Mild to Wild: Taking a blowtorch to our Titan's IFS.
If you've been following our Project Titan buildup, you probably know that this particular vehicle has seen its fair share of bolt-on parts. And if you're a savvy reader, you already know we plan to significantly alter this rig in preparation for Top Truck Challenge 2006. Luckily, our generous friends at Nissan kicked down another pre-production Titan to fill in the editorial gap between Joe Bolt-On and those affluent enough to afford a TTC rig. We're calling the twin buildups "Mild 2 Wild" Titans.
Each year, our sister publication 4-Wheel & Off-Road takes on the mammoth task of building a project vehicle to shock and awe the masses during their annual Ultimate Adventure event. As with any aspirational buildup, they go big with each and every aspect of the rig. From a Super Duty on 46s, to an Avalanche with rear steer, or even to the more recent Toyota Taco-crawler, these rigs have captivated their audience with graft-to-fit hardware that is priced well beyond the yearly incomes of most individuals. That's why they're called "aspirational" vehicles. What's most important about these types of projects is the trickle-down effect that both their design and execution have on the mainstream. This is what we're after here. We don't expect to see another late-model fullsize at TTC, but we do hope the ideas and equipment we showcase will help you with your rig.
Building the Foundation
To succeed with anything, you must first develop a plan. Our plans began with the idea of competing in TTC with our own Titan. To execute our plan, we sought help from a master fabricator well versed in Top Truck-styled rigs. Toby Lavender owns a small fabrication shop called Triple X Traction in Seaside, California. You may recall Toby's flexible flatfender that took Third Place back in 2002. Toby also attended as a judge during the 2005 event. Needless to say, Toby was a good fit as our chief builder for the project. We dropped our Titan off, knowing full well that the rig would probably never be suitable for everyday commuting again.
All Nissan Titans come with independent front suspension from the factory. Looking back at the history of TTC, we found that only one out of 13 First Place winners had IFS. For this reason, we decided to abandon the factory suspension in favor of a proven solid front axle. We contacted Dynatrac of Huntington Beach, California, to commission a custom ProRock Dana 60 front axlehousing for the project. We chose this axle because it is the standard by which all others in the industry are judged. These axles feature best-in-class ground clearance, a high-pinion diff, interference-free oiling, and a high-strength centersection with a unique link mounting surface built right into the housing. We had the guys at Dynatrac set ours up with 4.56:1 gearing from Yukon Gear. We left the diff carrier open for now because industry buzz at the time suggested that a totally new electric locker was nearing production from Detroit Locker. More on that in a future article.
The project began with the removal of all the factory IFS components. A plasma torch made quick work of all unneeded metal. Once this process was completed, measurements were provided to Dynatrac. Our new housing arrived in just a few weeks' time. Though not recommended by Dynatrac, we removed the ball-joint end forgings (inner Cs and outer knuckles) in favor of stronger kingpin-style steering knuckles from Dedenbear. We knew butchering the Pro Rock axle would completely void our warranty, but the modification allowed use of much stronger axleshafts and steering components--all required assets for a winning TTC rig.
Randy's Ring & Pinion hooked us up with three install kits for the project. Two kits provided all the necessary hardware for each new kingpin knuckle, and one kit took care of the Yukon ring-and-pinion gearset.
We swapped out the pinion yoke provided with our ProRock 60 because we wanted a much stronger billet yoke with U-bolt-style mounting hardware (above). U-bolts are much stronger than traditional U-joint straps. We ordered this yoke from Summit Racing Equipment. The setup was designed to work with 1350 U-joints.