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Off-Road Unloaded - Letters to the Editor - April 2010

Posted in Features on April 1, 2010
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S-10 Builders
I'm building an S-10 Blazer. The front end is lifted with new torsion keys and the rear is lifted with hangers. It also has a 3-inch body lift and clears 31-inch Super Swamper LTBs. It has a new remanufactured 2.8L with a five-speed tranny. I also have a Posi-Lock kit to rid my truck of the vacuum 4WD, and an MSD ignition kit. I even put on a Holley TBI and Flowmaster exhaust. What other modifications could I do to get a little more power out of the 2.8L and to make it a better off-road vehicle? Thanks for the help.
William Fisher III
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

I just recently joined the army, so I have a little bit of cash rolling in now. I'm building an '85 S-10 Blazer 4x4 with a 3-inch body lift and 31-inch tires. I want to put a 2-inch suspension lift on it and 34- or 35-inch tires, but I'm having a rough time finding lifts for it. Do you have any suggestions on the lift? It also has a 2.8L V-6 in it and I want to keep it matching numbers, so do you have any power add-ons for a 2.8L, or any read end suggestions? Thanks, I appreciate it
Vince Johnson
Fort Jackson, South Carolina

Guys, you two are asking very similar questions, but I think William's email answered a lot of what Vince was asking about. Both of you could also benefit from adding an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold for '82-to-'85 2.8L V-6 engines.

And Vince, Rough Country ( offers a nice 2-inch torsion lift for your era S-10. It comes not only with torsion bar keys for the lift, but also new ball joints and upper A-arms to keep everything in proper alignment. Shackles lift the rear up an inch and you should be able to get a little more tire under your truck.

My First Ramcharger
I am an 18-year-old student at Reardan High School and I have been reading your magazine since early June. Your mag has been great for me as most of the other magazines focus on Jeeps or extreme rigs or trails on the other side of the country. I'm looking at lifting my '89 Dodge Ramcharger so that I can fit some 35-inch tires on it and get around in the mud and trees better. I have three problems. My first problem is that I have never done this myself and I don't know anyone who has. The local shops are telling me many different things depending on the brand that they sell, and some are badmouthing other brands. I have been told that a Trailmaster kit that would cost me less than $500, but another place told me that it wouldn't last as long. My second issue is that my gear ratio is only 3.55:1. I have been told that 4.10s would work great but also told that I would need 4.56s. My last problem is, like most high school students, I don't have much money. Even though the farmers in the area pay well, it is hard finding time during the week after school and sports. My Dodge is a daily driver but during the winter it can be like driving off-road just getting to school due to the heavy snow drifting in the area that shuts down roads to most drivers. My Ramcharger is all stock except for the front bumper that I built and the Fitch fuel catalyst unit that I put on after seeing it in one of your mags. What is the best set up can I get that will work best for me and not break the bank? Also if you could point me in the direction of a good set of tires for on and off-highway use, that would be great.
Karl Untiedt,
Spokane, Washington

Karl, unfortunately, Trailmaster has recently stopped making this old Dodge suspension, so you are outta luck there, but Skyjacker and Rancho both still have suspensions available. You'll spend less money if you get a kit with front leaves and rear blocks, and you could always upgrade to replacement rear leaf springs later. All you're going to need is a 4-inch lift to fit 35-inch tires on your Ramcharger, and your gear ratio is fine for a V-8 daily driver with 35-inch tires. The 4.56:1 gears would be better, but that's going to cost you around a thousand dollars to do both front and rear ends, and you'll find 3.55 gears are just fine for your 35s on the highway and for moderate off-roading.

Does your high school have an auto shop (I hope so)? If so, sign up and I bet the instructor will let you rip into your Ramcharger for credit, and will be able to help you through the process. Otherwise, start reading up on articles and you can decide for yourself if it seems like something you could do. But you'll need to make sure you have enough tools and jackstands to do the job safely. If you don't, I'd suggest befriending one of your local repair shops and seeing if you could pay them to install the suspension while you help. Having someone showing you what to do the first time around is worth a lot.

As for tires, I'd suggest trying an aggressive all-terrain like a Cepek F-C II.

