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Part 7: Our Lightweight Tracker Hits the Trail

Posted in Project Vehicles on March 28, 2017
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After a long build, our lightweight Tracker project is finally on the trail. We kind of feel like Doc Brown from Back to the Future right now, to whom Marty McFly famously said, “You built a time machine? Out of a Delorean!”

A 2001 Tracker built for rockcrawling garners the same sort of response. For those of you who don’t recall, the premise was to build the vehicle as light as possible. The goal wasn’t to break the bank, but we did spend money on quality parts like chromoly rod ends from Rod End Supply and ADS air shocks. From the factory the Tracker weighed 2,640 pounds and was two-wheel drive. Once the interior and drivetrain were gutted we got the weight down to 2,200 pounds, but there was nowhere to go from there but up.

We are getting ahead of ourselves though. We actually buttoned up the Tracker last summer (“Down to the Details”), but on our first outing the exhaust cam gear spun, taking out all of the exhaust valves with the pistons. That was entirely our fault. When installing a new timing chain we did not properly orient the cam gear with the alignment dowel and we paid the price. Now the engine is all buttoned up with a new cylinder head and back in service.

The first trip out was to Johnson Valley, where the Tracker was used to prerun the race course for King of the Hammers. While we don’t recommend making a big trip far from home your shakedown run, we are happy to report that the engine woes are behind us now and the Tracker did everything that was asked of it. After running Wrecking Ball, Jack Hammer, Sledge Hammer, and Turkey Claw, the only damage was a broken taillight and some scraped lower links. It took a long time to build our lightweight rockcrawler, but we would say that it was worth the “weight.”

Weight of Components We Removed (lb)

Doors: 65 each
Rear Hatch: 40
Stock Tires & Wheels: 40 each
Exhaust: 28
Steering Rack & Crossmember: 45
Front Seats: 36 each
Dash: 24
Stock Battery: 28
Dash Bar: 15
Heater Box: 10
Heater Core: 5
A/C Compressor: 11
Airbag: 3

Weight of Components We Added (lb)

Samurai Transfer Case: 52
Diamond Front Axle: 340
Diamond Rear Axle: 220
1.75x0.120-wall Chromoly Lower Links: 6 each
ADS Air Shocks: 14 each
37-inch Maxxis Trepador: 90
17-inch KMC Enduro Beadlock: 39
CR Fab Dash and Autometer Gauges: 18
MasterCraft PWR Sport Seats: 20 each
Saginaw Steering Box: 28
UTV Winch: 24
Braille Battery: 9

How Could We Save More Weight?

Replace beadlocks with forged aluminum, non-beadlock wheels.
Run smaller, less aggressive tires.
Remove windshield wipers and wiper motor.
Replace windshield glass with acrylic.
Remove spare tire.

We changed the timing chain as a preventive measure and ended up doing more harm than good. The dowel on the exhaust cam was not aligned when it was torqued down, and when it loosened the pistons came crashing into the exhaust valves.
We ended up having to use three different size U-joints, which is less than ideal. The driveline between transmission and the divorced T-case uses tiny Samurai U-joints. The rear driveshaft uses Spicer 1310 U-joints to match the output of the Trail Tough driveline disconnect. And the front driveshaft has a Toyota carrier bearing and Toyota U-joints.
Jesse Bullock at Bayshore was the man who got all of our drivelines built and balanced. Despite the plethora of various parts, he got them all right the first time. The deep gearing has the Tracker spinning at 4,500 rpm in Fifth gear at 60 mph, so balanced drivelines are critical.
We wanted an exhaust system that was tucked up high and out of the way from being damaged in the rocks. Mikey McCauley at Nate’s Precision got us squared away in that regard. “When you use 2-inch tubing it is pretty easy to route!” Nate Jensen commented.
We have gotten in the habit of powdercoating the wheels on our project vehicles, and this one was no exception. Marq Powder Coating applied the distinctive gold finish to our KMC Enduro beadlocks. We think it looks great with the white paint, if we do say so ourselves. Yes, it has a very Daisy Duke’s Golden Eagle vibe. Do you wear short shorts while driving it? —ed.
You know that the fender trimming is getting out of hand when you get into the headlights. Alex Baker at Samco Fabrication trimmed the headlight housings and riveted in aluminum to seal them back up and keep us street legal.
Jon Conner at CR Fabrication never ceases to amaze us. After crafting the amazing dash and rear panels that would make an airplane jealous, he upped the game with these custom door panels.
We discussed several skidplate options with Jesse Haines and Sam Cothrun. Haines recommended using AR500 plate, but the thinnest material we could find was 3/16 inch, and that seemed like overkill. Samco built a skidplate from 1/8-inch 4130 that has better impact resistance that aluminum yet is lighter than the 3/16-inch AR plate.
There was liberal copying of Trophy Truck styling on the Tracker’s front bumper. Vic Carrasco at Samco Fabrication built the front bumper out of 1.75x0.120-wall tubing and skinned it with plastic. Behind the bumper, a 4,500-pound UTV winch can be used for recovery or to pull the chassis down to the axle for added stability.
The race car theme extends all the way to the rear of the Tracker. Austin Hall at Samco Fabrication built us this tubular spare tire mount that provides a 50-50 weight balance. He pierced the tube work and sleeved it with aero tubing so the straps would not get abraded on rocks.
Before adding the spare tire or doors, we weighed the Tracker on a set of Proform corner scales. We were pleased to come in under 3,000 pounds.
We like our Joes Racing Products aluminum steering wheel and quick release, but the bare finish leaves our hands black after driving. We plan to send the wheel to Marq Powder Coating to get it finished in gold to match the KMC wheels.
We sprayed the interior with Rustoleum’s Truck Bed Coating since the carpet and sound deadening had all been removed. The coating is easy to apply and does an excellent job of hiding the imperfections on the floorboards of the Tracker.
The first trip out with the Tracker we found that it was bottoming out. Adding more nitrogen did not remedy the issue, so Austin Hall added 60 cc of additional oil to the ADS air shocks. The front shocks are filled with 125 psi of nitrogen, the rears 100 psi. That combination has solved our bottoming issues.
The most common question we get about the Tracker is in regard to the wheelbase. The stock wheelbase was a mere 87 inches, but the front end was moved forward 9 inches and the rear axle was pushed back 7 inches to produce a stable 103-inch wheelbase.


KMC Wheels
Cerritos, CA 90703
Samco Fabrication
Trail Tough Products
Jesse Haines Fabrication
Bayshore Truck Equipment Co.
Nate’s Precision
Marq Powder Coating
Sparks, NV
CR Fabrication

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