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Portal Axle Evolution: Lift Kit and Lower Gearing All Wrapped Into One

Portal Axle Evolution

John CappaPhotographer, Writer

Several years ago 4x4 enthusiast interest in portal axles had been piqued, and rightly so. No other modification offers the same increase in ground clearance, lift, and the low gearing needed for bigger tires all wrapped up into one convenient component. Early adopters made use of aged existing parts, and some even developed complete portal assemblies and knuckles, but the limitations ultimately dampened portal axle enthusiasm. Overall strength, packaging, available wheel lug patterns, steering scrub radius, and parts availability were some of the portal problems that needed to be overcome.

Portal axles are not new to 74Weld. The company was one of the early adopters that made use of stock Unimog 404 portal gears and loaded them into custom-machined billet aluminum boxes and steering knuckles. Today, 74Weld has pushed the envelope with the development and production of its second-generation portal boxes, gears, and hubs. The only parts in the gen-two boxes that remain the same as the aged Unimog 404 axles are the bearings and seals. Everything else has been redesigned, improved on, and made out of newer and stronger materials. The result is a portal axle box that provides 4.25 inches of lift, 1.55:1 ratio gearing, and enough ground clearance under a Ford 9-inch on 40-inch tires to drive over a 5-gallon paint bucket. Lots of options and different backing plates and knuckles are available to adapt the 74Weld portal boxes to solid axles or independent suspension applications. The company is also in the process of developing direct bolt-on portal boxes for Jeep JK and JL Wranglers. Keep an eye out for more info on these when they become available.