tandem axle

Homecoming!

Have you ever looked forward to an event (with either anticipation or trepidation) and thought it would *NEVER* arrive, only to have it sneak up on you before you were really ready for it? That happened to me during the past week, and today I’m proud (and relieved) to announce that the JeepMonster was successfully installed in my garage yesterday afternoon.

The process started Friday evening, when I arrived at R&W about 6:30 PM. Robert had invited me the previous week to come at 6, and then early Friday afternoon he said I could come sooner, but I was trying to do too many things at once and ended up being late, even for the original appointed time. Robert was quite gracious, though, and didn’t chew me out *too* badly. ūüôā

I had thought there was going to be more to do, but all that happened was I loaded the tow bars into the truck and Robert winched the JeepMonster onto his trailer for transport the next morning.

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We were supposed to meet at 4Wheel Parts Saturday morning at 7, but I was asked to stop somewhere and pick up some burritos for breakfast, so I got there a little late. By the time I arrived, Robert had already offloaded the JeepMonster and his buggy and moved the truck-and-trailer out of the way.

I apparently wasn’t paying attention, because when I looked around at some point, the local classic-rock radio station, KLPX (96.1 FM), had set up for an on-site broadcast. [Robert had arranged with the 4Wheel Parts people to display the ‘Monster from 8 to noon, and the store was running a one-day sale, so it made sense to have the radio station there – I just didn’t notice when they arrived.]

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There was good attendance at the event, as evidenced by all the 4x4s clogging up Рer, parked in Рthe parking lot.

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After the party at 4Wheel Parts, Robert reloaded both his buggy and the ‘Monster. Then he delivered the ‘Monster to my house. He, a friend of his, and I (well, he and his friend) got it off the trailer, and they helped me get it turned so I could winch it into the garage. They were (rightly) skeptical of my plan to use a 2000-lb boat winch, but I had successfully pulled my truck up the driveway and into the garage on Friday using it, so I pressed on. This picture shows a point where I had to re-rig the winch line and straps for the second phase. The boat winch doesn’t have a very long cable, so I couldn’t simply unreel enough to get from the ‘Monster to the anchor point in the house. The Jeep’s weight also taxed the winch to the point where it overheated and quit a couple of times, but it always recovered sufficiently to get over the next obstacle.

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One thing I had always been concerned about was the Jeep’s height, especially when Robert told me he had to remove the top bow to get it out of his garage with the 7′ door (his shop has a taller door, so that wasn’t an issue there). But he had reassured me several times that the Jeep would be under 7 feet tall, and by golly he was right! The next photo shows the highest part of the Jeep *just* missing the weather strip at the top of the door opening. It’s a good thing, too – otherwise, I was likely going to have to put the top down every time I went in or out of the garage. At least I don’t have to worry about that! [Plus, when it’s all done, it’ll be heavier and will presumably sit lower as a result.]

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So it’s now in my garage, more-or-less (I hope more than less!) protected from rust-producing rain and humidity while I work on it for the next however-many-months it’ll be. It doesn’t *quite* fit under my storage racks, so I’ll have to take that into consideration when I plan heavy-duty stuff like pulling the engine. But it *does* fit inside my garage! See?

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Here’s a parting shot of me sitting proudly in the JeepMonster at 4Wheel Parts on Saturday, August 13, 2016. It sure is big!

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

It Went Outside!

…Granted, it was on a very short leash and it didn’t go *far*, but it’s no longer in the R&W shop! (It’s in Robert’s other garage, both to keep it clean [ish] for the August 13 party and also to free up space for other feats of fabrication magic.)

First, though, a few final construction photos, from my visits on July 6, July 12, and July 15, and a couple that Robert sent me.

From July 6, this shows the front fender in progress, and the slider (aka rocker panel protection and footrest) mocked up in almost its final location.

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From July 12, this shows the front fender all completed. Not only is the curved panel installed, but the filler panel between the fender and the hood is welded in, too. The slider hasn’t yet been permanently mounted.

