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Custom Off Road Buggy - Lone Star 4x4s

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 1, 2002
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There's a high probability that if you own your own fabrication shop, you're probably a darn good fabricator. Such is the case with Mark Claus, who owns Creative Engineering in Conroe, Texas, and this came in handy when he decided to create his own custom 4x4. The sum of his effort is this capable tubeframed 4x4 buggy he calls Texas Frog.

The frame was created from 2x4 rectangular tubing, the floor and firewall from 16-gauge sheetmetal, the integral front bumper from 2x5 rectangular tubing, and the cage from 1 5/8-inch steel tubing. To this, 57-inch-long leaf-spring packs were bolted into the rear of the truck. Up front, the leaf pack consists of rear leaf springs from a Jeep YJ with a 1-inch add-a-leaf, and what Claus calls "goofy links," which allow for approximately 10 more inches of suspension extension by simply removing a link that allows the leaf spring to droop when needed.

The interior of the Texas Frog features RCI seats, Deist four-point racing harnesses, a B&M shifter, and a custom waterproof gauge pod. Passengers are sheltered by a removable Bestop bikini top.

The front axle is a Dana 60 with 35-spline axleshafts, while the rear is a Dana 60 with 30-spline axles. Both have been geared to 7.17:1, and the rear axle sports a custom-made spool and axle truss. The front axle is fitted with 13-inch rotors and Bendix front calipers, while the rear features a single 13-inch rotor with a GM caliper (Claus points out that this was done because with the spool in the rear diff locking the axles together, only one brake is needed to effectively stop both wheels from turning).

Other brake components include a '65 Chevy master cylinder mounted directly in front of the brake pedal and custom stainless-steel brake lines from BHR Motorsports in Woodlands, Texas. Absorbing trail bumps is the job of Gabriel 12-inch-stroke shocks in front, and Monroe 13 1/2-inch-stroke shocks in the rear. A single ladder bar is mounted close to the center of the vehicle, near the rear driveshaft, and it's mounted to a custom bracket near the transfer case. At the rear mounting point, a torsional bushing from a Saturn allows for 30-degree side-to-side movement so it doesn't hinder wheel articulation. A custom crossover steering setup is composed of tie rods from a 1-ton Chevy pickup, 3/4-inch rod ends, and a Saginaw power-steering pump.

Enclosed in a custom engine compartment is a Chevrolet 350ci V-8. It sports a number of performance mods, including a Lunati camshaft, TRW pistons, Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, 800-cfm Quadrajet carburetor, and L-82 Corvette headers.

Under the hood is a Chevrolet 350ci V-8 engine, which features a number of mods that boost its power rating to 400 hp at 6,800 rpm. The list of upgrades includes TRW pistons, a Lunati camshaft, Crane valve springs and roller rockers, Edelbrock Performer intake ported to match the heads, an 800-cfm Quadrajet carburetor, L-82 Corvette headers, 2 1/2-inch dual exhaust, and two-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. The ignition system includes a GM distributor with MSD HEI module, MSD coil, Mr. Gasket Spark Curve Kit, an 80-amp GM alternator, and a Stowaway Marine deep-cycle battery.

Bolted to the engine is a TH350 automatic transmission that was built by WW Auto Trans in Spring, Texas, and it features upgrades including a TransGo Shift Kit and TCI components. It's kept cool by an auxiliary front-mounted cooler with a 10-inch electric fan, and controlled by a B&M shifter. Power is split by an NP205 transfer case which sends power to custom driveshafts that feature Spicer 1310 U-joints. The Frog's tires are 10-ply 44x18.5-16.5 Gateway Gumbo Monster Mudders, and they're mounted on 16.5x9.75 U.S. Wheel steel wheels.

The truck sports many additional items, including a Ramsey 12,000-pound winch, a 60-inch Hi-Lift jack, army surplus storage boxes, a Bestop bikini top, air compressor, off-highway lights, and loads of extra tools and parts. Inside the truck is a pair of RCI seats with Deist four-point safety harnesses, a GM steering wheel, and Auto Meter gauges mounted in a waterproof gauge pod. In addition, the front Lexan windshield is removable for crawling.

Owner Mark Claus's, Conroe, Texas
Vehicle model Homebuilt buggy
Estimated value n/a

Type Chevrolet V-8
Displacement (ci) 350
Aspiration 800-cfm Quadrajet, K&N air filter, Corvette headers, Flowmaster mufflers, 2 1/2-inch dual exhaust

Transmission TH350, TransGo Shift Kit, TCI components
Transfer case NP205

Front YJ rear leaf springs, 1-inch add-a-leaf
Rear Superlift and {{{Camaro}}} leaf springs, 57-inch length

Front Dana 60, 35-spline axleshafts, disc brakes
Rear Dana 60, 30-spline axleshafts, custom spool, single disc brake
Ring-and-pinion 7.17:1

Ring-and-pinion 16.5x9.75 U.S. Wheel, steel
Tires 44x18.5-16.5 Gateway Gumbo Monster Mudders, 10-ply

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