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October 2010 Nuts & Bolts

1978 Ford F150 Driver Front
Fred Williams
| Brand Manager, Petersen’s 4Wheel & Off Road
Posted October 1, 2010

Willys Restoration, Heirloom Cruiser & More!

Floating or locking?
Q I'm 15 and I own a '78 Ford F-150 that was my grandfather's. I'm considering a 4-inch lift and 35s. It's nothing extreme, but I want it to be capable. I would like to convert the 9-inch differential to a full-floater, but I don't know whether to wait on that and get a locker first, or should I get a full-floater conversion kit and then just weld the spider gears inside of the carrier? I've been debating this for the last four months and would really like to hear someone's opinion on it.
Zach R.
Olivehurst, CA

A Before you spend money on a full-floater kit, let's compare it to a locking rear differential. A full-floating axle is good because it takes the stress off your axleshaft and puts the entire weight-carrying load on a spindle that is bolted or welded to your axlehousing. This is smart if you are carrying heavy loads, plus if you break an axleshaft you can remove the internal shaft parts and the wheel and hub can stay in place. These are all good points. However, by choosing this you have decided to then weld up your rear differential instead of buying a locker.

A selectable locker like an ARB Air Locker or automatic Detroit Locker will allow some differentiation of tire speed when going around a corner on the street (but not when the ARB is engaged); this is not true of a welded or spool rear diff. This differentiation of tire speeds is much better for tire life and axle parts. You don't want to wear out those new 35s right away, do you? If it were me, I'd keep the semifloating rear axle setup and instead get a quality locker (the Detroit is usually less expensive). If you can afford it, get a 35-spline unit and upgrade to some quality 11/2-inch 35-spline semifloating rear axleshafts I think you'll have a very strong rear axle capable of living up to the 35 long enough to pass the truck on to your grandson someday.

Which J?
Q Hi. I am 13 years old and currently in possession of an old WWII Willys Jeep. I am planning to restore it or at least make it roadworthy. I was wondering if you could tell what it is by the photos and where I can find parts for it in Ontario, Canada.
Tylor F.
Ontario, Canada

A I showed your photos to the resident Willys flatfender Jeep expert here (Editor Péwé), and after drooling over the photos he determined that it is a '50s/'60s Willys-Overland Kaiser-Frazer CJ-3B. The larger speedometer signifies it as a later model, probably in the mid '60s. However, Kaiser-Frazer, the company that owned Jeep at that time, started discontinuing the Willys name in the mid '60s, so yours may be early '60s. A great early Jeep information site is The CJ3B Page,

I don't know of a Jeep parts house in Ontario, but there are many good restoration/modification companies out there such as Willys America (, Willys Overland (, and Walck's 4 Wheel Drive (

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