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Christian Hazel
| Brand Manager, Four Wheeler
Posted March 1, 2001

ORU's Straight-Axle Conversion

Step By Step

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  • The ORU straight axle conversion kit consists of the brackets and hardware you’ll need to install leaf springs, but you supply the front axle, leaf springs, and U-bolts. The first step is to remove all the IFS stuff and sell it to some sucker.

  • With the torsion bars, A-arms, CV shafts, and all of the other outer garbage removed, the differential bracket and differential can be removed. The centerlink, idler arm, and sway bar are also tossed.

  • The factory rear lower A-arm mounting brackets need to be cut off flush with the bottom of the frame and ground smooth. You can remove them with a grinder, but a torch or plasma cutter is much faster.

  • The front spring hanger brackets are predrilled and bolt to the front framerails. There are two factory holes on the frame bottom you can use to line the brackets up, but you must punch and drill four holes in the side of the frame.

  • Attach the rear shackle bracket lightly to the frame with a clamp. From the center of the front spring hanger bolt hole to the rear shackle pivot bolt hole, measure 461/2 inches. Clamp the bracket tightly to the frame and drill the bolt holes.

  • The rear shackle bracket employs a reinforcement plate that slides into the frame. Line up the holes with the rear shackle bracket and torque down the 3/8-inch bolts to 30 lb-ft.

  • Install the supplied shackle on the rear hanger. The header needed to be cut in order to fit with the solid axle conversion. This isn’t necessary when using factory exhaust manifolds.

  • The ORU conversion kit is designed to use super-common ’73-’87 GM front springs. Both trucks used custom packs from National Spring.

  • An ORU torsion bar sway bar was bolted on to help fight body sway from the soft National springs. The bar bolts to the frame using the same bolt holes as the stock unit. The torsion bar is connected to the front axle with arms and links, as you’ll see later.

  • Since the factory steering system can’t be utilized with a solid front axle, you’ll need to purchase an ORU crossover steering kit. The kit includes the proper pitman arm, drag link, and steering arm.

  • The late-model axle has a 36 on-center spring pad width. A set of super-beefy ORU 1.5-inch 35-spline stub shafts will be installed to replace the factory 1.31-inch 30-spline units.

  • Bilstein 7100 series shocks were bolted to the ORU shock hoops, and tabs were welded to the U-bolt spring plate. Notice that the passenger-side knuckle is about to be replaced with an ORU F-350 knuckle. The new knuckle is modified to accept the passenger-side steering arm. This knuckle isn’t necessary when using the old-style Dana 60.

  • An ARB air locker was installed in the front axle of both trucks for the convenience of either open diff steering or ultimate spooled traction at the flick of a button.

  • To call the underhood of late-model GMs cluttered is an understatement. We were shocked when we couldn’t squeeze the compact ARB air compressor anywhere! Instead, we chose to mount the compressor on both trucks on the driver-side framerail out of harm’s way.

  • ORU fitted the 14-bolt rears in both trucks with the bombproof Detroit Locker. Since the diffs of Rozo’s GMC were open anyway, ORU upgraded the gears to 4.88s and replaced the bearings with parts from Drivetrain Direct.

  • Here’s the finished deal. The end result rode better than the lifted IFS, articulated like nobody’s business, and is the last word in bombproof. Perhaps the biggest advantage of the conversion kit is that it gives the super-high crowd a driveable option. No more stacking kits to get 10 inches of lift.

  • With the Suburban now sitting high the old 35-inch BFG M-Ts just weren’t cutting it. Rozo chose a trick new set of 37x12.50-17 BFG A-Ts on 17x93/4 Weld Typhoon wheels.

  • ORU's conversion.

While it’s true that there are plenty of ways to increase the suspension height of ’88-’98 GM IFS-equipped trucks, none come close to matching the awesome flex, rugged durability, or dirt-simple design of the tried-and-true leaf-sprung solid axle.

Enter Off Road Unlimited in Burbank, California. It’s no strangers to making Poindexters into rabid off-road animals, or converting IFS-equipped trucks into solid axle performers. Just look at our Project 4xQuad (Mar. ’99 to June ’99) to see what we mean. And, as it just so happened, ORU owner Maurice Rozo and technician Bobby Pouridis were about to perform the conversion on their rides.

The ORU Straight Axle conversion kit comes in two forms. One accommodates the early-style Ford Dana 60 axles with a 32-inch on-center spring pad width, while the other accommodates the late-model Ford Dana 60 axles with a 36-inch on-center spring pad width. The Ford axles are used because their driver-side pumpkin matches the left hand output of the late-model GM’s transfer case. Follow along as we install the 36-inch kit on Rozo’s ’96 GMC Suburban and the 32-inch kit on Pourdis’ ’98 Crew Cab Chevy. The sharp ones out there may notice that there are no overall shots of the completed vehicles. That’s because they came out so killer we shot a feature on both of them. Look for them in an upcoming issue.


Drivetrain Direct
Corona, CA 92880
ARB 4x4 Accessories
Off Road Unlimited