By on July 3, 2019


Kurt writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Appreciate your postings!  Perhaps in future you or associates can find out why the USA (and by eventual inclusion, rest of world) has become infatuated with Lifted Trucks to point of lifting anything SUV or wagon under the sun (locally, we have folks trying to lift Foresters and Outbacks)?

Sajeev answers:

As someone who dodged a bullet during Hurricane Harvey, I’ll take my personal opinions about lifted trucks vs. terrifyingly shitty weather out of the equation.  Going forward, the infestation infatuation with lifting anything on wheels likely fits into these categories:

1. Cars are Out of Fashion: trucks and SUV/CUVs are the rage, sorry for stating the obvious. And car body design takes some of the blame: I’ve spent many a Vellum Venom article lamenting analyzing the trend of raised cowls and pedestrian safety standards, seemingly pushing people away from modern chop-top sedans with terrible visibility. Taller cowls mean taller bodies, and stock wheels and tires often look lost in a sedan’s massive haunches.

2. More Products, More Marketing + Awareness: the speciality equipment biz has never been larger, if SEMA’s report is believable. Which means businesses of all sizes are jumping in the (lifted) band wagon.  And promoting the hell outta them. 

3. Readily Available, Easy to Finance: People with the money or credit (especially credit) can buy a custom, lifted truck that’s “cooler” than the stock ones on a dealer’s lot.  New car dealers are taking their truck inventory (i.e. not KIA dealers) over to local truck accessory shops (or their own service departments, a good revenue stream for them too!) to lift those suckers with aftermarket suspensions, bodacious wheels, etc. and making a killing in the process.

Even if they don’t sell the new ones, what are the odds of any dealer having a lifted truck parked prominently in their used inventory with the promise of easy financing for most?

4. That Whole Grassroots Thing: ever heard of the Gambler 500?  The rally race of $500(ish) junk cars is open to any vehicle, and just about anything will fly (so to speak) with a mild suspension lift, off road tires and extreme body modifications.  The race exploded in popularity in 2017, as races showed up around the country. And every car enthusiast’s seen a Gambler-worthy vehicle in their social media feeds… PROVE ME WRONG!

We’ve covered all bases: from a $500 Panther, from lifted 6-figure trucks with easy credit, to companies like LP Adventure covering the middle ground (with dealer support!) we have all price ranges and socio-economic conditions covered. And don’t they look cool?

It’s a safe bet to gamble on this trend sticking around for a long, loooooong while.

[Image: Shutterstock user Chere]

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37 Comments on “Piston Slap: Gambling on Getting Lifted?...”

  • avatar

    I think it was stock height, but I saw a Ford Flex in the Costco parking lot on some kind of sporty looking “mesh” style alloy wheels and aggressive mud terrain tires… not sure what the hell to make of that, it can’t be a very pleasant ride, and it certainly didn’t look like it had spent any time offroad.

    • 0 avatar

      If the inflation pressures weren’t too aggressive and there was some sidewall there the ride may have been OK. I’d be more concerned about how noisy those dang tires likey were on the highway.

  • avatar

    I think it’s Mad Max syndrome, if we’re to survive this crazy world we’re going to need to lift our Lincolns and apply some serious mudders on them. Then and only then will we make it to Walmart

  • avatar

    It’s for people with more money (or more debt) than sense. Most offroad accessorizing is wasted on rarely venturing offroad.

  • avatar

    Speaking of Easy Financing. I have seen many a BroDozer rides with insane Lifts, aftermarket exhaust systems (LOUD), rolling coal, rims, bumpin’ sound systems etc… with now one year later completely bald Chinese tires. All mods added before purchase from the Used Car section. DOn’t forget 60 mo. pmt. plan.

    Can maybe afford the mo. truck payment, then rent increases, GF gets knocked up, its all down hill from there. Bald Tires, oh well?

    My 1 Ton 4×4 E-Series conversion is set up just like a Ford factory 1-Ton 4×4 Ranger / FX4 pkg. I need to be careful where I take it as height is usually a very limiting factor ’till you get above tree line. Most of the BroDozers are are Prairie / Parking Lot Cruisers.

  • avatar

    Here in the South (pseudo-South) of western NC, there are more redneck hillbillies than I care to count. The louder and more audacious the better for these “people”. Of course, they do have one redeeming quality, sitting in their brodozers……they’ll usually have a better chance in any accident since most other vehicles sit so far beneath them. Unless they roll over of course.

  • avatar

    Lifts, like lowering are just another way to get more fun out of your vehicle. We did the Gambler 500 in Okanagan/central British Columbia last year and there were all kinds of vehicles with lifts from home-built to professional purpose-built rigs.

    Thanks to the Donk scene, there are many “kits” available to lift any number of cars that were never meant to, or should never be like the GM G, H, N, W bodies etc. in order to fit 30″+ mudders.

