The Derange Rover is a great name for this project, if we do say so ourselves. Some folks think maybe we bumped our heads one too many times, or went slightly insane. The truth is we’ve bumped our heads plenty of times, and sanity is something we’ve always had a loose grip on at best. Meh, sanity is boring. We always say that you can’t trust a skinny chef or someone who claims they are completely sane. So we’re crazy, or at the very least deranged, which is why we’re building this slightly off-the-wall 1989 Land Rover Range Rover Classic for our 2018 Ultimate Adventure.
If you don’t understand why we might like to try something different for once, we can’t help you. Land Rover is definitely one of the world’s off-road OEM icons, and we know a thing or two about modifying a rig to make it more gooder off-road while still being drivable down the highway.
As with prior Ultimate Adventures, we are leaning heavily on loyal sponsors. Because of the grueling nature of the UA, only the best parts will get the job done. On that note, in this instalment of the Derange Rover build we introduce you to our axles. Last year’s UA vehicle, the UACJ-6D, had a set of Dana’s brand new Ultimate Dana 60 axles front and rear, which are a bolt-in swap for a JK Wrangler. And with Dana happily returning as the Official Crate Axle of UA2018, picking axles for the Derange Rover was a no-brainer. Even though the install won’t be quite as straightforward in a Range Rover (the UACJ-6D used a shortened JK Unlimited frame), these Ultimate Dana 60s are more than beefy enough for whatever we can toss at them.
To see how we modified these potent crate axles and some details about what buying a pair get you, follow along in the photos and captions.
Since we knew that most of the brackets on the front Ultimate Dana 60 axle were going to be useless for our non-JK application, we started with a lightly used axle we had run in a different project. This axle shows a little wear and tear that you won’t see on a fresh Ultimate Dana 60 right out of the crate. We started prepping the front axle by cutting the Jeep four-link brackets off the housing. We used our Miller Electric plasma cutter, a sabre saw, and a 4 1/2-inch angle grinder.
The front Ultimate Dana 60 axles are beefy and give you a lot of cool aftermarket parts for your money. A high-clearance ribbed housing and a nodular iron diff cover give the axle a unique look, but below that black paint is where the real strength begins. First, a 10-inch ring gear is larger than the standard Dana 60. Second, compared to a standard old-school 1-ton 35-spline Dana 60 shaft, the chromoly axleshafts in an Ultimate Dana 60 (top and left) are massive by comparison. The inner shaft doesn’t neck down like the stock Dana 60 shaft, and the UD60’s monster SPL-70 U-joint absolutely dwarfs the older U-joint.
In addition to far superior chromoly metallurgy, the UD60’s stub shafts measure a big 1 1/2 inches with 35 splines (top left) rather than the 30 splines of the junkyard Dana 60 (bottom right). So if you are lucky enough to come across a Dana 60 front axle, you can spend money on the used housing ($500-$2,000) and new chromoly 35-spline shafts ($700-$2,300), and easily another $2,000-$2,500 on lockers, gears, bearings, steering parts, diff cover and more for a junkyard axle, but you won’t get that huge U-joint because it just won’t fit in the knuckles of an older Dana 60.
With the front Ultimate Dana 60 stripped down of brackets and with the brakes removed to make it a little bit easier to move, we hoisted, pushed, slid, and positioned the axle roughly in place to see how everything would clear. The Derange Rover has relatively narrow framerails, which is neither good nor bad, but it means we need to be sure the pumpkin of the axle will clear everything. We are going to build a bumpstop landing pad over the axle vent and E-locker wiring pigtail. We may also build a bit of a bridge or axle truss over the housing since the Rover’s radius arms will want to spin the axletubes in the housing.
Looking at the passenger side of the axle (U.S. passenger, that is) you can see the outside of the 35-spline Warn Premium locking hubs and the high-steer arm bolted to the knuckle, which will keep drag link and track bar angles down. The Ultimate Dana 60 front axle uses an old-school rebuildable spindle and bearing design like a traditional Dana 60. Also, the axletubes are massive, with a 3 1/2 inch OD and a 0.370-inch wall thickness. Axleshafts are 35-spline chromoly units with full-float axle ends and spindles. Front and rear axles are available with either an ARB Air Locker or our choice for UA2018, an Eaton ELocker.
The rear Ultimate Dana 60 we are using is fresh out of the crate. These crates are a beautiful sight to anyone who loves off-road gear. We used a pry bar and a saber saw to disassemble the crate enough to get the new axle out. Did we mention that these axles have a one-year limited warranty?
These rear axles have massive 3 1/2-inch axletubes that are a touch thicker than the fronts at 0.390-inch wall. They also feature nodular iron diff covers (like the front) and a smooth bottom to help the axle slide up and over any obstacles. Available gearing for front and rear Ultimate Dana 60s is 3.73:1, 4.10:1, 4.88:1, and 5.38:1.
Both front and rear axles come with heavy-duty brackets duplicating the JK’s suspension points. Most of the brackets are 1/4-inch plate unless stamped; if stamped, they are either 3/16- or 1/8-inch depending on what purpose they serve.
Unfortunately we won’t be using any of the heavy-duty axle brackets in the Derange Rover. Our plan is to recreate the three-link rear suspension with some parts from Skyjacker. That means most of the axle brackets will need to be custom to work with the factory-style lower links and Rover upper wishbone. Again we used the plasma cutter, a sabre saw, and a 4 1/2-inch angle grinder with a cutoff wheel to remove the brackets and the grinder with a couple different grinding stones and flap wheels to clean up the housing.
We’ve already talked about the full-floating design of both the front and rear Ultimate Dana 60 axles we are using on the Derange Rover. We’ve also pointed out most of the huge parts that puts the “ultimate” in these axles, but we did gloss over the gigantic brakes. Huge vented rotors and dual-piston calipers on all four corners will help the Derange Rover (or any 4x4 you are swapping these axles under) stop fast.
To feed the brakes we did a little junkyard scrounging and pulled a brake booster and master cylinder off a 2007 Dodge Nitro. We don’t know why, but the Nitro has a brake system similar to the JK, but according to our research it has a larger bore diameter on the master cylinder. The booster is also relatively small and will fit in the factory spot in the Rover. The Rover brake booster was inoperative and expensive to rebuild and we couldn’t source any new or remanufactured units. We did have to drill the Nitro booster mounting bolt pattern, but using the factory Nitro aluminum bracket as a template made it easy.
We cut the Nitro brake pushrod down and built an adapter to connect the Rover brake pedal to it. The adapter uses a couple of set screws and a snug-fitting shaft collar to keep everything in place.
Once we got it all installed on the Rover firewall, the Nitro brake master and booster looks like it was meant to be there.
Clackamas, OR 97015