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May 2012 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on May 1, 2012
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Jealousy Wagon
Q I have a ’63 Dodge W200. I’m 16 and it’s my first vehicle. Unfortunately I have a long way to go before it’s drivable. I already rebuilt the carburetor, replaced the fuel pump, and did a small upgrade to the ignition. However, there are a lot of safety issues that need to be addressed before I can drive it. I have learned that most of the parts I need are extremely hard to come by and I was wondering if you could give me some sources to get parts from.
Clint M.
Birmingham, AL

A You are officially on my list of people I don’t like. You got on that list by having a very cool truck I wished I owned! Ah, just kidding, not really. Your crew cab is a great first truck. It has plenty of character, plenty of room for all your friends (and girls), and you don’t see these every day. The rough exterior should hold up great against some trail use. It’s big and heavy so it should be very safe, and the simplicity of the truck means you’ll have fun working on it. Yes, parts are getting harder to find, but nothing is impossible.

By “safety issues” I assume you mean brakes, steering, wiring, and seatbelts because everything else is just there to make it go. I made a quick search over at and found they list lots of parts for your truck, especially in the steering and brakes section. Then I headed over to Vintage Power Wagons’ website ( and it also listed a great number of parts for your truck.

One last thought. The Off-Road Connection ( in Fultondale, Alabama, is owned by Keith Bailey, who has attended many of our Ultimate Adventure trips. He and his crew work on everything from Jeeps to buggies to fullsize trucks. If you need a hand with any custom parts I bet they could assist in making it happen, plus they are local to your home in Birmingham. Good luck with that very cool truck!

Tail-Swapping Taco
Q I have a regular cab ’00 Tacoma with a 2.7L four-cylinder and five-speed transmission (very short wheelbase). It is my daily driver and my hunting and fishing rig. I love my little truck and have only one complaint. It is not the trails that give me trouble, but the washboard gravel roads getting to the trails. Even at relatively low speeds the back end tends to want to pass the front, and I have come close to being bounced clear off the road. Is this due to the short wheelbase or something else, and what can I do about it?
Patrick M.
Meridian, ID

A What a great little truck. Those are my favorite model of Tacoma. A longer vehicle is more inclined to stay straight should some of the wheels lose traction. So yes, your short wheelbase is part of the problem with your vehicle trying to swap ends. You can try lowering air pressure. Upgrading your shocks can also help. Also, the fact that the rear is probably much lighter than the front can cause it to skip or bounce over the washboards and start getting sideways. The rear springs may also be a bit stiff, and going to a softer initial spring rate is another option. You may want to add some weight over or even behind your rear axle. Item like a camper shell, rear bumper spare tire mount, or jerry can mount will hang some weight back there and help keep the rear planted. Do you have a bed mounted toolbox or haul supplies? In such a light vehicle, moving these to the back of the bed may make a difference, but be sure they are securely strapped down because the bouncing rear could send them flying.

Q My vehicle is a ’90 GMC Suburban 1⁄2-ton with a 350. It has a 4-inch lift and 35x12.50 tires and weighs around 5,800 pounds. According to manufacturer’s specs, a 9,000-pound winch would be fine, but everyone tells me to go with 12,000. I was wondering what your thoughts were because it is a lot of boxy sheetmetal to be pulling around.

The ’Burban also has a lot of body roll, and I think it is because I went cheap and put blocks under the rear springs. What is a good all-spring lift to go with? Should I be using those antiroll bars or sway bars on the rear, or should I look for a 3-inch lift to bring the center of gravity back down a little?
Erik F.
Aurora, OR

A Where are you planning on getting stuck, Erik? If you bury the ’Burb to the framerails in some of the super-sticky Oregon mud you may be happier with the 12,000-pound winch, but if you’re just cruising the mountain roads and are worried about sliding off in a ditch then the 9K will likely be fine. Also if you correctly use a snatch block you’ll effectively double your pulling power. The 12K is also very heavy, and depending on the winch bumper you choose you may be adding quite a bit more weight. I just removed a hefty steel winch bumper and 12K winch, and they totaled 650 pounds! Remember that your front end will be getting taxed if you add too much weight up there as well. It’s a slippery slope, but I think either is a good choice; you just need to decide what type of wheeling you’ll be doing most of the time. Final note: Winches are like horsepower. You rarely say, “I wish I had less power.”

As for a lift, have you considered a shackle flip kit? This can give you lift height while keeping a stock leaf spring for flexible suspension. From there, body roll can be controlled by front sway bars, keeping weight down low (roof racks are notorious for causing body roll), air bag helper springs, and upgraded shocks.

All-Terrains Not for All Terrain?
Q I was recently mudding in my Suzuki Samurai with my dad and couldn’t get any traction. It was like driving on an ice rink. When we got home the 31x10.5 BFGoodrich All-Terrains were completely packed with mud and no tread was showing. We weren’t too concerned with this until a few days later when my dad took my little brother driving and he crashed into a tree branch. He broke the windshield and ripped the soft top. Are there any tires that would not become packed full of mud? I am going on a beach trip in a few months and want to try and keep as much grip as possible.
Josh H.