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This picture, of the passenger-side fender, shows the artistry and effort that went into its construction. There are at least 3 separate pieces of bent tube and more than 8 pieces of plate in each fender! The top curved piece¬†had to be bent to match the curve of the hood; the tie-in to the grille (not shown here) had to be custom-formed; the multiple pieces of tube had to be sleeved, welded, and ground smooth; the various other pieces of plate needed welding and smoothing, and so on. I don’t know, and I don’t think I *want* to know, how many manhours went into each fender – but I’m sure it was a lot!

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Also from July 12, here is a shot of the cargo area. The spare tire carrier is welded to the framework that also supports the gas tank (which is hiding behind the angled plate beneath/behind the tire). The box in the foreground had to be narrowed by about a half inch (I don’t know the exact amount of narrowing required) to fit it between the fender wells, but now I have secure space for tools and parts and other stuff!

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And from July 15, here it is, ready to go outside for the VERY FIRST TIME! The tow bar is in its permanent location, but will either be replaced or modified so that it sits¬†level when the ‘Monster is actually being towed. I hope that doesn’t happen very often!DSC03613

From the front it looks a little like The Flying Nun. The fenders only look weird from straight in front of it – if you move even just a little to one side, they come into perspective really well.

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At the “Coming-Out Party,” Robert wants to show some of his handiwork that’ll be hidden when it’s all put together, so he unbolted the tool/parts box, the gas tank, and the spare, and I brought them all home with me. The cargo bed looks HUGE without them!

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This is one of the photos Robert sent me – it’s the passenger-side fender, totally unbolted and sitting/lying on the floor. LOTS of work in this!

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Here’s a shot of the gas tank cover / spare tire carrier.

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Last, but NOT least, here is the JeepMonster outside! You can see the terrible angle that the tow bar makes; I have a 10″-rise hitch, and Robert found someone with a drop end on a tow bar, so between the two we should be able to make a solid towing connection (that I hope will never be used!).

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Some of the proportions look slightly “off” in this photo, but I think that’s because of the particular camera angle and the tree in the background. When it was in the shop, NOTHING seemed the least bit out of its proper proportion!

As noted before, the JeepMonster will be at the Tucson, AZ, 4Wheel Parts store (on Speedway) from 8 AM to noon on Saturday, August 13. If you’re anywhere nearby, please come see it in person!

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

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 Рyou 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

Hot Stuff!

Things are heating up! Literally, in the sense that Arizona is bracing for record heat this weekend (and is under an “excessive heat warning” until Wednesday, 6/22), and figuratively, in that a lot of the final details in the initial build are being taken care of. It’s the latter, naturally, that I’m writing about. (I say “initial build” because it’ll be going back to R&W for final welding and any required fixes – probably to stuff I bugger up – after I’m done cutting holes for lights, wires, steering, fuel, and so on; building the tailgate; and doing whatever else I feel even slightly competent in tackling before giving up in frustration.)

First, the easy one: The transfer case shift levers have been built and installed. To the best of my knowledge, they actually *work*, too! Imagine that…

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The left (longer) lever controls 2wd / 4wd (actually 4wd / 6wd, but who’s counting?), while the right (shorter) lever controls high range / neutral / low range. Because it’s a Spicer Model 18 transfer case, I can shift to low range without having to engage the front axle. It’s not recommended (and was actually prevented until I removed the shift interlock pin), but if I have to move really slowly for some reason, that makes it a bit simpler.

[Speaking of 2-, 4-, and 6-wheel-drive, Robert suggested I take a look at something called a driveshaft coupling¬†for the ‘shaft connecting the tandem rear axles. I didn’t even know such an item existed, but it does. It’s a sleeve/collar arrangement that will uncouple a vehicle’s rear axle from the driveshaft so that it can be towed long distances – behind a motorhome, for example – without ruining the transmission. You can find an example of this product here. I don’t know if it’ll work on the ‘Monster because of the side-to-side angle my driveshaft will have, but it’s something to look into. If it *will* work, it would save wear and tear on a lot of parts!]

