In last month's issue, we started to answer questions we're often asked: "How can I convert my two-wheel-drive truck to four-wheel drive? Is it worth the time and money?" We then reviewed the list of parts you'd need to make the conversion, and tallied up some ballpark costs if you purchased them used or from a junkyard. The results? We would have spent a good deal more money on the parts for the conversion than we would have paid for the 4x2 truck-in this case, a '92 Chevy C1500 bought for $2,500 by Maurice Rozo, owner of Off Road Unlimited.
But we know some of you who like a challenging project might still want to see how it all comes together, so this month we'll show you how to transform that street-only 4x2 into a four-wheel trail machine using a new ORU conversion kit for '88-'98 GM pickups.
Because Maurice gave us full control of this buildup, and because we wanted to end up with a cover-worthy pickup, we started the project with a visit to Julian's Body Shop in North Hollywood, California. Julian specializes in custom paint jobs and collision repair. We discussed various paint schemes with Julian, hoping his creative experience would net a unique color scheme that would look good on the trail. In the end, we decided to use a bright blue color for the basecoat. Stay tuned for more on this in an upcoming issue about paint and bodywork.
For suspension, we wanted to keep things simple-no fancy coils, no superfluous airbags, just tried-and-true leaf springs front and rear. So we contacted Atlas Spring Company and ordered a bulletproof set of leaf springs. The front leaf springs sported 6 inches of lift with double military wrap and a total of eight individual leaf springs. Out back, our 6-inch Atlas leaf springs also sported double military wrap and eight leaf springs each, though we also had Atlas add a kicker leaf springs on top of each pack to help prevent axlewrap. We picked this setup because it most accurately represents what many would-be wheelers would want under this type of multipurpose truck.
The front Dana 60 axle was also built by ORU. This axle is the first of a new production series ORU plans to offer customers. It features a high-pinion Dynatrac centersection, heavy-duty tubes, and Dedenbear inner Cs that accept kingpin knuckles. We like this setup because it offers greater strength over ball-joint-style knuckles while maintaining the superior lubricating properties of a Dynatrac Dana 60. We chose a Detroit Truetrac limited-slip to aid with traction duties.
When we drove our 1/2-ton around the block shortly before the conversion, little was said about the quality of the ride. After the conversion process, the ride was smooth and comfortable. We realized the brand-new leaf packs were probably going to settle a bit in the coming months, meaning the ride would probably get even better. As for capability, there's no comparison-this rig will simply walk over just about any obstacle we point it at. Maurice says he's planning on using the truck mainly as a shop rig, but he also invited us to borrow it whenever we wanted to tow one of our project rigs or wheel at events. Needless to say, we're planning on taking him up on the offer.