FORD BROTHERS HONDA 450R GNC MXERS

Letting rookies fly with the best 

By the staff of Dirt Wheels Photos by Harlen Foley

Growing up, the Ford brothers have always raced together. They are close in speed, but they approach the sport in different ways.

FORD BROTHERS HONDA 450R GNC MXERS

We take a close look at Cody and Bryce Ford’s ATV Championship quads. The boys had great success on their potent Honda TRX 450R’s. Bryce is a first-year Pro rookie, while Cody has a year on the pro circuits. Both of these racers have made a name for themselves with their Ford Brothers Honda 450R GNC mxers.

To call 2020 crazy would be underselling it. Like all forms of sports, the ATV MX National Championship series was vastly affected by the situation. Rapid response in creating a social-distancing program, to keep attendees and competitors safe, started getting things back on track. A rapid adaptation to locations and venues kept the series percolating.

One of the bright sides of the 2020 ATV MX was the success of a handful of first- and second-year pros that have been able to run with the best. Nowhere has the talent of new pros shined brighter than in the Ford Brothers racing team. Older brother Cody has a year under his kidney belt in the Pro class, and younger brother Bryce is a rookie.

Like a lot of privateer teams, Ford Racing chooses to compete on Honda machinery despite having to start with a used machine. Honda no longer makes new machines.

FORD BROTHERS HONDA 450R GNC MXERS

Bryce has had the better year and positively shone with great starts, leading motos, two podium finishes, and (for the first time by a rookie since fellow Honda star Joel Hetrick’s first year) a fast qualifying time. Cody Ford is enjoying his best finishes of the season, and in addition to top-10 pro finishes in the Pro class, Cody has been doubling up in the new and prestigious Pro Mod class. He has been running strong in the class.

Bryce Ford runs a setup that is very close to his brother’s. The only difference we see is the exhaust header. Bryce doesn’t have a can on the header. Since these photos, the team switched to PEP shocks.

Like Joel Hetrick, the once-promising rookie turned national champion, the Fords came up through AMA amateur events and now campaign the Honda TRX450R. The ATV MX-series Pro class is a production-based affair. National pros must run stock frames, and there is no replacing the engine with a motorcycle MX engine. Oddly, that is not the case in the amateur ranks. For example, the Fords used to race purpose-built specialty quads with aftermarket frames and full-mod KTM 250SX-F engines. According to Ford Racing, the lap times on those 250s are close to what they currently run on their fully modified TRX450Rs. Before moving to the Pro class, the Fords raced in the Pro-Am class. Full aftermarket hybrids are legal in the Pro-Am class, but the Fords chose to race production machines to prepare for the Pro class.

WHAT IT TAKES

Even though the Hondas that the Fords race are production models, each race quad begins as a carefully sourced used machine. Honda hasn’t built a production TRX450R since 2014. National-level pros always run a great number of modifications, but keeping a used machine fettled to national level requires a large number of modifications. Even the most aggressive of 450cc-class sport quads are basically compromised since they are capable of motocross but are also trail machines. Carving off that trail DNA and hardening a stocker into an MX weapon takes dedicated work and lots of trick parts and engineering.

Cody Ford is in his second year in the Pro class. He is just out of the top 10 in points in the championship. Like his brother, he is running stronger with every race. He is far stronger in the new Modified Pro class.

FORD BROTHERS HONDA 450R GNC MXERS

The Ford bikes start off as kickstart 2005 models. They are blown completely apart for JB to gusset the frame and radiator. Then, the team minimizes the wiring harness and replaces a large percentage of the stock parts. The gusseted frame is reassembled with JB Racing, plus-two A-arms with Suzuki LT-R450 front spindles and Baldwin front hubs. There are DP Brakes rotors and pads with Streamline stainless steel brake lines. 

