arm System
MSRP: $1496.20

The Raptor already comes equipped from the factory with beefy cast aluminum lower control arms, but the upper control arms may leave something to be desired if the plan is to seriously pound through rough country. For starters, their ball-joints are a potential weak link, as they limit the full travel potential of the stock upper A-arm. That was the motivation for Icon to develop its Adjustable Billet Aluminum Upper Control Arm System.

Once installed, the upper A-arm adds a beefy appearance to the Raptorís suspension.

The beautiful Icon upper A-arms are made out of precision CNC-machined 6061 billet aluminum, and they feature a heavy-duty 1-inch stainless steel uniballs instead of the stock ball joint arrangement. In addition to being able to handle more travel, the uniballs are favored because they are far stronger and also more easily adjustable when it is time to align the front end. The uniballs are PTFE lined for a smoother, more fluid action when the suspension is arching through its travel.
The upper arms also get the PTFE treatment to their 7/8-inch rod ends, reducing friction even further. The uniball on each control arm also uses an O-ring sealed cover cap to keep dirt and moisture away from the top of the uniball for added durability.

Poe started the process by simply removing each front wheel to expose the suspension. Using an impact gun, he loosened the nuts that hold tie rods in place and also the retaining nut with an impact wrench to separate the ball joint from the spindle. Poe also showed us a helpful trick: By loosening the nut that holds the brake rotor onto the spindle and pulling the CV joint loose in its housing, another precious inch of room is gained, making it easier to unbolt the shock from its lower mounting point. Itís also helpful when it comes time to load in the new Icon 3.0 coilover shocks.

With the lower shock bolt removed, the lower A-arm is allowed to hang free while the three upper shock bolts are ratcheted free and the shock is then easily removed from the coil bucket and pulled clear of the suspension. From there it is simply a matter of removing the nuts that hold the upper A-arm in place and pulling it free. Then the Icon upper A-arms can be zipped into place using the new hardware supplied in the kit.

After grinding clearance in the Raptor coil bucket for the fitting on the top of the Icon 3.0 coilover shock, the remote reservoir and line must be fished through the A-arm and into place. This was a two-man operation.

Before the upper A-arm is bolted in place, however, a little bit of pre-planning for the shock installation is required. Since the steel reservoir fitting that comes on the Icon 3.0 shock can rub on the tock coil bucket as the suspension moves through its travel, Poe took the time to grind about 1/4-inch of relief into the coil bucket, using a die-grinder and cutting disc. Iconís instructions feature pictures that show exactly how this is done, so it isnít too big of a deal. When youíre done grinding, always make sure to touch up the newly exposed metal on the coil buckets with some black spray paint to eliminate the chance of corrosion. 

The crowning feature of the Icon 3.0 coilover shock is its nitrogen filled remote reservoir, which sports a 10-position compression adjuster on top, allowing the customer to dial-in off-road style plushness or firmer damping for better road control with the simple twist of a knob.

Icon Ford F-150 Raptor 3.0Ē Coilover Shock Kit
MSRP: $2624.95

Icon Vehicle Dynamics is known for its quality aftermarket suspension components, and its 3.0 coilover shock is designed to improve upon the already solid Fox unit found on the stock Raptor.

Right off the bat, the aluminum-bodied Icon shock features a piston that is 1 inch larger in diameter than the stock 2-inch shock, which means increased oil volume for better heat dissipation and increased resistance to fading during rigorous off-road use. The beefy piston also features digressive rebound and flutter stack compression circuits to ensure better on-road control and ride quality than stock. An additional internal hydraulic system is also designed to act like an externally mounted hydraulic bump stop in the last 40% of compression to resist bottoming during massive G-out hits. The shockís extra droop travel also increases its off-road performance compared to the stock unit. Iconís engineers also worked with one of the worldís premier shock spring manufacturers, Eibach, to develop 3 5/8-inch i.d. chrome silicon steel spring to help the 3.0 shock deliver max performance. The Icon 3.0 shock also features an oversized, 1-inch heavy-duty shock shaft, a multi-stage cadmium plating finish and PTFE lined bearings in the lower shock eye for even more durability.

But superior adjustability is what really sets the Icon 3.0 shock apart from the stock Raptor shock. Aside from offering adjustable ride height from 1 inch to 3.5 inches, the Icon shock features a 10-inch, nitrogen-charged aluminum remote reservoir with an external compression damping control valve adjuster that offers 10 settings, allowing the Raptor owner to tune the suspension to his or her liking.

Installation of the front shock was fairly straightforward, although as our photos detail, it is way easier to do if you can recruit a little assistance. The remote reservoirís line requires a little bit of wiggling to fish it into its proper resting place. Once it is home, bolting up the shock is as simple as replacing the three upper bolts in the coil bucket and seating the eyebolt in the lower A-arm.

The finished skid plate looks cool and is ready to defend the lower A-arms from rocks and other off-road debris.

Icon Ford Raptor SVT LCA Skid Plate System
MSRP: $393.70

Iconís Ford Raptor SVT Lower Control Arm Skid Plate System is cheap insurance against dents and dings to the lower control arms by rocks and other debris, and with the way that many Raptors are flogged by their owners, we can see their value. The powder-coated steel skid plates help absorb harsh impacts, reducing the risk of damage to the lower control armsó have you priced one of those lately?

Best of all, they are fairly simple to bolt on, held in place by a pair of supplied, machine collars that wrap over the lower A-arm cross brace and also by the nut that is already there for the front sway bar. About the only issue we had was getting to the sway bar bolt to tighten it, as the beefy lower A-arm leaves very little room for this. Poe got the job done using a wobbler-style impact socket on his impact gun.

Iconís Quick-Release Midflaps provide more cheap insurance for the Raptor by deflecting flying debris from the Raptorís front tires away from the rear shocks and shock shafts. Along with the skid plates, the midflaps are relatively inexpensive and simple to install.

Icon Ford Raptor Quick Release Midflap System
MSRP: $299.20

Iconís Midflap System is another simple bolt-on that offers inexpensive protection to the Raptorís rear suspension system. Lots of Raptor owners have found out the hard way the OEM rear plastic shock protectors are easily wasted when the Raptorís front wheels have spit dirt, rocks, trees stumpsósmall house, and what have youóat the Raptorís rear shocks.

Even though the Icon 3.0 Zeta bypass shocks feature a sturdy guard in front of the shock shafts to help ward off this evil, the Midflap System adds that extra degree of protection needed to keep the rear shocks looking and performing well.
Icon conducted durability testing of its midflaps over thousands of miles, from the heat of the desert to ice- and snow-covered trails in sub-zero temperatures. Icon says that when all was said and done, the midflaps did their job and kept their test Raptorís shocks and their protective covers in near-new condition.

Whatís cool about these midflaps, though, is that Icon designed them with a quick-release hook-and-latch system that allows the owner to remove them in seconds to clean up the look of the vehicle if desired. The midflap mounting bracket bolts to the mid-cab body mount, permanently and out of sight. The design allows the midflaps to be quickly attached when off-road or removed when hitting the streets.

Bolting the Midflap system in place was a simple matter of following the instructions. The whole operation was done in a less time than it would take to tell about it.

Next Page... Icon Upgrades on SoCal SuperTrucks Ford Raptor

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