Q I have an '94 Mazda B3000 SE Cab Plus. It is 2WD, with a 3.0 V-6, a five-speed, and a stock 7.5 rearend with 3.45 stock gears. I purchased the truck in 2001 to get myself back and forth to work and school. When I got out of school, I wanted a newer 4x4 truck but just couldn't afford it (and still can't). I decided in 2004 to get a 3-inch Skyjacker body lift, 15x10 Pacer wheels, and a set of 32x11.50 BFG All Terrain T/As. Since then I've added a Daystar 2-inch front coil spring spacer set, Skyjacker shocks, a Rancho steering stabilizer, a cool air inlet, MagnaFlow cat-back exhaust, and MSD Ignition wires, coil, and distributor cap/rotor. The rest of the truck is stock, with nearly 300,000 miles on the clock. My question is, What can I do to make my truck more off-road capable but still a good daily driver? I know it's a 2WD truck with a weak motor and rear, but I'm not looking to run the UA in this. I just want to go to an off-road park somewhere with my girl and friends and ride some easy trails, or even maybe get into some minor trails.
I've asked around and have received many different answers about what I should do. Some have told me to get a nice locker, taller gears, and a winch and call it a day. Others have suggested a full 4WD swap from a wrecked Ranger of the same year. And others have suggested I just sell my truck and start from scratch with something 4WD. I know that I'm limited in what I can do because I'm 2WD, but most people have told me I could have a decent off-road daily driver with what I have now.
I'm relatively new to off-roading. I'm more of a road/drag racing guy, with driveway space shared with a modified '98 Mustang GT. Also, just like everyone else, I'm on an übertight budget (which is why I can't afford a better truck). Please help me out. Thanks.
A The cheapest thing you can do is install some tow hooks, buy a good recovery strap like a Bubba Rope (www.bubbarope.com), buy a Hi-Lift Jack (www.hi-lift.com), and find a friend with a 4x4 to go wheeling with you.
If you are past that point and ready to spend the money, building up a good rear axle with a locker would be the next best option. Maybe you can watch the classified ads for a Ford Ranger 8.8-inch rear axle that someone has put a locking differential in.
A winch is also another great upgrade. Though not cheap, it will get you out of many messy situations. But don't forget you'll need a good winch bumper or a receiver hitch mount.
Any conversion and work you do will take time, money, or both. Selling your truck and buying a 4x4 will offer a better platform to start from, but if you take your time and watch for deals, you'll be able to build your truck eventually.
Check out Ali Mansour's Ultimate Danger Ranger project on our website, www.4wheeloffroad.com.
Q I recently got back from a tour in Iraq and finished my '88 Samurai rockcrawler. Everything works perfect on it, from the Toyota axles to the 6:1 transfer case. But the one problem I have is that awful 1.3L carb engine. I've been looking at different kits to put a bigger motor in it, but I'm really wanting to go with a Cummins 4BT four-cylinder diesel. The problem is that I cannot find any place that makes an adapter to match it up to the Samurai transmission. Can you help me?
A A Cummins 4BT is not a good engine for your project. It is as heavy as a big-block gas engine and has gobs of torque to match. It will destroy your Samurai transmission. Your frame is not strong enough, and your Toyota axle will have a hard time withholding the power and weight. Why not look into a Volkswagen diesel conversion? This engine is smaller and very efficient and will impress you compared to the 1.3L. Acme Adapters offers a kit (www.acmeadapters.com). Most Cummins 4BT engines I have seen are attached to a GM SM 465, or a TH400; both are very robust and heavy transmissions.
Q Do you know of anyone who offers a lift kit for an '00 AWD Chevy Astro van? Or how close the suspension is to an S-10?
A Yes, Overland Vans (www.overlandvans.com) offers 2-, 4-, and 8-inch suspension lifts for Astro vans and a 4-inch suspension lift for '96-'02 GM 1500 and 2500 fullsize vans.