Jeep Frame

The “Coming Out” Party

It’s official! Robert has declared that his work on the JeepMonster will be done by August 13, and it will actually COME OUT OF HIS SHOP (on a trailer, but still…)!

Our plan is to show it off for a few hours (8 AM to noon) at the local 4Wheel Parts store (4001 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ, USA) before bringing it to my house for the next phase of construction – you know, the part where I get to cut holes in his masterpiece for lights, steering, brakes/clutch, etc., etc., etc., and figure out where all the lines, wires, tubes, linkages, pipes, hoses, and so on will go.

If you’re in Tucson on August 13, and want to see the JeepMonster in person, this is the time to do it!

This will also be a chance for you to test your rig’s articulation, as Robert has said he’ll bring his RTI (Ramp Travel Index) ramp.

Categories: 6wd, 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Frame, Custom Jeep Body, Jeep, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster, suspension, tandem axle, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

I’m Ba-a-a-ack!

…and I have PROGRESS! – Well, actually, *Robert* had progress to show me today.

As y’all know, it’s been several weeks since I last posted here. In that time I rode my motorcycle 7500 miles, followed Historic Route 66 from Holbrook, AZ, to Chicago, attended the EAA AirVenture Fly-In in Oshkosh, WI, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, SD (duh), and visited one of my beautiful daughters and her husband. (If you’re interested, you can catch up on my travels here.)

Today I visited Robert. There wasn’t a lot of progress, both because I’ve been away and because he’s had other projects to finish, but more details on the frame are done.

The power steering box mount is now permanent.

The power steering box mount is now permanent.

The transmission mount / crossmember has been fabricated.

The transmission mount / crossmember has been fabricated.

The rearmost crossmember / rear winch mount / receiver has been fabricated and welded to the frame.

The rearmost crossmember / rear winch mount / receiver has been fabricated and welded to the frame.

And, wonder of wonders, I think we’ve actually come up with a way to get the “Magic Box” (as I call it – it’s the 1:1 power-transfer gearbox on the center axle) higher off the ground! Here’s the best shot of it that I could find in all the pictures I’ve taken (or found) so far. It’s not *my* Magic Box, but you can see that it hangs below the bottom of the differential by a good inch to inch-and-a-half. It’s by far the lowest point on the whole JeepMonster, and because it’s both aluminum and big, it presented a serious protection challenge.



Robert’s suggestion is to swap my two back-axle ring-and-pinion assemblies so the Magic Box will be bolted to the high-pinion assembly, and the low-pinion assembly it’s currently bolted to will go on the third axle. This accomplishes several things:

  1. It moves the Magic Box about 4 inches higher than it is now, putting the bottom of the Box well above the bottom of the differential housing. This will make it much easier to build a skidplate for the whole assembly.
  2. It moves the output U-joint 4 inches higher above the axle tube, giving gobs (that’s a technical term for lots) of clearance between the “interaxle” driveshaft and the axle tube on the middle axle.

It does two other things, too, which are not so good:

  1. It raises the front end of the “interaxle” driveshaft 4 inches and drops the back end 4 inches, so the operating angle on this driveshaft will be more than originally thought.
  2. In raising the whole Magic Box 4 inches, there might be clearance issues with one of the frame’s crossmembers that we’ll have to deal with.

On the whole, though, the two improvements vastly outweigh the two downgrades. I’d much rather have the whole Magic Box sit higher off the ground than it does right now, and figure out how to mitigate the two downgrades, than leave it the way it is.

There’s also the possibility, which I have to confirm with the Box’s builder (who is in Ohio), that I could rotate the Box so it’s more horizontal than it is right now. It currently sits at about a 45-degree angle up and to the passenger side; if I can rotate it so that it’s closer to horizontal, the downgrade issues won’t be as severe. We’ll have to see about that.

So right now, Robert is going to measure and tack-weld the back-axle shock mounts to the frame, and then pull the two back axles off for me to take to Tucson Differential for reassembly. After that, I’ll take the CJ-6 tub to him so he can start working on the new body.

Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Frame, drivetrain, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Marches On

First, some updates from my June 26 post:

  1. The radiator I got was custom-made, so the manufacturer wouldn’t take it back. We knew that, so Hi Speed agreed to order me a new one and said they’d absorb the cost of the first one. Then I got a call with some further information: The manufacturer puts the tranny cooler tube in the *outlet* tank because the coolant has been, well, cooled at that point and thus can do a better job of cooling the tranny fluid. Oh. Okay. (D’oh!) So I retrieved the original radiator and took it to R&W. I figure I have three options: run hard lines from the driver side of the engine bay (power steering box and pump) to the passenger side (the cooler); use the finned mini-radiator I was using before; or do both and put the finned mini-radiator in line with the cooler. I think I’ll probably take the third option, on the theory that more cooling is better than less, but it also depends on how much real estate I have on the fenders when it’s all put back together.
  2. I opened the onboard air system and discovered that they had sent me a serpentine-belt clutch for the air pump, despite my specific written request for a double-V-belt clutch. I let them know; they apologized for the mistake; they sent me a new one and I sent the wrong one back. As far as I know, I now have all the correct parts for the onboard air system.
  3. The stud/bolt kit for the high-steer arms arrived. I took it to R&W when I delivered the radiator, so the steering system can be put together more-or-less permanently now.

Now, on to the new stuff!

Robert wasn’t very optimistic that he could straighten out either of the two grilles enough to be useful, so I went to Willys Works to see what they had lying in their yard. I actually found an early-CJ grille that still had almost everything still on it! The place where the grille had bolted to the frame had either rusted off or been cut off, but since we weren’t going to use that anyway, it didn’t make any difference. So I bought the grille.



It turns out that this one is a little bent, too, but I don’t think it’s bent as badly as either of the other two. In any case, I told Robert to use the best one of the three. One potential advantage to using this grille, though, is that with the original radiator shroud/mount still attached, Robert could use part of it to hang the a/c condenser off of, instead of having to build something that works off the radiator mounts. This way, the a/c condenser and the radiator would be totally separate and wouldn’t be affecting how the other is mounted. But I’ll have to wait and see what he comes up with.

Robert’s also been working on the back end of the JeepMonster. This is the rear bumper / winch mount as it looked last Friday:


Each end is approximately the height of the frame (5 inches), and the winch hangs down an inch or so below that. The center cutout is where the hitch receiver will go. When it’s actually attached to the frame, end pieces will be added to protect the rear corners of the body. This will all be aft of the back end of the body, so Robert’s going to make a lid for it that’ll serve as a step as well as a cover for the winch and the solenoid box. If there’s space, he’ll make a small box to put winch-recovery gear in.

The BIG news is that the JeepMonster is actually on its own six tires now, at least temporarily.


I say “temporarily” because, after all the remaining pieces (transmission mount, rear bumper/winch mount, radiator mount, sliders, etc.) are cut, bent and attached, Robert’s going to take everything off the frame so he can finish-weld everything and do it safely and cleanly. Then he’ll put all this stuff back on the frame and start building the body. There’ll be a lot more to look at when I get back in mid-August!

So that’s where the project stands right now. I have a few small parts to find (in the pile in the garage) or buy (from somewhere…) this week, and I hope to be able to deliver them all to Robert by Friday afternoon – or maybe Saturday morning as I leave on my motorcycle trip. If Robert sends me photos between now and August 16, I’ll post an update; otherwise, we’ll all have to wait for 5 or 6 weeks to find out what has happened in the meantime.

Categories: 6wd, 6x6, Jeep, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Under. Over. Under!… Over?….

The JeepMonster’s exhaust manifolds arrived late last week, so I called Robert earlier this week to set up a time to take them out to him. We agreed that yesterday afternoon would be satisfactory, so I arrived at his shop about 3:30 to drop them off. While I was there, we discussed the springs – both the coils for the front axle and the leaves for the back axles.

Up until about a week ago, I had been working on the assumption that the back springs were going to be mounted above the axles, both to increase the clearance underneath them and to give additional space between the axles and the frame for flexibility and axle movement. When I talked to Robert about coming over, he told me he had decided that the spring-over configuration was going to be too high, and he had moved the springs under the axles – and that’s where they were yesterday. We both recognized that stock YJ Wrangler springs (which is what he had on hand and we’ve been using for the mock-ups) wouldn’t work in the spring-under-axle (SUA) configuration, because it left the axle and the frame too close together. So I’ve been (desultorily) looking for some springs with about 2.5 inches of lift. In the meantime, Robert was going to force the frame and axles apart by sticking a piece of steel between them, so that he could work on the front suspension.

Last night, I got a text saying, “Don’t look for springs yet – I want to do some more measuring.” O-kay…

Today Robert called me and said he had gone back to the spring-over-axle (SOA) configuration, and he sent me a couple of pictures.

