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Trail Rig Frame Fabricators - Frame & Chassis Choosing

Posted in Product Reviews on December 1, 2003
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So you want to build a trail rig, but you're not sure where to start? Either your current truck is hammered and beat, or you just don't want to buy an expensive running vehicle that you will then just tear apart and rebuild. Maybe you should start from scratch, but what if you are not an expert fabricator? These are the fabricators who are making different sorts of chassis for your off-roading pleasure. From all across the country, they offer everything from replacement stock frames so you can start your rebuild to full tube chassis or turnkey wheelers in case you want something different from your neighbor. Most of them have a standard frame or chassis they sell, but will also build a machine as custom as you want. Some can be made street-legal, and others are off-road only and ready for trail or competition duty. Whether you are looking for a rig ready to go, a chassis you can finish yourself, or something cool to put on your holiday wish list, give these guys a call to learn more.

AvalancheAvalanche Engineering from Bayfield, Colorado, has been in the rockcrawling and custom tube-chassis market for as long as anyone, and with that time comes experience. The company has everything from its compact Zero-G competition chassis ("The Karnivore," Apr., May, and June '03), its trail-sized Contender chassis (shown), and its monster Sniper chassis. Most chassis are made of 131/44-inch mild steel tubing and the Contender is available in either two- or four-seat variants. Contact: Avalanche Engineering, 970/884-7716, www.avalancheengineering.com

BadlandsBased in Attica, Indiana, Badlands Custom Offroad is a full machine shop, 4x4 parts retailer, and custom off-road vehicle builder. It will take on projects from basic suspension components to full-turn turnkey vehicles. The basic chassis is made of 131/44-inch by 0.120-inch wall DOM tubing with a 2x4-inch mandrel-bent rectangular main frame for strength, though modifications of the basic design are as open as the customer's imagination. Designed as a two-seater with 35- to 40-inch tires, four-link suspension front or rear, and a 98- to 105-inch wheelbase, Badlands' basic chassis can be used for either competition or recreational off-roading. The shop is based off of the Badlands Off Road Park, where you can take your chassis for some proper testing and weekend wheeling. Contact: Badlands Custom Offroad Machine Shop, 765/762-2981, www.badlandsoffroad.com

BudBuiltBased in Arcade, New York, BudBuilt Frames and Accessories will replace your existing stock frame on '79-'95 Toyota trucks and 4Runners. They are mandrel-bent 2x4x31/416-inch wall-structural steel tubing. The main framerails are formed from one piece for maximum strength and they are assembled and welded in jigs to ensure accuracy, repeatability, and fit. The front crossmember can house a 2-inch receiver hitch or an integral winch mount, and all stock location mounts for body, engine, fuel tank, springs, bumpers, and shocks are included for a completely bolt-on replacement. Custom shock and spring mounts, engine mounts, and custom wheelbases are available too. Rocksliders, bumpers, tire mounts, drivetrain, and body lifts can also be built in. All frames are made for solid axle front and leaf springs, and hot-dip galvanizing is available for the best corrosion protection. In addition, BudBuilt offers crossmembers (with or without drivetrain lifts) for single and dual transfer cases, skidplates, shackles, and traction bars. Contact: BudBuilt Frames and Accessories, 716/481-9653, www.budbuilt.com

CampbellCampbell Enterprise Custom Fabrication in Phoenix has years of desert racing, drag racing, and rockcrawling experience going into its two- and four-seat buggies. Built of HREW and/or DOM steel tubing attached to a 2x3-inch rectangular-tube main frame, the chassis can be made in any width and length to fit the customer size and shape. They can also fit any motor, tranny, transfer case, and axle combo the customer might want to use. Contact: Campbell Enterprise Custom Fabrication, 480/782-JEEP, www.campbellent.com

Factory TubularFactory Tubular Motorsports from Salt Lake City recently released its new Rock Force Chassis. Concentrating on an affordable chassis designed for the hard-core competitor and garage builder, its 340-pound chassis is made of 131/44-inch by 0.120-inch wall and 131/44-inch by 0.083-inch wall DOM tubing. This 136-inch-long two-seater chassis comes with a 101- to 107-inch wheelbase range, and is designed for three- or four-link suspensions. Contact: Factory Tubular Motorsports, 888/338-8327, www.factorytubular.com

