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1949 2WD Willys Pickup - Wicked Willys: Part 2

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 16, 2014 Comment (0)
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1949 2WD Willys Pickup -  Wicked Willys: Part 2

Last time in Wicked Willys Part 1, we introduced you to our latest garage-built project Jeep currently under way. Well, since then, the Jeep has seen a few improvements as we slowly gather parts and piece things together in our two-car garage. The plan and hope is to build a big, low-lift, angry, rowdy Willys that anyone with a few fab skills and tools could duplicate in their garage. In this installment, we get a little further into building our link-style suspension using one-ton GM axles and some parts from our friends at Synergy Manufacturing. This includes the company’s three- and four-link link kits, rear axle truss, and control arm components. Add in a little garage fab and some help from our friends and the axles might just be located on this thing soon. We also dig into prepping the drivetrain with some parts help from the guys over at Off Road Design in Carbondale, Colorado. With ORD’s help, we add parts that will give our Wicked Willys plenty of gearing to keep those big meats spinning come what may.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 002 HR

Last time we gave you a hint of what was to come in the suspension department of our Willys pickup in one of the pictures. Out back, we are running a four-link with triangulated upper arms. Here you can see one of the major components of the rear suspension, the Synergy Universal Rear Truss (PN 3115, $275.00). It’s beautiful, and is centered on the GM 14-bolt with a little notching on the driver side. While the pinion on the 14-bolt is centered, the cast center section sits cheated to the driver side a few inches. For now we will pretend and tell everyone the nice welds on the bracket are our own.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 003 HR

Here are the Synergy control arm brackets that come with the Synergy Rear 4-Link Kit (PN 5052-04 with 4-foot tubes to be cut down for the control arms, $1150.00) and Synergy Front 3-Link Kit (PN 5051-02-03 with three-foot tubes to be cut down for the control arms and track bar parts, $1150.00) that we are using. These kits are intended to be mounted to a TJ, YJ, CJ, or an early Bronco (whatever that is) but are also pretty universal, meaning they are perfect for us. Here we have marked the top of each of the brackets so we can trim the tops level with the top of the TJ frame using our plasma cutter. The front brackets are on the top of the picture and to the right with one rear bracket on the bottom left.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 004 HR

Here is one of the front frame-side control arm brackets tacked into place on the TJ frame. You can see the third upper control arm will be held in place with a vertical bolt, while the two lower arms use a more traditional horizontal placement. We will be running a medium-length front control arm and a fairly long rear control arm to help make up the difference in wheelbase between a stock TJ (our frame) and the Willys truck (our body).

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 006 HR

We bought a kingpin Dana 60 GM front axle housing from a friend for $600. We then mounted the lower control arm brackets to the full-width axle. The same friend had recently built a Ford Dana 60 for the front of his TJ-based buggy and had these nice Dynatrac lower spring mounts sitting around -- we borrowed them. We knew we could make these brackets work for us with a little work. Here we made templates to help with spring mount placement. This should put the axle forward a couple inches relative to the coil placement on a stock TJ.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 005 HR

Here is the placement of the rear frame-side control arm bracket on the TJ frame. The different holes allow for tuning of the suspension, but we are a ways away from that right now.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 007 HR

We bought a kingpin Dana 60 GM front axle housing from a friend for $600. We then mounted the lower control arm brackets to the full-width axle. The same friend had recently built a Ford Dana 60 for the front of his TJ-based buggy and had these nice Dynatrac lower spring mounts sitting around -- we borrowed them. We knew we could make these brackets work for us with a little work. Here we made templates to help with spring mount placement. This should put the axle forward a couple inches relative to the coil placement on a stock TJ.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 008 HR

Everything else on this build is relatively simple compared to figuring out the front axle/control arm/engine/steering/track bar/spring/shock placement. Probably the most stressful is figuring out the axle-end upper-control arm mount. We want the truck to sit low, and it’s going to have a big mill under the hood, so figuring out where things need to be before the engine is in involves some mind gymnastics. With plenty of advice from our friends Chris Durham from Chris Durham Motorsports and Dave Chapelle of Chapelle’s Exhaust and Kustoms, we started fabbing up a low bridge to fit our front Dana 60. The first step was to bend some 1⁄4-inch-thick plate to fit tightly over the axle housing using our Swag Offroad 12 TonPress Brake DIY Builder Kit (PN 6PB12TA, $149.95).