JB makes the stock-length swingarm and replacement linkage. Early in 2020 when the photos were shot, there were Elka shocks mounted at both ends, but later in the season both brothers switched to PEP shocks. Inside the swingarm is a Baldwin twin-row bearing carrier with an RPM Dominator axle stabbed through. Mounted on that axle are stock hubs, DP Brakes brake rotors, Sunstar sprockets, D.I.D X-ring chain and DWT beadlock rims with Maxxis Razr tires.

Cody Ford runs a white frame, but otherwise shares all of the team sponsors with younger brother Bryce. JB Racing handles the swingarm, linkage, lowered subframe, stem, A-arms and frame gusseting.

Upfront is a JP stem with Precision bar mounts and a Precision steering stabilizer. The front has the DP rotors, DWT wheels and Maxxis tires. Inside the tires are TireBalls to ensure that no motos are cut short by flat tires. Joining all of the chassis mods is a JB-lowered subframe. As many bolts as possible are replaced with titanium hardware from FourWerx, and that includes the swingarm pivot, suspension bolts and engine mounts.

The chassis uses a Renthal handlebar with a stock Honda thumb throttle, Tag grips, and a Works Connection clutch lever and perch. Also on the Renthal is a Beringer custom Supermoto radial master cylinder to boost stopping power. PowerMadd handguards protect the fingers and the controls. Much of the stock Honda plastic is used, but the carbon fiber hood is from FourWerx, as are the seat foam and seat cover. It also uses a stock Honda airbox with a K&N filter element.

No doubt having their own pro-level track on 200 acres has been a huge advantage for the brothers. Here, Cody rearranges one of the family berms.
Bryce Ford is a rookie in the Pro class. In his first year out of Pro Am, he has ripped off some stellar holeshots, picked up two podium finishes and qualified fastest a few times.

FORD BROTHERS HONDA 450R GNC MXERS

PACKING THE POWER

Just as the rolling chassis abandons a large percentage of the stock parts, there is not much left of the stock Honda engine after Baldwin Motorsports gets done with it. It does use stock cases, but inside are Baldwin billet transmission gears. The crank starts off stock but has a Carillo rod and a CP piston. Outside of the cases a Hinson complete clutch and cover are mounted. More of the magic happens with the Baldwin-built head and carburetor. A Baldwin full Pro exhaust system is mounted with a carbon FourWerx heat shield between the pipe and the carb. The engine is finished off with Works Connection engine plugs. The engine is fitted with a Baldwin oil cooler and CV4 silicone radiator hoses. A Vortex tunable ignition box was the final major performance mod.

The JB Racing A-arms are +2, and they employ LT-Z450 spindles and Baldwin Motorsports hubs. These are stock calipers, but with DP rotors and pads and Streamline stainless steel brake lines.

FINISHING UP

Just having the engine and a rolling chassis puts you close, but a pro-level race quad needs finishing up. Rath Racing was the source for the front bumper and rear grab bar. Mounted on those are FourWerx carbon fiber number plates. Rath also came up with the pegs and nerf bars. Custom JSR nets fill in the open spaces on the nerfs and heel guards. To go along with the giant Rath pegs, Ford Racing added a Baldwin oversized brake pedal and matched it with the stock shifter on the other side of the machine. The Fords use stock Honda cables.

Cody runs an exhaust header with a large can attached. Both engines are built by Baldwin Motorsports and run Baldwin billet transmission gears and Hinson clutches. There are not many stock parts inside.

SUPPORT SYSTEM

Cody and Bryce’s parents are both retired watercraft racers from California. After they quit racing, they made the move to Texas. Now the family has 200 acres and their own pro-level track to help prep for the races. Both riders are hard trainers, and they have the competition gene from both sides of the family.

The boys had great success on their potent, hand-built, 250cc four-stroke machines. Those machines are not so different in size or even weight, so the transition to the 450cc class was not that dramatic. Just get used to more power. In the meantime, it looks like Bryce will be fourth for ATV pro for the season, and he should be Rookie of the Year. Cody looks good for the Modified-class title, and he is trying to break into the top 10 in points in the Pro class. For now, the youngsters are racing hard, having fun and hoping that Honda will get back into the sport quad arena.

