BUMPERS BUILT FOR ABUSE

MERCENARY OFFROAD OUTFITS SUPER DUTYS

The original Ford Super Duty was one of the longest-running platforms to remain largely unchanged, from 1999 until the aluminum version arrived in 2017. And in that time, we’ve seen some pretty great products built for the largest private-passenger vehicle to ever be made in America. But when it came to hardcore off-road parts, it seemed that the Super Duty’s obvious competitor was getting the attention from the aftermarket. Even Mercenary Off-road concentrated on the Ram bumpers to begin with. But the Ford parts came soon after, and the front Super Duty bumpers hold the same signature look that the boutique bumper company made famous when it debuted its revolutionary high-line front protection years ago.

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The handcrafted bumpers are built to order out of Camarillo, California, with many hours of labor put in to make sure that each bumper turns out beautifully. Mercenary’s latest addition for the ’11-to-’16 6.7L Power Stroke trucks (the bumper fits the petrol versions, too) can hold up to a 16,500-pound winch and be customized for whatever lighting choices you want to add. The midsection that bolts to the frame and holds the winch is built out of 1/4-inch HRPO (hot-rolled, pickled and oiled) steel, while the rest of the bumper is formed with 3/16-inch HRPO steel. The bumper design has integrated front skid protection for the radiator and intercooler and recessed shackle points for recovery.

Now that more of these ’11-to-’16 trucks are seeing second ownership and more hardcore off-road use, we figured it was high time to try out a set of front and rear Mercenary bumpers on the last of the steel Super Dutys. The end result was a truck that did not notice the extra weight of the bumpers and now is clearly more capable in all situations.

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We started with the rear bumper because, well, it was easier to install! We pre-ordered some Baja Designs Squadron panel-mount LED lights and added them prior to bolting on the bumper. The Squadron LED lights are low amperage, so it is possible to use them with your existing reverse lighting wiring if you feel comfortable with that.

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The bumpers can be ordered with or without back-up sensor holes, but keep in mind that you cannot turn the back-up sensors off, so don’t just think you’ll remove them and not get a beep (if your truck is equipped with them).

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While it is possible to put this bumper on yourself, two people make this process a whole lot easier.

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The Mercenary bumper reuses the stock bumper brackets, so you’ll need to retain those. The entire bumper is made out of 3/16-inch HRPO steel and MIG-welded in-house at the Camarillo, Calif., location.

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The Mercenary rear bumper tucks up cleanly under the tailgate and reduces the departure angle a bit, while giving a much sturdier piece of protection in the rear.

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The stock front bumper on the ’11-to-’16 Super Dutys actually looks good, but it leaves a lot of shiny metal hanging down and vulnerable to rocks and other obstacles. Mercenary can fix that. Remember to disconnect any fog and auxiliary light wires and be careful of any coolers or lines when removing/installing bumpers.

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One minor modification has to be made to the frame for the front Mercenary bumper: you’ll need to cut off about an inch of a stock bumper bracket. We kept the cut-off metal in case there’s any reason we ever want to return this frame to stock condition.

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The front bumper is heavy—no lie—but not so heavy that you need a forklift to install it. But we were doing this at Mercenary, and they’ve got the installation process perfected using the forks (protected with cardboard so as not to scratch the paint) to set the bumper.

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The main section of the bumper is 1/4-inch HRPO steel. Three 1/2- inch bolts per side hold the bumper to the frame.

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Through a bit of trading, we acquired a lightly-used Warn M15000 winch and added a new controller box, steel cable, and Warn Epic hook. While a 16,500-pound-capacity winch can be set in this bumper, we felt confident that the M15000 could do anything we needed, using a snatch block if the capacity ever comes into question.

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Grade 8 1/2-inch bolts are used to attach the bumper to the frame—three per side.

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The two holes behind the shackle point are simply access holes to slip the bolts through. It’s not the easiest bumper to install, but this is a one-time process and you don’t want exposed bolts with heads that can catch.

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The Mercenary bumper tucks up cleanly and flows nicely into the body lines, and while the winch hook and fairlead are plainly visible, they are still subtle. One thing to note is that there are specific cast-iron hawse fairleads for use with steel cable because the cable will too-easily eat through an aluminum hawse fairlead when abrading against it. The questionable exception might be a hard-anodized aluminum hawse fairlead, which has a greater wear/penetration resistance and may survive an occasional pull with steel cable.

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There are two recovery points on the front Mercenary bumper—each are reinforced and part of the main frame of the bumper instead of being welded on. Unless you’re the type of guy who can rip a double-walled, 1/4-inch plate in half. Then you won’t have a problem.

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The Mercenary high-line bumper design is an obvious classic—the revolutionary design was previously unseen on full-size trucks when the bumper came out. The bombproof bumpers give a place to mount a winch and lights while giving the best approach possible. Since its inception, the high-line bumper has seen a few copycats come to the market, but there is only one original, and it proves to be the best.

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The rear Mercenary bumper conforms cleanly under the tailgate and gives good protection for everything except the trailer wiring harness connector mounted on the tow hitch, which we incidentally annihilated shortly after this picture was taken.