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September 2011 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on September 1, 2011
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I Broke My Willys!
I have a ’48 Willys CJ-2A that I have been building for the better part of eight years. It started life on 31-inch Wildcats and moved up to 33-inch BFGoodrich mud-terrains. Currently it sits on 37-inch Goodyear Wrangler MTRs. I swapped out the axles first from a 41 rear to a 44 rear. It now has full-width, 30-spline Dana 44s front and rear. The back has been welded solid; the front remains open. The drivetrain is a Chevy 283ci V-8 bolted to a Muncie 4 Speed adapted to a Dana 18 transfer case.

Upon completion, I tested it in a buddy’s field and found an old car and climbed it, breaking the adapter between tranny and transfer. I was wondering if there is a place that sells used adapters (due to lack of money) so I can get it on the trails again. Or maybe you have some good transmission replacement ideas that will remove the adapter all together.
Branden C.

I also have a late-’40s flatfender with a 283, a Muncie SM-420, and a model 18 transfer case. After scraping years of mud and grease off my adapter, I found that it’s from Advance Adapters ( I do not know of any sources for used adapters, but I would suggest you clean your adapter and figure out who made it originally. I know at least Advance Adapters and one other company, Novak Adapters (, make the SM-420–to–Dana 18 adapters. I’m sure one of them would gladly help you replace what you have broken.

The Dana 18 was available behind the T-98 four-speed Jeep transmission as another option, but you would then need to adapt that to your GM V-8, so I would just find a new adapter for what you have.

I would also be concerned with why it broke in the first place. Did the driveshaft bottom out and push the transfer case upward? Did the crossmember mount under the transfer case get bent while car-crawling? Or was it simply a manufacturing flaw?

Arms Need More Reach
I am building up a ’77 Ford F-150 shortbed stepside. I have upgraded the drivetrain from a C6 with a NP205 to an NP435 connected to a NP205 and then rebuilt the motor. When I started to drive it and get onto harder trails I started to see that the suspension falls short in a few areas. Then on one of my wheeling trips I heard a loud pop come for the front end while it was flexed to its absolute max. As soon as I had all four tires firmly planted on solid ground I got out to conduct damage inspection. I was surprised to see that the bottom two bolts of the driver-side radius arm had snapped clean in half. I replaced them, but after three wheeling trips it snapped again at full flex, but this time the other side went.

I obviously need to fix the problem, but how would I go about doing so? Do they make radius arms with flex joints on the end instead of standard bushings? I would like to be able to fit 38-inch tires, so should I buy extended radius arms while I am at it and a lift? I just want it to be able to flex out without binding. Thanks for the help.
Stew R.
Sandy, UT

When you lift your truck and flex the suspension you place serious bind on the stock radius arms. Radius arms are a great suspension system in controlling axle twist under acceleration, but not the best when off-road. One good upgrade is using longer radius arms. Many companies offer these, such as James Duff (865.938.6696, The longer radius arms require new frame mounts and at least a 3-inch suspension lift. James Duff specializes in early Broncos but also offers parts for many of the late-’70s fullsize Broncos and F-150 trucks. Another company that makes long tubular radius arms is Bloody Knuckle Garage (360.460.7579,

Imported From Detroit
Recently I destroyed the ring-and-pinion in the rearend of my ’58 Studebaker pickup. It has ’73 Dodge Power Wagon running gear from a W200, so it is a ¾-ton, and the rearend is a Dana 60. I know I have to get a new set of gears, which are 4.10s. But I have to take it all apart anyways to put a locker of some sort in it. I currently have 33s on it and drive a good mix of street and mud.

I was leaning toward a Detroit Locker, but I was wondering if there are similar lockers I could use. Also, when I searched for a Detroit I had a couple options: a Dana 60 Reverse or just a Dana 60. Both of those had different spline counts on them. How would I figure out what the spline count is on my axle so I could get the right locker? And do you know if I need a Dana 60 Reverse locker or just a Dana 60?
Douglas City, CA

Your rear axle mostly likely has a full-floating hub design. This allows you to unbolt six or eight bolts on the hub and slide out the axleshaft without disassembling the entire axlehousing. In fact, you can do this without removing the tire and wheel. But be sure to raise the side of the axle that you are working on with a jack and a jack stand to keep the gear oil from running out. With the axleshaft out, you can count the splines. The axleshaft could have 19, 30, 32, or 35 splines.

The Detroit Locker ( is a great option for your truck. They are strong, and unless you have an axleshaft failure where the shock load can sometimes damage them, they rarely fail.

Yukon Gear ( has a very similar locker known as the Grizzly. It was recently released for the Dana 60 market, but I have not yet tested these, so I do not know how they compare to the classic Detroit.

You axle is definitely not a 60 Reverse, as that was only used in Ford front steering applications. A reverse or reverse-rotation axle is also known as a high-pinion.

Short Willy Dilemma
My wife and I have a ’55 Willys. We want to do what a lot of people do and transplant a newer drivetrain into it. We have a line on a Chevy S-10 with a throttle body injection (TBI) 4.3L and a 700R4 automatic transmission. I know there has to be a way to hook up just the engine computer and transmission controls without the entire wiring system of the S-10, yet still keep the Willys inner harness. Can you point me in the right direction please?
Gary D.

You need to talk to the people at Howell Engine Development (810.765.5100, about the wiring harness for the 4.3L. The 4.3L V-6 is a great engine choice for a Willys Jeep, especially in a flatfender Willys or CJ-5. The 700R4 may be a problem depending on what model Jeep you are building, as it is very long and the CJs of that era are pretty short-wheelbased. Advance Adapters (800.350.2223, can help you with all your adapter needs and with other transmission options if you are planning on putting the engine in a short-wheelbase vehicle.

