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Front And Rear Axle Build - Living On 47s, Part Three

Posted in How To on May 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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Front And Rear Axle Build - Living On 47s, Part Three
Photographers: Larry Garcia

Did you ever play with Stompers when you were a kid? For those of us old enough to remember them, just hearing the name of those AA battery-eating little 4x4s brings a huge smile to the face. When we finally finished Matilda with all the hardcore parts we wanted and hopped in to take a spin, it felt like we were mashing down the highway in a super Stomper.

But apparently Matilda does not invoke the same happy childhood memories for all the Orange County residents we've been cruising next to during the last few weeks. While we've seen lots of thumbs-ups, we'll not lie that we've seen some scowls, a few middle fingers, and we've definitely upset one or two compact owners. Ah, the feeling of accomplishment. If they only knew that Matilda was sporting a bunch of recycled parts, running an updated Howell smog-legal fuel injection system to keep the air clean, and might even see a propane conversion soon.... But, that's okay. We take it as a compliment that they distance themselves from us.

We were just so happy to have finished our fullsize Cherokee project (only one month late) that we barely even remembered how much we time and money it took once we hopped in the big daily driver. If you've followed along with our build over the last three issues, we were working with Jeeps R Us to build a daily-driven vehicle on 47-inch tires. It didn't really matter what vehicle we started with because anything this big has to have a similar bombproof build. We were supposed to have it finished in three stories (Part One, Part Two, and Part 2.5) but gathering all the parts necessary to build a front axle from scratch took longer than we thought and necessitated a fourth installment (Part Three) to finish Matilda up and allow some time for testing.

1. Once we decided that the knuckles needed to be turned, we scrambled over to Dynatrac in Huntington Beach, California to get the job knocked out. For around $700, Dynatrac will cut and turn your housing, taking the necessary time to machine the spring perch on the centersection to match up correctly. Once the welds were drilled out and the tubes pressed out, Brian Honsberger checked the outer diameter of the axle tube and compared it to the inner diameter on the centersection. Ideally, Dynatrac wants the axle tubes to be about five thousandths bigger than the centersection to ensure a tight fit when pressing the tubes back in.

The crew at Jeeps R Us worked into the nights during the last few days of the build to get it finished in time for the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area's first annual Roughneck Rendezvous in late January. Did we drive all the way to Ocotillo Wells, 'wheel all day, and drive back that same night successfully? You betcha. Did we find some things we still need to modify and address? Definitely. But overall, we'd call this a giant (Matilda-sized) success.

Our only real disappointment is how much money we ended up spending to accomplish the goal. Granted, we used many new parts instead of hunting around for used parts in classified sections and junkyards, but our "budget" axle builds got tremendously expensive very quickly. We originally intended on splurging on only two things-the ARB lockers and Superior USA-made axleshafts-and we intended for everything else we acquired to be well-priced while still being high-quality. In other words we wanted nice heavy-duty stuff but we didn't need $300 U-joints, titanium ring gears, 50-spline axleshafts, nor diff covers that cost more than our axlehousing. Unfortunately, we still ended up spending almost $6,000 on the front axle alone-and that was starting with an old bare Chevy Dana 60 housing! When you add up the two months of running around for parts and the fuel spent to retrieve them, it honestly would have been cheaper (and faster) to order a custom axle. Of course, there are certain instances where building a used axle is definitely cheaper than new-swapping a complete 1-ton Dodge Dana 60 into a half-ton Dodge of the same era, for instance-but starting from scratch with a totally different vehicular application and then beefing the axle up past what the factory specs were...that can get pricey. When you're considering your next truck build, try to factor in all the incremental costs you wouldn't normally think about. If you have to go pick up parts yourself, how much time did you lose doing so, and how much money would you have made during that time? We're guessing that you'll find that some seemingly expensive alternatives are actually more cost-effective than you originally thought.

View Slideshow

How Did Matilda Work? Honestly, it's just a ton of fun to drive this big Cherokee around. On the freeway, it held 75 mph nicely, and the new Offroad Design-PSC-Reid Racing steering combo kept it manageable even in tight lanes. And we really have to hand it to Pit Bull: before now, we'd never even have dreamed of driving a bias-ply tire regularly, much less a 47-inch bias-ply tire! The big Growlers rolled down the road with relative ease and there wasn't too much noise coming off of them. In the mud they cleared out easily with a little throttle, but we found some horrendously sticky clay that gummed up even these 47s.

