Replace or Regear
Q I have a ’78 Dodge 4x4 with an NP435 four-speed. It has full-time 4WD with half-ton running gear and an NP203 transfer case. I’ve just upgraded the running gear to Dana 60s, and I want to upgrade the transfer case to an NP205 and get rid of the 203. Does anyone make an adapter to upgrade to the 205?
A Even better, you can use the gear reduction box of your 203 and adapt it to an NP205 and get 205 strength and lower gearing in one shot! Offroad Design (www.offroaddesign.com) makes an adapter known as the 203/205 Doubler. Although you’ll need new driveshafts, this will get you gobs of lower gearing options.
Nuts, I’m Confused
Bobbing for Answers
Q I have been searching the Web for info on bobbing a truck bed in the back, and I just can’t seem to find any. Any information about taking on this task would be greatly appreciated.
A Bobbing the bed of a pickup truck isn’t an impossible project, but you will need to be able to cut metal cleanly and weld both the frame and the bed of the truck back together. You are basically taking a swath out of your bed and your frame, sliding the rear section forward, and welding it back on.
The goal with bobbing the bed is to shorten the overhang of the truck to improve departure angle and make the truck smaller for off-roading on tight trails.
To start, you need to determine how much you are willing to cut off the bed. It is best to figure this out by finding some flat sheetmetal between the wheelwells and taillights. It is easiest if you can draw a straight vertical line that doesn’t cross any odd body lines. You can see in Photo 2 where the two vertical green lines are on this Ford bed. This cut would remove about 7 inches, and be a pretty easy bob job.
The next option is to make two identical cuts that are not straight. This is more complicated but can often allow for more of the bed to be trimmed. For example, you can see how the two lines in Photo 3 are not straight, but they allow the side marker light and gas door to be preserved. The Photo 4 shows how these cuts would result.
Once you determine how much you will be cutting you need to cut that same amount on both sides; make the cuts very clean with a cutoff wheel, plasma cutter, or reciprocating saw; and then match the same amount of trimming in the rear framerails.
Rear frame sections are almost always straight behind the rear axle, so this is usually a simple cut-and-replace fix before remounting the rear bumper.
However, there are other problems you can encounter. If the rear suspension is leaf-sprung (it usually is on a pickup) you don’t want to shorten the frame more than the leaf spring mounts. Oftentimes bed bobbers cut the excess frame from behind the rear shackle hanger and use that amount to cut from the body. Another problem that makes the Ford we’re showing in these photos not a likely candidate is the location of the fuel tank. If it is behind the rear axle you probably can’t trim too much of the frame unless you move the tank or go to a front-mounted tank beside the rear driveshaft or a bed-mounted fuel cell. Toyota Trucks are very commonly bobbed and pretty easy to do.
These are the basics. Every truck is a little different. You will need to be able to weld the sheetmetal back together on the bedsides and inner floor and side, as well as the frame. This will also require bodywork after the fact if you are concerned with a nice finish.
Bobbing is a great fab project, but you need to spend a good amount of time measuring the bedsides, the frame, and everything that will be trimmed. Also, you may wish to remove the rear section of taillight wiring so it isn’t cut or burnt by accident.
Since I feel your question is helpful to a variety of truck owners looking to make their pickup more trail-ready, I chose it as this month’s Nuts, I’m Confused question. We are sending you an XD hitch from Inventive Products. The XD Hitch is an adjustable multiball drop hitch for 3-, 6-, and 10-inch drops. The hitch can also be flipped vertically in the receiver tube to make a rise of 2, 5, or 81⁄2 inches. The ball can be adjusted up and down on the base of the XD Hitch to make any drop height in between. The XD Hitch has a 10,000-pound load rating and is V-5 rated. The XD Hitch also has optional interchangeable attachments that fit directly onto the base of the XD Hitch, such as mudflaps, a utility rack, and a step for easy bed access. To find out more, contact Inventive Products at 888.310.6037 or online at www.inventivehitches.com.
Q Help! I love my ’91 Suzuki Sidekick, but my front end needs to be replaced (bearings, adjusting arm, maybe struts). My family (mainly husband) says I drive too fast on the 3-mile gravel road we live on (it’s not always smooth). Can I beef up the suspension to help this? What would you suggest? I love everything about my Suzi, but it just seems I’m always in a hurry. She’s my daily driver; my mechanic said she is not made for this (I think that’s bull).
A Slow down, see the world around you, smell the flowers. Or better yet, upgrade! Old Man Emu (the suspension division of ARB, www.arbusa.com) has a small suspension upgrade kit including new springs and shocks that will help soak up those rough gravel roads. You may also need to upgrade worn parts like steering and suspension bushings and so on, but by improving your shocks you’ll be better able to soak up the irregularities of the gravel road. You can also clear a larger tire if you wish, but you don’t need to because the suspension is only about 11⁄4 inches of lift. If they think you drive fast now, wait until they see you go with new upgraded shocks!
The Little 14B
Q I am building an ’84 K5 Blazer as a family fun vehicle. I have a 350 small-block engine, a 700R4 transmission, and a stock transfer case. My next step is to replace the stock GM 10-bolt rear axle. I am on a budget and thinking about using a semifloating 14-bolt 91⁄2-inch rearend. I would like to stay with the six-lug wheels to save a little money rather than buying new wheels required when going with the true 14-bolt full-float eight-lug axle. I am running 35s and don’t plan on going any bigger anytime soon. Gearwise I’m thinking 4.56 or 4.88. I plan on using it in the dunes and on light trails. It will be off-road only. Is this worth spending the money on, or should I save my pennies and go with a true 14-bolt full-float?