Second, the detailed one – the radiator and a/c condenser. This photo shows the support behind the radiator that gets attached to the frame, and to which is attached a bracket that fits into the top channel on the radiator. This allows the radiator to flex without being rigidly bolted to anything. At the top, Robert created a partial shroud to help improve the airflow through the a/c condenser. When I put everything in for reals, I might add some weatherstripping (or something similar) between the radiator and the condenser around the sides and bottom to force almost all the cooling air to come through the condenser, rather than around it.

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Finally, the hardest one – the fenders. The R&W wizard (that would be Robert again) figured out how to build them so there’s space behind the wheel well and under the floorboard for a battery on each side. While the battery I’ve had since forever will sit flat on the bottom panel, I think I’m going to mount the battery boxes on the back panel of the wheel well so the battery doesn’t sit wedged in. Since the Optima battery line can be mounted in any position, an angled mount won’t cause any problems. Here are a couple of photos showing approximately where the battery will go on the passenger side.

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(I placed it with the posts forward so they wouldn’t hit the sheetmetal. When the battery box is installed, the battery’ll be rotated 180 degrees so the posts are toward the back.)

Here are a couple of photos showing how the lower part of the passenger-side fender fits against the grille and against the body. You can also see the temporarily-placed footwell air vent that fits in the rectangular hole in the side of the tub.

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Last, but not least, are a couple of pictures of the plywood mockup of the fender itself. Where the plywood jogs in to follow the body line, the steel will curve down to form the back of the flare, similar to the rear fender flares. These suckers are gonna be really REALLY stout!

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Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Driveshaft Disconnect, JeepMonster, Spicer 18 Transfer Case, tandem axle, Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

It’s Real! … Well, almost…

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I had a lead on a straight, almost-rust-free cowl/windshield base/dashboard assembly. Kevin (the gentleman who had it) came to my house a couple of weeks ago and determined that I had enough pieces and parts that we could make a trade, so when Robert invited me last week to come to R & W on Sunday, I called Kevin and asked him if I could get the cowl on my way to Marana. He said it would be ready for me.

Sunday morning, I picked up my friend Tony and we both headed off to Kevin’s home on Tucson’s¬†West Side. Kevin gave me this beauty:

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Knowing that I only need the curved sheetmetal on the top, and the windshield base, he asked me to ask Robert to leave untouched as much of the firewall and side panels as possible, so that he could reuse them in one or another of his restoration projects. I relayed his request to Robert.

When I got to R & W, I was amazed at the transformation. You’ll recall that the last time I was there, the passenger-side inner fender was well under way and the driver-side one was also in progress. What a difference another week makes!

Here you see the back half of the ‘Monster, with both inner fenders done and the outer flares finished on the passenger side. [NOTE: I use the word “finished” very loosely. While the fenders aren’t just tack-welded together and the flares tacked on, neither is the welding complete. Once the pieces are in place to Robert’s satisfaction, all the seams will be welded more completely, and the welds ground down to provide a finished look.]

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The next one shows the view from the front. The braces are still in place, and will be until everything is completely welded together.

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Moving around to the driver’s side, you can see that those flares are also in place.

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A lower-level shot of the passenger side shows how the shock towers fit into the wheelwells. The tandem rear axles¬†are *almost* at full droop, but they’ll hang¬†down a little more when the tires and wheels are added. The frame is sitting on stands right now to make sure it’s square and straight, to provide a solid structure on which to build the tub.

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Tony and I oohed and aahed over it all, of course. And after looking at the project more, I decided to skip the fuel-filler indent on the driver’s side. The effect of the visual cue (“Hey, this is an *old* Jeep!”) is no longer worth the effort and expense required to put it in. Besides, there are other cues – like the notch in the back corners for the military top bows [the CJ-5 and -6 were outgrowths of the military M38-A1], the battery cover in the cowl, and a couple of other minor touches – that probably nobody will ever notice. But I’ll know they’re there.

