When it comes to steel fabrication, John Dematteo, owner of Trail Quest Inc., is "the man." Dematteo has been in the industrial welding business for more than two decades, and in that time he has learned a thing or two about making serious-duty off-road equipment. In fact, his company manufactures (for retail sale and private label) a wide range of mega-tough suspension equipment, gas tanks, and bumper packages specifically for Jeep applications.
We visited the Trail Quest facilities for an in-depth look at the process of making Trail Quest's high-capacity, heavy-duty CJ, YJ, and TJ gas tanks. Never one to leave well enough alone, Dematteo and the boys have a new line of hard-hitting bumpers for the new TJ Wrangler, and have developed the best constructed bumper/tire rack combination we have seen.
Aztec Bumpers and Tire Racks
The new Aztec bumpers for CJ, YJ, and TJ applications from Trail Quest begin as 2x5-inch rectangular tubing. The tubing is then cut to a length of 54 or 60 inches, depending upon the application. This is followed by coping and capping the ends of the tube to trim the bumper's profile (to reduce overhang and corner snags), and enhance tire clearance.
The mounting system is simple, yet rugged. Two 3/8-inch steel plates are welded onto two heavy-wall tubes. This assembly is then welded onto the back of the bumper. Holes are drilled in the mounting plates and are matched to the factory holes in the rear crossmember for easy installation. Eight Grade 8, 7/16-inch-diameter bolts are used to secure the bumper to the crossmember. A 1 1/2-inch solid steel pinion is then welded onto the right side of the bumper to serve as a support/pivot point for the tire carrier.
Moving on to the tire carrier, this unit is sawed from 3/16-inch wall tubing, then welded in an A-frame configuration for optimum strength and rigidity. A trunion is welded onto the lower right side of the carrier and is precision-sized to accept the bumper trunion. This piece also features a zerk fitting to allow the carrier pivot to be greased and provide smooth, quiet swing-out action. A wheel-mounting plate assembly is then welded onto the top of the carrier frame, and is fitted with three appropriately spaced wheel studs. To keep the carrier secured under hard trail conditions, a Destaco toggle clamp is used. This device mounts onto the lower left carrier assembly, allowing the toggle bolt to engage the receiving bracket on the bumper.
One thing you'll notice when examining the carrier pivot and toggle clamp assembly is the Aztec's absolute precision fit. Upon installing the carrier onto the bumper, the slight tolerances between the pinion and trunion become evident. This not only provides for smooth swing-out operation, but it prevents the annoying "sag" that often accompanies swing-away, bumper-mounted tire mounts that sport oversized spares. The fact that the Aztec retains its squareness under these conditions and keeps its proper orientation to allow the toggle bolt (located on the other side of the bumper) to engage the striker bracket is nothing short of amazing-a definite testimony to the quality and experience put into each Trail Quest product.
But that, as they say, is not all. At additional cost, Trail Quest can outfit your Aztec bumper with optional tow hook brackets, as well as a hitch receiver. Also, mounting plates and studs can be added to allow the tire rack to receive a Hi-Lift jack.
In addition to the Aztec rear bumper/tire carrier, Trail Quest has also developed a matched set of equally rugged front and rear guards for TJ Wranglers, called 4-Trail Bumpers.