What if you could have the small size and low weight of a Dana 44 axle, and the brute-strength of a 35-spline Dana 60 axle? What if you wanted an ARB Air Locker to boot? Well, by September of this year you can, and we've installed them. ARB just came out with this prototype unit, which Jason Bunch of Tri County Gear is testing in his competition rockcrawling Jeep.
The basic concern of most 44 users is breaking the front U-joints, even with the high-grade fancy stuff. Conversely, a standard Dana 60 housing is big and heavy, adding weight and reducing ground clearance. Even the high-zoot aftermarket stuff is still bigger and heavier than a shaved 44, so the goal of ARB was to get a selectable locker with 11/2-inch 35-spline axleshafts. Of course, that means using 60 knuckles, end forgings, and joints, but CTM makes killer axles, joints, and outers that should never break in this application. In fact, we still don't know what the weak point will be, but can't wait to find out. Overall weight is about the same as a dialed-in 60, but the clearance is much better.
If you've been climbing over rocks instead of living under one, you know that an ARB Air Locker is a selectable locking differential, as opposed to an open diff. By using compressed air to engage the ARB, it changes from an open diff to a solid locked unit, capable of transmitting 100 percent of the torque to both axles when engaged, a true benefit when four-wheeling. Bunch has used the ARB units for years, and has been a proponent of light weight and strong components in his rigs since he started competing with his mighty four-cylinder Rock Star YJ Wrangler with a 30 front and 44 rear, spinning 37-inch Goodyears.
He's popped a few front axles with this setup and twisted a few rears, so the 35-spline conversion was a good idea, especially now that an Air Locker is available. We set up the front end with one of his custom 44 housings with high-steer 60 knuckles and killer CTM axleshafts. In the rear 44 we concluded with Warn alloy floater axles and Tri County Gear brakes. With 35-spline axles all around, we can't wait to see how they work on the competition circuit. Check out the highlights of what we found, and stay tuned for updates throughout the season.