That evening, Robert sent me a couple of photos he had taken in the afternoon. He cut the cowl apart and placed it on the tub, and then put the grille and hood in place, too:

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There’s still a lot to do, but Robert guesstimated he might have the body ready for me¬†to bring home sometime in March. There is still some finish work to be done on the frame before it’ll be ready.

I’m *SO* excited!

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

My Axles Are Back!

Hallelujah! After two months of waiting, I finally have my middle and back axles back in my grubby little paws and can take them to R&W!

You’ll remember that in mid-August I took the two axles to Tucson Differential with a request that the¬†center sections be swapped. This entailed a lot of steps:

  1. Disassemble both of the axles so that the center sections could be removed.
  2. Disassemble the low-pinion-and-“Magic Box” combination.
  3. Machine the front pinion support / housing on the high-pinion center section so it would accept the “Magic Box.”
  4. Drill new mounting holes in the “Magic Box” so that it could be clocked over to a more-horizontal orientation; in turn, this would mean that the upper end (with the input and output yokes) wouldn’t stick up as high as it might have otherwise and that it would be more in line with the transfer case yoke.
  5. Weld the original mounting holes to prevent leakage from the “Magic Box.”

When I took the axles to Bill, he told me that it would be about 2 1/2 weeks before he could work on them. I visited him after about 3 weeks and he had just disassembled them. We had originally thought that he could swap the pinion supports, but that turned out to be impossible as the high-pinion support has extra galleys inside to ensure that the bearings get oiled properly. Those galleys interfered with the ring gear in the low-pinion center section. Also, the low-pinion support didn’t have any corresponding oil galleys, and it wasn’t practical to reinvent them, so the result was that the high-pinion support was itself machined to provide a clean, smooth mounting surface for the “Magic Box.”

The back axle was ready in short order, as it only had¬†to be disassembled and reassembled with the low-pinion center section. I opted not to take delivery of it, though, until the middle axle was ready. Because Tucson Differential doesn’t have the ability to machine or weld aluminum, that work had to be subcontracted – and then both Bill and I had to wait on the subcontractor’s schedule!

This week, it all finally came together. The subcontractor returned the modified “Magic Box” to Bill, Bill put everything together – again, and I collected them two days ago (Thursday, 10/8). Here are some photos I took.

Back axle - formerly high-pinion; now low-pinion.

Back axle – formerly high-pinion; now low-pinion.

Middle axle - "Magic Box" is higher off the ground and more horizontal than before.

Middle axle – “Magic Box” is higher off the ground and more horizontal than before.

Middle axle - before changes. "Magic Box" is more vertical and sits lower on the center section.

Middle axle – before changes. “Magic Box” is more vertical and sits lower on the center section.

You can see clearly here that the "Magic Box" no longer hangs below the axlehousing.

You can see clearly here that the “Magic Box” no longer hangs below the axlehousing. This is a good thing.

We ultimately couldn’t lay the “Magic Box” over as flat as we wanted to, because of interference issues between one of the center gear’s bearings in the Box and the bolts that hold the Box to the center section. But my guesstimate is that the Box is now at about a 25-to-30-degree angle instead of its former 45 degrees. And that’s going to be fine, not least because it now holds more oil.

There will probably have to be some changes made to the frame now, because the upper end of the Box is higher than it used to be. But that’s a small price to pay for the vulnerability reduction to the Box!

I’ll be taking the axles to R&W on Monday. Let’s hope this is the last change we need to make to the axles, and that the frame can be completed and the bodywork begun!

Side note: I am very pleased with the quality of the work done by Tucson Differential and recommend their services without reservation.