A The semifloat 14-bolt will be perfect for you. I have one in a Suburban on 35s (you’ll see it in upcoming months), and it works great. With your overdrive transmission I think 4.56 gears would be perfect with 35s. If you think you’re going to go larger than 37s then you may want to save up for the FF 14-bolt, but for 35s the semifloat is just fine.
Hemi or Cummins
Q I pull horses with an ’07 Dodge diesel. The truck pulls great, and I haul seven horses at a time on steep hilly roads in northern California. However, I’ve been thinking about getting the new Power Wagon but was wondering if I will miss the torque of the diesel. The price of a new diesel truck is enormous these days, and the cost of fuel and the engine alone is ridiculous when the mileage is not there.
A Keep your diesel. The Power Wagon is a great truck, but the gearing, larger tires, winch, sway bar disconnect, and selectable lockers will not help you pull a horse trailer. The Hemi is a good engine, but that truck is best suited for dirt roads, off-road exploring, companies that need 4x4 performance, and someone looking to do things a Jeep Rubicon will do but in a bigger package. If towing is your priority then you should stick with a diesel. The torque of a diesel cannot be beat when you have something hanging off the back, like your seven stallions.
I drive a diesel Ram, and I agree that fuel economy isn’t as good as it used to be before all the smog requirements of diesel. The GM and Ford diesels are also great these days, so don’t overlook them either. I just went with the Ram because it is the only one with the manual transmission. However, the new Hi Torque option in the Cummins diesel Ram is not available with the manual transmission, unfortunately.
My advice: Keep your old Dodge as long as you can, and hopefully the diesel technology will ratchet up with better fuel economy.
Looking for a Pug-Nosed Jeep
Q I am looking at purchasing a ’57 Jeep FC 150 and was wondering what I need to look for when purchasing a vehicle such as this, and some basic information on these types of vehicles. I know they are fairly rare, and I want to own a piece of history as great as this.
A As with purchasing any oddball old 4x4, the trick is knowing what you plan on doing with it. If you are going to upgrade the drivetrain then you just need a solid body and frame with all the ancillary parts like headlight bezels, good glass, and door handles. If you are looking to restore it then you want to find one that is more complete. I would even recommend finding one that has been restored already because it will almost always be cheaper than doing the restoration yourself, unless you want to do the work yourself. In FCs the curved windshield glass is getting harder to find, but not impossible.
Whether you’re looking for an FC, a Power Wagon, a Nissan Patrol, or an early GM Suburban, there are suppliers and clubs on the Internet for just about every oddball 4x4. Search for the vehicle and you’ll quickly find other owners, people selling them, and small-time suppliers making or stocking NOS parts. Good luck.
Q About two years ago my husband and I took apart our ’05 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD and did a solid-axle swap on it. It now has 46-inch Baja Claws, and needless to say the dealer doesn’t want anything to do with it. We did the swap because we knew of certain faults in Chevy’s designs and are both very capable mechanics. One issue, however, we cannot fix. The speedometer has decided to live at 120 mph. I called the dealer to purchase a new gauge cluster, when I was told it was way more than we wanted to spend one the same thing, which will probably die also. I have searched the aftermarket some and found nothing. Please help if you know of a company that sells them in the aftermarket. It would be nice to have a speedo, especially because it is a daily driver cop magnet.
A I have also had an issue with the speedometer and gauge cluster in our ’03 Chevy Avalanche. I am under the impression that there is a recall on certain year/model gauge clusters in certain GM vehicles from the early ’00s. I would talk to the dealership about this for your truck, as it may be a defect that is still covered. I have read that the recall is for vehicles with less than a certain number of miles, so you may still be able to get it covered.
Also, you may want to look into a programmer, such as one from Superchips (www.superchips.com), which would allow you to adjust gear ratio and tire size to correct the speedometer for the larger tires.
You may also be able to get the speedometer repaired. I found a company, InstrumentClusters.com, that claims to be able to repair most speedometer and instrument cluster issues.
Q I drive an ’07 Chevy Colorado, and I’m having a hard time finding 4x4 aftermarket parts for it, like bumpers. I see a lot of people making their own stuff, but I don’t have the skills or the tools to do so. I was wondering if you knew any companies that have stuff for this model truck. I am sure that I am not the only one having a problem finding parts.
A The Chevy Colorado is a great little truck. The I4 and I5 engines are torque little powerplants, and the fact you can get it with a 5.3L V-8 makes it an unsung hero in our view. We fully expect to see more of them on the trail in the coming years.
One shop you may want to contact is Diversified Creations (www.diversifiedcreations.com). Run by Mike and Brad Copeland, this shop spcializes in hot rods and 4x4s, but they have some experience with upgrading the Canyon, Colorado, and S-series trucks. A quick online search revealed Iron Bull Bumpers (www.ironbullbumpers.com), which offers a Colorado-specific winch bumper.
Another option is to consider parts for a Toyota Tacoma. Items like the rock sliders we installed on the 4Runner and on Ali Mansour’s Ranger in this issue could easily be made to work on a Colorado. This is a useful trick for anyone with a vehicle that has limited aftermarket support. Other make/model upgrade parts can work on it with a bit of fine tuning. This will, however, require some tweaking and possibly some welding/grinding to make it perfect. I know you said you have little experience here, but maybe it’s time to start learning. I love spending a day in the shop making sparks and attaching metal to metal. I don’t claim to be an expert fabricator like the guys who do it every day, but I get better every time I’m in there making something, and it’s all practice.
Finally it doesn’t hurt to contact a local 4x4 fab shop and see if they can build you something special.
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: email@example.com