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1986 Toyota Truck Axles, Tires & Rust - Extreme Makeover: Clampy Edition, Part 1

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2005 on November 1, 2005 Comment (0)
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Photographers: The 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff

It's been just 45 days and Clampy has been brought back from the dead, wheeled hard for a week, and brought home with scars to prove it. I hadn't done much with my clapped-out 1986 Toyota truck in a while because it's a rust bucket, underpowered, and not fun to drive, but you readers have been e-mailing me and badgering us for more Project Clampy, so here it is.

First, a recap. Clampy was given to me before I moved to Los Angeles to work for 4-Wheel and Off-Road. It originally came from upstate New York, and as such, the body and frame have more holes than a cheese grater, and more corrosion than a saltwater barge. My buddy handed me the keys after he got a new Volvo, saying, "It's got 175,000 miles, it probably won't last much longer, good luck." If he could only see it now. When I got to L.A., this poor little beater was my daily driver, served for some tech stories, and eventually was a test bed for a bitchin' IFS suspension from Total Chaos Fabrication that allowed us to jump it some 30 feet ("We Jump Clampy," Mar. 2004). That was probably not the best thing for the rusty frame. But then it got parked and ignored for almost a year. I considered redoing the rear suspension and installing gears and lockers, but as often happens, the derelict condition of the truck was more a dissuasion than encouragement.

As you may know, I've been busy building Suzukis and an Army truck and trying to assemble a buggy ("Project Fun Buggy," Aug., Sept., Oct. 2005), so Clampy wasn't getting much love. But with Ultimate Adventure a month away and no buggy ready to wheel, I decided to set down the high-dollar dream parts and give the ol' Clampster a full makeover with stuff I had lying around. Why not take the Avalanche, Tacoma, or Army truck? I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, plus I knew that if I did this build you readers would dig it, and if I didn't, Clampy would eventually get ignored until it rusted away. So I wrenched and welded like a maniac to get it ready. I had a little help from friends, but just like you, I did most of it myself. When I got too tired, I slept in the shop. I had exactly one month from when the first metric wrench hit the truck to when we were to leave for Ultimate Adventure. Thus when the tires finally turned onto the first trail of UA, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Would it work? Would I be a floundering trail obstacle? Could I keep up on the highway sections?

Now with the Ultimate Adventure behind me, I can truly say that Clampy kicked butt. It wasn't the fastest or flashiest rig on the trail, but it held its own and it almost made me look like I could drive. I can't imagine getting rid of it now, and can only hope the buggy works as well. Read on for Part I of the makeover.

Clampy is a rusted-out beater truck, just like what you could find along some backroads in your hometown. The odo has cleared 200,000, the bed is junk, half the windows are shot, and the doors are gone in favor of some Shaffer's Off Road tube doors ("Tube Doors for Clampy," July 2005). Most normal folks would call Easy Lou the junk man to come get it. I was too emotionally attached to let it go.

I rounded up some pals with current tetanus shots to help pull off the bed. Somehow this mixture of rust, galvanized roofing panels, and bondo got me $17.50 from the scrap yard. Unfortunately it also revealed framerails ravaged with red flaky corrosion and stuffed with years-old mud.

Since I wanted to run big tires, I knew I would need two things: strong axles and low gearing. As luck would have it, I had a Chevy front Dana 60 axlehousing from a long-ago junkyard trip. Adding to that, I recently purchased this 1991 Dodge airplane tug from the Government Liquidation auction Web site ( This weird rig came with a Cummins turbodiesel, a three-speed automatic, and a Dana 70 rear axle. Though a Dana 70 is massively overbuilt for an old Toyota, the bonus is that it was stuffed with 7.17 gears and a Detroit Locker. I originally worried the gearing was a bit too low and the housing too large and wide, but I was able to turn 39s just fine with the tired 22RE four-cylinder, and even used Fifth gear a fair bit while on long stretches of the interstate.

This whole buildup started because I got the opportunity to test a new set of 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers in a DOT compound. I decided that my Total Chaos independent suspension was going to have to go. I would still recommend it for anyone looking to build a go-fast Toy. I may build another in the future, but for now it's out.

There's almost no tool more useful for cutting off IFS brackets than a plasma cutter, and I had my Miller Spectrum 625 doing double duty. Then I followed all the cutting with the dirty job of grinding and wire brushing. Don't forget your safety glasses, as I won't forget the trip to the hospital to get little bits of metal out of my eye.

