Daily Driving A Solid-Axle Swap Chevy
We've been banging around in our solid-axle '98 Tahoe for about six months, and so far it's been working out great. The 1-ton axles have really helped a lot, as have the 37-inch tires we were able to put on after the Fabworx solid-axle swap was performed. They used a front Ford Dana 60 axle and grafted it under our half-ton SUV, and We matched it with a rear GM 14-Bolt axle to give 1-ton strength to our Tahoe's axles.
Why a Tahoe instead of a truck? Well, for one, it's what we had to work with. It still gets daily driven to and from work, and doubles as a great weekend off-roader and miniature RV for camping trips. On top of that, we like the fact that using a Tahoe instead of a truck makes our build a little unique.
If you refer back to our July 2010 issue, you might remember that we originally put blocks in the rear of this truck, just to make it home to Southern California from Northern California. Since then, we've gone back to Atlas Leaf Spring and gotten a pair of leaf springs and 2-inch-tall blocks for the rear that hold our Tahoe at a more level height.
Again, we're amazed at how well the matching seven-leaf rear packs flex.
Another addition to the Tahoe has been a rear disc brake kit from Blackbird Custom Trucks. We have mixed feelings about rear disc brake kits with built-in emergency brakes (depending on what type of kit it is) so we acquired a non E-brake rear disc kit. It came with caliper brackets, calipers, rotors, and the necessary hardware.
Though we don't often see large improvements when switching from drum brakes to discs in the rear (there is a long explanation why-it has to do with the stock master cylinder), these rear disc brakes really seemed to have improved our braking abilities.
The six-inch-longer Atlas leaves allow a lot of flex in the front end. At the same time, they're firm enough to keep the truck steady on the road. We don't use a sway bar at all on this truck. Even so, the handling improved tenfold, as did the highway cruiseability when we swapped from the lifted IFS to the solid axle-and-leaf spring setup.
The F-O-A remote reservoir shocks have also been working out great. We asked for some pretty standard valving in the 12-inch-stroke shocks after giving F-O-A the weights for the front and rear of the vehicle. The fronts might need a little stiffer valving if we start jumping it, but overall ride is great with the shocks
We shod our 1-Ton Tahoe with some 37-inch Goodyear MTRs that we got sent to our doorstep from Discount Tire Direct. They were mounted onto a set of 17x9 Liquid Metal Gatlin wheels when we got them-a nice package to be sure.
When we did the solid axle swap and added the larger tires, we also swapped in G2 gears and bearings into the front Dana 60 and rear 14-Bolt. We loaded both axles with 4.88 gears, giving our Tahoe a little higher rpm at cruising speeds than it originally had. But it accelerates so much faster than it did before....
We also capped off both axles with aluminum G2 differential covers that dissipate heat faster and hold more fluid in the axle than the original covers did.
The front Fabworx Off Road solid axle swap kit went onto the frame with factory-like fitment, after all the independent front suspension and IFS hangers were removed.
The Atlas leaf springs we used to lift the front have settled to their permanent ride height, and are softer than we thought a seven-leaf pack could be. They are six inches longer than a standard '73-to-'87 leaf spring and therefore have a less severe arch in the pack to achieve the same amount of lift.
We haven't seen any tweaking on the spring perches due to rough use and abuse, and there is zero noise coming from any of the bolt-on leaf spring hangers and crossmembers.
The steering was built using GM tie rod ends, DOM tubing for a draglink, and the factory Ford tie rod. A Superlift pitman arm was used on the stock steering box to move the draglink. So far, the steering still feels tight and nothing has worn out. Any bigger tire than a 37, and we definitely would have opted for a hydraulic-assist steering kit.
Sharp eyes might also notice that we had some front driveshaft troubles. The issues were unrelated to the amount of lift or suspension flex this Tahoe has, and will be resolved by the time you read this.
Even though we have a good amount of flex in both ends, the rear tires do get into the back of the fenders when really stuffed. Unfortunately, this isn't something we can remedy without doing a fair amount of fender trimming. And if we trim, then we'll have to ditch the fender flares, leaving us more susceptible to tire tickets