Grady's ExtremeGrady's Extreme Off-Road builds a multisport sand/rock/mud-tube chassis. Made of 151/48-inch by 0.120-inch HREW mild steel or 151/48-inch by 0.095-inch DOM and fully MIG-welded, these chassis are set up for four-links front and rear with a wheelbase range of 99 to 103 inches on the two-seater and 115 on the four-seater. At the shop in Rancho Cordova, California, Grady's builds a vehicle that can be wheeled in various terrain and still be safe at high speeds. Contact: Grady's Extreme Off-Road, 916/638-5843, www.gradysoffroad.com

FrankiesFrankies Offroad in Ashville, Alabama, can fry you up a Southern-style tube creation. With experience building lightweight chassis for Toyota running gear or rigs that utilize 211/42-ton Rockwell axles, Frankies should be able to satisfy whatever direction you want to go. Frankies concentrates on building a chassis that not only performs, but is also comfortable to spend hours on the trail in. Usually built of 131/44-inch DOM tubing with aluminum body panels, steel floors, firewalls, and four-link suspensions, these rigs can be delivered a la carte or as a turnkey rig ready to wheel. Contact: Frankies Offroad, 205/594-5098, www.frankiesoffroad.com

JP & AFWJP Off-Road of Washington and Advanced Frame Works of Montana can offer you various choices in replacement frames and aluminum bodies. With mandrel-bent frames for early and later Jeep CJs, Land Cruisers, Broncos, and rust-proof bodies, they can supply a perfect base for your next trail rig that can also act as a daily driver. Some special features include the coil-sprung TJ suspension under CJ frames and even shortened CJ-8 Scrambler bodies and frames. Contact: JP Off-Road, 509/893-1488, www.jpoffroad.com, or Advanced Frame Works, 406/538-4996, www.montanajeepframes.com

MatkinsMatkins Extreme Frames in Billings, Montana, is the only company giving the folks a choice between fully welded Extreme Frames or mandrel-bent Economy Frames for Jeep CJs, Broncos, FJ40s, SJs, Willys, and others. Their frames are all box-tube replacement chassis with custom options from simple shackle reversals to coil conversions, and stretches that can be done in conjunction with Matkins' own aluminum bodies made to match for many models. A unique feature of Matkins Extreme Frames is that they are always larger, not smaller, than stock and come with a lifetime warranty. Contact: Matkins, 406/248-3797, www.matkinsextreme.com

HendrixHendrix Motorsports, based in Santa Margarita, California, offers three models that are computer designed for strength, durability, and affordability. Each chassis is CNC-mandrel bent and assembled on a frame jig for maximum consistency and alignment. The first model is a full tube chassis designed for four-link suspension front and rear. The other two are weld-on chassis for Toyota and Suzuki frames offering an inexpensive way to get tube-buggy performance and looks at economical prices. They are usually built of DOM or HREW steel but chromoly can be special ordered. The basic chassis is built assembly-line style, but Hendrix can customize it from there to meet a customer's needs. Contact: Hendrix Motorsports, 805/550-3196, www.hendrixmotorsports.com

Poison SpyderPoison Spyder Customs of Denver offers the Bruiser chassis. Crafted from a combination of 0.120- and 0.134-inch wall, 131/44-inch DOM tubing, the Bruiser comes welded complete with winch mount and 31/416 plate rockers. Many options are available from coilover mounts and Lexan body panels to clamp-on tire carriers and motor mounts. The chassis is engineered to accommodate small-block, inline-six, and smaller engines and works best with automatics and Atlas or Dana 300 combinations. Bruisers are available in a two-seat model, with a four-seat and truck-bed models currently under development. The two-seater's wheelbase can be from 100 to 106 inches. These chassis are designed as recreational wheelers, built for off-road performance with large interior room and comfort. Chassis can be purchased as a base chassis, roller, or full turnkey. Contact: Poison Spyder Customs, 303/777-4820, www.spydercustoms.com

Randy EllisRandy Ellis Design in Phoenix constructs most chassis from MIG-welded 1010 HREW mechanical steel tube with main structures usually 131/44- or 111/42-inch OD with a 0.120 wall thickness. In addition, they can build chassis from 4130 chromoly, which are TIG-welded. Each chassis is custom-built to order and the rigs are usually turnkey, but can be built in any number of stages from bare with no bracketry, rolling chassis with engine, trans, transfer case, suspension, axles and steering, turnkey with no paint, with body panels or not, or complete with custom three-stage powdercoat and Lexan, or aluminum body panels painted with custom artwork. Contact: Randy Ellis Design Inc., 602/803-2755, www.randyellisdesign.com

