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King Of The Hammers Helps Ford Ensure That Its Off-Road Vehicles Improve

From the early days of racing, Ford has used racing to improve its products. Brakes, for instance, are advanced by huge leaps thanks to racing through shoes and drums to discs. Tire tech, too, developed thanks to racing and events like the King of the Hammers where Ford pushes and refines products like the Bronco.

Racing or rallying has, for more than a century, been a proving ground for various vehicles. In the early years of the automotive era – more than a century ago – things that we take for granted, like brakes, defrosters, windshield wipers, and even cabin heating, were concepts that had to be proven.

Racing Has Improved Safety

In the early days, for example, brakes were often little more than external levers that caused
primitive braking systems to engage. As the years rolled on, brakes became internal shoe and drum affairs. They also became more reliable. Then, as the racing world moved into disc brakes, the concept moved to passenger vehicles and became safer. Without racing and the advances it brought, vehicle safety wouldn’t have advanced as it has. Recently, Ford announced that it would partner with two F1 teams to help develop develop systems for the future.

The same is true in the off-roading world. Events like the King of the Hammers have enabled SUVs and 4X4 vehicles to become more reliable. This is why an automaker like Ford welcomes the chance to participate in the event. Indeed, Ford Performance and Ford Broncos are returning to the King of the Hammers Ultra4 off-road races in Johnson Valley, California, to defend last year’s unprecedented 1-2-3 podium sweep in the Every Man Challenge 4600 stock class and go for the win in the 4400 Unlimited class.

Billed as the toughest one-day off-road racing series in America, the 17th annual King of the Hammers, going on right now, presents the utmost challenge to showcase state-of-the-art off-road technologies and the Built Wild mental fortitude of drivers across a myriad of diverse terrain. The event also serves as the start of the Ultra4 Off-Road Racing season.

Event Helps To Ensure Bronco Development

“From the Baja 1000 to Best In The Desert, off-road racing is just as much part of Ford’s DNA as track, endurance, and rally competition,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports. “King of the Hammers inspires us to ensure every Bronco delivers the capability, durability, and high-speed off-road experience our customers expect on the trail. It led directly to Bronco Raptor, the world’s first Ultra4-inspired SUV.”

King of the Hammers consists of 90-mile courses across high-speed desert sands and rock crawling across tricky terrain. It is one of the most extreme off-road competitions in the world. Each year, a pop-up city of 80,000 spectators converges on the barren Johnson Valley to watch the race, with millions more viewing online.

The Every Man Challenge features Bronco 4600s, which start their lives as stock production Bronco SUVs at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant before being modified to align to race class specifications. Vaughn Gittin Jr., Loren Healy, Bailey Cole, Jason Scherer, and defending race winners Brad and Roger Lovell all return as driver/co-driver highlights to the entry list.

Scherer and Healy (both three-time overall Hammers champs) as well as Gittin Jr. (2021 Ultra4 4400 champ) will be driving double-duty during the event, also competing in the Race of the Kings in Bronco 4400s, the original unlimited class that helped launch King of the Hammers many years ago.

The 4400 vehicles are custom-built marauders featuring tubular chassis, powerful engines, and massive tires. However, production vehicle innovations also come into play, with the Bronco 4400s utilizing Fox’s live valve shock technology, also found on the Bronco Raptor.

Several Ford Performance hero vehicles will be on display at the event for fans to see up close, including the 2019 Bronco R race prototype, 2022 Baja 1000-winning Ranger Raptor, three-in-a-row Rebelle Rally-winning Bronco Sport, as well as Bronco DR. Fans can also venture over to the Bronco Nation Basecamp, located right in Hammertown, to visit with fellow Bronco enthusiasts.

Official truck and SUV of King of the Hammers and SCORE-International

Ford’s collaboration with King of the Hammers for the third consecutive year signals its continued presence in the off-road enthusiast realm.

“Having Ford as both our official vehicle and a proven competitor in the Every Man Challenge and Race of Kings is as meaningful to our fans as it is to watch racing,” said David Cole, president of Hammerking Productions/Ultra4 Racing.

In addition to its status as the official truck and SUV of the event, Ford also serves as the official truck and SUV of SCORE-International Off-Road Racing, which holds the Baja 500, Baja 1000, and San Felipe 250 championships. Ford also serves as the official vehicle of Best in the Desert and is the reigning three-in-a-row champ in the Rebelle Rally X-Cross class with Bronco Sport. Discover the Bronco brand lineup at

The 2023 King of the Hammers race will be live-streamed at ultra4 livestreama>.

Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent many misspent hours hanging out at gas stations (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper "You Auto Know," an enterprise I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my earnings while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.