It all started when Eric purchased his extended cab Chevy in 93. He immediately put on a 4” lift kit, bumpers, roll down back window, and sun roof. Soon to follow were the heartbeat captain’s chairs. Eric was never known to take it easy on his truck. After the addition of the Vortec supercharger a few years later, the truck had all the power it needed.
Over the next 10 years, Eric broke and bent just about everything you could imagine on his Chevy. He went through numerous rear ends, a frame, 3 paint jobs, and even most of the components on his IFS lift. At one point, the entire lift was taken off and sent out to a welder. Every joint was gusseted and re-welded. It seems the truck wouldn’t hold up to Eric’s abuse. Right about the time Eric was ready for his next frame, he saw another Chevy “Straight Axle Swap” that WFO had done.
The next day, he dropped the truck off.
Eric basically said, “Build me something that won’t break.” He didn’t care about the details, he just wanted a truck that could withstand his abusive every day driving! His other request was a set of 44” boggers. With this Idea, we went to work!
The first thing to go was the IFS front end. We cut out the front suspension, along with the old cross-member and all brackets. The frame was ground clean, and a new cross-member was welded in. From there, we moved right to the back. The 241 transfer case was removed, along with the bed. Everything we didn’t want was cut out. The spare tire holder was cut out, along with the gas tank, leaf springs, brackets, and all existing cross members. All existing fuel lines and wiring were also removed.
At this point, we pondered what to do with the frame. Even though it had already been replaced once, we could soon see that it wasn’t going to be strong enough for what we were about to do to Eric’s truck. We decided to build a sub-frame to house the front and rear link mounts. We wanted something substantial to tie the two points together. After pressure washing the mud from the inside of the frame rails, we began to construct our sub-frames.
Our material of choice was 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 x quarter wall square tubing. We started where the original boxed frame ended, directly under the firewall. We notched and bent the rails to fit perfectly inside the frame, following the original contour We ran these rails to within 12” of the rear of the existing frame.
We also removed the spare tire mount, and welded in a permanent cross member in the rear of the frame. We bolted in the sub-frame using as many existing holes as possible. Only a few holes were drilled in the frame.
The sub frame was our starting point for the link mounts. At this stage, Beau headed to his computer. He drew the frame rails, along with the basic lines and angles of the truck. He was able to design the complete 4 link setup on a 3D virtual model, using Solidworks. By modeling the suspension first, we were able to run it through its motions, and tweak it one way or the other. By doing this, we were able to achieve zero caster change throughout its 16” of travel. This is extremely important and vital to the life of the suspension components.
The rear three link was also designed on the computer. It was designed with the same basic concepts of a radius arm setup. The pinion remains pointing directly at the transfer case throughout its travel. This allows the 1350 CV joint in the driveline to function properly.
Once everything was designed, we went to work. The front link mounts were welded to the sub-frame, while the rear link mounts were built using another cross-member. All links were built from 2” x .250 wall DOM tubing. Tubing inserts were welded in for the 1.25” heim joints.
The links were attached to the axles using the heim joints and high angle bushings. (Inventory parts, heim end high mis) At the frame end, they were attached with poly bushing. By using polyurethane bushings at the frame end, we were able to keep road noise to a minimum. We were able to achieve all of the needed flex from the high angle heim bushings.
With the links in place, we bent up the front shock hoops that would hold our 2.5” x 16” triple rate, King Coilover shocks. The hoops were bent from 1 3 / 4 x .120 wall tubing. The frame was plated where the tubing was welded on. For extra support, a removable strut bar was bent up to go over the top of the motor and connect the two shock towers. The strut tower was bolted in with poly bushings in order to accommodate frame flex. All parts were then cleaned, and painted with a grey base/clear paint.
In the rear, shock towers were bent using the same material. Instead of attaching to the frame, they were welded to the new sub-frame. A tube strut insert was also fabricated to attach the two shock towers and sub-frames together. Once again, these pieces needed to be removable. This would allow us to remove the two sub frames as two separate units. Bushings were used in the 4 bolt locations.
With the majority of the suspension done, we moved to the transmission and transfer cases. We had already upgraded his NV 3550 5 speed to a NV 4500 5 speed. It was obvious that the aluminum NP 241 transfer case was not going to hold up either. We opted to use a dual transfer case setup. We ordered the dual case adapter from Off-Road Designs. The guys as ORD make a bulletproof doubler setup! It mates the front half of a Chevy 203 transfer case to a complete Chevy 205 transfer case. This kit requires the use of a 32 spline 203 box (due to the large output of the 4500), and also a 32 spline 205. Since it is hard to find a 32 spline 205, we machined the front input of a small bearing 205 case instead.
