Project Ford E350 Tow Rig: Part 1 – Towtally Ready
baby blue E350 van on hydraulic center post lift without wheels
Basic maintenance should be the first order of business.

People talk a lot about towing. They talk a lot about power and fuel economy. But the two most important things when it comes to towing are handling and stopping. Any jerkface can tow his one car trailer at 80MPH on the highway. But can that same jerkface actually panic/emergency stop that whole mass when needed? Or swerve out of the way?

I’ve owned the van since 2005 or so. It’s only used very infrequently. When we used to run DGTrials and have drift events and use it for transporting cones and supplies, it generally only made in-town trips. Since then it’s only been used occasionally to tow and even then only regionally. But it had never really been serviced or upgraded since I bought it. So it was time to get down to business.

Here we are at Gran Turismo East. You may have heard me talk about them before. They are the place in Atlanta for tires, brakes, and alignments. But they don’t just do fancy race cars. They also do smelly work trucks, or vans, as the case may be.

Flushing the brake system and adding fresh fluid was good, but upgrading the brake pads to something designed for towing is better. I happened to go with Hawk Performance, but there are options from just about every manufacturer out there.

Oh, and, sadly, this particular configuration of the E350 used rear drum brakes. Cue the sad trombone. Then again the rear brakes are really not doing very much, so it’s not the end of the world. But ABS and drums just seems weird.

Ford trucks are notoriously sloppy in the front end and need frequent rebuilding, repacking, and replacement. Make sure everything is solid. It will help a lot with wandering on the highway and sawing at the wheel. But there’s more to be done, too.

Enter Hellwig.


man bolting bracket to front suspension arm
Hellwig has been around since 1946 making heavy duty suspension components right here in the USA.

They know a thing or two about trucks (or vans, in this case) and towing. So we figured we would contact them to see how we could improve the towing performance of our van. They came back with some great suggestions.

Remember how we talked about swerving? Well, sway bars have a lot to do with that. So we decided to upgrade the factory E350 front swaybar with a Hellwig unit. I happen to have an offroad truck shop near my house (Southern Offroad Specialists or SOS for short) and they were happy enough to accommodate my upgrades. Here they start by bolting a bracket onto the front I-beam.

You might be thinking that this looks like a ridiculous design. But, then again, this is a big, yucky, sloppy truck. We are not looking for ultimate precision. We are looking for strength, toughness/durability, and gross performance. The factory I-beam is tough as hell and you could bash someone’s skull in with that bracket. I’m not particularly concerned.

The bracket is what the new swaybar endlink will bolt to.


front swaybar bolted to frame under chassis
The rest of the attachments for the front swaybar utilize the OEM Ford mounting points.

This is a pretty easy job, overall. Well, except for the fact that everything is massive and requires dinosaur torque.

With the front swaybar done it was time to add a rear bar.


  1. This thing is hideous and awesome, shitty aluminum sidesteps and all! I admire your love for the 7.3. Once I drove the 6.8 V10 version though….I was sold.

    1. I smashed a 6.8 V10 with my Whippled 350 Vortec on 4psi. Supposedly they wake up with a tune, but if they’re anything like the V8s of the time then no thanks.

  2. I really like the Ford 7.3 diesel myself. An exhaust, intercooler, fuel controller and the Garrett upgrade turbo and it flies and gets great mileage. I could get up to 24 mpg towing! The 6.7 Powerstroke is sorta lame, way worse fuel economy and less of everything but just off idle grunt.

  3. This is pretty sick. I have already fallen for the dajiban, practical cheap and fun tow rigs are the way to go.

    The 7.3 seems more robust and less problematic than the 6.0 PSD that followed. Which I had in an Excursion. I miss that rig but it had electrical gremlins I didn’t have patience and money for at the time.

    P.s. No way anyone over 5’9 is standing in there, that made me laugh on its own, unless the floor is dropped.

  4. I strongly disagree on rear brakes being less important than front in a tow pig. See how your nose points up with a load? Which end do you think is going to lock first with a trailer out back? My dually will lock the rears before the fronts empty so you have to be on your toes but isn’t that why you racecar in the first place?

    1. I’m not sure I understand the physics behind that one. Adding weight increases the force required to overcome the coefficient of friction. See:

      You can demonstrate this yourself. Lightly drag an eraser on a stable and immovable surface. Then push really hard on the eraser and try to drag it. It’s harder to drag the eraser that’s being pressed into the surface more.

      If your argument is that the nose is pointing up with load, that means the front is unweighted, which means it would require less force to overcome the coefficient of friction between tire and road, which would make the fronts lock up first. It would mean the rear is carrying more load, and that the force required to overcome friction is higher, and that the rears would lock up later.

      On a race car this is similar. You have higher front bias because the front does more work and the rear unloads under braking.

      If your truck is locking up four rear tires before the front two tires when towing, I am thinking that your rig needs some servicing.

      Either that or I’m completely misunderstanding my highschool physics.

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