Categories: axle, drivetrain, JeepMonster, tandem axle | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (Or Vice Versa…)

A couple of days ago I went out to R&W to see how things are going (Robert had called me and said he had things he needed to talk to me about) on the JeepMonster. On the way, I stopped by Tucson Differential to find out whether there was any progress on the axles, as I had dropped them off¬†three weeks ago and Bill had said 2 to 2 1/2 weeks before he could do anything and that he’d call me when he started and he hadn’t called me.

So I walked into Tucson Differential and found the axles all apart. Bill had just started on them, so he’s right on schedule (sorta kinda more-or-less, but not far enough off to make a stink about). Here’s the back axle housing:

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Since all that had to be done to this was to take off the high-pinion center section and put on the low-pinion one, that was done yesterday. The middle axle is a bit more complicated because there are several other things that have to happen, too. First, the transfer box has to be redrilled with a new set of boltholes so that it’ll be clocked over more horizontally than before (its original angle was about 45 degrees up from horizontal; now it’ll be closer to 20 or 25 degrees). Second, the pinion bearing support flange for the high-pinion center section has to be machined to accept the transfer box. [The original plan was to simply swap the supports, but the high-pinion one has baffles and troughs to get oil to the pinion bearings, and the low-pinion one doesn’t. So the flange has to stay with the gearset in order for everything to work right.]

It turns out that the transfer box itself is a very simple, elegant piece of work. The case is billet aluminum. There are three gears. Each gear rides on its own shaft (duh), and each shaft is supported by ball-bearing assemblies. And that’s it. No shims; no adjustments; no needle bearings. Here are some pics I took while I was there.

This half of the case bolts to the center section. You can see the ball bearings for the intermediate and upper (input/output) shafts.

This half of the case bolts to the center section. You can see the ball bearings for the intermediate and upper (input/output) shafts.

This shows the input yoke and its assembly (with ball bearings and how it fits into the front half of the case (with another set of ball bearings. Just add a silicone gasket and bolt together!

This shows the input yoke and its assembly (with ball bearings) and how it fits into the front half of the case (with another set of ball bearings). Just add a silicone gasket and bolt together!

This shows the intermediate gear and the lower (pinion) gear in the front half of the case. Everything rides on ball bearings and simply bolts together. Easy-peasy!

This shows the intermediate gear and the lower (pinion) gear in the front half of the case. Everything rides on ball bearings and simply bolts together. Easy-peasy!

So now we wait for the differential’s pinion-support flange to be machined to accept the transfer¬†box, and for the box itself to be drilled for its new (more horizontal) orientation, after which it can all be reassembled and put back under the JeepMonster.

On another note, I answered several design/style questions of Robert’s while I was there. He’s ready to get the body going, even though there is still some finishing-up to do on the frame. YAY!

Categories: drivetrain, JeepMonster, tandem axle | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Protection

That word has many meanings and connotations – from the mob providing “protection” (for a fee, of course), to using protection during sex, to any number of others. Today I’m going to talk about keeping my Magic Box safe from the predatory practices of the trails I like to run.

Here’s the current situation: In order to get power from the middle axle to the back one, I had two options. I could use a pass-through low-pinion 9-inch axle in the middle, and another low-pinion axle in the back, or I could use a gear-driven 1:1 transfer box on the middle axle (again with a low-pinion 9-inch), with an “over-the-shoulder” output yoke to power the back axle (with a high-pinion 9-inch). For multiple reasons, I chose the gearbox option, knowing that it would hang down below the bottom of the middle axle’s differential.

What I didn’t know, and had no way to foresee, was how far below the differential the box would hang and how difficult it would be to build a skidplate to protect it. This photo (which you’ve seen before if you’ve been following me), although not of my axle, gives you a good idea of the challenge:

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After much thought, Robert (at R&W Custom Sliders and Offroad) suggested I swap the third members in my two back axles and bolt the Magic Box to the high-pinion gearset. That would move the Box up 4.5 inches and get it out of harm’s way, and would make building a skidplate for that axle vastly simpler. It sounded good to me, but there were a couple of things I wanted to verify with the Box’s maker (SCS Gearbox) before going that route (I didn’t want to get everything taken apart only to find out we couldn’t do what we wanted to do).

