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2000 Dodge Durango - Deranged Durango

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on December 9, 2004 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Craig Perronne

Nothing is off-limits in the world of truck building. Builders routinely reconfigure entire drivelines and suspensions to accomplish their ultimate goal. Needless to say, this level of modification requires the builder to spend a significant amount of time pondering the function and fitment of each and every potential mod, and then these items are analyzed even farther to determine their effects on other critical components. It's certainly not easy, but it's the price we pay for unique, ultra-functional go-anywhere rigs.

An example of this no-holds-barred build style is Karl Hasmanis' wild, solid front axle, coilover- and four-link-equipped 2000 Dodge Durango. Karl's goal was to create a one-of-a-kind solid-axle SUV that he could utilize off-highway and still drive around his hometown of Goodyear, Arizona. Clearly, he could've selected a rig that would've been much easier to build, but he's a management executive who welcomes challenges.

One look at the Durango reveals that clearly a significant amount of work was done underneath the SUV, much of which was necessary for the fitment of the 49-inch Iroks. The project began by removing the entire stock rear leaf-spring suspension and axle as well as the front IFS, axle and steering. Since the variety of planned mods would make space a premium under the Durango, the stock rear fuel tank was also discarded and a custom 28-gallon tank was installed in a position higher and farther to the rear of the vehicle than the stock unit.

A pair of Ford Dana 60 axles with disc brakes was sourced, the front being a high-pinion unit from an F-250 and the rear a unit from an F-350. Both were re-geared to 4.88:1 during their rebuild, and the front axle was fitted with an ARB Air Locker and a pair of Warn Premium hubs. Since the truck would be receiving a significant amount of suspension lift, the folks at FST Motorsports in Phoenix moved the rear axle 5 inches rearward and the front axle 5 inches forward. This ensured that the wheels stayed centered in the wheelwells. A pair of custom frame mounts for the soon-to-come four-link bars were then fabbed and welded in the center of each of the Durango's stock framerails.

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Suspending the axles are four 2 1/2-inch-diameter Sway-A-Way RaceRunner Piggyback coilover shocks on custom mounts. Custom 1 1/2-inch-diameter four-link bars made from solid aluminum hexagon 7075 T651 tubing keep the axles located laterally. Each bar features 1x1-inch spherical rod ends to ensure durability and flexibility. The front suspension is a standard four-link system, while the rear is a triangulated four-link system.

To ensure that the steering system was protected from trail obstacles and durable enough to handle the stresses of four-wheeling, the front axle was also fitted with custom high-steer steering knuckles, a custom crossover steering system, an AGR Rock Ram hydraulic steering kit and tie rods fabbed from beefy 1 1/2-inch aluminum rod. Benchworks in Scottsdale rebuilt the stock steering box. The completed suspension system boasts approximately 30 inches of lift and each axle sports an impressive 16 inches of wheel travel.

Even with all of the suspension lift, the 49-inch tires still came in contact with the Durango's fenders at full flex. To eliminate this problem, the Durango's body underwent major surgery. The first mod was a custom 3-inch body lift. Next, the front wheelwells were widened by 6 inches and the rear wheelwells were widened by 8 inches. This created enough room for the axles to flex completely without tire-to-fender contact.

Hasmanis says that the polypropylene inner fenderwells had to be heated and stretched to compensate for the larger width of the wheel openings and the wheelwell moldings were also modified for the larger openings as well. Other exterior mods include a custom front bumper with a brushguard and a winch mount, as well as a custom roof rack and a rear bumper. All were fabbed by Toys by Troy in Phoenix, and sprayed to match the Durango's factory silver paint. Rounding out the exterior mods is a Warn 9.5ti winch and six Hella off-highway lights, which were wired by Finish Line Racing in Phoenix.

The Durango retains its 4.7L V-8 engine, but it underwent a couple of mods to increase its performance. It inhales through a custom 3-inch-diameter air-induction tube with K&N air filter and it exhales through a custom exhaust system bent by Midas exhaust that feeds a single pipe through a Raven muffler and out a pair of dual tailpipes. The horsepower is routed through the stock 5-45RFE transmission and split to a pair of Precision Driveline-built CV-equipped driveshafts by an Atlas II transfer case.

Hasmanis' Durango may not have been easy or cheap to build, but the end result is a 9 1/2-foot-tall SUV that's definitely one demented rig.

Specifications

GENERAL
Owner: Karl Hasmanis, Goodyear, Arizona
Vehicle/Model: 2000 Dodge Durango
Estimated Value: $100,000

ENGINE
Type: SOHC V-8
Displacement (liters): 4.7
Horsepower (stock): 235
Torque (lb-ft, stock): 295
Aspiration: Fuel-injection, custom 3-inch-diameter air-intake pipe with K&N air filter, Ravin muffler with dual tailpipes

DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: 5-45RFE
Transfer case: Atlas II

SUSPENSION
Front: Custom four-link, Sway-A-Way RaceRunner Piggyback coilover shocks
Rear: Custom triangulated four-link, Sway-A-Way RaceRunner Piggyback coilover shocks

AXLES/DIFFERENTIALS
Front: Dana 60, ARB Air Locker, Warn Premium hubs
Rear: Dana 60
Ring-and-Pinion: 4.88:1

WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheels: 17x12 Weld Stone Crusher
Tires: 49x21.0-17 Super Swamper Irok

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