Rock EquipmentRock Equipment of Lincoln, California, is selling its Razor buggy chassis designed for GM V-6s with a mid-engine placement behind the driver for better trail visibility. Weighing between 2,250 and 2,750 pounds, these buggies can be built with most any differential, but are designed primarily around a Ford 9-inch/Unimog portal axle. In addition they can be outfitted with plastic skins in various colors. All Razors are made of 111/42-inch by 0.120-inch DOM steel tubing and come with a 101- to 105-inch wheelbase range. Contact: Rock Equipment, 916/645-2899, www.rockequipment.com

S&NBased in Arlington, Washington, S&N Fab builds complete turnkey rides and will modify existing vehicles, or can assemble just a chassis, which the customer can finish. S&N has a basic chassis design that should fit the more common combos of motor/tranny/transfer case and axles and come with a wheelbase range of 100 to 107 inches. However, the company will still build custom one-off buggies if desired. The chassis mainly use 111/42-inch by 0.120-inch DOM tubing, but can use other sizes if the customer wishes. Contact: S&N Fab Inc., 360/435-9040, www.sn-fab.com

Roark FabRoark Fab Works' current frames are made from 111/42-inch by 0.120-inch HREW with DOM as available as an upgrade. Future chassis will be available for leaf-spring or coilover suspensions and are offered as frames only, buildups, or complete turnkey vehicles. If you are close to Olive Hill, Kentucky, then you may want to give Roark a call. Contact: Roark Fab Works, 606/286-0681, www.roarkfabworks.com

Shaffer'sShaffer's Off-Road and Performance of Carson City, Nevada, offers its customers the Diablo chassis for competition rockcrawling and mild-to-extreme OHV travel. The chassis can be purchased stand-alone or in various turnkey options, including suspension setup, axles, drivetrains, or competition/OHV-ready buggies. The Diablo standard chassis can house four-cylinder to big-block Chevy drivetrains, axles of choice, and two passengers. The chassis can be built from chromoly or mild steel. Contact: Shaffer's Offroad and Performance, 775/885-9944, www.shaffersoffroad.com

SpidertraxSpidertrax is known for its lightweight and strong Suzuki products, and its Sammy-based STX Chassis is no different. Available completely welded or as a turnkey machine, these diminutive buggies can be outfitted with all the drivetrain of your old Samurai when the body and frame have gone to the big scrapyard in the sky. In addition, Spidertrax now offers a mid-engine XTS chassis and full components for the rigs. Located in Longmont, Colorado, Spidertrax is ready to address your extreme lightweight 4x4 projects. Contact: Spidertrax, 800/286-0898, www.spidertrax.com

Trent FabThe Trent Fabrication chassis has 20 inches of ride-height adjustability when equipped with airbags. Based in Tahoe City, California, owner Derrick Trent currently has a Jeep TJ-based chassis and is working on a Land Cruiser FJ-40-based chassis, both of which use coilover springs. The rigs come with a radius arm and track-bar front suspension for the street-driven version, or a triangulated four-link with a double-ended steering ram for the off-road-only version. Meanwhile, both come with a four-link rear suspension. All tube chassis are built to order and can accommodate small-block V-8, V-6, 22R, 22RE, or Jeep 4.0. Contact: Trent Fabrication, 530/581-2090, www.trentfabrication.com

Twisted CustomsTwisted Customs of Rapid City, South Dakota, has modified stock vehicles, done custom tube work for 4x4s, and built complete tube rigs. Owner Jason Paule and his crew use anything from mild steel to 0.120 chromoly in their custom chassis, and have built for, and competed in, both the Pro and Stock classes of rockcrawling. Paule's shop has the ability to build any project dealing with rockcrawling, tight-trail off-roading, and even custom paint. Not only can they incorporate all new parts, but they also have customers bring complete vehicles to the shop, where all the parts are then put on a new chassis. Always incorporating new ideas and concepts, this shop is willing to push the envelope in off-road and rockcrawling vehicles. Contact: Twisted Customs, 605/923-7288, www.twistedcustoms.com

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