Nuts, I’m Confused
Heavy Front F-150
Q Hello, I have an ’04 F-150 Fx4 and plan to lift it about 6 inches and run 35s. My question, however, is about aftermarket bumpers from Buckstop. According to the website the bumper (complete with guard) for my truck weighs 190 pounds over stock. I don’t think that includes the estimated weight of a winch. Is there any special considerations I should make while installing the new suspension up front? I plan to use the full suspension kit from Skyjacker with add-a-leaves and 35-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
A Adding the extra weight will likely preload the front suspension and take up some of your tire clearance for 35-inch Nittos. Skyjacker adds a spacer ring to the front strut in the lift kit, and adding a second spacer ring will help make up for the height loss from the added weight. Moog also offers both a standard-duty and a heavy-duty replacement front coil spring and can be sourced through RockAuto.com. With the heavy-duty front Moog coils and the second spacer you should have enough room for the 35s along with your winch. I’m picking your letter for our Nuts, I’m Confused letter of the month and will be sending you a copy of our 2012 Ultimate Adventure DVD. It weighs less than a pound and will not affect your front spring rate!
Q I live in coastal North Carolina. I never rockcrawl or ride tough trails. The most my K5 Blazer sees is occasional beach trips in the summer and local camping trips in the winter. Currently I own an ’89 Chevy K5. It has a TBI 350, a 700R4, and an NP241 transfer case. The motor is stock except for the normal exhaust and other small things. It’s lifted around 8 inches and has 37x13.50x15 tires on the stock GM 10-bolts. It has the factory G80 in the rear geared 3.73 and is open up front, and I know I need to regear to about 4.56 since I have overdrive. I drive the truck almost every day but never really give it hell. I read online all the time on various forums that “you just have to get a GM 14-bolt if running over a 35-inch tire.” I do understand that there is a good option for me to upgrade to a 14-bolt semifloat so I can keep six lugs rather than regearing and upgrading to chromoly axleshafts and spending all that hard-earned cash on a 10-bolt.
What is the best option? I’m sure there are other people out there who love lifted trucks and who just take them camping and use them as daily drivers and who don’t go to the Rocky Mountains every weekend! I know a Dana 60 in front and a GM 14-bolt rear is what everyone claims is best, and I know it is a good combo, but I don’t tear my rig up every time I drive it and am just wondering if my current setup will hold up to 37s…or am I on borrowed time?
A I’m not going to tell you that your axle won’t break with larger-than-stock tires, but I always say if the axles are working just run ’em! Everyone thinks you need to upgrade your axles just because you are running big tires, and I agree that having appropriately matched gears for your tire size is helpful, but I doubt you need a 60/14-bolt for what you like to do. Larger tires will decrease the longevity of your axles, but even so I don’t think your axle will suddenly explode under your truck just because you bolt on 37s.
I replaced the 10-bolt and semifloating 14-bolt in my Suburban a couple of issues ago (“Got 74s?” Mar. ’13), but that was because I had bent the front axle, needed lower gears, wanted a locker, and fully planned on abusing the truck some more. If I was going to just daily drive it and cruise the dunes (no more jumping) then a new straight 10-bolt and gears in the existing axles would be fine.
I agree that the semifloating 14-bolt or a six-lug Dana 60 rear would be a great upgrade and probably smarter than investing a lot in your rear 10-bolt, but this all depends on how you drive and how secure you feel with the 10-bolt. I think your front 10-bolt will be fine.
So what would I do? I love overbuilding and have been accused of wanting a 60 and 14-bolt in everything I own, which is probably true. But I also always end up doing dumb stuff like jumping my truck or bashing it through a ditch or over a rock or whatever, and then it’s nice to know I’m not going to be dragging home a busted axle. I hope as I get older I’ll smarten up and stop driving like a jerk and eventually not need to put big parts under everything I drive (probably not). Here is my advice for you: Do a cost analysis of gears and a locker or limited slip for your rear 10-bolt versus the same for a semifloat six-lug 14-bolt. Then start looking for the semifloat 14-bolt—I see them all the time for $300 or less. I think you’ll find one pretty inexpensive and realize that the money for gears and a diff will feel better spent than doing the same on your 10-bolt.
Cut Grind Wheel
Q I recently purchased a set of stock steel Chevy wheels from an ’06 Silverado hoping to put them on my Toyota. I came across this wheel deal and remembered seeing them on a Toyota. This Toyota happened to be on the cover of your Sept. ’09 issue. Come to think of it, it was the only Toyota I have ever seen running these wheels. After returning home with my wheel loot excited to be the only other person I knew of running these Chevy wheels on a Toyota, I realized they suffered from the typical stock-Chevy-wheels-on-a-Toyota syndrome. The center holes are too small to fit over the hub assembly. Which brings me to the point of this letter. What did Mr. Moustache do to fit these wheels on his Toyota?
