Q I just bought an '06 Ford F-150 FX4. I'm new to the off-road scene. Plus I've been deployed to Iraq, and while I'm away I thought you guys could help me out with the best brands for a 4-inch lift kit, tires, and rims.
A I can't usually give out recommendations on a product because I haven't had a chance to test every manufacturer's offering. However, back in 2004 (Race 150 buildup, Jan. through Apr. issues) we had a chance to work with a small fabrication shop known as JD Fabrication (760.740.0442, www.jdfabrication.com). While we were there they designed and began producing a long-travel front suspension for the '04-and-newer F-150s. This isn't so much a lift kit as it is a suspension system that will offer greater wheel travel, a wider track, and stronger front axleshafts. Also, when outfitted with fiberglass fenders, it has clearance for 37-inch tires. I will admit that this kit is a lot more expensive and involved than the normal off-the-shelf lift kit, but if you're looking for better off-road performance, this is the direction to go. As for tires and wheels, that is a personal choice everyone must make themselves, but I am fond of a mud tire on a 17-inch rim.
Q I would like to know what it would take to put a 4L80E behind the 6.2L diesel in my '83 GMC Jimmy. I plan on the 203 and 205 doubler from Off Road Design and I need a relatively cheap overdrive transmission that won't break. The truck rides on 38s.
A The 4L80E will bolt in right behind the diesel; it will give you a .75:1 overdrive and it is similar in strength to a TH400. If you find an early ('92-'99) one, then you can reuse the TH400 flexplate. It would be a good time to do the 203/205 doubler as the 4L80E is longer than your current trans, which is most likely a TH350 or a TH400 automatic and will require driveshaft and crossmember changes. You may need to look into a torque converter with a stall speed specific for a diesel however, or you could find a 4L80E from behind a 6.5L diesel. Also some sort of aftermarket transmission controller will be needed to make the electronic transmission shift properly.
Q My truck is a 3/4-ton '94 Dodge 4x4 with a Cummins. Once again my steering is wandering. The last time it was because of a recall steering shaft. It is worn out again, so I thought maybe somebody makes a tough conversion to replace this? It is like the track bar-replaced every six years.
A Yep, call Borgeson (860.482.8283, www.borgeson.com). They offer a steering shaft that replaced the original shaft and rag joint with one that uses two needle-bearing U-joints.
Q I've been in love with the Jeep Scrambler (CJ-8) ever since I was about 12 years old. I think that this is the decisive Jeep and they never should've discontinued it. The larger 103-inch wheelbase conquers the CJ-7 with the extra cargo space for gear, but is still the solid Jeep CJ that history has grown to love. I've been helping my buddy over the years with the buildup of his '81 Scrambler that includes a Vortec swap, a lift kit, power brakes, and a complete body and engine wiring job. This project has been fun and is still ongoing after three to four years of work. Instead of following suit and doing a classic Scrambler buildup, I've been considering the option of building an AJ (aftermarket Jeep) out of the readily available and plentiful aftermarket Jeep parts out there.
Needless to say, there is enough support out there to build a Scrambler from scratch and have it be exactly as I would want it, done right, the first time. Is this an economically feasible option? With rusted-out Scramblers going on eBay for more than $5,000, I like the AJ option more and more. Do these thoughts betray my allegiance to the CJ legacy? Or would my AJ Scrambler help raise awareness about the strong CJ legacy as an epic tribute vehicle?