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'98 Papola Super Flex

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 2002 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Michael Rudd
730large+1998 papola super flex+front right view
Custom driveshafts, heavy-duty U-joints and an Atlas transfer case mean that this rig is ready for almost anything. Custom driveshafts, heavy-duty U-joints and an Atlas transfer case mean that this rig is ready for almost anything.
A Dana 60 containing an ARB Air Locker does duty up front. Note the custom steering system, and the high-tech adhesive hood closure system. A Dana 60 containing an ARB Air Locker does duty up front. Note the custom steering system, and the high-tech adhesive hood closure system.
Three master-cylinders on the firewall? Right. One for the front brakes, one for the rear brakes, and one for the clutch. A built small-block Chevy engine makes 430 hp, plenty enough to make the 4,200-pound rig move out smartly. Three master-cylinders on the firewall? Right. One for the front brakes, one for the rear brakes, and one for the clutch. A built small-block Chevy engine makes 430 hp, plenty enough to make the 4,200-pound rig move out smartly.
Front and rear axles are located by four-link systems. Front and rear axles are located by four-link systems.
The interior of Mike’s rig is simple and basic. Corbeau seats position the driver in front of a set of Auto Meter gauges and a Grant steering wheel, and that shifter stirs an NV4500 transmission. The interior of Mike’s rig is simple and basic. Corbeau seats position the driver in front of a set of Auto Meter gauges and a Grant steering wheel, and that shifter stirs an NV4500 transmission.
Specs. Specs.

A little competition is a good thing, but not if you always lose such competitions. That was the situation in which Mike Papola found himself. Mike and his dad run Papola Off Road, in Santa Rosa, California. And Mike and his dad are very competitive. Problem was, Mike’s dad always won. So Mike decided to build a 4x4 rig that would be unbeatable. The creation you see here is the result.

Mike calls it a Papola Super Flex, because it ramps an incredible 1,170. Whatever you want to call it, Mikes creation might look like a Jeep, at least a little, and by virtue of its intent and capability it may owe something to actual Jeep DNA, but it's all custom. All of it.

This unusual piece of four-wheeling uses an all-tube chassis and the very best in running gear. The chassis is something Mike designed himself. And the running gear is composed of the best pieces Mike could lay his mitts on. Mike spent about a month at the drawing board before he was satisfied with his design. Next, he and his dad bought a tube bender and went to work bending, and welding up, a frame and roll cage of 1 3/4-inch-diameter tubing. Since he was starting from scratch he could go for the ultimate setup, and that's just what he did. He built four-link suspension systems for the front and for the rear, and added coil springs and Black Diamond XT shocks. To this he added a pair of Dana 60 axles containing 5.86:1 ring-and-pinions, 35-spline 1.5-inch Summers Brothers axles, an ARB Air Locker up front, and a Detroit Locker in the rear.

Content with his rolling chassis, Mike concentrated on his rigs powertrain. He started with a 350ci Chevy small-block, which he bored 0.30-inch over. He installed pistons that brought the compression ration to 10:1, added Edelbrock heads, an Isky cam, and Crower rockers and valve springs, and he blueprinted and balanced the assembly. Then he installed a Howell fuel-injection unit sitting atop an Edelbrock multipoint manifold, an MSD Pro Billet HEI ignition system, custom headers from Johnny Franklin Muffler in Santa Rosa, and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. The work was worth it. This is one strong Chevy, building 430 hp at 4,500 rpm, and 385 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm.

To get this prodigious amount of power to the ground, Mike chose an NV4500 transmission that is coupled to the engine through a Hayes steel flywheel and a Zoom clutch. An Atlas transfer case sends the power through heavy-duty universal joints and custom driveshafts to Mikes twin D60s, and 39.5-inch Boggers on 16.5x12 Bart steel wheels put the power to the driving surface whatever that surface might be composed of

About that Jeepish bodywork. It isn't. It's all custom, starting with special aluminum floor pans, side panels held on by quick-release Dzus fasteners, and a hood/front-fender assembly that is one piece. Everything else you seerollcage, nerf bars, brushguard, hitch, etc. that's all part of Mikes one-piece chassis.

As a final touch to this go-anywhere custom rig, Mike added a Warn HS9500I winch, a Task Air 1/3-horsepower compressor, PIAA lights, Corbeau seats, a Grant steering wheel, and a set of Auto Meter gauges.

When he was done he slapped on a California-state green stickerright, theres no way this rig is street-legal and went wheeling. With about $50,000 invested, wouldn't you?

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