…or “The Devil’s in the Details” – take your pick.
When I left R&W a week or so ago, I did so with a “to-do” list that included such things as finding a 90-degree brass breather fitting for the transfer case, ordering a pair of pinion guards for the front and back axles (the middle axle may or may not need protection, but if it needs some it will have to be custom-made to fit the Magic Box), and more. By the middle of the week, I had accomplished enough of the items that we set up another visit for this past Saturday.
When I arrived, I saw that not a lot of large-scale progress had been made (in other words, it wasn’t magically – and impossibly – finished), and Robert cautioned me against being disappointed. Then he showed me this:
“This” is the transmission tunnel they have crafted for me. It’s made of steel, obviously, but it also includes a lot of effort – in both design and fabrication.
The design part can be seen in the multiple angles, both on the firewall and on the tunnel itself. Robert had shown me a rough idea of how he was planning to build the tunnel when I was there before, and I mentioned that I wanted as much foot space as possible (I have big feet and long legs, and I like to move them around when I’m driving for long periods). As a result, he modified his design to hug the transmission much more closely. With this version, I actually think I’ll have more foot space in the JeepMonster than I do in the truck!
The transition from the firewall to the tunnel is also masterful. On my previous visit, I noted that the clutch bellhousing protruded ever so slightly past the plane of the firewall into the cabin. To take care of that, Robert and crew welded several pieces together to make the transition area.
The tailpiece of the tunnel covers the transfer case where it pokes up into the cabin. The overall design gets the job done without being intrusive at all.
The fabrication effort can be seen in all the welds and bends. I don’t know how many pieces of steel it took, but this wasn’t easy to build. The welding is clean and solid, and they assured me that it would all be ground down flush with the tunnel body to make one smooth surface. Much of it had already been ground down. Not only was I impressed that they were grinding it smooth, but it also impressed me that they are confident enough in their work (as they should be!) to remove the extra weld material without compromising the strength of the unit.
Robert also showed me the jig they built to hold the floor pan / firewall while they work on it. This is so everything will be square when it’s finally welded together into one piece. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a solid unit they can clamp the panels to and it’s away from all the other stuff on the JeepMonster (drivetrain, frame crossmembers, etc.) so they can have open access wherever they need it.
None of this comes cheap, of course, but I’m confident that the ‘Monster will be worth every penny – well, R&W’s part will be worth every penny I spend there! (I can’t make the same guarantee about my own efforts, yet. I’ll still have a lot to do when R&W finishes their work.)