Don’t Smoke the Joint
I have been building my ’68 CJ-5 for a few years and am ready to build my axles. I lengthened the wheelbase 7 inches and am using a 4.3L injected Chevy V-6, a Turbo 350 trans, a Spicer 18 transfer case, fullsize Jeep Dana 44s, a Poison Spyder Customs full-width kit, Rubicon Express SOA Wrangler springs, and 37-inch tires. My plan is to run 5.13 or 5.38 gears. If all holds up well, I may put in a Warn overdrive later.

The Advance Adapters kit for the Turbo 350 to model 18 transfer case has a small U-joint for the front output. Advance said it should hold up all right. I was going to run Ox lockers in both axles, but I don’t know if the front U-joint will hold up to that. And which gear ratio would you suggest? I don’t have a trailer. I would be driving to the trails.
Jim T.
Vacaville, CA

The small U-joint on the front of your Dana 18 is most likely a 1280 series U-joint. Although it is small, it should be plenty strong if used properly. First I would recommend the lower gear option of 5.38s. This will reduce stress on the U-joint and driveshafts. The Ox lockers and 37s will be really pushing the joint for strength, but driving style can play into that equation also.

The next issue you need to concern yourself with is joint angle. Because you are using fullsize Jeep axles, your front pinion is a low-pinion design. This, along with the spring-over-axle suspension, may result in quite an angle for the front driveshaft. The experts at Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts ( helped develop a front yoke to work with the TH350 and Dana 18, as there is only a small window for a front driveshaft to fit.

I see your options as follows:
• Run smaller tires, or just drive gently.
• Change to a different transmission, preferably a manual like an SM-465.
• Change to a transfer case that offers slightly more space for a larger front U-joint and a lower low range of 3:1 or 4:1, such as the Advance Adapters Orion transfer case.
• Carry spare U-joints and driveshaft parts.

Trailer Park Kids
I have been into wheeling for 20 years now and have built up every type of truck imaginable. About seven years ago I got my first Samurai, and now I love them! My current Sammy has every upgrade possible and was at first built for two people. Then the first baby came. I cut the cage and added a fold-and-tumble rear seat from a YJ. Now I am expecting child number three. I can’t fit five people into the little rig. I have looked into stretching the Sammy with parts from my three parts trucks, but it seems impossible.

If I build the back half of a Sammy into a trailer with a cage and another bench seat, would it be safe to tow behind my crawler on trails only? Switchbacks here in Colorado are tight, and I am afraid my turning radius would really suck. I really don’t want to buy a 4Runner!
Elizabeth, CO

I grew up on a farm where I often rode in the back of pickup trucks, wagons, and on tractors, so I know it isn’t safe. Can you build a trailer with a rollcage that is safe enough to haul some kids? Yes. Should you? No. In my experience, taking a trailer along on a trail is like dragging along an anchor. People do it, but I think trailers show that either your truck is too small or you have too much stuff.

I went all over eastern Russia last summer with one of those fancy expedition-style adventure trailer things. All it had in it was food and camping gear, yet it fell apart behind us. I drive 50 percent of the time with a heavy steel trailer behind my truck with some project vehicle on it, and so I think I know a thing or two about trailers. To me, they should just stay home.

I know you don’t want a 4Runner but I think the next truck you buy may well be a 4Runner, Grand Cherokee, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Nissan Xterra, Ford Explorer, Chevy S10 Blazer, Land Rover Discovery, or Mitsubishi Montero. You can build any of these to support three small kids comfortably. (Eventually you’re going to need a bigger rig or a second 4x4 and to teach the eldest to drive.) And you won’t need to stop the whole train, get out, and go back to a trailer to feed the youngest animal crackers.

Putting the kids in the trailer is a novel idea and may keep their screaming far away from your ears, but I don’t think I’d like to back a truck and trailer down a narrow switchback on some steep Colorado trail. You know, I did see a family in Moab recently that put a third-row seat in their four-door Jeep Wrangler and had at least six people in that Jeep and maybe a dog or two. Maybe you should consider one of those.

Nuts, I’m Confused!
What’s the Ultimate JK?
I will be buying a two-door, manual, soft top, sport model Jeep Wrangler JK. I want to put a 3-inch lift with 35s. Will I be hating life with 3.73 axle gears? I can’t afford a Rubicon, so the 4.10s are out of the question. Also do you guys know anything about the new 3.6 motor? Is it worth waiting for? I will wait if it’s a way better motor. Thanks for such an awesome mag.

Of all the Jeep Wrangler models currently available, the two-door soft top would be the most desirable with the 3.8L V-6. The 3.6L Pentastar V-6 engine that is currently available in the Grand Cherokee has 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Wrangler’s 3.8L V-6 is rated 202 hp and 237 lb-ft. The 3.6L has been widely rumored to appear in the ’12 Wrangler, so if it were me I would either wait to buy a new Wrangler or wait to buy a used 3.8 when the new engine comes out and the 3.8L JKs hopefully drop in value.

As for 35s with 3.73s, I wouldn’t recommend it for long, but I think you’ll be fine for daily driving in a flat area.

I think your question deserves to be this month’s Nuts, I’m Confused letter, as many folks are considering either buying a used JK or a new one with the more powerful engine. However, there is a catch. This month I’m giving you an Insul-Liner for a Jeep JK, but it is designed for a Jeep with a hard top so you may want to consider that upgrade when ordering your new Wrangler. Insul-Liner is special thick foam that reduces heat loss in the cabin in winter and keeps heat out in summer. It is a great addition to any hardtop JK Wrangler because it helps make these popular 4x4s even more civilized. Insul-Liners are available for two- and four-door models. For more information on Insu-Liner, check out or call 352.895.4017.

Submission Information
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 (, 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:

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