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1988 Ford F-150 & 1998 Dodge Ram 1500 - Off-Road Mail

Posted in Features on November 1, 2005
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Big Brother's Maine PlaceWhile I'm writing this, I'm sitting in my non-lifted '88 F-150 sunk to the windshield in mud and water. My truck isn't lifted because of Maine's stupid lift laws. No vehicle with ABS may be lifted. No vehicle with ABS may have oversized tires. Vehicles without ABS may be lifted, but not in excess of 5 inches over stock. Tire size is limited to two sizes above stock only, unless the vehicle is registered at more than 10,000 pounds. Vehicles with catalytic converters may only have their exhausts modified after the converters. Straight-through mufflers are not allowed on street vehicles. The list goes on and on.

I'm considering moving to another state just so I can lift my truck. I build modified trucks for a living, and since these laws have been set forth, business has dropped. I love to play off-road, but my little 235/75/R15 Capitol Radial A/Ts won't get me far.

I'd like to write a letter to someone, but I don't know to whom or how. Could you give me some ideas? If not, is there a state close to Maine with laws that would allow me to stay in business?

I'm also hoping you can help me with another fix I'm in. I usually work on V-6- and V-8-powered rigs, but my girlfriend wants a modified 4x4 with a four-cylinder and an automatic transmission. She wants either a small shortbed pickup or a two-door SUV. I know absolutely nothing of these vehicles. The closest I came to building a mini-4x4 is an '88 Bronco II with CJ-7 running gear and a '68 289 V-8 and C-6 engine and tranny. Can you help me decide what to build for her? She likes to play in the mud and attend weekend cruise nights. We like GM and FoMoCo.Jeff Quirrion, P.O.'d in Maine

After reading your letter, we think California's stringent smog laws don't sound so bad after all. We'd still like it if CA got rid of the visual inspection and only worried about what's coming from the tailpipe, but that's another story for another day.

As for choosing another state, we'd start by contacting local AAA offices in the various states that you're considering. Local AAA offices should be able to tell you about lift laws and other vehicle-modification laws that would affect your ability to do business in other states. We'd also contact the DMV in those same states and ask the same questions.

As for the prospective truck for your girlfriend, a C-6 tranny is definitely overkill for a lightweight truck with a small V-8. A C-4 would be sufficient, although if you already have the C-6 ready to go, install it and go have some fun. An easier frontend to swap in would be a Dana 35 Twin Traction Beam setup from a '90-or-later Ranger or Explorer equipped with a 4.0L V-6. The D35 will bolt into the Bronco II's pivot brackets, and will give you a stronger ring gear and 297-x U-joints, which are the same size as those used in the Dana 44.

If you want to go with a Chevy, consider a 4WD S-10 Blazer. Find one with a 4.3L V-6 and a 700 R-4/4L60-E. Swap in a front Dana 30 from a YJ Wrangler, along with the necessary suspension hardware, and hit the mud bogs and cruise nights.

Painted Into A CornerI own a '98 Dodge Ram 1500 and I just installed four BFG A/Ts, size 35x12.50x15. My truck currently has a 4-inch suspension lift, and now I have a serious rubbing problem when I make anything close to a tight turn. I am on a limited budget and need to know what is the easiest/cheapest way to get the clearance I need so I don't ruin my new tires. I don't want to take a Sawzall to the body, and local shops want at least $800 to install a 3-inch body lift. I only need to lift the frontend, as I have airbags on the rear that I can level the truck with.Mike Figueroa, Chuluota, Florida

There are a few ways out of this situation, but all of them involve some money or some time.Body lift pucks are fairly cheap, but any shop that properly installs a body lift will take the time to correct all of the issues that come with spacing the body farther from the frame. These issues include, but are not limited to, lowering the radiator, stretching gas filler tubes, extending brake lines, extending wiring, and extending the steering shaft. When all of the ancillary tasks needed to compensate for the body lift are taken into account, it's easy to see why a seemingly simple product installation could cost what it does. We don't know what you do for a living, but if you've got a mechanically inclined friend or two, you could trade some of your skills for help with installing the body lift.

Another approach might be to buy a taller suspension lift, have it installed, and sell your current lift. Among the manufacturers listed in our Suspension Buyer's Guide in the Sept. '05 issue, BDS, Fabtech, Full Force, and Full Throttle have suspension systems available that will let you run your 35s.

If a body lift or a taller suspension lift aren't in the cards for you right now, the best way to make your truck functional would be to install a set of 33s. We'd take a well-working truck on 33s any day over a crippled truck shod with 35s.

Editor's NoteIf you have any questions, comments, rants, or raves, please feel free to contact us at Off-Road magazine, Mailbox, 2400 E. Katella Ave., 7th Floor, Anaheim, CA 92806. You can e-mail us at kevin.blumer@primedia.com.

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