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1949 2WD Willys Pickup - Wicked Willys: Part 6

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 5, 2015
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Last time in Wicked Willys Part 5, we hinted at the fact that the big Jeep was finally sitting on its tires and wheels. That was true for a while, but it isn’t any more. Why? Well, we had to make sure the suspension was going to flex the way we thought it would before finalizing (and fully welding) important suspension parts like the track-bar mounts, steering, and more. That meant using an engine hoist, chains, and a jack to cycle the front suspension with one side resting metal-to-metal on one bumpstop, while the other side is drooped out the maximum length of the shock.

We then checked for interference and turned the big 42-inch BFG KX tires on TrailReady beadlocks from steering stop to steering stop, noted what hit and what was close, and moved on to the other side. If something hit hard and caused lots of interference, we would have had to change plans and move things around. It’s a good idea to do this before fully burning everything together or you may end up wasting time, resources, and money removing well-attached parts. Once done, we pulled the front tires and wheels and removed the front axle so we could run it back over to Rob Bonney Fab in Peoria, Arizona. While there, Rob Bonney himself made us a few parts and finished TIG welding our axle brackets to our old GM Dana 60 front axle.

Another benefit of cycling the suspension and taking some measurements was that we were finally able to get some coil springs and shocks ordered so that the big Jeep can soon cruise down the road and trail. To help deal with the extra weight of our Willys (remember that we are going to be using TJ coils and shock mounting locations, but a big-block V-8, 1-ton axles, extra body armor, and some great big ol’ tires), we contacted our friends down under at Old Man Emu by ARB. The setup allowed us to assemble a suspension system piecemeal with a mix of springs and shocks to help deal with the added weight, low stance, and longer wheelbase. To do this we ordered a pair of ZJ front coils and LJ rear coils both of which have higher spring rates than their TJ counterparts. Add in some Old Man Emu (OME) shocks and our suspension will be nearly complete. Check it out.

