No, I’m not giving up on my project – I have way too much money sunk into it to do *that*. But I’m going to have to drag the Jeep over to the frame guy’s shop in order to get the new frame built. Apparently it’s not as simple as welding a rectangle together and then making changes as we go.
As I wrote in my last post, I made an appointment with the frame guy to come over and take a look at some points of interference that I found while mocking up the location of the new front axle. To prepare a little bit better for him, I spent some time Monday seeing how things would fit (or not) in a more real-world situation, with one tire stuffed up into the fender (as if it were on a rock), the other hanging down (on the ground), and the tires turned all the way to one side. (I also took out the radiator so the axle-to-whatever clearances could be seen more easily.)
First, I checked the tire/frame clearances with everything level:
As I had originally figured, with an axle that’s five inches wider on each side than the original, I didn’t have any problem between the tires and the frame. Then I went to the next step, which was to see how well the tires missed the fenders if the Jeep was sitting right on the axle and I turned the tires:
There was a very minor bit of rubbing here, but since the plan is to cut the fenders back and make them flat, I’m not worried about it. Step three was to look at everything with one side squished up and the other dropped down. That took some doing, just to get everything in the (more or less) right place. I physically tied the driver-side of the axle and frame together with some rope and then lifted the Jeep with my handy-dandy engine hoist. As the assembly went up, the axle tried to rotate – forward, backward, it didn’t matter, but the pinion did *not* want to stay horizontal. So I ended up putting a floor jack under the tie rod to keep it from rotating that way, and my hydraulic jack under the pinion itself to keep it from rotating *that* way. And, of course, every time I lifted things a little higher, the jacks had to be repositioned. It was very time-consuming.
But I finally got everything into a good enough approximation of where I wanted it. Then came the fun of trying to turn the tires left or right to see how the interference worked out. One thing I hadn’t planned on was the passenger side of the axle dropping down as the driver side was lifted up (it was pivoting on the floor jack I had used when I was testing the level steering). Naturally, the passenger-side tire hit the floor and the axle eventually lifted off the jack that had been holding that side. So every time I tried to turn the wheels, the dropped one wanted to roll on the floor. I finally worked it all out, though. Ultimately, as far as the tires are concerned, there won’t be any issues with them hitting anything they shouldn’t.
The axle itself, and the steering parts, are a different story, though, and this was what I wanted the frame guy to look at.
We had agreed that he would be here at 9 yesterday morning; at 8 I got a text: “I’m here.” Oh. Okay. I opened the garage door and, yup, there he was. It turned out that he had misjudged the traffic between his shop and my house (it’s 53 miles), and he had made much better time than he had expected to. No problem.
We spent the next 2 hours talking about what I wanted, what he could do, how pieces would fit together, and all like that. One area I still don’t think we see eye-to-eye on is how flexible (fluid might be a better word) most of the build still is. He’s still thinking that a lot of stuff will be in the same relative positions in the “new” Jeep as they are now – like body-to-frame attachment points, the exhaust system, the rear axle (which will become the center axle), and so on. I’ve been telling him that it’s possible *none* of that stuff will be the same, which is why I need a first iteration built instead of a whole frame. I think (I *hope*) we’ll get on the same page eventually.
But anyway, after two hours, he finally convinced me that he’d be able to make progress a lot faster if he had the Jeep at his shop, so he could refer to it while he builds the new frame. He also wants the CJ-6 body tub, because it has the same attachment points as my CJ-5, and he’ll be able to measure the -6 for where to put the body mounts on the new frame. I *did* tell him that I’m likely going to replace the floor panels in the body, and put new bracing under them, and that the body mounts didn’t *necessarily* have to be in the same place as they are now. We’ll see how *that* goes.
I foresee many trips to his shop as the frame progresses. I don’t know if he’ll be able to build it all in one pass or not; I think there are just too many things we (I) don’t know right now about running-gear placement, suspension options, body modifications, and so on to be able to do it all at the same time. We did agree, though, that he probably has enough information to build at least the front part of the frame – from the front bumper back at least to the first body mounts.
So that’s where it sits right now. I have to get every non-essential part off the existing frame (things like the fuel-tank switch and the custom battery-jumper cables I routed from the battery to the back of the Jeep) and unload all the miscellaneous junk that’s accumulated in the past 9-plus years, and then figure out some way to safely get it out of the garage and onto a trailer to haul over to his shop. And I have to get all the accumulated stuff out of the CJ-6 body and get *that* over there, too. [The upside of getting the Jeep and the CJ-6 out is that I’ll have space to put the rest of my stuff while I repaint the garage!]