Q I have an '94 Mazda B3000 SE Cab Plus. It is 2WD, with a 3.0 V-6, a five-speed, and a stock 7.5 rearend with 3.45 stock gears. I purchased the truck in 2001 to get myself back and forth to work and school. When I got out of school, I wanted a newer 4x4 truck but just couldn't afford it (and still can't). I decided in 2004 to get a 3-inch Skyjacker body lift, 15x10 Pacer wheels, and a set of 32x11.50 BFG All Terrain T/As. Since then I've added a Daystar 2-inch front coil spring spacer set, Skyjacker shocks, a Rancho steering stabilizer, a cool air inlet, MagnaFlow cat-back exhaust, and MSD Ignition wires, coil, and distributor cap/rotor. The rest of the truck is stock, with nearly 300,000 miles on the clock. My question is, What can I do to make my truck more off-road capable but still a good daily driver? I know it's a 2WD truck with a weak motor and rear, but I'm not looking to run the UA in this. I just want to go to an off-road park somewhere with my girl and friends and ride some easy trails, or even maybe get into some minor trails.
I've asked around and have received many different answers about what I should do. Some have told me to get a nice locker, taller gears, and a winch and call it a day. Others have suggested a full 4WD swap from a wrecked Ranger of the same year. And others have suggested I just sell my truck and start from scratch with something 4WD. I know that I'm limited in what I can do because I'm 2WD, but most people have told me I could have a decent off-road daily driver with what I have now.
I'm relatively new to off-roading. I'm more of a road/drag racing guy, with driveway space shared with a modified '98 Mustang GT. Also, just like everyone else, I'm on an übertight budget (which is why I can't afford a better truck). Please help me out. Thanks.
A The cheapest thing you can do is install some tow hooks, buy a good recovery strap like a Bubba Rope (www.bubbarope.com), buy a Hi-Lift Jack (www.hi-lift.com), and find a friend with a 4x4 to go wheeling with you.
If you are past that point and ready to spend the money, building up a good rear axle with a locker would be the next best option. Maybe you can watch the classified ads for a Ford Ranger 8.8-inch rear axle that someone has put a locking differential in.
A winch is also another great upgrade. Though not cheap, it will get you out of many messy situations. But don't forget you'll need a good winch bumper or a receiver hitch mount.
Any conversion and work you do will take time, money, or both. Selling your truck and buying a 4x4 will offer a better platform to start from, but if you take your time and watch for deals, you'll be able to build your truck eventually.
Check out Ali Mansour's Ultimate Danger Ranger project on our website, www.4wheeloffroad.com.
Q I recently got back from a tour in Iraq and finished my '88 Samurai rockcrawler. Everything works perfect on it, from the Toyota axles to the 6:1 transfer case. But the one problem I have is that awful 1.3L carb engine. I've been looking at different kits to put a bigger motor in it, but I'm really wanting to go with a Cummins 4BT four-cylinder diesel. The problem is that I cannot find any place that makes an adapter to match it up to the Samurai transmission. Can you help me?
A A Cummins 4BT is not a good engine for your project. It is as heavy as a big-block gas engine and has gobs of torque to match. It will destroy your Samurai transmission. Your frame is not strong enough, and your Toyota axle will have a hard time withholding the power and weight. Why not look into a Volkswagen diesel conversion? This engine is smaller and very efficient and will impress you compared to the 1.3L. Acme Adapters offers a kit (www.acmeadapters.com). Most Cummins 4BT engines I have seen are attached to a GM SM 465, or a TH400; both are very robust and heavy transmissions.
Q Do you know of anyone who offers a lift kit for an '00 AWD Chevy Astro van? Or how close the suspension is to an S-10?
A Yes, Overland Vans (www.overlandvans.com) offers 2-, 4-, and 8-inch suspension lifts for Astro vans and a 4-inch suspension lift for '96-'02 GM 1500 and 2500 fullsize vans.
