Stronger Axles And Better Brakes
We have always been fans of Chevy Suburbans. Built the right way, a Sub can tow a house and still go wherever there's room on the trail for it to fit. It can do all that while hauling you and all of your friends, and all your gear, along for the ride. When you get tired, you can just lay down for a nap in its massive interior.
It was with those positive traits in mind that we started looking around for a '73-'91 Suburban. We wanted to stick to those years because they are still leaf-sprung, with solid axles front and rear. Plus, with so many Burbs of that era out there, parts are plentiful. Then our plans changed: One day we happened across a '71 Suburban. It was for sale. We have always been suckers for the funky styling of the '67-'72 three-door Burbs and couldn't resist taking a look. This beast was beat and battered and would be plenty of work to make into the rig we wanted, but the potential was obvious. There was no way we could pass it up.
We bought it, and thus began a massive project to transform our sub-par Burb into SuperBurb. From towing to trail running to exploring Baja to driving to work, we want the Burb to be able to handle a wide variety of tasks with ease. For our first part of the project we focus on stronger axles and better brakes. What follows is a chronicle of what we did and how we did it.
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Behold, the finished product in all its glory. With a 14-bolt stuffed with 4.88 gears, a NoSpin, and disc brakes, the rear of our Burb is ready for anything we can throw at it.
With the 14-bolt assembled, the next step was to pop it into the back of the Burb. The spring pads had to be moved because of the extra width of the van housing. Once the pinion angle was correct they were welded into place. New lower shock mounts also were welded up at this time.
Our original driveshaft wouldn't work because a 14-bolt uses 1350 U-joints and our 1/2-ton shaft came equipped with wimpy 1310s. The 14-bolt's pinion also is 2 inches farther forward than it is on the 12-bolt. We didn't want to build new driveshafts until our new suspension and drivetrain, all of which we'll tell you about in future issues, were in. Lucky for us, one of the guys at ORU had a driveshaft out of a '72 3/4-ton Suburban lying around in his scrap heap that we could temporarily use. All we had to do was change out the 1310 U-joint yoke on the transfer case for a 1350.
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The same caliper that came on your 1/2-ton Dana 44 can actually be used when you convert to eight lugs, but we decided to upgrade to the 3/4-ton calipers from a '73-'77 Chevy Dana 44 as they use a slightly bigger piston. Another part that can be reused from the 1/2-ton Dana 44 is the locking hub. With all those parts in place our Dana 44 was now eight-lugged, stuffed with a stout Ox Locker along with 4.88 gears, and ready for action.