You always run into problems along the way when doing a project, especially a big one. And sometimes you can plan for it, sometimes you can't. We had to change our plans a little this month, as we ran into a metaphorical brick wall of a problem. Last time we told you we'd be showing you how we built the front hoops, mounted the front coilovers, mounted a track bar, and added airbumps (Sept. 2003). Well, we haven't quite done all this yet. As we cycled the suspension with the new Cepek control arms on, we noted two big problems. The first we sort of expected, but the second was a shocker. With the front suspension fully drooped, the driveshaft is the most binding factor. So much so, in fact, that the front axle won't even droop the last 3 inches. The second bump in the road was the 2mm-wide crack in the top of the centersection. The centersection! We had bent lots of axletubes before, but this was a first for us.
Instead, this month we're stepping sideways a little and showing how and why we chose to build the bumpers and other body modifications, and some of the problems we're currently addressing. Remember, we're building this truck to be an all-around fun toy and driver for the desert, dunes, trail, or street. Because of this multiple-duty configuration, we had to make some decisions and compromises that we would not necessarily have made for a purpose-built vehicle.
For the bumpers, we went to see an old friend. Chris Hill runs Hill 4 Wheel Drive in San Luis Obispo, where we spent many years trying to get through college. In that time we saw many projects that Chris had done. He stuck Larry Smith, Martin Jefferson, and Mike Scott on the job to come up with some great-looking and functional protection.
Hank Van Gaale of Imperial Welding is still finishing our suspension, but he can only dedicate so much time to our pile, as he, like Chris Hill, has a real job with real responsibilities and doesn't have time to namby-pamby around the U.S. with a camera in hand. Hey, wait a sec. ...!
Martin Jefferson and Mike Scott started on the bending of the tubes to get the bumpers and rollbar shaped. We used DOM seamless 2-inch tubing for the rollbar and rear bumper, and DOM 1 3/4-inch tubing for the front bumper.
All the tubing was first tacked into place as all the bends were made and checked. To attach our front bumper, Larry Smith smoothed off the factory front-bumper mounts and built a front crossmember using 2-inch square tubing. Once the bumpers were complete, Smith and Jefferson pulled the equipment back off and finalized all the welds. The front bumper had come out very light, like we planned. That's part of the reason Smith used smaller tubing up front: More weight savings, but we still have a strong enough bumper with a great approach angle.