Extreme Makeover: Clampy Edition, Part 2Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2005 on December 1, 2005 Comment (0)
For the first time in my Ultimate Adventure experiences, I wimped out and took a trailer to the starting point. I wasn't sure if Clampy would make the more than 24-hour drive needed to get to the start of Ultimate Adventure, and I wasn't about to receive the wrath of Editor Rick Pw for being late. So Feature Editor Jerrod Jones and I hitched up the Ultimate Avalanche and towed my Project Clampy Toyota truck from Los Angeles to Missouri, where we unloaded the little beater and went wheeling for a week. I was a little worried that being on full-width 1-ton axles (Dana 60 and 70) was going to hurt me, but now I won't trade it for the world. I was able to side hill some crazy obstacles, and had to get really stupid to make the truck feel light. The spring-under suspension did get caught on a few boulders, but not enough for me to want to change it. The front springs are very flat now, but I'm just so happy with the low stance that I probably won't change it.
All in all the damage report was pretty minimal. I now have a new alternator, as the old one died during the week, but otherwise everything under the hood worked amazingly well for a 200,000+ miles powerplant. I bent one of the rear springs pretty badly by backing a shackle into a rock, and Tuff Country came through big time to get me another within 24 hours. I should also have replaced the exhaust, as it broke apart twice - even when rewelded - and now hangs from bailing wire and aluminum foil. Though the engine leaks from every gasket, it doesn't seem to use that much oil, and ran so well that I wished I had driven it out there and back. Of course that would have required a set of rear fenders that wouldn't keep falling off during every high-speed rutted dirt road excursion, and I'm already working on them. All in all I am very happy with the results of my one-month buildup of a desolate beater into a total sleeper. I only wish I had another month to spend out wheeling in it.
By this point I was barely started with Clampy, and my month was already half gone. Luckily I convinced the boss that I would be working from home for the next two weeks, and could somehow write last month's stories and build Clampy at the same time. To give my tired four squirrels some needed leverage over the 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers, I contacted Advance Adapters about a dual transfer-case adapter. I chose to run stock low gears in both cases rather than swap in lower gears at this point. Rather than go into the step by step of dual cases here, I'll let you in on some upcoming secrets. AA is going to release its own cast Toyota low-range box that will not need machining for the 5:1 gears and will include all new pieces. Plus the company is working on an adapter, which will mate its new box to a Jeep Dana 300 or Atlas, thus allowing true twin-stick ability. And finally, Advance Adapters might be working on an adapter from the early Toyota transmissions to the Atlas in case you don't want to run Toyota gearing at all. Watch for it.
To protect the cases, I bolted up a BudBuilt crossmember to the frame. This 3/8-inch-thick crossmember bolts into the stock crossmember mounts and has a secondary 3/16-inch skidplate that attaches to it giving 9/16-inch of total protection as well as increasing belly clearance by 2 1/2 inches. During our trip I bellyflopped the Clampster hard on Bud's two-piece skidplate more than once, and not only did it barely show a scratch, with it's smooth snag-free surface, I could grind over rocks with nary a concern.
With the rear end in place I measured for my rear driveshaft, and determined what angle to weld on my spring perches. I pointed the pinion a degree below the center of the rear output, and this resulted in vibration-free runs at highway speed. I bolted on the 39-inch Krawlers wrapped around a set of 17-inch Walker Evans bead locks and took Clampy outside. There I lifted the tires with a neighbor's forklift in order to measure for shocks. By measuring the distance from the axle's shock mounts to the frame in each corner at full stuff and full droop I could decide where the top of the shock should go. I had left the front shock hangers from the Total Chaos kit on but needed to determine where to weld on new axle tabs.
In the rear I used a set of Sky's front shock hoops as well as some gussets from Con-Ferr as my upper shock mounts. The Poly Performance BBCS-15 LT shocks offer 15 inches of travel and digressive compression and rebound valving specifically designed for slow-speed rockcrawling. Unfortunately my front suspension would only use about 3 inches of uptravel. However, I did like the built-in bumpstop feature of these shocks, and didn't need any other bump stop for the UA trip.
With the suspension in and driveshafts in the works, I had some time to get the front Dana 60 axle assembled at Drivetrain Direct. Before I headed there I had gotten a set of 7.17 Yukon gears from Randy's Ring & Pinion as well as a set of Randy's chromoly axleshafts. I didn't really need the chromoly inner shafts, but I wanted to try the chromoly 30-spline stub shafts so I could run locking hubs. Randy's claims the strength to be comparable to - if not better than - stock Spicer 35-spline stubs, and after the abuse I put them through I have to agree. I had Drivetrain Direct install my gears and an ARB Air Locker. I had always used Detroit Lockers front and rear in the past, but felt I needed to try something different so I could have the experience. Other than simply forgetting to turn on the front locker once during the trip, I was completely satisfied with these Australian traction aids, and am going to struggle when deciding between ARB and Detroit next time.