    We took an ’86 Dodge B250 camper van with a mild 2″ bump and Goodyear Duratracs. Took it like a champ and we weren’t stuck tenting it.

    • 0 avatar

      The Gambler thing seems pretty cool. I’m thinking that could be my 05 P71’s next life. Cut the front springs 1 coil then stick some shock spacers up front and maybe do a rear air suspension conversion and set the sensor to crank up the rear. (Of course keep ForScan handy in case a little more lift, or pressure on a specific wheel is needed) Then a set of the tallest 16″ tires I can stuff under there, ~29″ in the front and 30-31″ in the rear. Then when it is done with that pull out those spacers, adjust the rear sensor for a drop and run some 255/45-18 and take it 24hrs of Lemons or Chump Car racing.

  • avatar

    A lot of folks put a lift on their truck/SUV/(insert vehicle here) because its cool; but some of us use those lifted vehicles to access the most beautiful places on earth.

    Some of the most beautiful places in nature are very remote. The “roads” that go to those places are hardly considered roads. These locations often require high clearance, larger tires, four wheel drive and sometimes an aftermarket traction aid (lockers) to get there. This type of driving is so much fun that for many people, the drive becomes more fun than the destination. Here in the southwest, this is where rock crawling and over-landing come in.

    Try is sometime, then you will know why people like it.

    • 0 avatar

      The lift on my 2016 4Runner is entirely functional. With the stock suspension, I was constantly hanging up and/or banging the skid plates on rocks and other obstacles in trying to get where I wanted to go on Southwest back country trails. With the suspension lifted (2.5″ front, 1.5″ rear), I now scrape a lot less often.

      Some pedant will undoubtedly point out that the actual ground clearance is unchanged since the bottom of the rear differential is still the same height off the ground, but the entire rest of the undercarriage now has more clearance, and in the real world, I’ve found that’s what counts.

      • 0 avatar

        What lift?

        Im looking for my next truck – holding out for a diesel Tacoma with M/T but might have to settle for a gasser. My friend has a marlin crawl box on his 3″ lifted Tacoma on 35’s. That truck climbs everything. I’m totally sold on the crawl box for my next truck (if its a toyota). Its relatively inexpensive for such a large torque gain.

      • 0 avatar

        You still have to be careful, that solid-axle rear differential isn’t indestructible. A friend had to replace his rear axle after going over a granite rock in the middle of a trail.

        He thought because of his truck height, he could just go over it, though others ahead of him were going around it. He cracked the differential, draining the fluid, and didn’t notice until it was too late, not that noticing right away would have helped much.

        The upshot is he barely got it close enough to a paved road to tow it to a shop, where they called a trailer to haul it 50+ miles back where he had the axle replaced. He was lucky someone with a F-350 super duty was able to drag it that far.

  • avatar

    When I was a kid in the 50s, it was all about lowering.
    Lowering blocks or shackles for leaf springs, cutting (or heating) for coils.
    Longer lower wider was the advertising of the day.

    60 years later it’s all jacked up. Why are these new midsize pickups so darn far up in the air? When I park my stock 99 4wd S10 next to one, it looks like a lowrider.

    • 0 avatar

      Same thing in the 80s. The object was to get your mini truck as low as possible. We even has sport trucks that came with a slight drop from the factory like my Ranger Splash.

      These lifted trucks are dangerous. Their bumpers are level with the roof of my Corvette! If one t-bones me the front pumpkin is coming thru my window right for my head. I can only image how ill-handling these lifted vehicles are.

      While some of these are just Bro-dozers having a measuring contest I do believe many do lifts in fear of being “caught out” by floods, mudslides and other natural or man-made disasters… aka “preppers”. I can say as someone who lives in FL and deals with hurricanes I understand the mind set. However 99% of the time I’d rather be driving something sporty and fun, not big and tipsy.

      • 0 avatar

        This is the problem:

        You say their trucks are dangerous because they are too tall. They say your car is too dangerous because it is too low. You like sporty and fun. They like big and “tipsy”. Your car is excessively fast. Their trucks are excessively big. You cant imagine how ill handling their trucks are. Maybe you should try one and see how “bad” they really are. They cant imagine how stressful it is to drive next to a big truck in your corvette. Maybe they should try one and find out.

        Everyone tries to tell everyone else what they should nor should not drive/like. Whatever happened to just dealing with the other vehicles on the road? Influencing what the other person needs to drive is how we end up with bland well rounded SUV/CUV’s that perform many tasks but are no fun to drive.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I am the stodgy, old-fart type who generally agrees with the design and performance compromises made by OEM engineers. I find lifted and/or lowered vehicles to be less comfortable and less versatile than their “stock” counterparts. From my perspective, most aftermarket mods made to cars and trucks ruin them, not improve them.

