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September 2011 Techline

Blazer Rear Three Quarter
Willie Worthy | Writer
Posted September 1, 2011

Sand Blazer, Bronco Heaters, and More!

Wants To Build S-Blazer for Sand
I have a ’93 S-10 Blazer two-wheel drive. I’m going to tear it down and make it into a weekend play toy for Glamis dunes and medium-difficulty trail riding (no hardcore rockcrawling). I know what you’re thinking—sell it and buy a four-wheel drive. That doesn’t apply here, as I am going to do a solid axle front and change the transmission from the 4L60-E to a Turbo 350 with a manual valvebody (better for the sand).

My questions are: Would a Dana 44 be strong enough—I don’t plan on running anything bigger than a 35-inch tire—and which application would be best? I don’t necessarily want a D44 out of a fullsize truck because of how wide it will stick out, but Jeep versions have the pumpkin on the wrong side. If I do get a Jeep Dana 44, what transfer case can I bolt to the 350 to make it work out?

Do you think the stock rear 10-bolt would hold up to spinning paddle tires, or should I just upgrade to a 9-inch and not spend money on the locker for the 10-bolt? I won’t be doing any jumping in the dunes like a Trophy Truck, but I want to build it right as I’m on a tight budget and want to do as much as I can with junkyard parts.
Bruno Michel
Mesa, AZ

You might start by taking a look at Sky Manufacturing’s website (www.skymanufacturing.com) as they have a hanger kit for the front leaf springs that will make it a lot easier.

If you have not yet decided what transfer case to use, it doesn’t make a bit of difference which side the pumpkin is on. You can pick a t-case accordingly to match. Nothing is going to directly bolt to your 350 trans without some sort of adapter. The Dana 300 or even a Dana 20 are passenger-side front outputs and would work just fine. The 4x4 versions of the S-10 used either a NP207 or a NP235. Maybe the easiest conversion would be to find a trans/transfer case combination already mated together. These have a driver’s side front output shaft.

Tires at 35 inches would be perfect, and limiting your tire size means you can keep the suspension/body height to a minimum which will make a better handling machine, especially in the sand. In reality, I would probably use a tire closer to 33 inches as you can set the truck even a bit lower without tire/fender interference.

A Dana 44 would work just fine and is plenty strong for your intended use. Most likely, it would be my choice. Look for one out of a ’73-or-later Jeep Wagoneer, as they are just about the right width but have a six-bolt wheel pattern. If you’re worried about strength, it can be improved with stronger alloy axleshafts and U-joints, but I don’t think that would be an issue.

If you’re easy on the throttle (and I assume keeping the V-6 engine), you just might be able to get away with a Jeep Cherokee Dana 30 front axle. They have a 5-on-41⁄2 wheel bolt pattern, so one end or the other will need to have an adapter added for matching front to rear wheels. I know quite a few people with 35-inch tires who run Dana 30s with a few upgrades, and they have no real problems with breakage. I would recommend going to a high-pinion design, as they are a bit stronger, and adding an axle truss to it. T&T Customs (www.TNTcustoms.com) has one. You might even want to upgrade with a set of 44-size axles for insurance against breaking one of the smaller stockers.

Sand is pretty forgiving as far as breakage goes. I think that the 10-bolt would also work okay as long as you don’t get too crazy on the size of the paddle tires. A better choice would be a 12-bolt or Ford 9-inch, or even a Dana 44. Be sure to talk over your tire needs with one of the sand tire suppliers, and to get the right “cut.” I would think something like a 16.50 Padla Trak would be about all the tire you would need for the sand, and they are about 33 inches tall. Check out www.sandtiresunlimited.com for more info.

As to running a locker either in the front or rear, for the sand I am not sure one in either end is necessary. If it is only a toy and doesn’t get driven on the street, consider a spool out back and leave the front open. I have put a lot of “sand time” in with vehicles with both open diffs and lockers, and both have their advantages as well as disadvantages.

Oh, and you might want to take a look at www.s10extremist.org, as it appears to have a lot of interesting information on your truck.

One of the real tricks to dune running is keeping the vehicle light; so forego the heavy winch/bumper, and if you feel that you need a winch for trail running, make sure you can take it off for the sand.

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