The first question I had was whether the pinion shaft had been modified at all. I didn’t *think* it would have been, and I couldn’t see any reason why it *should* have been, but since I had never seen it, I didn’t want to make any assumptions. I was assured that, while the pinion bearing support had been machined (to fit the Box instead of a seal and yoke), the pinion shaft itself had not been touched.

The second question I had was whether I could lay the Box over more horizontally without having lubrication issues. Since it’s designed to go on a low-pinion axle, the Box’s centerline is angled at 45 degrees, allowing the output yoke to clear the center section and the axle tube of a standard 9-inch axle assembly. But by raising the bottom of the Box 4.5 inches, I don’t have to worry about the axle tube any more, so I wanted to know if I could lay the Box over and thus reduce some of the height increase at the top end. SCS¬†said I might have to play with oil levels somewhat, but they didn’t see any problems.

So here’s the plan: Bolt the Box (with the modified pinion bearing support) to the high-pinion gearset, and use that assembly on the middle axle. The low-pinion gearset will go on the back axle. While everything is apart, the Box will get a new set of bolt-holes drilled so that it can be mounted more horizontally – say, somewhere around 20 degrees above horizontal, instead of 45 degrees. This accomplishes the following:

  1. The Box’s lower end will be 4.5 inches higher than it is, which will put it well above the bottom of the axle’s third member and will get it out of the way of the rocks. Instead of 8.5 inches of clearance, I’ll now have 10-plus inches.
  2. The Box’s upper end will be about 1 – 2 inches higher than it is (due to the more-horizontal orientation). This alleviates the issue of getting the upper end *too* high and maybe sticking up into the tub somehow. We may still have to make some changes in a crossmember and/or build a tunnel for the Box, but it won’t be as bad as if the Box still sat at 45 degrees.
  3. The Box’s upper end will be a couple of inches closer to the passenger-side framerail than before, reducing the operating angle on the driveshaft yokes. [I had originally planned the Box’s yokes to be directly behind the transfer case’s yoke, but I didn’t know / remember that the drivetrain was offset in my Jeep, so when it was installed centered in the new frame, they didn’t line up.]
  4. Laying the Box over more horizontally will actually help with oiling. This picture shows the current level (the horizontal penciled line) and the new level (the angled one). There really isn’t much oil in the Box, and I think having the extra volume will provide a sort of “insurance policy” for the gears and bearings, without it being overfilled.

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There are three¬†downsides to this. One is so minor that it’s hardly worth noting, and is that the Box’s drain plug will no longer be at the exact lowest point of the Box. But it’s still so close that it won’t have any practical effect. The second¬†is that, instead of the axle-to-axle driveshaft being nearly horizontal, it will now be about 5 – 6 inches higher at the front end than at the back end. But as it’s about 40 inches long, the operating angles shouldn’t be too severe. The third one¬†is that the rearmost pinion / yoke is now potentially vulnerable to rocks and damage. I’ll alleviate this with a skidplate, and may eventually buy another high-pinion assembly to move things back up and out of the way. Maybe. Eventually.

I took both axles to Tucson Differential on Tuesday and expect them back in about 3 weeks (due to other work ahead of me, and the fact that they’ll have to send the Box out for drilling).

In other news, Robert let me know that he was ready for the CJ-6 tub, so after dropping the axles off at Tucson Differential, I loaded up the tub on Robert’s trailer and delivered it to him.

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There isn’t a whole lot of the existing sheetmetal that we’re actually going to *use*, but it provides a good template from which to build the custom tub. And the parts we *will* use are indispensable – at least to me.

Categories: 6wd, 6x6, axle, CJ-6, drivetrain, JeepMonster, tandem axle | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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):

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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.

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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.

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

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