Don’t Smoke the Joint
I have been building my ’68 CJ-5 for a few years and am ready to build my axles. I lengthened the wheelbase 7 inches and am using a 4.3L injected Chevy V-6, a Turbo 350 trans, a Spicer 18 transfer case, fullsize Jeep Dana 44s, a Poison Spyder Customs full-width kit, Rubicon Express SOA Wrangler springs, and 37-inch tires. My plan is to run 5.13 or 5.38 gears. If all holds up well, I may put in a Warn overdrive later.
The Advance Adapters kit for the Turbo 350 to model 18 transfer case has a small U-joint for the front output. Advance said it should hold up all right. I was going to run Ox lockers in both axles, but I don’t know if the front U-joint will hold up to that. And which gear ratio would you suggest? I don’t have a trailer. I would be driving to the trails.
The small U-joint on the front of your Dana 18 is most likely a 1280 series U-joint. Although it is small, it should be plenty strong if used properly. First I would recommend the lower gear option of 5.38s. This will reduce stress on the U-joint and driveshafts. The Ox lockers and 37s will be really pushing the joint for strength, but driving style can play into that equation also.
The next issue you need to concern yourself with is joint angle. Because you are using fullsize Jeep axles, your front pinion is a low-pinion design. This, along with the spring-over-axle suspension, may result in quite an angle for the front driveshaft. The experts at Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts (www.4xshaft.com) helped develop a front yoke to work with the TH350 and Dana 18, as there is only a small window for a front driveshaft to fit.
I see your options as follows:
• Run smaller tires, or just drive gently.
• Change to a different transmission, preferably a manual like an SM-465.
• Change to a transfer case that offers slightly more space for a larger front U-joint and a lower low range of 3:1 or 4:1, such as the Advance Adapters Orion transfer case.
• Carry spare U-joints and driveshaft parts.
Trailer Park Kids
I have been into wheeling for 20 years now and have built up every type of truck imaginable. About seven years ago I got my first Samurai, and now I love them! My current Sammy has every upgrade possible and was at first built for two people. Then the first baby came. I cut the cage and added a fold-and-tumble rear seat from a YJ. Now I am expecting child number three. I can’t fit five people into the little rig. I have looked into stretching the Sammy with parts from my three parts trucks, but it seems impossible.
If I build the back half of a Sammy into a trailer with a cage and another bench seat, would it be safe to tow behind my crawler on trails only? Switchbacks here in Colorado are tight, and I am afraid my turning radius would really suck. I really don’t want to buy a 4Runner!
I grew up on a farm where I often rode in the back of pickup trucks, wagons, and on tractors, so I know it isn’t safe. Can you build a trailer with a rollcage that is safe enough to haul some kids? Yes. Should you? No. In my experience, taking a trailer along on a trail is like dragging along an anchor. People do it, but I think trailers show that either your truck is too small or you have too much stuff.
I went all over eastern Russia last summer with one of those fancy expedition-style adventure trailer things. All it had in it was food and camping gear, yet it fell apart behind us. I drive 50 percent of the time with a heavy steel trailer behind my truck with some project vehicle on it, and so I think I know a thing or two about trailers. To me, they should just stay home.
I know you don’t want a 4Runner but I think the next truck you buy may well be a 4Runner, Grand Cherokee, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Nissan Xterra, Ford Explorer, Chevy S10 Blazer, Land Rover Discovery, or Mitsubishi Montero. You can build any of these to support three small kids comfortably. (Eventually you’re going to need a bigger rig or a second 4x4 and to teach the eldest to drive.) And you won’t need to stop the whole train, get out, and go back to a trailer to feed the youngest animal crackers.
Putting the kids in the trailer is a novel idea and may keep their screaming far away from your ears, but I don’t think I’d like to back a truck and trailer down a narrow switchback on some steep Colorado trail. You know, I did see a family in Moab recently that put a third-row seat in their four-door Jeep Wrangler and had at least six people in that Jeep and maybe a dog or two. Maybe you should consider one of those.
Nuts, I’m Confused!
What’s the Ultimate JK?
I will be buying a two-door, manual, soft top, sport model Jeep Wrangler JK. I want to put a 3-inch lift with 35s. Will I be hating life with 3.73 axle gears? I can’t afford a Rubicon, so the 4.10s are out of the question. Also do you guys know anything about the new 3.6 motor? Is it worth waiting for? I will wait if it’s a way better motor. Thanks for such an awesome mag.
Of all the Jeep Wrangler models currently available, the two-door soft top would be the most desirable with the 3.8L V-6. The 3.6L Pentastar V-6 engine that is currently available in the Grand Cherokee has 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Wrangler’s 3.8L V-6 is rated 202 hp and 237 lb-ft. The 3.6L has been widely rumored to appear in the ’12 Wrangler, so if it were me I would either wait to buy a new Wrangler or wait to buy a used 3.8 when the new engine comes out and the 3.8L JKs hopefully drop in value.
As for 35s with 3.73s, I wouldn’t recommend it for long, but I think you’ll be fine for daily driving in a flat area.
I think your question deserves to be this month’s Nuts, I’m Confused letter, as many folks are considering either buying a used JK or a new one with the more powerful engine. However, there is a catch. This month I’m giving you an Insul-Liner for a Jeep JK, but it is designed for a Jeep with a hard top so you may want to consider that upgrade when ordering your new Wrangler. Insul-Liner is special thick foam that reduces heat loss in the cabin in winter and keeps heat out in summer. It is a great addition to any hardtop JK Wrangler because it helps make these popular 4x4s even more civilized. Insul-Liners are available for two- and four-door models. For more information on Insu-Liner, check out www.insul-liner.com or call 352.895.4017.
Confused? Email your questions about trucks, 4x4s, and off-roading tech using “Nuts, I’m confused” as the subject and include a picture (if it’s applicable). Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file. Also, I’ll be checking the forums on our website (www.4wheeloffroad.com), and if I see a question that I think more of you might want to have answered, I’ll print that as well. Otherwise drop it old-school style with the envelope addressed to the address below. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245 fax to: 310.531.9368 Email to: email@example.com