Your Questions, Our Answers
Opinions on a Jeep Fighter
Q It is no secret that Chevy powerplants are the most swapped in motors across the board in automobile projects. That said, why doesn’t the General build a 4x4 that is a direct competitor for a Jeep? A small solid-axle selectable transfer case vehicle from GM would be great, in my opinion. Do you think there is any chance in persuading them to get started on such a thing?
A Wow, great question! General Motors almost had an awesome competitor with the Hummer HX concept vehicle revealed back in 2008 that was pointing toward a cool open-topped 4x4. However, with the economic slump the Hummer brand died and with it the last GM 4x4 dedicated to off-roading. With the booming success of the Jeep Wrangler you would think GM would delve into that arena, but I don’t think you’ll see anything soon—especially since GM doesn’t have a solid front axle in any of its 4x4s. I do think the new Colorado (or whatever is slated to replace the Colorado) could be a great little 4x4. The rumor mill says small diesel engine options. But again, I doubt you’ll see a solid-front-axle competitor from GM.
So if not GM, why has no one else shown up to compete with the Jeep Wrangler? Ford opted to build a go-fast truck instead, and that is admirable, though I still wonder if we could ever see a new Bronco. Imagine one with an EcoBoost V-6 and solid axles. Toyota built the very capable FJ Cruiser, but it could have used a better body design for visibility, plus I agree a solid front axle would have been great for rockcrawling. Nissan’s Xterra is no slouch off-road, and yet it also is missing the solid front axle that so many off-roaders covet. Land Rover is still spinning around a new Defender concept, but its vehicles are usually priced outside the Wrangler market. The same with Mercedes and its übercool solid-axle G-Wagon, which cost more than two new Wranglers.
The body-on-frame, solid-front-axle recipe seems to be a hang up for many OEMs, especially now that fuel economy is so important to our government, and thus regulated to the automakers. In fact, Jeep is probably working double time to both fulfill all the Wrangler orders and figure out how to make it more fuel efficient, or offset these sales with other more fuel-efficient vehicles in the Jeep lineup.
Finally, this brings up one big question. If a Jeep was built by any other company and it wasn’t called a Jeep, would it sell as well? I’m sure GM and Ford guys would buy a new Blazer or Bronco, but would they buy a solid-axle, body-on-frame 4x4 made by someone else, like Hyundai? Kia? Or …?
Q I am looking for some insight on an SAS (solid axle swap) on my ’84 S-10 Blazer. I have had this truck since I was 16 and can’t give up on her. I have always wanted to do a SAS on it. The IFS stinks—no flex—and has bound me up before. I am interested in the Offroad Design kit, which suggests a few axles that will work with the kit. I have recently run across a ’79 F-250 D44 front with 4.10s. The spring perches are the correct width, but I am unsure about the pros and cons of a full-width axle under a midsize truck. The axle measures roughly 68 inches wide and with rims will increase my track width by 8 inches on each side if I get 5-inch backspacing on a 10-inch wide wheel. I am hoping to run 33-12.50 or maybe 35s if I can fit them. I also found an ’02 Sterling rear axle from a Ford that I could swap for the rear; this would also increase the width by 8 inches. I figured I would contact the pros. Thanks for the Info.
Eric L. Via firstname.lastname@example.org
A You have a great little truck with your S10. However, I assume you don’t have the more powerful 4.3L V-6. I understand your desire to build the truck, as it holds some emotional attachment for you, but I will warn you that you may want to upgrade to a more powerful engine down the road.
The solid-axle swap kit offered by Offroad Design, aka ORD (www.offroaddesign.com), is for a fullsize truck, not your S10. However, the ORD you’re talking about may be Off-Road Direct (www.offroaddirect.com), which does list a SAS kit for your truck.
I think it would suit you best to find a set of axles from the same truck if you are on a budget. Getting a matching set of, say, a Ford 44 and 9-inch (F-150), or Ford 44 and 60 (F-250), should ensure that you have matching gear ratios, bolt patterns, and similar overall widths. Ford was pretty good about running matching front and rear track widths.
I do not see a major problem with going with a full-width axle under your midsize (small) truck. Off-road you’ll have the benefit of stability and tires that can hold the body away from rocks, trees, and other obstacles. On-road you will likely need to run mud flaps or some sort of removable flares. If you go with an eight-lug axle, note that most factory late-model eight-lug truck wheels have a lot of backspacing, good for helping pull the tires back in near the body. One I’d suggest is a set of late-model Dodge Power Wagon wheels. They have a lot of backspacing and are a lightweight forged 17-inch aluminum wheel with an 8-on-61⁄2 bolt pattern. Finding a 5-on-51⁄2 bolt pattern wheel with a lot of backspacing and a center hole to clear a front Dana 44 hub will be more difficult, especially if you are looking at a 17-inch rim.
Q Prior to Chrysler’s bankruptcy, I understood they were developing a bolt-in kit to fit the VM 2.8L diesel into the TJ and possibly the YJ. Is the new Chrysler/Fiat going to still offer that kit through, perhaps, the Mopar division, or is it a scrapped project? It would be too bad if they shelved that project since not only were the torque numbers at low rpm a little more than the gas sixes, but the mileage should have been in the 20-plus range both in city and on the highway.
Lake Balboa, CA
A We actually reported on this engine swap back in 2008 and since then have heard that it is not going to happen. You can stop holding your breath. Sorry. If your heart’s set on a diesel swap, Burnsville Off Road (www.burnsvilleoff road.com) offers 2.8L conversions. Another option is a Volkswagen TDI conversion from Coty Built (www.cotybuilt.com), as shown in New Products this month.
Tire Store or Store Tire
Q Is there any way to beat dry rot if you have to park or store a vehicle for long periods of time? Due to moving eight hours away and living in an apartment in a bad neighborhood, I had to park my Jeep at my parents’ house for about four years. After finally securing a nice duplex in a safer town, I towed my ’81 CJ-5 up here. I had some decently new (plenty of tread) 35X12.50 Kumho M/T Road Ventures mounted prior to parking. After about two weeks of driving I noticed tiny cracks in the sidewalls. Shortly after that my tires would no longer hold air, and I ended up having to replace my 35s with some $100 32X10.50 A/T tires. I am planning to put some work into my Jeep, and it might have to sit while I’m doing so. Any tips to avoid this problem again?
A The best way to store tires is put each tire in a bag (say, a large garbage bag) so they are airtight to reduce oil evaporation, then stack them in a cool dry place. This means putting your Jeep up on jackstands or other roller tires you’re not concerned with if possible. Sunlight can really affect tires, so storing them like this in a basement is a better option. Tires do have build dates on them and will not last forever, but care can be taken to make them last a while. If you can’t store them like this it would be better to sell them or have someone drive the Jeep periodically to keep them flexible.
Of course, tires are only one concern for a vehicle that is stored for a long time. If you have to store your vehicle again, we recommend you fill the gas tank and add some Stabl to keep it from gumming up. Stuff a rag or some steel wool in the tailpipe to keep any critters from making a home in there, and don’t set the parking brake because the shoes can stick to the drums. Disconnect the battery and plan to charge it prior to driving the vehicle. I’d also recommend changing all of the fluids (oil, coolant, brake fluid) when you start driving it again, as they can absorb water over time.