One thing we’ve added since last time was a couple of spacers that lower the bumpstops about 13⁄4 inches. This should help keep those big BFG tires out of the sheetmetal when the Jeep is flexed and turning. Also, if for some reason we decide to raise or lower the bumpstops, all we need to do is cut a slightly longer or shorter piece of tubing. We used 13⁄4, 0.120 wall DOM for our bumpstop lowering spacers. One thing we’ve added since last time was a couple of spacers that lower the bumpstops about 13⁄4 inches. This should help keep those big BFG tires out of the sheetmetal when the Jeep is flexed and turning. Also, if for some reason we decide to raise or lower the bumpstops, all we need to do is cut a slightly longer or shorter piece of tubing. We used 13⁄4, 0.120 wall DOM for our bumpstop lowering spacers.
Once the bumpstop lowering spacers were in place and the tires were on the Jeep, we used an engine hoist, floor jack, and some chain to cycle the front suspension. This allows you to be sure none of the suspension parts are going to crash into each other when the truck is on the trail. This is especially important for steering parts like the drag link and track bar. We also get an idea of where the tires might hit sheetmetal, and it looks like we might need to do some more trimming despite our homebuilt high-line fenders and previous sheetmetal trimming. Once the bumpstop lowering spacers were in place and the tires were on the Jeep, we used an engine hoist, floor jack, and some chain to cycle the front suspension. This allows you to be sure none of the suspension parts are going to crash into each other when the truck is on the trail. This is especially important for steering parts like the drag link and track bar. We also get an idea of where the tires might hit sheetmetal, and it looks like we might need to do some more trimming despite our homebuilt high-line fenders and previous sheetmetal trimming.
Cycling the suspension also allows us to measure for shocks and make sure that the springs that we wanted to use will work. Our plan is to use a mixture of Old Man Emu springs and shocks that should work with our TJ-style shock and spring mounts front and rear. Yeah, this thing is not going to max out any RTI-ramps, but a low-slung, powerful Jeep on large tires is a proven formula that we like. Cycling the suspension also allows us to measure for shocks and make sure that the springs that we wanted to use will work. Our plan is to use a mixture of Old Man Emu springs and shocks that should work with our TJ-style shock and spring mounts front and rear. Yeah, this thing is not going to max out any RTI-ramps, but a low-slung, powerful Jeep on large tires is a proven formula that we like.
To add some boing in our front end, we are going to use a set of ZJ coils from Old Man Emu (PN 2934). These have a slightly higher spring rate and static height than Old Man Emu’s 2-inch TJ springs. This should help deal with the heavier engine, axle, and large tires on our Willys. Out back, we are going to use Old Man Emu’s 2-inch lift coils intended for an LJ (PN 2949). These springs also have a higher spring rate than the regular 2-inch lift OME TJ coils and a similar static height. If the springs don’t provide enough lift or it’s not level, we can always add coil spacers. To add some boing in our front end, we are going to use a set of ZJ coils from Old Man Emu (PN 2934). These have a slightly higher spring rate and static height than Old Man Emu’s 2-inch TJ springs. This should help deal with the heavier engine, axle, and large tires on our Willys. Out back, we are going to use Old Man Emu’s 2-inch lift coils intended for an LJ (PN 2949). These springs also have a higher spring rate than the regular 2-inch lift OME TJ coils and a similar static height. If the springs don’t provide enough lift or it’s not level, we can always add coil spacers.
Cycling the suspension also allows us to measure for shocks and make sure that the springs that we wanted to use will work. Our plan is to use a mixture of Old Man Emu springs and shocks that should work with our TJ-style shock and spring mounts front and rear. Yeah, this thing is not going to max out any RTI-ramps, but a low-slung, powerful Jeep on large tires is a proven formula that we like. Cycling the suspension also allows us to measure for shocks and make sure that the springs that we wanted to use will work. Our plan is to use a mixture of Old Man Emu springs and shocks that should work with our TJ-style shock and spring mounts front and rear. Yeah, this thing is not going to max out any RTI-ramps, but a low-slung, powerful Jeep on large tires is a proven formula that we like.
To accompany our Old Man Emu springs, we ordered up a set of OME Nitro shocks. These shocks are built to withstand the rigors, bumps, and seemingly endless washboards of the Australian Outback, so they should do fine for us. We used a set of OME shocks on a Cherokee that we thoroughly abused, and we loved the ride that those shocks provided both on-road and off. Best part is OME warrantees its suspension parts for 3 years. To accompany our Old Man Emu springs, we ordered up a set of OME Nitro shocks. These shocks are built to withstand the rigors, bumps, and seemingly endless washboards of the Australian Outback, so they should do fine for us. We used a set of OME shocks on a Cherokee that we thoroughly abused, and we loved the ride that those shocks provided both on-road and off. Best part is OME warrantees its suspension parts for 3 years.
Once the suspension was cycled and flexed, we pulled the front axle. We needed to take the axle back to Rob Bonney Fab for some more TIG welding to the Dana 60 cast steel housing. The axle is starting to get heavy so we used our engine hoist to move the axle out of the garage and into the back of our truck. Once the suspension was cycled and flexed, we pulled the front axle. We needed to take the axle back to Rob Bonney Fab for some more TIG welding to the Dana 60 cast steel housing. The axle is starting to get heavy so we used our engine hoist to move the axle out of the garage and into the back of our truck.
Rob Bonney has been fabricating cutting edge off-road parts and turnkey rigs for years. He has the skill that we lack to properly TIG weld to the cast steel of our GM kingpin Dana 60 front axle. This allows us to feel really confident in our Willys’ front three-link despite the big tires and tons of horsepower. Bonney used his computer-controlled plasma table to cut this 1⁄4-inch steel fill plate using a cardboard template we drew up to help tie the track-bar mount to the housing. Bonney can cut and mail brackets for almost any project you may have. All he needs is a good cardboard template of what you need. He can copy almost any template, but the final fit of the steel part (in pickled and rolled steel up to 1⁄2 inch and aluminum up to 3⁄8 inch) is only as good as your template. Rob Bonney has been fabricating cutting edge off-road parts and turnkey rigs for years. He has the skill that we lack to properly TIG weld to the cast steel of our GM kingpin Dana 60 front axle. This allows us to feel really confident in our Willys’ front three-link despite the big tires and tons of horsepower. Bonney used his computer-controlled plasma table to cut this 1⁄4-inch steel fill plate using a cardboard template we drew up to help tie the track-bar mount to the housing. Bonney can cut and mail brackets for almost any project you may have. All he needs is a good cardboard template of what you need. He can copy almost any template, but the final fit of the steel part (in pickled and rolled steel up to 1⁄2 inch and aluminum up to 3⁄8 inch) is only as good as your template.