Potter Valley, CA
A Cutting the center hole out of a wheel to clear an axle hub can be done cleanly or as a backyard hack job depending on your planned use. I have seen guys cut them open with a plasma cutter or torch, but these are on vehicles that don’t see the street and don’t need to be well balanced. I have also seen guys cut them out with a hole saw, but it’s difficult to get the saw centered over the opening and get a perfectly centered hole. This works OK, but is only slightly better than using a torch or plasma cutter. The best option is to find someone with a mill or lathe that can center up the wheel and machine out the center to fit over the axle hub. This often requires a large machine to fit a wheel in or on, and all of a sudden your inexpensive used wheels are costing you time and money at the machine shop. I think getting the right wheels in the beginning would be cheaper unless you can do one of these three jobs at home.
Q We live in an area with a lot of snow and ice on the roads for at least four months a year. If I own, for instance, a ’12 Chevy 1⁄2-ton, crew cab, four-wheel drive, would it make sense to add any weight to the vehicle to try and balance out the front/rear bias? If so, roughly how much weight, and where should it be placed (near the axle, behind axle)? I assume the truck has an overall weight of 5,700 pounds, with 800 pounds more over the front axle. To clarify, we’re not asking about off-road ability, but rather good, predictable, safe handling in snowy/icy weather.
Anonymous on Ice
A Adding weight to the bed of a pickup truck is often done in the winter to help keep the tires planted on the ground. This is helpful for acceleration and cornering on snow and ice, but it doesn’t guarantee traction. Studded snow tires, chains, siped tires, and cautious driving are just as important or more so than adding weight.
The exact amount of weight in the bed varies depending on size of vehicle and conditions, but I would think you want enough to just slightly load the suspension, and putting it behind the rear axle so it leverages onto the tires is best. Be sure you strap it down well so it doesn’t slide around in the bed and cause more problems due to imbalance.
Another option would be to add a camper shell. It adds some weight to the bed area, plus it will keep your load covered during the winter.
Q I’ve been the proud owner of a ’53 Dodge M37 for three years. Everything is in great shape, and it’s a blast to drive through the fields and creek beds we have here in Nebraska. The problem is I want more power than the stock 78hp engine can offer, and also more off-road capability than the stiff leaf springs and skinny stock tires are currently providing. However, because everything is in such great shape, I’ll have a bunch of purists with pitchforks in my driveway if I modify this (already working!) fine piece of American iron.
To avoid this problem, I’ve decided the best thing to do is to sell the chassis and drivetrain combo whole to someone, while I keep the cab/bed and put it on a more modern frame/drivetrain. What pickup chassis/drivetrain combos are best fit for this? I really want a diesel, possibly a Cummins 5.9L, but finding a diesel engine in a truck with a 112-inch wheelbase to match my M37s is proving to be tough. I can weld and fabricate, but I want this swap to be as smooth as possible.
A The purists with pitchforks will not be happy with you no matter what you do to your truck, but it’s your truck so do what you want with it. Everyone has an interpretation of what is best for an old truck. Some want it stock like it came off the factory floor, others want it looking like it did at the end of the war, others want it modified but only with period-correct ’70s modifications, and some will tell you to just go buy a new Power Wagon with heated seats and cupholders. You can’t make everyone happy, but I understand the desire to try. If someone has a problem with what you are doing to the old truck they can always buy it from you and fund your next project.
I have an M37 that I modified for off-road use, but unlike yours, mine was just a shell when I found it—no engine or gearboxes and pretty beat up. Of course I ticked off a few purists and Mopar guys because I put a GM V-8 in mine, but at the same time I can drive mine to the trail and show it to other people instead of storing it in the shed and only driving it in parades. Not that parade trucks are bad, just not my thing.
I have seen many M37s with the Cummins four-cylinder diesel in them, and this seems to be a “purist approved” upgrade since Cummins engines come in Ram trucks. (Though the 4bt never came in any Mopar that I know of). I don’t think changing the frame is that important; they are pretty stout frames. I was able to box and modify my M37 frame pretty well and it works great as an all-around wheeling work truck. Finding M37s in rougher condition isn’t hard; I see them all the time in online classifieds.
If you want to keep everyone happy, sell your M37 to a purist, find another one in rough condition, and swap in the engine and suspension you want. If you want to stick to your original plan of putting the body on a late-model frame, I would look for a Dodge truck with the 5.9L Cummins diesel. You will need to cut and shorten the frame a fair bit because the shortest Cummins Dodge in the early ‘90s has a 131-inch wheelbase, and fit the radiator, intercooler, and steering within the smaller M37 body and grille. You may also need to cut and clearance the M37 firewall to fit the very large Cummins engine. The earlier (pre-’03) mechanical engines will be easier to swap in.
Either a manual or automatic is fine, but I feel that an M37 should have a manual (I have opinions just like purists). It’s an old truck, it needs a stick shift. I know there were some early ’90s Cummins Dodge trucks with a Getrag five-speed manual, an NP205 transfer case, a Dana 60 front, and a Dana 70 rear. I would look for one of these as either a parts truck or a chassis swap candidate.
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