Part 5: Cracking the whip - 99 per cent complete in one week's time
(Editor's Note: If you've followed this project, you already know that Triple X Traction in Seaside, California, has been preparing our 2004 Nissan Titan for battle at this year's Top Truck Challenge. [See the April, June, November 2005 and January 2006 issues.] This time, however, we forced the project into hyper-drive, demanding that the vehicle be finished in time for the 2005 Specialty Equipment Manufacturers' Association [SEMA] Show--which was only 8 days away.)
If you've ever dreamed of competing in Four Wheeler's Top Truck Challenge, consider this story required reading. Over the past 12 years, Four Wheeler has had the honor of being first to critique some of the most innovative ideas in the world of hard-core trail rigs. Some setups have worked wonderfully, while others simply collapsed under pressure at TTC. Along the way, our staff has compiled volumes about what works and what we wish we could own. We've waited patiently for a chance to put what we've learned into practice. We're happy to say our wait is over.
The Foundation is Laid
9:00 a.m.: The rear portion of the truck had already been removed. Triple X Traction founder Toby Lavender was hard at work building a three-dimensional crossmember that would mark the beginning of what eventually became comic relief for the project. "Cool-guy holes," as they were nicknamed, dotted Toby's structural masterpiece. This creation inspired several other holey areas on the truck. For example, Toby had already mapped out a triangulated three-link design for the front suspension. The design included several brackets that could easily incorporate these simple aesthetic touches. (Though looks weren't necessarily a priority, they're always welcome for a venue such as SEMA.) The front suspension uses a track bar to locate the axle laterally. The setup is stout and effective; it allows for ample suspension flex and is virtually unparalleled in simplicity. Much of Day 1 was spent finalizing this area, along with other finishing touches related to the front axle.
11:00 p.m.: Both inner fenders were clearanced, and all unnecessary items were relocated or removed to make room for a pair of trick tubular front shock hoops. We didn't want the standard run-of-the-mill hoops, so we convinced Toby to let some of our late-night helpers play with his new high-dollar roller bender. A roller bender is a radical machine capable of producing large radius bends in all kinds of tubing. These bends are perfect for matching body contours and, more importantly, aesthetic sightlines. With Toby's guidance, our buddies built two front shock hoops to match the natural arc of the trucks inner body structure. The reason? To make the hoops look as though they were there all along. Structurally speaking, any bent tube is a potential weak link, but for slow-speed events of TTC, these hoops would do just fine, providing secure mounting points for two 16-inch-travel Fox Racing Shox at each front corner: one consisting of a coilover, the other a double bypass for dampening.
We strongly believe that high-quality results require high-quality tools to start with. So we scored Toby a killer manual tubing bender from JMR Manufacturing to use on the project. The unit features a sweet billet-aluminum gearbox that makes bending tube as easy as turning a wrench. All of the tubing for the project was bent with this top-quality bender, ensuring 100-percent symmetry from one side of the vehicle to the other. By the time the sun set on Day 1, Toby and his guys were hard at work bending various sticks of 1 3/4-inch DOM tubing to be used throughout the project.
We also hooked Toby up with a great tubing notcher from JMR to help piece together our elaborate puzzle of tube. This notcher uses a standard hole saw bit and a regular electric or pneumatic drill to make precise cuts in all types of tubing. This unit is a cut above all the rest (pun intended) because it features an enormous inch-thick hardened driveshaft that is solidly located by a set of liquid-cooled Timken bearings. This allows for extremely steady cutting, free of vibrations that would normally cause bit deflection. This tool is almost surgical in accuracy, a key factor to a tight-fitting tubular support structure. JMR Manufacturing is well known in the world of Baja racing as a highly qualified race vehicle prep shop. They also build some of the fastest Trophy Trucks in the business.
2:33 a.m.: As the morning fog crept in, Toby and our group of helpers seemed more than happy with the day's progress. So we closed the shop down and headed home to catch a short nap before starting Day 2.