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1996 Chevy K3500 Custom 4x4 - Wheel In Peace

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2009
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Jason's '96 1-ton crew cab was originally purchased as a tow rig while he was looking for an old Jeep to build. Then he decided he'd rather build a buggy, so he started collecting parts. One thing led to another and the next thing you know, he was wheeling the tow rig. It went from an independent front suspension to a solid axle early on, and before long he was stuffing it down trails that were better suited for smaller 4x4s.

Did you ever know one of those guys who, no matter what time you call him, he's willing to come help you out of a bad situation? Jason Payne was one of those guys. He would come if you needed a tow strap, a jump start, or even just to lend a hand moving. Even though he was only in his early 20s, he had the skills to completely rebuild his off-roader multiple times. In fact, Jason was that guy that wouldn't just talk about some crazy upgrade for his truck; he'd pull it in the garage and have it rebuilt over a long weekend.

But life is strange, and sometimes things happen that no one can explain. While on an off-roading trip, Jason was swimming in a mountain lake with a bunch of friends. He lost his life in a drowning accident.

This type of accident can destroy a family and devastate your outlook on life because it's hard to imagine something so unfortunate happening to a guy with so much promise. But it can also lead to something amazing. For example, Jason had been working on the final upgrades to his truck, which involved some big new axles swapped in, a bunch of tube work, and cleaning up unfinished upgrades. The story could have ended right there, but Jason's family and friends decided that getting the truck completed would keep his spirit alive as well as help them all deal with the loss. Jason hadn't been building some mini-truck that barely fits two or a built-from-scratch tube buggy. Instead he literally turned his old tow rig into a giant crew-cab truggy rockcrawler, a machine big enough that everyone could lend a hand working on it, and perfect for family and friends to take off road when it's finished and remember their lost friend.

For years we'd been trying to lock down a photo shoot to feature Jason's big wheeler, yet each time we called his truck was either under the knife for a new upgrade or our schedules didn't match up. It's a bummer Jason couldn't make it to the photo shoot in person, but we're pretty sure his big truck is helping his family and friends get through a tough situation, the same way Jason would.

The big truggy has been through multiple rebuilds under both Jason's watch and the dedication of his friends and family, but now it is ready to go wheeling again. And wheeling it will go. Jason's father and mother have made it available to his close friends and have renewed their own off-road adventures, something they hadn't done for years. Jason's dad Ken thanks his friends John Reynolds, Esteban Solano, and Kyle Crowley for their work on the truck and his friends in the NorCal and SoCal Big Dawgs off-road clubs as well as his many acquaintances on the various online forums who helped with support and parts donations when they were finishing the truck.

Tech Specs
1996 Chevrolet K3500

Engine: Stock Vortec 454
Transmission: Stock 4L80E four-speed automatic
Transfer case: Stock BorgWarner 4401
Front Axle: Mercedes Unimog 419 portal axles from a U.S. military SEE tractor with 6.5:1 gearing and factory air lockers
Rear Axle: Mercedes Unimog 419 portal axles from a U.S. military SEE tractor with 6.5:1 gearing and factory air lockers

Springs & Such: Custom triangulated four-link front and rear with 18-inch Sway-A-Way coilovers at each corner and matching air bumpstops
Tires & Wheels: 47x16.5 SS LTB on HMMWV eight-bolt beadlocks with custom rock rings and new centers for the unimog pattern
Steering: Orbital valve controlling the 2 1/2x10-inch double-ended ram with a 1 1/2-inch shaft
Other Stuff: 3/8-inch AR360 plate skidplates, Beard suspension seats, 32-gallon Fuel Safe fuel cell, frame cut off behind the cab and replaced with tubing, frame notched under engine for axle uptravel

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