Big axles, big tires, and welding rust.
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 (www.govliquidation.com). 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.