Taking A Flatty Into The Future
Built on a steady diet of sheetmetal and too many late nights, Toby Lavender's '53 Willys Flatfender, dubbed Mister Twister, is the kind of eye-popping, hill-topping 4x4 that makes fellow 'wheelers salivate. And it isn't just that great paint job or the elongated front clip that gets 'em going. It's also what's under the hood. Lavender pushed his Jeep's grille forward 3 inches to make room for the rig's Chevy 350. The engine uses a throttle-body injection, Edelbrock intake manifold, Flowmaster mufflers and Hedman headers.
Drive flows from that stout Chevy into a TH350 transmission that is equipped with a B&M oil pan, and from there to an NP205 transfer case to get twist to all four corners. Toby also installed a 4:1 Klune-V between the tranny and transfer case, giving the rig supreme crawling ability. A Corporate 10-bolt (chosen because "That's what I had," says Toby) with a custom rotating front axlehousing and a Detroit Locker rest at the front of the Jeep. At the rear, the Flatty features a Corporate 14-bolt stuffed with a Detroit Locker. Axle ratio is 4.88:1, and Toby fabbed his own custom axleshafts. Arizona Driveline provided the Jeep with its tough-as-nails 1350 and 1410 U-joints with long-slip splines.
Toby's suspension features custom three-link systems with coilover shocks at the front and rear. He explains, "The operation of the front three-link suspension system is based on a custom front axlehousing. The front axle uses a two-piece housing to the left of the pumpkin that rotates inside of itself. The stock 10-bolt knuckles were removed and replaced with D60 front knuckles in order to utilize D60 inner axles, 35-spline outer axles and D60 hubs." Toby also fabbed custom removable antiroll bars for the Jeep. Both the lower rear control arms and the front control arms are made of heavy-duty materials that make the vehicle "strong enough to go over any rock," according to its owner.
The steering on Mister Twister is hydraulically assisted. A Grant steering wheel controls a set of 38.5x14.5x15 TSL Swampers on 15x10 A/E 589s with Champion bead locks. The Flatty's wheelbase was extended to 100 inches, but Toby and his crew retained the other body dimensions to fit the standard CJ top and doors.
The Flatfender has a custom-built frame and rollcage. Its hitch is also custom. Toby installed a trio of PIAA driving lights and moved his Pro Carr seats back 12 inches for extra space and comfort. Auto Meter gauges tell Toby his engine's oil and water temperature, voltage and tranny temperature. When Toby hits trails near his Seaside, California, home, he relies on a Warn XD9000i winch for extraction. Toby also carries a complete set of custom tow hooks, a Hi-Lift jack and a Kilby Enterprises air tank.
All of which makes Toby's Flatty a well-equipped Jeep. But is it tough enough for Top Truck Challenge? We'll have to wait and see.
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|Owner||Toby Lavender, Seaside, California|
|Vehicle/Model||1953 Willys Flatfender|
|Type||Chevy 350 OHV V-8|
|Aspiration||TBI, Hedman Headers, Flowmaster muffler|
|Front||Three-link with coilover|
|Rear||Three-link with coilover|
|Shocks||16-inch King coilovers|
|Front||Corporate 10-Bolt with custom rotating front axlehousing with D60 knuckles and Detroit Locker|
|Rear||Corporate with Detroit Locker|
|Wheels||15x10 A/E 589s with Champion bead locks|
|Tires||38.5x14.5x15 TSL Super Swampers|