Putting full-width axles under a Toyota frame has just gotten easier, thanks to Sky Manufacturing in Springfield, Oregon. Its full-width solid-axle swap kit includes a front crossmember/spring hanger made of laser-cut 1/4- and 3/16-inch steel. After I had the IFS components cut off and ground through some rust to find some solid steel on the frame, we were ready to hang the front crossmember. It is designed to hang in the stock location or either 3/4 or 1 inch farther forward. To try and keep the tires clear of the body, I pushed it to the farthest point forward, and bolted it in place until I was ready to weld.

I convinced Fernando Gutierrez from Atlas Spring to stop by the shop and discuss making my front springs. I wanted Clampy as low as possible, and was willing to trade uptravel for a wide, stable rockcrawler. Gutierrez and I decided on a near flat leaf pack, 45 1/2 inches from front hanger to shackle hanger. This would actually push the spring into negative arch under full stuff. The center pin was located off center so that it would sit 20 inches from the front hanger to give more firewall clearance for the tires. After wheeling with this setup, I would have gone with maybe an inch more lift, since the springs settled slightly with the weight of a winch and from extreme articulation.

The front shackles must match the outboard location of the front hangers, but since the frame steps outward behind the front axletube, Sky offers special offset shackles. I measured 45 1/2 inches from the front spring hanger bolt, used the supplied template to mark the inside and outside of the frame about centered under the body mount, and started cutting with my Spectrum 625. I originally thought you could duplicate this cut with a quality holesaw, but inside the frame are some gussets that need to be cut through as well. Once I had the holes cut, I installed the springs and offset shackles to determine where the frame sleeve should be welded. By measuring from corresponding frame openings side to side and diagonally, I made sure everything was square before tacking the sleeve in place. Next I removed the bushings and burned steel to rusty steel with my Millermatic 210 MIG.

PhotosView Slideshow

About this time I told my buddy JR that I was hosting a sorority kegger at the shop and he should stop by with his grinder and work clothes. Unfortunately the girls of Tapa Lota Pi had left before he made it, so instead he got to help me repair the rusted framerails on the back of Clampy. JR showed me a trick where laying a rough cut piece of poster board over the area we wanted to repair and tapping the frame through it with a hammer left a mark on the paper that we could then cut along. This gave us a template, which I then copied onto a sheet of 1/8-inch steel and cut out with the Spectrum 625. JR recommended cutting the steel 1/2 inch taller than the framerails, and then once we tack-welded the ends into place we just pounded the top and bottom 1/4 inch over. I realized later that I should have spent more time - or got JR to spend more time - grinding and cleaning the framerails, as just a small bit of rust would contaminate my welds. The final beads were gorilla style - big and ugly, but strong.

With the frame repaired I was ready to start the rear suspension. While digging around in the 4-Wheel and Off-Road storage I found a set of Tuff Country 5-inch (PN 19590) rear springs for 1988-1998 Chevy trucks that were left over from a previous project. These 60-inch springs are plenty long and, with the overload leaf removed, should flex really well. Plus by going spring-under rather than spring-over they should help fight the spring wrap Toyotas are notorious for. The Dana 70 I used was spring-over, but the spring perches were in the wrong place, so I had to cut them off and grind the housing clean. I also left the drums since I wanted the future option of hooking up the parking brake. I got the heavy-duty spring perches from Off Road Unlimited, used the stock Dodge U-bolt plates since they have shock mounts built in, and had some new square U-bolts made at a local spring shop. Check out those trick lower spring plates from Dynatrac with the ends angle cut to help these low-slung leaves slide over obstacles.

The stock rear-spring hanger was cut off and the new ones clamped in place 11 3/4 inches farther forward as per Sky Manufacturing's instructions. The angled design helped in many situations, but during UA I had to adjust my line over big rocks a couple times in order to keep from getting hung up on them.

Sky's heavy-duty shackle hanger is a TIG-welded little gem that gets welded on just behind where the stock shackle was. I installed a rear crossmember/bumper to strengthen the rear of the frame, and booger-welded the shackle hanger on with my MIG gun. After the trip I realized that the shackle hanger should have been about an inch farther forward to get a better shackle angle, and to help keep the shackle from being pushed forward under extreme articulation.


Miller Electric
Appleton, WI 54912
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Walker Evans Racing
Riverside, CA 92516
Total Chaos Fabrication
Corona, CA 92880
Tuff Country
West Jordan, UT 84088
Sky Manufacturing
Springfield, OR 97477
Detroit Locker
Madison Heights, MI
(800) 328-3850
Atlas Spring


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