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Build A Rollcage At Home

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on February 1, 1998
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To get it done right, you have to do it yourself. That couldn't be more true than in the case of building a rollcage for a truck that's not common enough to have a kit available through the aftermarket, or if you have custom demands beyond the realm of a bolt-in cage kit. The problem is you need to buy a lot of tools to do it yourself, then you need someone to show you how, or you need a trusted fabricator.

We've been lucky enough to work with a shop that does right-priced work the right way and was gracious enough to show us how to do tube fabrication at home. The guys are Rod Foutz and Scott Hancock of Foutz Engineering, a home-based business specializing in fab work and race prep for desert-race trucks and buggies. Foutz did a slick cage for an early Bronco we used to have, so we made the desert trek in a Ramcharger to visit his Arizona shop.

The Ramcharger already had a Smittybilt bolt-in rollbar, but we wanted a full rollcage with front-compartment protection and a safari-style back half. The first step in any cage job is to decide on the design based on strength, protection, tight fit to the truck, head clearance, compatibility with components such as the glovebox door and the parking brake handle, ease of fabrication, and appearance. We decided to leave the Smittybilt main hoop and connect it with stringer bars to a similarly styled rear hoop. The front was easily fit with a halo bar and legs.

However, the vehicle specifics don't matter much; once you've mastered the fabrication skills required, you can build a basic rockcrawler/mud-runner rollcage provided you have the time and the tools. In fact, the low-speed, no-rules trail trucks are usually the easiest to build cages for because they rarely have the tubes tied to the frame, they don't require trick materials like chrome moly, and you can build them really strong because you don't have to worry too much about weight. The initial investment in tools for bending, fabricating, and welding can be intimidating, but it quickly becomes recouped if you build more than a few 4x4s, or if you do jobs for club members.

If those don't apply, then frankly, finding a shop like Foutz Engineering that will work with you sans attitude is your best bet. But to get started with your own hands-on tube bending and fabrication, read on. For ideas on cage designs and materials, see "How To Build a Rollcage" in the Sept. '96 issue, or "Tubular Tips & Tricks" in the June '97 issue.

Tools Required
Angle finder
Bar clamps
Chop saw
Eye protection
Lockable angle gauge
Ratchet straps
Tape measure
Tube bender
Welder/safety gear

Once the plan was set, Rod Foutz marked the center of the vehicle (arrow), then measured, eyeballed, and used a homemade lockable angle gauge to determine where to cut and bend the tube. Often, the eye is more important than the tape measure to make the cage look right. Make sure to always cut tubes at least 6 inches longer than you think you'll need 'em, because it's better to trim to fit once all the bending is done than to try and get it perfect the first time.
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