A The BFG All-Terrain tire is actually really good in the dirt and sand, but mud is its downfall due to the narrow tread voids. You are due for some mud-terrain tires with larger voids if sticky mud is your terrain of choice. The larger void allows the tires to fling the sticky stuff loose. BFGoodrich’s KM2 Mud-Terrain or any of the Pit Bull or Interco Super Swamper tires with large tread voids would be a great option ( I ran a set on my old Samurai). I’d say the All-Terrains will be fine for your beach trip, but a more aggressive tire is important for sticky, gooey trail runs.

Nuts, I’m Confused
Nothing’s Perfect
Q I’ve been slowly building a ’67 Ford Bronco with a 31⁄2-inch Deaver spring lift, a 5.0L V-8, a 4R70W transmission, a Dana 20 transfer case, and full-width HP Dana 44 front and full-width 9-inch 31-spline rear axles. My question is about the steering setup. I’ve learned that it’s important to have the track bar and drag link as parallel to each other as possible (to reduce bumpsteer). What is a good angle to have the two links at when sitting at ride height?

My drag link and track bar are at a 15-degree angle when the Bronco is sitting at rest with full weight on it. Right now when the axle articulates it pulls to the driver side about 3 inches because of the angle and length of the two links, I assume. I can add a track bar drop bracket on the frame side and use a drop pitman arm to lower the drag link; this will make the links sit almost parallel to the ground at ride height. Even though it reduces the axle movement when flexing it also limits my bump travel.
Jim L.

A Your 15 degrees looks pretty steep to me. I assume a bumper (possibly with winch) could reduce the angle some more as the springs settle, but getting the track bar to be closer to level at ride height is important. On a front suspension with a track bar I like the track bar long, level, as well as parallel and close in length to the draglink.

Some suspensions are set up where the track bar is level at ride height, some are set to be level at full compression, and both have pros and cons. A track bar that is level at ride height will have the axle moving toward the driver side as it compresses and also toward the driver side as it droops from ride height. This means the axle changes direction through its arc of travel. A track bar that is level at full compression will always be moving the axle in the same direction from full droop to full compression. Both will have their own unique driving characteristics, but the majority of suspensions have the track bar level at full compression. Most of the trucks I have owned or worked on with a track bar run about 6-10 degrees at ride height and are 35-40 inches long, but these trucks all sit fairly low.

You could add a crossover steering setup and have the drag link attach to a high-steer arm on the passenger side of the Dana 44. This may require a special flattop knuckle or having your knuckle drilled and tapped for a high-steer arm, but it will raise the drag link and you can then raise the axle end of the track bar to match the angle. You can even mount the track bar onto the Axle “C” itself, as they are weldable. Dropping the track bar mount a bit may not be bad either as well as moving the mounts to the outside of the framerail. A drop pitman arm on a Bronco box with the already long sector shaft is slightly concerning because you are adding a fair bit of leverage on the sector shaft. If you move one part you need to watch for clearance issues at full range of travel and articulation, and throughout the steering motion to ensure that parts don’t crash into one another.

To get overly complex, you could add a swing set on the passenger side for the steering drag link to attach to, and then have it come back and attach to the driver-side steering knuckle. This would allow you to mount your track bar considerably lower on the passenger-side framerail, but it also complicates the steering ratios (see photo).

The problems occur when you try to make everything perfect and simple; sometimes it just won’t work. If you get the track bar flat at full stuff it may hit the passenger framerail (I’ve seen framerails notched to allow full compression). If not, the tires may hit the fenders. It’s OK if the track bar is slightly longer, shorter, or at different angles than the drag link, but the less difference the better. A track bar with a bend in it is also a possibility, but I am less thrilled about this option due to the strength loss. There are, however, some very good forged track bars with bends in them to clear differentials and framerails from the factory. The current Ram truck version and the ’79 Ford F-150 are both options I like, though you may need to shorten them to fit your application, or move the track bar mounts. A straight track bar is usually stronger than a curved bar, but the angle of the track bar is dictated by a straight line through the two mounting points, not the angle of the bar if it is bent. In the end you may need to make some sacrifices here or there to get it as close to level, long, parallel, and even in length as possible.

I hope this helps you instead of opening a larger can of worms. The setup you have will work, but it could work better. Your question is common to a lot of readers looking to build their own suspensions, so I’m awarding you the Nuts, I’m Confused letter of the month.

Your prize is a coupon for 25 percent off the MSRP of a new set of Pit Bull tires! Pit Bull offers a variety of tires from the street and trail performing radial Maddog and the extra-all-terrain Growler to the vicious Rockers. With sizes ranging from 30 to 44 inches, Pit Bull should have just what you need for your Bronco. For more info check out or call 314.621.8954.

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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