Other than some fender trimming for the shocks and the steering improvements, I did very few underhood upgrades, though I did find space in the back corner to install ARB's new mini compressor. Truth be told, I didn't get it installed until the start of UA when I convinced Sam Gillis, Trent McGee, and Keith Bailey to help me mount, plumb, and wire it in the hotel parking lot. If you can imagine four guys with adult beverages installing a mini compressor by the light of a lamppost, then you can imagine just how easily it went in. We plumbed it with some of Russell's stainless steel-coated Teflon hose, and didn't have any issues with it all week. The new mini compressors aren't designed for filling tires, but they do seem to be a little quieter than the larger design and are great where space is a premium.
I had needed steering knuckles and found them at Drivetrain Direct where they had an old Dodge front 60 laying in the corner. The Dodge spring perches are slightly wider than the Chevy, so I used my GM housing with the Dodge knuckles and hubs. Unfortunately, the Dodge hubs use a classic design where the selectable hubs bolt on externally, and no one offers those hubs in 35-spline. In fact, the only hubs I could find were a set of Selectro's currently offered by MileMarker. These hubs worked pretty well, but on one particular obstacle I had the front end bouncing and tires spinning and grenaded the passenger-side unit. Yes, I was pushing a bit more than this classic design was prepared for, and as such I spent the remainder of the our trip running drive flanges which required removal for every road day. It was not the most convenient setup, but it was a good test of the Yukon shafts, which took some serious abuse.
Steering the big tires was going to be an issue so I decided on a ram-assist system. I was at Off Road Unlimited and got its setup with the ram and hoses. Though ORU usually only does fullsize trucks, I twisted some arms to get them to port my Toyota steering box. In addition I had a spare reservoir from AGR that I used to help carry the larger capacity of steering fluid needed with the ram. Since I didn't have the funds or time to get a true steering cooler, I made one out of steel fuel line that I ran in front of the radiator. Finally I drilled the power-steering pump restrictor plate out to 13/64, which increases the volume, and helps turn the big tires.
In order to mount the ram in a safe place, I welded the axle side tabs to my Blue Torch Fabworks fabricated front diff cover, and then built a tie-rod clamp bracket for the other end. Everything was a very tight fit, but I had absolutely no problems with the steering all week, and though I used a hodge-podge of parts on mine, I would recommend using the ORU kit.
I also used the crossover steering kit from Sky Manufacturing. The billet upper passenger-side arm is as massive as Popeye's and uses a big 1-ton tie-rod end on the drag link. On the steering-box side, I pivoted the box around the upper rear bolt hole and installed Sky's flat pitman arm. I then drilled and sleeved the frame and used a Land Cruiser FJ-80 upper tie-rod end on the drag link.
With bigger axles and bigger tires, I need a bigger master cylinder to stop my new Super Clampy. Again Sky Manufacturing came to the rescue with the inside secret that a Toyota Land Cruiser from 1994 will bolt right up to the mini-truck's brake booster, but with a larger 1-inch bore to greatly improve braking ability. Eventually I ran nearly all-new brake lines and, though I had to do some custom metric-to-standard hard lines, the truck would stop just fine. I never had a very hard pedal, but I felt completely in control. I still need to install the Russell brake proportioning valve, which may help the soft pedal a bit. Another option is Sky's new adapter to put a Chevy master cylinder on the Toyota brake booster.
Finally the driveshafts arrived from Driveline Tech in Portland, Oregon. I was getting close to the deadline, and had never used anything from this fairly young company before, but I now consider them top-notch. Owner Brian Stanton sent me two very heavy and very burly driveshafts, both with genuine Toyota CV's at the transfer-case end, and both running 1/4-inch-wall tubes. The front long-slip unit uses a pinion flange at the 60 from High Angle Driveline, where the rear uses the stock 1410 U-joint. It was very cool to not be worried about dinging driveshafts while on the trail. During one obstacle I had the truck resting on the front shaft and pinion flange, and as it turned the truck actually moved sideways over the rock. Onlookers started giving me alarmed looks, but my Driveline Tech shafts just shrugged it off. As for running 1/4-inch-wall shafts at highway speeds, the front gave a little vibration when running the drive flanges, but the angles are far from perfect for it. The rear - on the other hand - wasn't noticed at all, and even with a bit of rock rash it still spun true and was vibration free. Also note the Big Stevie cast-iron diff cover from Off Road Unlimited on the rear Dana 70.
I'm quickly running out of space for all the little things I did like building the front Warn 9.5 XP winch mount seen in last edition's lead photo, mounting the Hi-Lift Jack so it would also act as a spare-tire hold-down, and adding the various rollbar supports running to the All-Pro Off Road internal cage. But I will mention the fuel tank and cooler mount. By moving the stock fuel tank up and perpendicular to the framerails, I was able to keep all the original fuel lines (some tweaking of hard lines and lengthening of soft vent lines is required), as well as the in-tank fuel pump/sender unit. Then to protect the tank, I quickly fabbed this little cage/cooler rack for my ARB cooler. Having ice-cold beverages within reach was a godsend during the swelteringly humid days of UA, even if the rack looks similar to lawn furniture with the perforated metal sides.