This first one shows the middle-axle spring mounted on top of the axle and compressed (by the weight of the third axle) to about where he thinks it’ll ride when the whole JeepMonster is built and the full weight of the vehicle is on the springs. (The third axle, although not shown well here, is literally hanging about an inch off the ground. Robert thinks that’s a pretty good proxy for all the other weight, like a spare, a winch, a gas tank full of gas, a couple of batteries, and tools & parts, that’ll be weighing the back of the JeepMonster down when it’s all built.) In this photo the spring looks almost flat, but I think there’s still some positive arch in it.


The next photo shows the front shackle. As you can see, there’s a definite forward cant to it, which is what you want when the spring is at what’s called “ride height” – in other words, when it’s just sitting in a garage, or when it’s going down the highway. Having this forward (or backward, if the shackle is at the back of the spring) slant allows the spring to flex better and gives a better ride than if it’s exactly vertical. And you *definitely* don’t want it angling back toward the spring, because then you have very little flexibility and you run the risk of reversing the shackle and jamming it up against the frame – which could cause bent or broken springs, a broken spring mount, or other severe damage to the suspension.


The net result of going back to the SOA style isn’t really any different from getting some lift springs and mounting them SUA, but if I can use the stock springs we already have, then I don’t have to try to figure out whether to get 2 1/2-inch or 4-inch lift springs, and if I happen to break one, stock springs will be much easier to source than lifted ones.

But now I have to find longer coils for the front than I was originally looking for.

Here’s a photo Robert just sent me, It shows the middle axle flexed:


He tells me the tires have 11 inches of travel between the fully compressed and fully extended spring positions. You can see the passenger-side spring is squershed flat, while the driver-side spring is fully extended. I think that’ll be fine – I’ve never intended this to be a super-flexy rig, anyway. What I can’t conquer with flex, I’ll try with locked axles; what I can’t conquer that way, I’ll either give up or use my winch.

Here’s another shot of the flexy Monster – it’s a *little* clearer to see the springs in this photo. You can see the back axle is still SUA, and if you look closely you can see the shackle on the far left corner is almost directly in line with the spring. It would be very easy at this point for the shackle to reverse itself and then jam up against the frame as weight comes back down on that corner. That would not be good.


As a side note, he told me that the “inner wheelbase” is 98 inches and the “outer wheelbase” is 130 inches (or about 11 feet). The original CJ-5 wheelbase is 81 inches, and a CJ-6 wheelbase of the same vintage is 101. By comparison, my truck’s wheelbase (it’s a 2000 F-150 SuperCab) is 138.5 inches. The big difference will be in the overall length. The truck is 225.9 inches or about 18′ 8″. The JeepMonster will have much less overhang at both the front and the rear, although I don’t know yet what the final length will be. The frame is currently 16 feet, but the final length might be different by a little bit.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look for information about coil springs, and maybe buy a pair.

Categories: 6x6, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster, Spring Over, Spring Under, suspension, tandem axle | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Another Week, Another Update

Robert sent me a few pictures through Facebook yesterday morning, including this one showing the potential engine location:


It’s hard to see from the photo, because of all the stuff in the background, but the engine is sitting pretty low in the frame. It looks a lot lower than it really is, which gave me a short-term panic attack. I was concerned about having the transmission hanging so far down below the frame, and worried that, even with a skidplate, it might be a rock magnet.

So I hightailed it out to Robert’s shop to get a good first-hand look at it. I was there for almost two hours, and we both got frustrated with each other at times, but in the end he persuaded me (yet again) that this’ll work out. And he suggested a change to the body configuration that I think will actually work better than the original!

One of the things I did when I got there was take my own pictures. They’re not much better than his, at least for differentiating the Jeep parts from the background, but they’re bigger files, so if you click on the thumbnail in this post, you’ll get a larger version on your screen.

This was the scene in his shop when I got there. The cowl and front clip of the ’61 are in the foreground; the frame and back end of the ’61’s tub are in the left background, and the JeepMonster, with the engine location mocked up, is in the right background.


Here’s a closeup of what’s left of the ’61. It’s almost at the point where it can be rolled outside and parked.


