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Project Vehicle Update: Pugsley the Scout 80

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 16, 2019
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Photographers: Trenton McGee

Oh life, why must you always throw us all such curveballs? Truth be told, I would have figured Pugsley the Scout 80 would be together and subject to unmerciful beatings out on the trails long before now. Instead, Pugsley sits idly and largely stock in Tech Editor Verne Simons’ yard while I continue to encounter (mostly) legitimate roadblocks that have slowed the progress painfully. It has been a long, frustrating road for Pugsley, but the good news is that some significant pieces of the puzzle are ready to go … there’s just some assembly required.

The concept for Pugsley is to build a fairly simple, budget-oriented wheeler that has all the necessary goods for serious trail work but also some benefits that make it well suited for longer trips like our weeklong Ultimate Adventure. After doing a few UAs in a buggy, you come to appreciate things like doors, a roof, and storage space. Yet wheeling a fullsize on a long trip presents other challenges that makes one appreciate a buggy’s benefits as well. Pugsley’s overall dimensions place it smack in between the two, and our thought process is that it’s a unique platform that should work pretty well in a variety of environments.

So back to life. In the last nine months I’ve bought and sold a house, moved, and have just recently emerged victorious from a nine-month battle against bureaucracy and red tape to get the blessing of the city to build a shop at my new place. This unexpected delay has put Pugsley and a variety of other projects in an annoying state of limbo. I want to get going on the project, but I also don’t want to blow something apart without a secure and permanent place to work on it. On the plus side I have acquired nearly all of the essential components to put Pugsley together, and if I’m not completely broke by the time I have dedicated space for my 4x4s with walls, a roof, and power, the assembly should go reasonably quick.

Like most of my plans for this build I’m probably being entirely too optimistic, but let’s hope the next update on Pugsley is much sooner than the last one. Read on to see Pugsley’s current state along with the progress that has been made so far.

My 1964 Scout 80 doesn’t look a whole lot different than the day I bought it, just more forlorn. Due to the house shuffle and storage situation, I have purposely left Pugsley mobile, meaning I haven’t yanked out the axles and the drivetrain yet. A vehicle that still rolls is far easier to move. At one point I needed the wheels on Puglsey for one of my Jeeps, so it’s currently shod with 33s, which I think looks pretty rad. The goal is a similar stance, just with 38s or 39s.
This is the biggest reason why Pugsley isn’t sitting on its new axles with an LS under the hood. A significant motivation for my buying a new house was gaining room for a shop, and a significant reason for picking the house we did was that this existing skeleton for a building was already present. The one tradeoff is that the house’s existing garage is pretty inadequate for anything other than parking a couple of cars. As it turns out, obtaining the seemingly very simple permits to legally enclose the already fully permitted frame takes in excess of nine months and is equal parts infuriating and expensive. The world needs many things, but more government is not one of them. Erecting a building around a blown-apart Scout just wouldn’t be ideal or even practical, hence the current state of limbo.
I love the dents and patina of Pugsley and plan to keep most of it. The one thing I couldn’t live with was the aerated floorboards. The previous owner had done a terrible job “fixing” the driver’s floor, and the passenger’s floor was modeled after the Flintstones. Enter some patch panels from IH Parts America, which worked perfectly to replace the Swiss cheese with solid sheetmetal. I also patched some rotten sections of the rockers with a bunch of help from buddy Verne Simons. You can read more about the floorboard swap here: bit.ly/2smrpRx.
I decided early on to go with LS engine power. You hear about people getting cheap or nearly free LS engines all the time, but I have yet to find one that doesn’t have over 300,000 miles or a window in the block. And forget about cheap 6.0Ls. It took a while and several lost bids on donor vehicles, but I finally scored at auction an incredibly crashed 2008 Trailblazer 4x4 with an all-aluminum 5.3 and a 4L60E (this is the good side). The truck had around 130,000 miles on it, and I was able to drive it to make sure everything functioned. It was around $1,100 by the time I got it out of the yard, but after lots of sweat equity and selling off good bits of the carcass, I ended up with an engine, transmission, and harness for under $500.
All Gen IV truck engines are equipped with displacement on demand (also known as Active Fuel Management) and many have variable valve timing. Neither is conducive to longevity or simplified wiring. The engine already had a ticking lifter, so I opted to eliminate the DOD system with a bunch of goodies from Tilden Motorsports. Not trusting myself to perform the internal engine surgery, I took the engine to LS guru Kevin Stearns to exorcise the DOD demons and add some go-fast goodies. You can read more about the details of this on the Four Wheeler Network: bit.ly/2AJhV7h.
Thanks to Tilden Motorsports, the engine is ready to drop into Puglsey. It’s sitting patiently in the corner of Verne Simons’ shop awaiting its new home and engine bay. We are still deciding on an engine management system, but there are several options out there so that part should be easy. I’m sticking with the original 4L60E, which is getting a rebuild at a local shop, and we have a Dana 300 loaded with big front and rear outputs as well as a Low-Max 4:1 gearset to go behind it. Though lately I’ve been thinking maybe a Doubler or a Magnum-equipped NP205 might be the hot setup.
Other key pieces of any 4x4 include the axles, and with 38s or 39s in the plans, only 1-tons would offer anything approaching reliability. Some horse trading netted a bare Chevy Dana 60 front housing, which I filled with 4.88s and a Grizzly locker from Yukon, as well as RCV shafts and Reid Racing knuckles. This is all A-team stuff, and I’ll be surprised if I ever have any issues out of the frontend. The details on this and the rear axle build are also on the Four Wheeler Network: bit.ly/2Fnvqxz.
If you look up budget beef in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of a GM 14-bolt. We picked up a late-model disc brake 14-bolt from a local junkyard for under $200, then swapped the stock gearing and Gov-Lok for a spool and 4.88s to match the front. The frame on Pugsley is 32 inches wide, which coincidentally matches the width of fullsize Chevy axle spring pads. The plan is to keep it simple with leaf springs, but lately we’ve been having evil thoughts of links and coilovers. More than likely we’re going to stick with leaf springs to keep the build simple.
Full disclosure: The axles are “magazine done.” I forgot to order a few critical bits for the outer knuckles for the frontend, and although the parts are now in hand, deadlines as well as real life have kept me from devoting the half a day it would take to finish them up. Like the rest of the Pugsley bits, the axles are taking up space in Verne Simons’ shop while I continue fighting with the city and subcontractors to build them a new home. There’s no telling how much beer I owe Verne in storage fees.

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