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1949 2DW Willys Pickup - Wicked Willys: Part 7

It’s a Roller with Gears

Verne SimonsPhotographer, Writer

Well, she's a roller! There's still a long way to go, but at least we've gotten a chance to roll the Jeep out of the garage and back into some natural light. As said in previous installments, lots of things have happened recently to slow this huge project to a trickle, but don't fret, we're on it, and you can bet that we want this truck done as much as any of you. The past couple of days have been busy, and we finally got the old girl back on her sexy BFG tires and out of the garage.

That short trip on her tires was for a couple of reasons. First, we wanted to get the truck outside to a place where we could temporarily install the bed. This gives us a good feel for the overall look of the rig when it's completed. This includes getting our first look at how the rear fenders need modified to fit over these huge tires. The second reason we wanted the truck out of the garage was we wanted to move it to the other side of the garage. That's kind of like hitting the reset button on your Nintendo. It gave us a chance to clean up the garage a little and will also allow us to roll the truck in and out of the garage (despite another driveway project). This will allow us to pull the cab and probably the bed so we can install the 505ci Dodge RB, NP435, and a NP203/NP205 Doubler with adapters from Offroad Design.

We'll, we've gotten a bit ahead of ourselves. There's more to this installment of Wicked Willys Part 7 than rolling the Jeep out of the garage. We geared and locked the axles, front and rear using parts from G2, Eaton, Summit, and Offroad Design. We also installed a set of heavy-duty 35-spline locking hubs from Warn Industries for traction on the trail or free-wheel action on the road. We also started tinkering with the big ol' Dodge RB, installing a few parts from Summit Racing in hopes that soon we can marry it to the drivetrain and stab the whole shebang between those TJ frame rails.

Our wicked Willys is gonna be big. To keep the rear tires spinning, we've built the truck around a full-float GM 14-bolt rear axle. This axle is well known for its strength. We first rebuilt the differential carrier with a Detroit Locker from Eaton. In the 14-bolt the Detroit locker replaces the side gears and cross shaft of the differential. You install a Detroit by taking the two halves of the carrier apart and installing the Detroit. Just to give you an idea of the size and strength of a 14-bolt, we put this Dana 30 Detroit (it's the tiny differential) in the picture.

The GM full-float 14-bolt also known for having a very solid design with spanners to move the carrier side to side and easily accessible pinion shims to adjust the pinion depth—more on that later. The first step in setting up the gears in the full float rear 14-bolt is to set the pinion pre-load in the removable pinion housing. We drove the new Timken from races G2 Axle into the pinion housing using a brass drift.

We then used our press to install the new inner Timken bearing from G2 Axle on the pinion.

One thing that we don't care for regarding the full-float GM 14-bolt is its use of a crush collar (right). Crush collars are very frustrating to work with if you don't have the proper tools or the experience of working with them frequently. They preload the pinion, but if you overtighten the things trying to set the preload, you'll ruin the crush collar. Luckily, there are options in the form of Offroad Design's crush collar elimination kit (PN GU62003, $59.00). This kit uses a machined sleeve and shims that allow you to fine tune the pinion preload.

We clamped the pinion housing in our big old vice and started testing the preload till it was within spec. With the preload set, we then added the pinion seal, greased the seal surface of our yoke and added some silicon to the pinion splines to help ensure leak free operation.

We then installed the pinion housing into the axle with the same thickness of shims that came in the axle. Be sure that this oiling port in the pinion housing lines up with the oil passage in the housing.

With the new Timken carrier bearings and races from G2 Axle pressed onto the carrier we can now install the differential into the axle. The spanners allow you to move the carrier towards or away from the pinion to adjust axle backlash while adding or removing shims helps center the pattern on the ring-gear teeth. We're pretty happy with that drive pattern on the ring gear. With a crush collar eliminator setting gears in a 14-bolt is almost pleasurable. Like any gear install, this requires specialty tools and experience.

Our GM Dana 60 front axle is not quite so rewarding to work with. The pinion depth is adjusted using shims that require disassembling the whole axle. That's made easier by using a set-up race, but it's still a pain. The pattern is then fine tuned with shims that reside under the carrier bearings. Set-up carrier bearings and a good bearing puller are a must for this and other Dana axles. In all honesty, we probably should have farmed out the front axle gear install, but in the end, we were pretty happy with the pattern we achieved. Yes, that's the coast side on a low-pinion axle, which is the side it powers on since it is in the front.

To ensure our frontend will be nearly bullet proof, we also added a set of chromoly 35-spline G2 axleshafts. These shafts came loaded with U-joints, so we didn't even have to fight that battle this time. Factory GM Dana 60 front axles have 35-spline inner shafts, and those will be our spares, but the stub shafts are only 30-spline from the factory (left). That would have been our weak link in the front axle before the G2 shafts.

Just because we're talking about axleshaft size and strength here is a quick comparison. All the way on the right is the 30-spline, 1.59-inch full-float 14-bolt rear axle at the splines. Middle is the factory Dana 60 35-spline, 1.47-inch front axleshaft at the splines. Yes, they are both almost the same size and the 14-bolt has fewer splines but also uses a different pitch to the splines than Dana axles. Trust us, these axles are tough. All the way to the left is a factory Dana 44 30-spline 1.27-inch front axle shaft at the splines, just for comparison.

Since we upgraded the stub shafts to 35-spline, we needed corresponding 35-spline locking hubs. We look no further than to Warn who has made some of the best locking hubs in the industry for a very long time. In fact, the company's first products were locking hubs for surplus WWII jeeps. These hubs are a simple bolt-in affair—when everything else is right.

One issue we figuratively bumped our head against was with the inner front wheel hub races. Upon assembly of our pieced together used GM Dana 60 front axle the inner portion of the Warn locking hubs would bottom on the spindle and the snap ring was impossible to install. With a bit of searching, we figured out that our Timken 382-A inner races were not thick enough. By simply replacing these races with 382-S we picked up 1⁄8 or 3⁄16 inch more space for the Warn locking hubs.

With the correct races installed and the warn locking hubs in place, we were able to bolt the Trail Ready beadlocks back in place and rolled the Jeep out of the garage so we could plop the bed on the truck. This helps us understand where and how the rear fenders are going to have to be modified to fit the 42-inch tires. Plus, it looks cool and helps motivate us for the future.

As said we started tinkering with the 505ci stroked Dodge RB that will power this truck. So far, we've got the Edelbrock aluminum heads bolted in place. These are the largest chamber Heads for a RB Dodge/Chrysler with 88cc chambers. That should help us keep the compression ratio low enough to stave off the high-octane fuel. As we write this, we're hoping to hit the engine assembly hard, add in a clutch, flywheel, and clutch components and marry the engine to the rest of the drivetrain. Can't wait? Neither can we!