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Growing Petunia

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 27, 2004
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Contributors: Jon Thompson

Clifton Slay knows about four-wheelers. As proprietor of Poison Spyder Customs, he's built lots of them, and he's come up with lots and lots of custom equipment that other people use on their rigs.

But Clifton needed a rig of his own. So he decided to build one using Poison's Spyder Bruiser chassis kit. This is a two-seat, tube-frame kit intended for four-wheeling and occasional street use. It uses lots of special parts, and when completed, is incredibly sturdy, thanks in part to its 1.75-inch DOM tubing and Lexan and aluminum body panels. How serious was Clifton about making Petunia sturdy? So serious that the rockers and the winch plate are cut from 80,000-pound laser plate steel. Pretty serious.

A front Dana 60 and a rear Dana 70, both stuffed with Dynatrac axleshafts and Detroit Lockers, mark the boundaries of Petunia's 105-inch wheelbase. Shocks are King coilovers front and rear, with the power getting to the pumpkins via custom driveshafts, complete with 1410 U-joints, from High Angle Driveline.

Just upstream of those custom driveshafts is a 4.3:1 Atlas transfer case that takes its torque from a TH400 modified with a Lokar shifter, a 32-spline main shaft, straight-cut gears and Kevlar bands. The trans needs all that beef because its bolted up to a mildly tuned but still stout Mopar 360ci V-8 that's been bored 0.040 over and is fed through a Howell fuel-injection system to produce an estimated 330 hp.

In a significant departure from usual 4x4 practice, Clifton went with 18x10 wheels. These are shod with 38-inch Nitto Mud Grapplers.

Petunia's cockpit is simple and sparse, containing nothing it doesn't need to contain: A pair of Mastercraft seats, a Grant steering wheel and a set of Auto Meter gauges. Seated there, Clifton can look out over the hood, cowl and grille, all factory Jeep sheetmetal, and all sprayed, like the rest of his rig, a single-stage purple. He's topped all this off with an 8,000-pound Warn winch.

Clifton says the Bruiser chassis, of which Petunia is composed, is built to work well in rocks, sand and mud. And it does. It also gets lots of attention. It is, after all, a purple Jeep-like apparatus that clearly is the result of a good deal of thought and work.

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Owner: Clifton Slay
Vehicle/Model: Poison Spyder Bruiser
Estimated value: $45,000


Type: OHV V-8
Displacement (ci): 360
Horsepower: 330
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 315 @ 3,200
Aspiration: Howell fuel injection, Edelbrock manifold


Transmission: TH400, 32-spline main shaft, straight-cut gears, Kevlar bands, Perma Cooler trans cooler
Transfer case: Atlas 4.3:1


Front: King coilover, Air Bump bumpstops
Rear: King coilover, Air Bump bumpstops


Front: Dana 60, Dynatrac shafts, Detroit Locker
Rear: Dana 70, Dynatrac shafts, Detroit Locker
Ring and Pinion: 4.88:1

Wheels and Tires

Wheels: 18x10 Raceline custom
Tires: 38x15.5 Nitto Mud Grappler


Poison Spyder Customs
Banning, CA 92220

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