Building A Pair Of Dana 44 Axles
What?! No Dana 60 or Rockwell axles? Are you guys nuts? Nope. We just don't expect to do much more than light towing, street driving, and mild expeditionary-style wheeling with our '68 J2000 pickup. As we stated from the beginning, this truck is all about moderation. While budget isn't our primary concern in building this truck, we are keeping an eye on the bottom line. And for our 33-inch all-terrains and sub-300hp power level, we just don't need more than a pair of Dana 44s.
However, since our '68 left the factory with a rather pathetic 19-spline, closed-knuckle, drum-brake Dana 44 front and a Dana 44 rear with two-piece, 19-spline shafts, it really didn't make much sense to keep the stock axles. Cappa still had the original Dana 44 rear from his '73 J2000 (Hot Dog) that he put Rockwells under, and a buddy had given him a hammered '83 Dodge Dana 44 front. So one dark and stormy night, we sneaked past his elaborate chain-link security system and pirated them for our truck. All right, Cappa was clearing house and just gave us the axles. Regardless, the J-truck rear axle is a bolt-in replacement for our '68, and the front Dodge axle can be installed without too much fuss. We'll cover the installation next month, so be sure to tune in.
As for this month, we found that both our donor axles needed a full rebuild to deliver reliable service. If saving pennies had been on the agenda, we probably would have reused the '68's 4.27 gears. But since we wanted the peace of mind afforded by entirely new parts, we put in a call to Randy's Ring & Pinion for new 4.56 gears and a couple of rebuild and installation kits. Randy's also had new spindles, ball joints, and axleshaft U-joints for our front axle and a full set of front and rear bearings and races.
In keeping with our theme of moderation, we opted to leave the lockers for another day. Instead, we selected a pair of Detroit Truetrac limited-slips by Eaton. The Truetrac is one of our favorite traction-aiding devices for a street-driven vehicle, offering stellar on-road manners while giving up hardly anything in the traction department. Since our '83 Dodge axle was missing hubs, we ordered a new pair of Warn standard hubs. For our hard-core off-road rigs, we go with the Warn Premium hubs, but the standard hub's chrome cap and nylon dial will serve us well for the lifetime of this vehicle. And since our spring-over suspension would make it difficult to hook up the drag link, we took the axle rebuild as an opportunity to have Dynatrac machine, drill, and tap our passenger-side knuckle to accept a crossover steering arm. You'll see more on that later when we install the axle.
After hitting the local Napa for brake calipers, pads, rotors, and all the other odds and ends we needed to complete the axle rebuild, we headed to MIT Drivetrain Specialists in El Cajon, California. MIT handles just about every facet of Jeep and 4x4 engine and drivetrain work-from rebuilding stock t-cases to intricate engine, suspension, and drivetrain swaps. Rebuilding our little Dana 44s was right up MIT's alley. Follow along as technicians Moises Prado and Christian Garcia rebuild our axles. And don't forget to check back next month when MIT helps us install them in our project truck.