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 009 HR

Once we got the bridge or truss bent and in place, we cut another piece of 1⁄4-inch-thick plate (here tacked into place) and drilled it with 3⁄4-inch holes so it could be rosette welded to the flat on the centersection’s casting. Our hope is to grab enough of the cast-steel centersection so we don’t have to worry about the third-upper arm ever coming loose when we are beating this thing on the rocks or driving it to the store. We are not yet done welding and bolting on this axle, so keep your eyes peeled for the final set-up.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 010 HR

Once the first pieces of the bridge were in place, we called in a favor and got the whole setup professionally TIG welded in place. We are pretty good with MIG welding mild steel, but on something like this we prefer to call in the experts. For this, we drug the axle down to Rob Bonney Fabrication in Peoria, Arizona, where proper preheating, TIG welding, and post-heating would ensure strength for years to come.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 011 HR

We’ve set up a few front suspensions on coil-sprung Jeeps before, but it’s always daunting. Rob Bonney suggested we build the front suspension at full bump; that is, metal on metal and with the axle over to the passenger side 11⁄2 inches (since that’s the way the track bar will push it when the suspension compresses). With hindsight being 20/20, we should have heavy-tacked everything on the suspension in place until all the major components of the Jeep were in place. As is, we will have to build around our permanent heavy welds. Right about now we were wishing we had gone with leaf springs instead of coils and arms -- maybe next time?

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 013 HR

Late in the day around the Jp Offices while bench racing with our pals from some of the other off-road magazines, we usually say you can either start with a Jeep and build it with full-size truck components, or you can start with a full-size truck and beat it and trim it down until it’s Jeep-size. One company that has made a name for itself by doing the latter is Off Road Design out of Carbondale, Colorado. We always drooled over its cool T-case doublers (we like lots of gearing options), so when it came time to build a big Jeep the connection was simple. Our plan is to run a Dodge 440ci V-8 to a Dodge NP435 to a Dodge NP203 low-range box with an ORD Doubler and finally to a Chevy NP205. With the company’s help we got the Dodge NP203 ready to go in place with the aluminum ORD Gen 2 doubler/adapter.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 014 HR

Next, we tore into the GM NP205 that we picked up at a junkyard. The input bearing recess of the case had to be opened up to fit a larger bearing and a new ORD 32-spline input (PN GU4033, $170.00) so we could mate the Dodge NP203 low-range box to the front end of the NP205. We took this opportunity to add in a set of ORD’s brand-new modified shift rails (the shiny ones) ($130.00). This will allow us to have true twin-stick action on the NP205 when the Jeep is all bolted together.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 012 HR

Both the Synergy three- and four-link kits we ordered came with true Johnny Joint bearing assemblies, threaded tube inserts, jam nuts, and tubing. Half are left-hand thread and half are right-hand thread. Once we figured out our rough axle placement we could assemble the control arms. The lower arms are made of rock-crushing, 2-inch, 0.250-wall DOM while the uppers are 13⁄4-inch, 0.120-wall DOM. We measured three times before cutting the tubing to length and welding the arms together. We also drilled the ends of each tube with a 1⁄2-inch hole for rosette welding to be sure our arms last.

1949 2WD Willys Pickup 015 HR

Here is the Dodge NP435 bolted to the Dodge NP203 low-range box with an ORD Gen 2 Doubler ($770.00) to the front of the GM NP205. This will allow us to run First gear (6.68:1), Second (3.34:1), Third (1.66:1), or Fourth (1:1) in high-range (1:1), 2:1 low-range, or 4:1 low-range, all while in front drive, rear drive, or 4-wheel drive. With our planned 4.88 axle gears, that gives us a crawl ratio of 130.39:1. That ought to do it.

Sources

Offroad Design
970-945-7777
www.offroaddesign.com
Swag Off Road
Oregon City, OR 97045
541-915-2775
www.swagoffroad.com
Synergy Manufacturing
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
805-242-0397
www.synergymfg.com
Rob Bonney Fabrication
602-370-7955
facebook.com/pages/Rob-Bonney-Fabrication/193559750764429

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