Despite few physical changes in its production run and being out of production for several years, the Honda TRX450R is still an excellent base for a national-level motocross quad.

FORD BROTHERS HONDA 450R GNC MXERS

CONTACTS & PARTS LIST

BALDWIN MOTORSPORTS: (440) 224-2734, www.facebook.com/baldwinmotorsports

Head mods $1200

Twin-row bearing carrier $234.95

Parking brake block-off $12.95

Oversize rear brake pedal $89.99

Spark plug cap holder $74.95

Full pro exhaust $610

Carb with pressed-in adapter $920

Billet transmission $1950

Front hubs $469.95 pair

PEP PB-1 shocks $3,000 (approx)

Streamline Brakes And Controls: (909) 987-4213, www.streamlinebrakes.com

Front SS line $71.99

Rear SS line $32.99

Beringer Brakes USA: (310) 817-5447, www.beringerbrakes.us.com

Radial brake master cylinder $616.99

CP-CARRILLO: (949) 567-9000, www.cp-carrillo.com

Connecting rod $275.75

Piston $252.25

D.I.D. Racing: www.didchain.com

Gold low friction X-ring chain $108.95

DP BRAKES: www.dp-brakes.com

Brake pads $41.90

Brake rotors $102.95

DWT: (800) RACE-RIM, www.dwtracing.com

Champion in a box Rok’N Lock kit $649.95

HINSON RACING: (909) 946-2942, www.hinsonracing.com

Complete clutch kit $1084.99 

ELKA SUSPENSION: (800) 557-0552, www.elkasuspension.com, 

Stage 5 front shocks $1,724.99

Stage 5 rear shock $1,309.99

FourWerx Carbon: (262) 501-9696, www.fwcarbon.com

Carbon fiber hood $185

Universal carbon fiber rear head shield $60

Carbon carburetor heat shield $60

V2 wave seat cover $158

Replacement seat foam $95

Carbon number plates $65

Front $50

Rear $65

Ti bolt kits $578

JSR MOTO DESIGNS: (484) 221-8811, www.jsrmotodesigns.com

Nerf nets: Custom, prices vary 

JB RACING: (814) 922-3523, www.facebook.com/jbatvracing

+2 A-arms with LTR front spindles $1230

Frame gusset kit with lowering mounts $399.95

Racing stem $350

TRX lowering kit (subframe, fender mounts & Pro gas tank $1,800

Long-travel swingarm w/Super-Link $1,249

K&N FILTERS: (800) 858-3333, www.knfilters.com

Air filter $82.99

RENTHAL: www.renthal.com

Fatbar $93.95

TAG METALS RACING: (661) 253-1592, www.tagmetalsracing.com

Tag grips $12.95

MAXIMA USA: www.maximausa.com

Lubricants, coolant and brake fluid Varies

MAXXIS TIRE: www.maxxis.com

RAZR Plus tires:

Front $133

Rear $144

PowerMadd: (651) 462-8465, www.powermadd.com

Power-X hand guards $20

PRECISION RACING PRODUCTS: (209) 365-1850, www.precision-rp.com

Elite stabilizer $599

Handlebar clamps $299

PRO DESIGN RACING: (714) 534-0620, www.prodesignracing.com

ATV kill switch $34.95

RATH RACING: www.rathracing.com, (320) 234-7223

Ti series front bumper $129.95

Rear bumper $129.95

Nerf bars with heel guards $455.95

Ti series grab bar $82.95

TIREBALLS: www.tireballs.com

Front $165

Rear $188

SUNSTAR SPROCKETS: (937) 704-1462, www.sunstar-braking.com

Steel rear sprocket $36.95

Powerdrive countershaft sprocket $23.95

VORTEX IGNITION: www.vortexcdi.com

Ignition $699

WORKS CONNECTION: (530) 642-9488, www.worksconnection.com

Clutch lever with hot start $189.95

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