13. Please notice the right-side bearing cap on this Dana 60. On certain applications, you'll have to grind out spot for the ARB's air line to pass from the air collar to the axlehousing. And please remember that bearing caps are housing-specific and you can't mix and match.

What Kind of Coin Does It Take? How much does it cost to add 47-inch tires to your 4x4? Take a look at our breakdown. And remember that we were starting with partially-built truck-it already had a high-horsepower 401ci engine, a built 727 tranny, a Dana 300 transfer case, Deaver leaf springs, and some willing participants to do the labor. Don't forget the cost of labor! We could probably double this price tag had we paid someone for all this work instead of doing it ourselves.

14. We didn't just use Superior ring-and-pinion and install kits; we also used one of their killer forged Dana 60 1350 yokes for our front end. Standard 1350 Dana 60 yokes are notorious for being overly weak these days, so spending a little extra ($120) on a forged yoke didn't seem like a bad idea.
Front Axle Build
Bare Dana 60 surplus housing $200
Sandblasting the housing $125
Knuckles turned, housing cut by Dynatrac $695
Parts Mike used caliper brackets $130
ORD draglink and tie rod $370
ORD steering arm $150
ORD pitman arm $70
Reid Racing kingpin knuckles $520
ARP five-stud knuckle kit $40
ARB air locker $780
Superior 5.13:1 ring & pinion $220
Superior install kit $160
Superior Evolution USA 35-spline axle set $1,075
Superior 5-806X axle U-joints $80
Superior forged Dana 60 1350 yoke $120
Dynatrac spindles (pair) $240
Dynatrac hubs (pair) $450
Dynatrac kingpin kits, spindle studs, nuts $160
Bearings $100
Brake calipers and rotors $220
Total front Dana 60 cost $5,905
Rear Axle Build
14 Bolt complete axle $200
ARB air locker $800
Superior 5.13:1 ring & pinion $275
Superior install kit $150
Spring perches $40
Total rear 14 Bolt cost $1,465
View Slideshow
The Price of Fitting 47s
Pit Bull 47-inch Growlers (four) $2,400
Dick Cepek 20x12 wheels (four) $1,000
Completed front Dana 60 axle $5,905
Completed rear 14 Bolt axle $1,465
Deaver U-bolts $70
ORD zero-rate add-a-leafs $40
Taller rear blocks (5.5 inches) $50
Rancho 9000 Pro Series (six) $1,020
PSC steering box modification $250
PSC hydraulic assist kit $180
Metro custom hydraulic lines $200
Amsoil gear lube $65
Dezert Nation shock tabs $55
Two new driveshafts $630
Total Cost of 47-inch tires $13,330

How Did Matilda Work?
Honestly, it's just a ton of fun to drive this big Cherokee around. On the freeway, it held 75 mph nicely, and the new Offroad Design-PSC-Reid Racing steering combo kept it manageable even in tight lanes. And we really have to hand it to Pit Bull: before now, we'd never even have dreamed of driving a bias-ply tire regularly, much less a 47-inch bias-ply tire! The big Growlers rolled down the road with relative ease and there wasn't too much noise coming off of them. In the mud they cleared out easily with a little throttle, but we found some horrendously sticky clay that gummed up even these 47s.

View Slideshow

Sources

AMSOIL
Superior, WI 54880
800-777-8491
www.amsoil.com
Dynatrac
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
714-596-4461
www.dynatrac.com
Superior Axle & Gear
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
888-845-0470
www.superioraxlegear.com
Offroad Design
970-945-7777
www.offroaddesign.com
Jeeps R Us
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
949-497-9183
http://www.jeepsrus.com/
Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels
Stow, OH 44224
330-928-9092
www.dickcepek.com
Pit Bull Tires
St. Louis, MO 63103
800-645-2006
www.pitbulltires.com
Reid Racing
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
925-935-3025
http://www.reidracing.biz/
PSC Motorsports
Azle, TX 76020
817-270-0102
www.pscmotorsports.com
Deaver Suspension
Santa Ana, CA 92701
714-542-3703
www.deaverspring.com
Parts Mike
N/A, AK
530-885-3850
www.partsmike.com
Metro Fluid Connections
Orange County, CA
714-523-7093
Mile Marker
Pompano Beach, FL
800-866-8647
Mile Marker
Dezert Nation
Orange County, CA
949-215-9001
Dezert Nation

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