  • avatar

    I don’t have a problem with lifts if they serve a functional purpose other than fitting huge rims with a thin strip of rubber.

  • avatar

    Lifting or lowering can cause undo stress on your suspension bits and should be avoided. The engineers who design cars and trucks spent a lot of years in school and get paid a lot of money to design suspensions for optimal performance and long life and shouldn’t be messed with

    • 0 avatar

      That is 100% correct.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a mechanic tell me exactly that when I asked about lifting a car I had. It made sense to me and I never forgot it

        • 0 avatar

          Back when I was working on vehicles full time some of the biggest headache jobs were on stuff that had been lifted/lowered without much thought.
          We were supposed to fix the problems that the designers/sellers of the suspension kits ignored. Like odd/excess tire wear. Steering problems. Noises and driveline misalignment/failure.
          In many cases these problems were not fixable except by returning the vehicle to the stock setup.

    • 0 avatar

      My brother “lifted” his car in the cheapest way possible. He found some bent 22′ rims that must have been made of lead that had been placed by the bins for garbage pickup. He figured they were free so why not.

      Got some low-profile tires and slapped the whole mess on his car, a 2005 Cavailier. Then couldn’t figure out why the thing was so slow, kept eating tires, killed its suspension.

      I still struggle with the gearing question, no matter how many times I read it, but the larger tires effectively geared the car up (?) akin to starting in 3rd and didn’t go much faster.

  • avatar

    My buddy bought strut mount spacers for a mild lift of his ’05 Legacy GT. I believe they’re 1.5″. Makes sense for snow clearance, as the car is used only in winter. Far more practical than the more common approach of lowering a Subaru. I don’t understand how these Subaru fans could possibly think that the sort of rally cars that compete on roads as bad as ours – even in a summer pavement rally – would be lowered.

    He always has plans to lift his trucks but fortunately he’s so busy that such impractical things are low on the priority list. He thinks it’s cool because the redneck trucks he admired as a child were lifted, but I argue that if he never gets stuck after trimming the bumper and fitting the largest Duratracs the fenders can take, then all he’s doing is making the truck worse for 99.9999…% of the driving he does with it. In my own childhood, I was always a fan of Baja racing type trucks – loved my Tamiya S10 – so aesthetically and functionally I prefer trucks with lots of rubber but the sort of stance that makes them appear as though they can go fast without tipping over.

    As crazy as it would be to cut up the fenders on a relatively new truck to fit some tall tires without a lift, I would support that project!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Believe or not I have seen big rim wheels on a Panther Crown Vic of the generation of the Crown Vic in this picture along with a 91 thru 96 Caprice.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen these trends over a long time. Back in the 1960s when Big 3 pickups had 4wd it was usually an add-on and to make room for the drive line the trucks got 2-4″ higher than stock. In those days most people thought that was very odd as the drag-race lowered look was ‘IN’.
    Later the truck makers got better at integrating the transfer case and driveshafts, the trucks were about the same height as the 2wd.
    About that time, the late 1970s, off road racing was becoming popular. There was more of it on TV.
    Since then I’ve seen the lifted truck, or other vehicle, come and go in cycles, right along with the general economy and peoples access to money.
    When ever money (credit) got tight (more expensive) and gas prices went up there were fewer lifted vehicles about.
    We are in another part of that cycle now. I expect, in a year or two, that the lift thing will recede again.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I remember truck owners lowering their pickups.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Are there really enthusiast who are bothered by someone who lifts a Crosstrack or Outback 2″ and puts some T/A KO 2s on it?!

    We’d all be better off by seeing the fun in other car enthusiasts’ interests, rather than looking for ways to divide, disapprove, and reject.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    In addition to the usual air hauling 1/2 ton 4x4s I usually see, I’ve noticed quite a few lifted Cross Treks which is surprising to me. You’d think the Forester and its torquier 2.5 engine would be a better choice for off roading, especially with the availability of a manual trans /2.5 combo(until this year)
    I really think Subaru could charge a premium if they offered a more powerful motor in that Impreza chassis

  • avatar

    Here in the Midwest from around the mid 60s thru to the 70s it was all the rage to just lift the back of your car (although there were a few souls that did the reverse). Sitting still with the right wheels and all the car would look great providing the owner didn’t max out the lift. Never got that though as I realized it would seriously compromise the cars handling. I thought doing the lift with bigger wheels/tires would be a better way to go, but even then the handling would be compromised. I get why folks lift their vehicles, but it’s not for me. I like going fast through corners too much.

  • avatar

    In my very youthful days I had a Ramcharger with a 3″ lift, white spoke steelies and 31/10.50/15s on it. Took that thing everywhere and the only thing I wish were different was it needed wider tires because I broke a front disc on a rock one day.

    Traded it for a 427 Cobra replica that can’t even clear a speed bump.

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