What makes a part great? Is it the ability to rebuild it over and over again instead of just throwing it away? Is it the simplicity, where an engineering degree is not required in order to make it operate correctly? What about the ability to customize it with a wide range of aftermarket support? If you said yes to any of the above, we have several old iron components that fit the bill. Some of the parts we chose were used straight from the manufacturer, such as axles and transmissions. Other parts were developed long ago by the aftermarket out of necessity. Either way, they have stood up the test of time and can still be found on trails all around the country to this day.
The upright Warn 8274 winch looks right at home on any old iron 4x4. It was first introduced in 1974 to replace the Belleview winch that was made from 1959 to 1973. The winch is rated at 8,000 pounds and remained mostly unchanged over the course of production. If you have ever wondered what “8274” means, the 8 is for the 8,000-pound rating, the 2 is for two-way in and out, and the 74 is for the year it was introduced. With a fast line speed and classic looks, it pulled itself right into the first position on our list.
The Saginaw 800 series power steering boxes are commonly found in 1970s and ’80s GM cars. Look for boxes cast with a “76” near the endcap which will have four mounting bolts, extra webbing in the casting, and larger bearings. The boxes are rebuildable and make a great swap into other old iron 4x4s equipped with manual steering or for replacing a rack on a newer vehicle during a solid axle swap.
The Dana 300 transfer case first appeared in 1980 Jeeps and International Scouts. This cast iron case is very durable, small, and relatively lightweight. It is easy to upgrade with aftermarket shifters, stronger output shafts, and lower gears. With the exception of the Scout case, the Dana 300 has a round six-bolt mounting flange that can be adapted to many different transmissions.
The vast majority of old iron vehicles were equipped with simple leaf springs. They not only act as the spring but also locate the axles within the chassis, which other types of springs cannot do. This type of suspension can be customized by adding or removing leaves to achieve a specific spring rate and ride quality, and leaves can be re-arched to regain their original height. Leaf springs are very budget-friendly and are such an enduring design that they are still found on the rear of most pickup trucks sold today.
The 1947-1967 SM420 (shown) and 1968-1988 SM465 are heavy-duty GM truck transmissions found in 1/2-ton through 2-ton applications. These transmissions are nearly indestructible and offer a granny gear of 7.05:1 in the SM420 and 6.55:1 in the SM465. The compact nature of these transmissions makes them a great choice for short-wheelbase vehicles. Both transmissions bolt up to a GM bellhousing and will also work with modified AMC bellhousings. Aftermarket bellhousing and transfer case adapters are from Advance Adapters and Novak Conversions. These old transmissions are rebuildable with new bearings, seals, and gaskets that are still being offered.
Kingpin steering knuckles are mostly obsolete in today’s light truck market. They enjoyed a long run on older trucks and were most commonly found on Dana 60 and Toyota axles. The kingpin design is very strong, which is why they were used on 1-ton trucks. Unlike ball joints, which must be replaced when they have worn out, kingpins can be rebuilt with just a few service parts available in kit form.
The Ford 9-inch rear axle is arguably the most popular axle ever made. Ford produced the 9-inch from 1957 to 1986. After the axle’s discontinuation, aftermarket companies like Currie Enterprises started reproducing the third members to go along with a wide variety of axlehousings and upgraded components. As the name implies, it uses a 9-inch ring gear and is a dropout design, meaning the entire third member unbolts from the housing. This makes it convenient to set up the gears on a bench instead of working on the axle while it is still under the vehicle. To keep the vintage vibe, look for a nodular iron housing, marked with a large “N” cast into the housing, instead of an aftermarket third member.
Arthur Warn invented the first manual locking hub in 1948, and since that time manual locking hubs have been offered as OEM or as a conversion on virtually all types of 4x4s. There have been several styles of manual locking hubs, from the two-lever Dualmatic type (shown) to the more traditional dial. We like knowing that our hubs are locked in by engaging them ourselves by hand instead of relying on vacuum lines or the failure-prone mechanism in auto-locking hubs.
The GM Corporate 14-bolt rear axle first appeared in 1973 3/4- and 1-ton trucks and vans. The axle uses an impressive 10 1/2-inch ring gear, a removable pinion support with three pinion bearings, and 1 1/2-inch/30-spline axleshafts. It came in both full- and semifloat models with the full-floater being the more desirable configuration because it takes the weight bearing off of the axleshafts. The name is derived from the cover using 14 bolts and not from the number of ring gear bolts, of which there are only 12. The strength and abundance of these axles make it one of our top picks.
This legendary transmission makes it onto our list because of durability, popularity, and aftermarket support. The Turbo 400 made its 1964 debut in Buick and Cadillac cars and could soon be found in Jeeps and heavy-duty GM trucks. The three-speed automatic transmission uses a cast aluminum alloy case measuring 24 3/8 inches long and can be built to withstand as much horsepower as you want to throw at it. When you want to pull the plug on your electronically controlled automatic transmission, the Turbo 400 is a great choice.