Suspension Control
Hey Jerrod, amen, brother! I just got the February '10 issue of the magazine and I love the Rant, and couldn't agree more with your sentiments on suspension travel. I am by no means a suspension genius. As a matter of fact I'm still trying to figure out how the heck to tune a bypass shock, but I feel like suspension tuning is the key, and is vastly more important than how many inches you have (haha). And I also totally agree about the Raptor. If you watch any video on Youtube of the thing blasting through the rough terrain, you can tell the massive amount of time and money that was put into the suspension R&D from both Fox and Ford-even though it only has 11 inches of travel. Anyway, keep up the cool articles, man, and I love the magazine!
Brian Katke

Disc Brake Retrofitting
Hi, my name is Robert Luna.
I have a 1961 Chevy 1/2 ton 4x4 (stock, factory). I have been working on this truck for about 4 years now, and I am trying to keep it somewhat stock. I have a 12-inch lift and a small block for power. I do all the work on the truck myself (as much as I can do). But now I am at a roadblock and I'm writing to see if you can help. My stopping power is not the best. Working with the stock axles, I have been trying to find someone who can tell me what's my best option. I can't find a disc brake kit for it and everyone has their own idea of what axles to put under it. Agh, what to do?! Can you give me any help? I want to leave the stock axles if I can, but go to disc brakes. Or what axles can I put under it to give me a nice balance of off-roading and highway driving? Can you give some recommendations what axles (new or from the junkyard) would work? Thanks.
Robert Luna

You have a cool truck, Robert, and I totally understand wanting to keep the stock axles under it. But according to my sources, GM started putting the Dana 44 under their 4x4 trucks in 1960, which means it wouldn't be sacrilege to swap out this old Dana 44 for a newer GM Dana 44 with disc brakes. For cheaper than you could retrofit disc brakes onto your existing axle, you could buy a 1970's front Dana 44 (for around $250) and swap it under your sweet '61 Chevy. The swap and changeover to disc brakes would definitely be worth it.

This issue our Letter of the Month author is getting hooked up with some gear from Local Clothing. Local Clothing has beanies, shirts and hats that you can buy direct from, or you can buy from local retailers carrying the Local gear. Get yours by calling (707) 938-0407.

No Holiday Savings!
Dear Editor,
I enjoyed OFF-ROAD's recent article, Holiday Gifting Guide (January '10 issue).

My hat is once again off to the maker of the featured tree strap in the said holiday article. Once again, Warn has succeeded in offering a simple, typical off-road device (this time a tree strap) at a ridiculously inflated price. $82 for a tree strap? Yeah, good one.

The reason I thank them, however, is that, as a result of their corporate greed, other comparable, reliable and durable off-road products have sprung up all over the marketplace to offer the real-world wheeler competitive products at a reasonable cost. Example? How about a $300, 8,000-pound winch. Yeah, it's made in China, but so what? Everything else is, too. Smittybilt offers this series wound, high horsepower motor and fast line speed winch for a low price. I recently purchased one along with an Ultimate Air portable tank. Let's see, the savings here over Warn's PowerPlant? Oh, about $1,000.

As for tree straps, they're all over Ebay starting at $10. And we're talking brand names, here, with the same features as the Warn product. And have you ever priced a recovery kit? Take out a second mortgage.
Jason Treadaway,
Marietta, Georgia

Jason, I cannot answer or speak for anyone at Warn, but I can make an argument that, generally, the more money you pay for an item, the better quality the item is. Of course, that's not always the case, and there is the possibility of corporate greed adding to inflated prices, but you could also be paying a higher cost for a product made in the USA. It's too bad that many U.S. companies and industries have to have their products made overseas to stay competitive in the market, and I'm sure every one of them would rather sport a "Made in USA" label.

But no matter what, I'm all for "speaking your mind," so yours is our Letter of the Month and you're getting hooked up with some Local Clothing to help save some cash for those off-road parts!

Editor's Note: If you want to say or ask something, email Unloaded at or write: Unloaded, OFF-ROAD Magazine, 2400 E. Katella Ave., Ste. 1100, Anaheim, CA 92806.

Remember, we're giving away swag every month to the author of our favorite letter. Be sure to include your address, so we know where to send your goods. And because we lost our copyeditor, please know that we are not going to be copyediting your letter if you are going to be hating on us, so you better check it over well before sending it our way! Thanks!

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