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  4. Solid-Axle Swapping - A 1996 Chevy S10 Blazer - The Almighty Dime: Part 2

Solid-Axle Swapping - A 1996 Chevy S10 Blazer - The Almighty Dime: Part 2

Micro Machines Monster Truck

Jerrod JonesPhotographer, Writer

We think Mike Gold's brother said it best when he came through the doors of Revolution Vehicle Dynamics, looked at our S-10 Blazer, and said, "That looks like a Micro Machines monster truck!" With 35-inch Baja Claws sitting under it, our little Chevy certainly was looking tough.

We decided to make some drastic changes to our '96 S-10 Blazer last month. The IFS suspension parts had worn out, the brakes were shot, the steering was all over the place, and the Almighty Dime had basically been parked until we could do something.

That “something” ended up being a solid-axle swap for our mini Blazer. While it would have been nice to keep the 4WD independent front suspension and done some type of long-travel kit, we're not aware of any kits currently available, and the cost of fabricating one would be more than our S-10 is worth (which is no excuse: We often buy parts worth more than our trucks). A few people suggested getting rid of the 4WD and putting a 2WD long-travel kit on, but losing such an advantageous thing like four-wheel drive seems unreasonable to us. Our Almighty Dime sees more than just desert, and while it may not be able to go quite as fast off road (with a solid axle), a four-wheel-drive solid-axle setup will allow us to do everything we want to do while not being too expensive to boot.

We did some research, gathered some Wagoneer Dana 44 axles, Wagoneer front springs, a Sky's Offroad Design SAS (solid-axle swap) hanger kit, and a few other incidentals we needed to make this all work smoothly. Mike Gold at Revolution Vehicle Dynamics in Apple Valley, California, assembled the pieces, built a steering draglink to connect to the Wagoneer axle's tie rod, and bolted some Rancho Pro Series shocks and Mickey Thompson 35-inch Baja Claws onto the Almighty Dime. Our mini Blazer was ready for an initial shakedown run that ended shortly after realizing how much it wandered.

While the project was moving under its own power, there was (is) definitely still work to do.

Our two real problems were front suspension wandering and front-wheel drive.

After the first run, there was no question that the SUV needed a front track bar. Mike fabbed one up and we went back out for another round of testing, only to tweak the stock front Wagoneer leaf springs. This left our S-10 sitting low in front and slightly angled to one side. After we add some new Rancho 44044 Wagoneer front springs, the front should be back up to the correct height.

As for the front-wheel drive issue: We ran into a problem we weren't expecting with the long slip-yoke (not fixed) output shaft on the front of the S-10's NP233C transfer case. None of our local driveshaft shops could make us a front driveshaft that would work for our solid-axle swap. The first option we thought of was to swap the T-case. There are adapters available to put a few different transfer cases in back of our S-10's 4L60-E transmission, but our recently rebuilt NP233C is electronically shifted via a dash knob and already in the truck. Keeping the stock transfer case is definitely going to be the easiest route, if possible. A little more S-10 T-case research revealed that there are many similarities between the NP233C found in S-10s and the NP231J transfer case found in Cherokees. Other S-10 owners have had success swapping a front output from a Cherokee T-case into the NP233C, so we're in the process of tracking down a donor NP231J now.

It is close to done, but the Almighty Dime project is not quite finished. It's reached a point where it is stable at 65 mph and can handle prerunning duties with almost no tire rub. But some better bumpstops, lower gears, and most importantly four-wheel drive would complete our Almighty Dime.