Back when Baja racing was all the rage out in California out in the hilly desert terrain, the California Lean or the Cali Lean trend in trucks emerged. Sometimes referred to as the Carolina Squat, the Cali Lean trend involves people squatting their trucks.
They elevate the front of the truck while the rear gets lowered or left alone. The front end of the truck is higher than the rear so that when you hit a jump at a high speed the rear hits first. It reduces the chances that your truck will nose dive and crash when hitting hills fast and going airborne.
Granted, some people just like the look of such a truck set up. Some Cali Lean configurations are subtle compared to others. Outside of aesthetics, are there any practical reasons for this trend?
Here are some reasons why the Cali Lean trend should probably go away.
No practical use unless you’re into extreme offroading
Unless you plan to offroad at high speeds in your quest to be a weekend warrior, there’s no practical reason to squat your truck.
Jokes about not being able to afford a full lift kit aside, squatting your truck isn’t a free or simple process. It’s achieved in different ways. Most people install the front half of a lift kit and leave the back untouched.
Those who want a more extreme appearance might go so far as removing the rear blocks or use a lowering kit on the rear to drop it low. People remember the Baja truck era and the Prerunner trucks from not long ago. They were buying trucks when the economy was in a better place and gas was cheaper according to the guys at the Custom Offsets YouTube channel. Then they converted them to that particular style.
The Baja trucks and the prerunners, however, were designed with mid-travel or long-travel suspensions so they could take bumps and hills at high speeds. Even if you’re using a spacer lift or a strut-replacement lift on the front end, your modified truck probably wasn’t intended for that type of offroad usage.
That means the trend is primarily about appearance with little in the way of practical application. If you’re into offroading, you probably know the long travel kits are good for hitting bumps going fast. With the front end higher when the truck is airborne, the center of gravity is lower if the rear is lower.
This translates to a better chance of a solid landing because the rear tires will touch down first, keeping the truck from diving nose first and crashing. It helps keep the truck level with both sets of wheels landing around the same time even though the body is actually at an angle. It provides a better landing if you’re a daredevil with better vehicle control.
Truck squatting has plenty of disadvantages
If you’re ever paid attention to the drivers of Cali Lean trucks, you might notice that if they’re wearing a ball cap, they have it on backward. Why? They can’t see out of the windshield if the brim is in the front because of the angle they are sitting at.
For that matter, where are the headlights pointing at such an angle? Can they still even provide the light you need? While we’re talking about safety, do you still have the view you need of traffic to drive safely?
Cost is another consideration. If it’s a milder version of the look you’re going for, sure. You might save a little money by only having to buy the front lift kit. If you do it right, however, it will cost you a lot more than just a standard lift kit.
The Cali Lean technically can be done with a standard lift kit, the guys at Custom Offsets don’t recommend it. A long travel kit is better. And more expensive. To get the look they want, some will buy a lift kit for the front, a lowering kit for the rear.
Companies who sell such kits sometime limit what you can achieve with basic kits. You’ll pay a lot more for a custom, extreme look. Plus, those custom kits aren’t just sold on the internet. You’ll need to talk to someone at the company before you buy it.
When it comes to towing, with the modification to your truck, your towing ability will be affected and not in a good way. Depending on how much weight you need to tow and the angle of the truck, towing and steering will either be really difficult or off the table.
The opinions on Cali Lean from different truck enthusiasts vary. Some don’t mind a mild modification while others want an extreme look. Some think it’s okay to squat their trucks while others advise against doing so.
At the end of the day, if you’re into offroad racing or you like going for a joyride now and again and can afford to have an extra vehicle for that purpose, modifying a truck in the Cali Lean style might be something you’re interested in.
Otherwise, the trend is one that needs to ride away into the offroad sunset. With the potential impact on the truck’s safety and towing capacity, not to mention the additional cost, truck squatting has more cons than pros.