Here’s a shot of the engine sitting on (very!) temporary engine and transmission mounts in the JeepMonster’s frame:


This photo shows, a *little* more clearly, how the engine/transmission/transfer case assembly will sit in the frame (at least vertically – it might move a little bit fore and aft as other parts are installed):


If you click on this and get the full-size photo, you might be able to see that a strengthening plate has been welded on the frame, with its curved back end just in front of the C-clamp. From there, the frame is straight all the way back to the rearmost crossmember / winch mount / bumper.

This is where Robert’s and my frustrations lie. He says, quite rightly, that having two back axles will put a BIG side-to-side strain on the frame when I’m turning, because the tires will be resisting the sideways force against the pavement. [If you’ve ever tried to turn a tandem-axle trailer, like a big U-Haul trailer, by hand, you know how much the tires scrub on the pavement. By contrast, a single-axle trailer will turn much more easily. The same will be true for JeepMonster.] By keeping the frame straight, without welds, angles, cuts, or other weakening modifications, it will be better able to resist those forces.

How-EV-er, when I was designing this thing in my mind, I had envisioned something more like this, where the red lines show how the frame would have dropped down so that the body would be lower.


This would have had all kinds of benefits, including a straighter driveline, a lower center of gravity, a Jeep that would be easier to get into… But there’s one fatal flaw: With those added angles, the frame would be weaker in that area, and more prone to flexing side-to-side and possibly cracking and breaking. And there are other variables that I keep forgetting to take into consideration, too – like how much the springs are going to compress once the whole thing is built (right now the frame is sitting on jackstands at an artificially-high – although not by much – distance above the axles). I honestly don’t know how tall JeepMonster will be when it’s done. I just hope it’ll fit in my garage (which has a seven-foot-tall door).

As I was bitching and moaning about this, and how the lack of a dip under the floorboards meant that the back (cargo) deck of JeepMonster would be five inches above the frame, Robert said, Well, why don’t you just drop the whole floor down so it’s at the same level as your floorboards, instead of having the five-inch step up like the original? Since we’re going to be creating new floor panels and wheelwells *anyway*, why not just make the cargo bed five inches deeper?

<blink blink> Talk about being hit upside the head with a two-by-four…

My first reaction was, NO! Then the tailgate won’t be the right size and it won’t look original!

But I’ve had a day to mull it over, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this might be a good thing after all, for several reasons:

  1. If I drop the cargo floor down to the frame, that drops everything that I’m planning to put *inside* that area five inches lower, as well. This includes the gas tank, which I had considered making a well for so that it would sit lower. If the whole floor is lower, then no well is needed.
  2. I had also considered putting some kind of enclosed, lockable storage (maybe similar to this Tuffy product) in the back. With the floor five inches lower, that would leave more usable space above the storage and still relatively low in the body for things like, oh, a spare tire.
  3. It might render more of the space in the rear corners of the JeepMonster (directly behind the tires, outside the cargo area) usable. I’m thinking of putting my batteries in the back corners, both for weight distribution and for protection, and having a taller compartment behind the rear tires might make the battery installation easier.
  4. If I don’t have the step up in the floorboards, it’ll be easier to build the mounting brackets for the seats, and I might be able to put them lower, too – but I don’t know whether I want to do that, because of ergonomics related to my long legs. More trial and error and fit and test is required here; this means I have to decide on what seats I’m going to get and then actually *get* them.

So that’s where things are right now. Before I left yesterday, I told Robert to go ahead with mounting the engine where he placed it. Once the engine is in, he’ll be able to start building the links for the front axle’s suspension. I think.

One last photo. This is from the front, (sort of) showing how low the engine will sit in the frame. I need to get parts for it, too, like fuel injection; the a/c compressor; the *other* air compressor; a high-output alternator (part of an onboard welding package), and more. But having the engine low like this will offset the water pump pulley from the electric fan motor and decrease the possibility of the two wanting to share the same space sometime in the future.


Categories: 6x6, Custom Frame, Jeep, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster, tandem axle | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Baby Steps

I went out to Marana to see what progress had been made on the JeepMonster’s frame since my last post. Robert was sick most of last week, so there isn’t much to report, but the front winch mount has been added. We decided to reuse the existing assembly, so it was basically a matter of trimming and welding – and welding, and welding, and welding… It’s now an integral part of the frame and it ain’t NEVER goin’ nowhere! I think if I had the traction, I could probably pull a tank or a train with it.


There’s still a lot of work left to be done. Robert told me he originally estimated 100 hours to build the frame, and he now has 58 on the clock. Still to come: front suspension; middle- and back-axle shock mounts; engine and transmission/transfer case mounts; body mounts; roll cage mounts; back winch mount; and some kind of bumperettes or “ears” outside the frame at both ends to give me something to put the jack under when I have to lift a corner.

