RideTech's shock test was one for the history books. I had the opportunity to test their new coilovers and airbag components, and learn a few things from the air-ride man himself, Bret Voelkel. Bret started the company because he was on the road a lot and kept seeing semitrucks rolling down the road with stickers that read "Air-Ride Equipped". Bret, having a do-it-yourself hot rod attitude, wanted to incorporate airbags in his hot rod. Some trial and error was in order; luckily, Bret had plenty of friends who were willing to pay him to build an airbag kit for their ride.
Skip forward to 2011 and RideTech is stronger than ever. Britt Marlolf, the head of R&D, is one of a team of experts developing new products. So, to say the least, they have been working very hard to develop suspension parts for anyone who wants a great quality ride and performance handling. I was very skeptical on the handling part with the airbags, but the crew from RideTech proved it is very possible to have both.
Our test vehicle was a mild '53 Ford Stepside graciously supplied by John Hemmen, an employee of RideTech. The '53 is what I would consider the average guy's garage build. It has a Ford 9-Inch with a four-link out back and, up front, RideTech Mustang II tubular control arms. An Iron 400 Ford and a C6 transmission powered John's truck. He built it with cruising in mind, rather than autocross racing.
Now that you know what we tested, how did we test it?
Britt took his laptop and this highly sophisticated box that can read up, down, and side-to-side movements from inside the truck. With a very complex formula, the computer read and spit out an average number that Britt could then translate into what the shocks were doing. The bigger the number, the more bumps you felt: Picture a truck going down the road and you were watching it from the side hitting speed bumps. Ideally the truck remains level and still inside, while the shocks hit the rough stuff and soak it up. Britt measured the shock's ability to keep the truck level and the tire on the road so that we could compare each setting. With the box secured under the seat, Britt and I would drive a very bumpy road for 40 seconds at 35 mph. We did this several times with the Black Series, Master Series, Select Series, and the new coilovers.
Then it was off to the track where Bret kicked my butt, running consistent time laps with the '53 Ford. Keep in mind, it was my first time on the track with someone else's truck, so I was very timid at first. Bret took a few hot laps and set the bar for the fastest lap in with the F-100. The Black Series shocks have a steel body and twin-tube construction that is ideal for the daily driver or long hauler who drives long stretches of road. The Black Series shocks are not adjustable, so if you're looking for bolt-in ride performance you don't have to adjust, the Black Series shocks are it. The good news is that they are very economical in price compared to the other shocks.
Ride Meter Score: 9.399
We headed over to a nearby shop, where the RideTech crew swapped a few dozen shocks for our testing pleasure.