Back in the Sept. 2003 issue, we started to make a desert prerunner/play toy/daily driver out of a once fully functioning Dodge. After years of beating, it was time to rebuild almost everything, and we figured out how to cut a pretty clean suspension for it, for both work and play. But projects like this almost never go as smoothly as you anticipate. We started this venture with hopes of an almost bolt-together long-travel suspension that you could put together with basic welding skills, a drill, and some elbow grease, but quickly got a lesson in reality.
If you don't remember where we left off last time, we were taking a pause to regroup and come back at this darned Dodge with a few changed plans. We had run into some problems with the rear shocks, we found a problem with the front axle and front driveshaft, the front coils felt a little too stiff, and the track bar was so far off acceptable it wasn't even funny. Last time we visited Hill 4 Wheel Drive to make some tube protection and then laid a Blazer seat (with belts) in the bed for some more people-hauling room off-road. This month we will show you how we finished the front suspension, added hydraulic bumpstops all around, and fixed or at least mended the problems we encountered.
We went back to Imperial Muffler to have Hank Van Gaale finish up the welding on the rest of the suspension after a friend and fabricator, Brad Wilcox, hooked up with some shockhoops. All in all, we were pleased with the way it came out. There's a few more problems to work out and a couple things to adjust here and there, but it felt so damned good to drive Jinxy again that we just didn't care. Money is always the biggest factor when dealing with high-zoot parts, and we definitely lacked the funds. So parts (and more money) were saved up to get this all-around truck finally on the road.
After eight years of ownership, it had cost us part of our lives, girlfriends, decent meals, our mental health, and sometimes even our physical health. We were lucky to know Hank Van Gaale, Chris Hill, and everyone else who helped on this truck. Thanks to all who lent a hand, because without friends like them, all Jinxy would be is a totaled tax write-off.
The day after we finished, we went out to beat on Jinxy and see what would happen. Besides almost rolling it without a single camera in sight, it was thankfully a semi-uneventful maiden voyage.
We had a few problems last time we left off. Our rear shocks were too long, our track bar was not at the correct angle, and the front driveshaft and axle were giving us problems. The track bar was replaced and relocated as shown on the next page, and the front driveline was mended. Remember us saying that we had found a crack in the top of the axle's centersection?
We really jury-rigged this one up. The crack is directly above the bearing race of the differential and we temporarily welded it back together so we could run the truck. This is by no means an acceptable permanent fix and we will eventually have to replace the centersection before it eats up the gears in the front diff, but it did get us going. The driveshaft bind was also temporarily solved by limiting the front axle's droop with some straps. And as for the rear shocks, well, Fox is gonna wanna never see us again after we go back to switch the shocks out for the third time.
The 12-inch-stroke ones were a bit too long for the compression, but the 10-inch-stroke shocks do not give enough droop for our setup. The solution? Go back to Fox and get our 12s back, and angle the rear shock mounts to make the 12-inch-stroke shock work. You can see the lack of suspension droop we're talking about in the rear, as the front is already on the ground in this shot.
We used Fox 2 1/2-inch 14-inch-travel coilover remote-reservoir shocks in the front of our project Jinxy. We mounted them in the hoops and checked for clearance as the axle twisted and, with a few shaves of the grinder, made them fit without any rub. The bottom mounts were easy, as we retained and used the original shock mounts directly above the axle. Coil selection is hard to make without first knowing the weights and how you want to use the truck. And then when you figure this all out, you're still usually wrong and need to swap out coils.
We started with two 14-inch coils rated at 350 and 550 pounds. After initial test runs around the block, we decided to call back Poly Performance and swap out the bottom 550-pound coils for 16-inch-long, 500-pound-rate coils. The longer bottom coil took up the extra slack in the shock and gave us a little softer ride. Luckily Poly Performance has an easy coil swapping policy where you only have to pay shipping to trade out coils as long as your originals are not scratched.
How Well Did Our Buildup Work?
Jinxy got thrown into the Oceano Dunes for a little high-speed testing to see just how well our buildup went. We're glad to say Jinxy made it home in one piece (eventually). The front setup seemed to work beautifully and soaked up bumps that would have sent us flying before, but the rear could not keep up and limited our funtime as it kept getting thrown in the air.
I continued to run it up and down the whoop-de-doos for the camera until I ran into a little snag. I was taking a gradual turn (OK, really it was a powerslide at 45 mph with tires deflated to 12 pounds) when one of the tires ripped right off the bead. The wheel dug in and almost threw Jinxy onto its lid after so many years of work. But luckily, when the dust cleared, the driver side decided to come back to the ground and we were only stranded, instead of stranded and screwed. Of course, all this was done over a sand hill, just out of site of any camera.
And of course, both of our spares were 200 miles away. So there David Kennedy and I sat, trying to figure out how the hell to get the tire untwisted and reseated with only a Hi-Lift jack and no compressed air. But after Kennedy advised releasing the vacuum suction inside the tire and a friendly duner came by with some compressed air, we were back on our way out of the dunes, realizing that we had pressed our luck enough that day.