And then we get to the body. I’ll be spending a good part of next Saturday out there, removing the last few connections between the body and the frame and the engine on the old Jeep, and probably cutting the tub apart so we can start figuring out where the new body mounts will be, and also how the engine and its related bits (radiator, A/C condenser, electric fan, etc.) will fit in. Once the engine is more-or-less located, Robert can then start building the front-axle links around it to avoid interference issues.

We had to move the frame yesterday, too. Robert has a couple of other projects that he needs to finish and get out the door, so we hefted the frame off its sawhorses and put it back above the axles. We’re both looking forward to the point where the frame and axles are attached so it’ll be a single, movable unit!


Our best guesstimate at the moment is that the JeepMonster will be about three inches taller than the CJ-5 it’s replacing. That’s not insignificant, but it’s less than I was afraid it might be, and I think (I HOPE!) it’ll fit under the 7-foot garage door opening here at home.

Categories: Custom Frame, Jeep, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Bits ‘n’ Pieces

Late last week, Robert, my frame guy, let me know that he was finally going to be able to get some time to work on the frame over the weekend. There had been a delay in getting some of the parts he needed for the linked front suspension, and he had some other projects to get done, PLUS he has a full-time job in addition to his own company, so sometimes I wonder where he finds the time to do anything on the JeepMonster. I told him that I was busy Saturday, but if I could, I’d be out on Sunday to see the progress.

So yesterday I made the time to go see what he had done. It’s an hour from my house to his shop, so it’s not a trip I make with any regularity, but it was definitely worth it to see more pieces being added to the frame.

[Did you know there’s a difference between “car parts” and “car pieces”? There is – to me, anyway. “Parts” are those things you get at the stealership when you take it in for service, and they tell you this is broken and that’s worn out and, oh yeah, this is unsafe to drive with and so you need to give us lots of money to replace all these things so you won’t crash. Or you can get them at stores like O’Riellys, NAPA, CarQuest, PepBoys, and AutoZone and do the job yourself. On the other hand, “pieces” are the things that go together to make assemblies, or structures, or “parts.” In this post, “pieces” specifically refers to the bits and chunks of steel that Robert is fashioning into spring mounts on the frame.]

Back to the story.

When I got to Robert’s shop, he was apologetic that there wasn’t much to show for his work – only a few pieces of steel welded to the frame for the middle and back axles’ spring mounts. I told him I totally understood, as I have done the same thing – work and work and work and work and work and not too much to show for it. In this case, he has to cut lots of small pieces of steel to just the right size and shape, and then weld them all together – and to the frame – in perfect alignment so the frame stays square and the springs will flex freely. Here are a few pictures of what he’s been doing.

This photo shows the outside of the frame, looking from front to back. The structure in the center of the picture is where the springs for the middle and back axles will meet. Since there is a slight overlap of the springs, the set for the middle axle will be offset toward the center of the JeepMonster, while the set for the back axle will be offset away from the center. This means that each mounting point has to be braced and gusseted to prevent (or at least minimize) flex.


This photo shows the passenger-side common spring mount. There are at least ten unique pieces of steel in this photo, not counting either the frame rail or the square tubing that is the crossmember. Robert tells me he’s going to close in the angled opening, too, so that’s another piece to add to the count. Each piece had to be designed, cut, drilled, placed, clamped, and carefully welded so that it would combine with the others to make a solid spring mount.


This is a closeup of the driver-side mount, looking forward on the outside of the frame. There are at least five pieces in this shot that didn’t show in the previous photo, for a total of 15 or more for each common mount.


And finally, this is where it’s all happening – in Marana, Arizona. The company name is R&W custom Sliders & Offroad. The ultimate test of the product will be when I get the JeepMonster on (and off!) the road, but right now I have to say I’m quite impressed with the quality of the work Robert’s doing.


Categories: Custom Frame, Jeep, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Construction Has Begun!