Rob Bonney has been fabricating cutting edge off-road parts and turnkey rigs for years. He has the skill that we lack to properly TIG weld to the cast steel of our GM kingpin Dana 60 front axle. This allows us to feel really confident in our Willys’ front three-link despite the big tires and tons of horsepower. Bonney used his computer-controlled plasma table to cut this 1⁄4-inch steel fill plate using a cardboard template we drew up to help tie the track-bar mount to the housing. Bonney can cut and mail brackets for almost any project you may have. All he needs is a good cardboard template of what you need. He can copy almost any template, but the final fit of the steel part (in pickled and rolled steel up to 1⁄2 inch and aluminum up to 3⁄8 inch) is only as good as your template. Rob Bonney has been fabricating cutting edge off-road parts and turnkey rigs for years. He has the skill that we lack to properly TIG weld to the cast steel of our GM kingpin Dana 60 front axle. This allows us to feel really confident in our Willys’ front three-link despite the big tires and tons of horsepower. Bonney used his computer-controlled plasma table to cut this 1⁄4-inch steel fill plate using a cardboard template we drew up to help tie the track-bar mount to the housing. Bonney can cut and mail brackets for almost any project you may have. All he needs is a good cardboard template of what you need. He can copy almost any template, but the final fit of the steel part (in pickled and rolled steel up to 1⁄2 inch and aluminum up to 3⁄8 inch) is only as good as your template.
Here are some other brackets they were working on for a different project at Rob Bonney Fab. These are for a solid-axle conversion on a Chevy, so it’s not so applicable to us. However, it shows the range of what can be cut, including fish-mouthed frame plates and mounting holes. Add in some work with a metal brake and you can have almost anything you can imagine pre-built and ready to weld in place. Sure, you could do this with a metal band saw, plasma cutter, or the like, but it would take forever and not look nearly this clean. Here are some other brackets they were working on for a different project at Rob Bonney Fab. These are for a solid-axle conversion on a Chevy, so it’s not so applicable to us. However, it shows the range of what can be cut, including fish-mouthed frame plates and mounting holes. Add in some work with a metal brake and you can have almost anything you can imagine pre-built and ready to weld in place. Sure, you could do this with a metal band saw, plasma cutter, or the like, but it would take forever and not look nearly this clean.
Once the fill plate was in hand, Bonney started pre-heating the Dana 60 cast steel housing with an oxy-acetylene torch. Once properly heated, Bonney TIG welded our plate steel brackets to the casting using special rod he has used in the past. This is not the world’s strongest method of welding, but with plenty of surface area joining the cast steel to the plate, we can be sure that our low-slung Jeep will stay together come what may. Once the TIG work is complete, post-heating the casting is necessary to prevent the axle from cooling too quickly. Once the fill plate was in hand, Bonney started pre-heating the Dana 60 cast steel housing with an oxy-acetylene torch. Once properly heated, Bonney TIG welded our plate steel brackets to the casting using special rod he has used in the past. This is not the world’s strongest method of welding, but with plenty of surface area joining the cast steel to the plate, we can be sure that our low-slung Jeep will stay together come what may. Once the TIG work is complete, post-heating the casting is necessary to prevent the axle from cooling too quickly.
After the axlehousing cooled and we were able to drag it home, we can finally get down to finish-welding all the brackets with our old Hobart MIG welder. With any luck, we won’t have to change any of the mounting locations on the axle or frame. Creating good-looking welds comes from practice, practice, and more practice. Also, being sure to clean all of the areas you are going to weld before starting makes a huge difference. After the axlehousing cooled and we were able to drag it home, we can finally get down to finish-welding all the brackets with our old Hobart MIG welder. With any luck, we won’t have to change any of the mounting locations on the axle or frame. Creating good-looking welds comes from practice, practice, and more practice. Also, being sure to clean all of the areas you are going to weld before starting makes a huge difference.
As we said, TIG welding steel plate to cast steel is not the strongest connection (welding plate to plate is much stronger). So we decided to drill and tap some holes through the plate and into thick areas of the cast housing, like along the front edge of the housing, where the differential cover attaches. Once drilled and tapped with a fine-thread tap, we can use Grade 8 hardware and thread locker as a little insurance that things will stay put, despite 42-inch tires and an estimated final 500 hp. As we said, TIG welding steel plate to cast steel is not the strongest connection (welding plate to plate is much stronger). So we decided to drill and tap some holes through the plate and into thick areas of the cast housing, like along the front edge of the housing, where the differential cover attaches. Once drilled and tapped with a fine-thread tap, we can use Grade 8 hardware and thread locker as a little insurance that things will stay put, despite 42-inch tires and an estimated final 500 hp.
Now that the front and rear axle of our Willys truck are wearing all the necessary brackets, we can add a set of venerable automatic locking differentials and ring-and-pinions. Here is our teaser for next time. With any luck we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of final assembly the axles with some bulletproof parts from Eaton and G2. Then, we can sling the engine and trans between the rails and build some mounts. This thing is coming together. Now that the front and rear axle of our Willys truck are wearing all the necessary brackets, we can add a set of venerable automatic locking differentials and ring-and-pinions. Here is our teaser for next time. With any luck we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of final assembly the axles with some bulletproof parts from Eaton and G2. Then, we can sling the engine and trans between the rails and build some mounts. This thing is coming together.

Sources

ARB USA
Renton, WA 98057
866-293-9078
http://www.arbusa.com
Rob Bonney Fabrication
602-370-7955
facebook.com/pages/Rob-Bonney-Fabrication/193559750764429

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