Q I'm confused and need some assistance. Winter approaches, and I am now the owner of an '04 Chevy Avalanche 4x4. We get good amounts of snow and ice, so here is my question. It has the typical 2WD, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo. But it also has auto 4WD. I am wondering which one to use. 4-Lo is best in the really bad stuff, but the 4-Hi or auto 4WD is where I need help. I would appreciate any help on this so that I don't tear anything up or get stuck. Thanks.
Great Bend, KS
A Your transfer case is an GM AutoTrac. It has clutches inside that allow the front and rear axles to spin at different speeds when in auto 4WD but continue to transfer power to the axle with the most traction. Auto 4WD is what you want for snowy roads. This way you can drive on hard asphalt with all four tires driving but also have traction on hand for icy or snowy patches. 4-Hi connects the front and rear driveshaft, whereas 4-Lo also adds additional gearing. 2-Hi only sends power to the rear axle. It is recommended that 4-Hi and 4-Lo be used only on terrain that has some give, such as dirt and mud or rocks and snow. On asphalt or snow-covered asphalt, use auto 4WD or 2-Hi.
Nuts, I'm Confused
Q I am rebuilding an '88 Toyota 4Runner from the ground up, and I have a couple questions that are bugging me. I would really appreciate your input. This truck will spend 85 percent of the time on the street with an occasional trip to Turkey Bay OHV and some time on logging roads for hunting and fishing.
I want to replace all the bushings and body mounts, but I can't decide between rubber and polyurethane. I know urethane will improve street performance, but how much of an impact will it have off-road on a basically stock truck?
My second question is about wheel diameter with smaller tires (31-33 inches). Larger wheels and shorter sidewalls on the tires also help street performance, but how much does this take away from the tires' performance off-road if they are not aired down? This is going to be a true dual-use truck, and I want to get as close as I can to "the best of both worlds."
A I can understand your concerns over rigidity versus flex between rubber and poly, but I think the poly bushing offer excellent longevity versus rubber. Having suspension bushings with a slight amount of flex is important, but too much movement can be a problem also.
I took your question to the crew at Daystar and got the following response: "It looks like you have a project with great potential; those Toyotas are practically bulletproof, and with a little TLC your 4Runner should provide years of reliable service. Considering the age of your vehicle (again, it's an oldie but a goodie!), one of the most dramatic handling improvements you can make to your vehicle is replacing the worn-out rubber components with polyurethane.
"There are several advantages to using polyurethane. First is longevity; as you can see with your stock rubber parts, rubber breaks down over time as it is subjected to the elements and vehicle fluids. Polyurethane is highly resistant to chemicals, the elements, and road grime; basically it will last for the life of the vehicle. Polyurethane also offers less deflection under load, which means that it improves handling by keeping the suspension components firmly in their mounts, while rubber allows the components to move around in ways other than desired.
"These handling improvements will be equally appreciated both on- and off-road. Cornering will improve on the street, while the suspension will feel more precise and surefooted when blasting down those logging roads. Even the polyurethane body mounts will help by keeping the body properly centered on the frame and eliminating the movement that the stock mounts are no doubt allowing now.
"The last thing to consider is cost and availability. Several affordable polyurethane master bushing kits are available for your vehicle, while you may have trouble finding replacement rubber bushings and body mounts for your vehicle, and they will most likely be more expensive than their polyurethane equivalents."
Here is the best part: the Daystar folks are going to send you a kit for your truck as the prize for writing this month's Nuts, I'm Confused letter! Thanks for your letter.
Confused? Email your questions about trucks, 4x4s, and off-roading tech using "Nuts, I'm confused" as the subject and include a picture (if it's applicable). Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file. Also, I'll be checking the forums on our website (www.4wheeloffroad.com), and if I see a question that I think more of you might want to have answered, I'll print that as well. Otherwise drop it old-school style with the envelope addressed to the address below. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes.
Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245
fax to: 310.531.9368
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org