Time sure flies when you’re (a) not paying attention; (b) having fun; (c) busy; (d) all of the previous [pick one]. I’ll take Option (d), please…

Way back on the 9th (yes, two weeks ago…) I made my last post on the Jeep’s progress. A few days after I picked up the middle axle from Tucson Differential, I took it over to R&W Custom Sliders and Offroad, where the frame will be built. Due to the weight of the assembly, I decided against trying to put it in the truck, and opted instead to put it on my motorcycle trailer:


It was much easier to load with my hoist, and to unload with the R&W hoist, than it would have been had I tried to slide it into the pickup’s bed. And I found another use for the trailer. 🙂

Over the course of the last two weeks, R&W has built both framerails and, at last notice, had finished most of one side of the rear spring mounts. Here’s a picture of the main rails together, showing how they drop from the front (in the engine bay) to the back (under the body) and also widen out as they go under the body. The extra width will give me a lot more stability than I had before. Here’s a shot of the rails being checked for straightness, equal (but opposite) angles, and proper lengths.


This shot shows one of the rails more-or-less properly positioned relative to the axles:


The next shot is from the front, and shows how the “magic box” sets up power to go to both the middle and back axles. From this angle, the frame looks like it has a “V” notch in it, but in reality the first angled piece drops the frame down from engine-bay height to under-body height, while the second angled piece widens the frame from 31 inches to 35 inches as it goes under the body to the back end.


This photo shows how the springs will be set up for the middle and back axles. Because the springs are longer than the axle separation, they had to be offset from each other. The middle axle’s springs will be on the inside, and the back axle’s springs will be on the outside.


So that’s where it is right now. There’s still lots of work to be done – the crossmembers have to be added, the rear suspension needs to be completed, the front suspension has to be done, engine and transmission mounts are needed, and more – but it’s not just a random collection of expensive parts any more! Now it’s an *ordered* collection of expensive parts…

Categories: 6x6, Custom Frame, Jeep, Jeep Frame | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Big, Empty … Space

Since my last post about a week ago, I have moved stuff around to the extent that I actually have SPACE in my garage again! I started with this:


(Actually, this is after I rolled the Honda out into the driveway and moved a couple of other boxes of stuff so that I could walk around.)

I had to do some prep work on the Jeep to make it towable; that included reinstalling the front bumper and tow bar, reconnecting the drag link to the steering box, and making sure that various nuts and bolts were tight enough so they wouldn’t fall off while I was towing it over to Robert-The-Frame-Guy’s place. I also finished cutting off excess stuff under the Jeep, like old brake lines and wiring. I removed the old clutch and brake pedal assemblies, since I’ll be using a different system when I rebuild the Jeep. I also took out the seats and the gas tanks so that Robert could see where the existing body mounts are. Then I took a bunch of pictures to show how bent the Jeep got when I rolled it back in 2005. This shows the messed-up right side:


This one shows how the cargo area floor and driver-side wall panels got bent. The back of the roll cage isn’t frame-mounted, so when the Jeep landed on the cage, the whole weight of the Jeep was taken by the body panels.


This one shows the passenger-side damage to the cargo area:


In its next incarnation, all of the roll cage mounting points will be directly to the frame!

After I got all the (bulky) unnecessary stuff out of the Jeep, and all the heavy new parts (axles and tires) into the truck, I found I still had time to create a template of how I want the new body to look – at least, from the driver’s side. Since that side panel was still relatively straight, I used it for measuring distances and taping the cardboard up against and all that. This is what I came up with for the new body:


It’s not too obvious from this angle, but I decided to stretch the door opening six inches. That’ll make it a little bit easier for me to get in and out, and will also add a few inches to the driveshaft from the transfer case to the middle axle. The steel fender flares are from GenRight and are designed to fit everything from the old CJs up to the TJ Wranglers (they won’t fit the current JK Wranglers). The Jeep will end up being about five feet longer than stock – somewhere around 190 inches (nearly 16 feet) overall.

Then I decided to take the template, the fenders, and two tires outside and put them all together:


So there you have it. The project has been given to Robert-The-Frame-Guy. His first task is to think up all the questions he can, so that we can talk about them before he starts cutting and welding metal. My job is to get as many of the necessary parts for the project as possible – especially the ones that go on the frame, or will help determine how the frame has to be built. These include things like body-mount bushings, the a/c condenser [check], the new radiator, the electric cooling fan, the winches [check], and the middle axle (I took the front and back axles to Robert with the Jeep).

And with all that stuff out of the garage, there’s actually enough space available that I can move things around and paint the garage! Woo-Hoo! I’ll have to make sure I get *that* done before Robert finishes the frame. This is what the garage looks like now (with the Honda, the trailer, and all the miscellaneous stuff back inside):


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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!]

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