I usually don't get too many big projects done
during the week, there just doesn't seem to be enough time between getting home
from work and having to go to bed to be up at 4 the next morning. This last week
was the exception. On Thursday I managed to get the rear axle housing up
on the bench to shave the bottom for more ground clearance. It's a pretty easy
job, just takes some time, most of it spent grinding. I basically cut a
roughly 6 x 4" opening at the bottom, then mounted the 3rd member to the housing
and marked the areas I could take more material off still maintaining ring gear
clearance. The curved portion that is removed is replaced with .25" thick
flat plates. This mod eliminates the vulnerable lower drain plug which will
eventually be ground down to nothing from scraping it over rocks anyway, to
drain the oil now you will have to
drain the oil via the two lower studs. The net clearance gain is about a half
inch in back, that's equivalent to running a 1" taller tire. The bottom is
also totally smooth now so one potential hang up point is eliminated.
Friday night I made the templates for the
boatsides and some of the interior floor panels.
After a quick plasma run over to Mark's the
boatsides were ready to go on. The passenger side was first. Due to
the way my lower braces were configured I needed a slight curve to the steel
towards the ends. I started by tacking the main piece in place in the
center and worked outward using clamps to pull the material in and new tack
welds to hold it in the new shape. In the first picture you can see I had to
make a slight groove with the grinder to accomplish that bend, I will fill the
seam with a weld bead later. The drivers side will wait until I can make
some exhaust shields, I still need room to fit a drill in there to drill and tap
The reason for the boatsides is really to just
provide a nice smooth surface for sliding by stuff, dents don't seem to hamper
the performance so I chose to go with 1/8" thick material for the boatsides this
time. I used 3/16" thick steel last time which was overkill and very heavy.
I have seen the 1/8" material used and it works good provided you have fairly
close spaced supports behind the material. It will deflect some between
the supports and then won't move anymore.
While I was over at Mark's I checked out the
38.5" Baja Claw he had mounted on a 15x10" rim. The tire next to it is one of
my 37" Claws mounted on my 15x9" rim.
On paper the difference in size seems negligible,
but in person it is pretty impressive. My 37's measured 36.25" tall when
new and have approx half the tread left now, according to our measurement with
the level the 38.5's are roughly 3.5" taller than my old 37's. As the
sidewall breaks in some of that height will be lost as with any tire. I
was debating between these and the 39.5" Irok's and I think I am going to stick
with the Claws. I have way more confidence in the Claw sidewalls not to
mention towards the outer edges the Claws have nearly twice the tread depth as
the Irok's. The other thing I confirmed while Mark had the tire out was
the width on his buggy. Since these are 16" wide I was concerned my buggy
may not fit between the wheel wells in my toy hauler. I have 80" between
the wheel wells and we measured 40" from the center of Mark's axle to the edge
of the tire. Since he has the wider 86 rear end my rig should measure 77"
outside of tire to outside of tire so it should fit fine.
On Sunday I concentrated on finishing off the
front end. The air filter, power steering reservoir, power steering filter
and cooler all needed homes. This kind of work is pretty time consuming
although you wouldn't know it from looking at the little brackets and mounting
tabs you are left with when done. The first picture shows the air filter
mount, second shows the power steering reservoir, third shows the bracket the
power steering filter will mount to and the cooler which is strapped to the
brace that goes from the frame rail to the front fender. I tried to mount
all the steering related components to minimize the amount of hydro line needed
and it looks like I'll need some 90 degree fittings to handle some of the bends.
The front bump stops will bottom out on the
steering ram mounting brackets. You can see a small plate in front of the
cross member, there is another braced plate behind the cross member as well.
Towards the end of the day I did some more work
on the floors. Up front I have decided to make the floors two piece.
The outer floor will be bolted down, the inner floor will be removable to gain
access to stuff below. On the passenger side I found I could fit a medium
sized ammo box. I plan on putting spare parts and stuff not used often
down there. On the drivers side the removable panel will allow access to
Out back I added one section of floor that sits
under the rear seat. The cutouts allow access to some mounting tabs, two
more will be installed a little further back. The plan is to make the seat
mount removable so I can bolt in a storage rack as needed.
Cooler storage was next on the list. I knew
where I wanted it so I positioned it where it needed to be by suspending it via
Next I figured out how to make it stay in that
position. I used a piece of 1" tube with a 90 degree bend to form the
outer frame. Next I bent up some steel strap to capture the bottom of the
cooler. I still need to install some tie down anchors. While I was
in working in this area I also installed a seat and figured out where I needed
to mount my shoulder harnesses. The will be anchored to the cross bars
located just above the cooler in the pictures.
By the end of the day Sunday I had the entire
front end of the frame completely welded. I also started to gusset some of
the front link mounts on both the frame and axle housing. My to-do list is
getting really short now. I plan on concentrating on completing everything
that may need stuff welded to the frame which means body panels, exhaust shields
and the drivers side boatsides. Once that stuff is completed I can paint
the frame and begin final assembly.
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