Then we bought the 32 spline input from ORD. In order to eliminate an adapter between the 203 and the 4500, we drilled and tapped the front of the 203 to bolt directly to the 4500, using 6 hardened studs. We also machined the rear output housing of the 205 to accept the factory electronic speed sensor. We made a custom cross-member that not only rubber mounted to the cases, but also had poly bushings at the sub-frame. We used ORD’s twin stick setup to run the shifters up through the floor. We now had 2:1, or 4:1 gear reduction. This would make our overall crawl ratio around 150:1.
For the axles, we chose a Dodge, kingpin, Dana 60 front end, and a Dana 70 HD rear end. Both axles were stripped, sandblasted, and cleaned up. Up front, an ARB locker was installed, with 7.17 gears. The C’s were cut off and rotated up for better driveline angle. 35 spline outers were used, along with Spicer 806X u-joints. It was finished off with a fresh kingpin rebuild, and WFO crossover steering. A West Texas Off-road hydro assist steering setup was also installed. All link brackets were then fabricated and welded on. Most brackets were cut from quarter inch steel.
The rear axle was a 35 spline full floating Dana 70, HD. The drum brakes were replaced with WFO’s custom disc brake setup, using Chevy rotors and backing plates. It was stuffed with a Detroit locker and 7.17 gears. The lower link mounts were fabricated from quarter inch steel, while the upper mount was fabricated from tubing. A Poisen Spider diff guard was used, in order to tie the upper link mount to the differential cover.
Once the drivetrain and suspension was done, it was time to find a spot to hold the fuel. We knew that with the Supercharger, this truck would suck down the gas. The idea of a fuel cell in the back was way to cheesy, so we decided to try to fit two gas tanks underneath. We started with a 93 blazer gas tank. We mounted it in the rear, behind the axle. With the spare tire mount and factory cross member gone, we had plenty of room. We put the filler neck just inside the tailgate, near the wheel-well. Lucky for us, it already had the correct fuel pump in it.
After a custom tube skidplate and mounting system was fabricated, we tried to find a spot for the second tank. We picked up a 93 Suburban tank, and somehow managed to fit it in front of the axle. We were able to do this by mounting it backwards. It too had the correct fuel pump setup, and seemed to fit perfect around our link setup. We moved the filler from the passenger side to the drivers side, and our factory fill tube worked great. After numerous relays and tank switches, we now had 72 gallons of fuel capacity. Because they were OEM tanks, all gauges and pumps worked perfect.
With the majority of the suspension and drivetrain work finished, it was time to finish up some of the little stuff. The front clip and bed were put back on, and the truck was rolled outside to test the flex. It was much more than we ever expected! Not only did we have plenty of travel, but with the added sub-frame, there was virtually no frame flex. However, it was obvious that some fender trimming needed to be done.
Due to the fact that we didn’t want to screw with paint, we were very careful in our trimming. We trimmed just enough to stretch our bushwacker fender flares to cover it up. While it was flexed out, we also measured for our bump-stop locations. At this point, it was obvious that we were going to need some custom bumpers to finish off the look. We decided to build them from scratch out of 1 / 4” steel. Once again, Beau drew them on the computer.
He was able to find all of the angles he needed to fabricate them. We had Thomas Hydraulics in Chico do the bending. Once we had the pieces, we welded them all together. We also re-enforced the frame in the front and rear where the bumpers mounted. After hours of grinding, welding, and fitting, the bumpers were done.
For the drivelines, we called up Tom Woods Custom Driveshafts. We chose to use a 1350 series CV driveline in the rear. In the front, we had a lot of angle to deal with, due to the fact the suspension had 16” of travel, the driveline angle became extremely steep at full droop. We decided to use the “biggalo” style high angle CV driveline. The driveline uses fully serviceable 1410 u-joints, and is able to flex to around 40 degrees. We also used a 1410 u-joint at the axle.
Once the drive lines were in, we took it for a ride. As we expected, it needed a sway bar. We called up Speedway Motors and ordered a sway bar with ends. We used pillow blocks to mount it to the frame, and 3 / 4” heim joints to link it to the axle. At the same time, we added Fox Nitrogen bump stops up front, and polyurethane bumps in the rear. It was still missing some rocker protection, so we built some tube rock sliders.
It was finally time to strip the entire truck down for final paint and powder coat. Everything was torn apart and cleaned up. All loose steel components of the lift kit were cleaned and prepped for powder coat. The frame was stripped and painted with an Omni semi-gloss. All of the parts of the lift kit were sent to Premier Finishing in Stockton Ca. for a grey, semi-gloss powder coat. They were even able to fit the long sub-frames in their oven.
When the parts came back from being coated, it was like Christmas! We had the whole thing back together in a day. At the same time we were putting everything back in, the truck was completely detailed, buffed, and waxed. Due to a tight deadline, the only test drive we had time for was to the gas station and back.
We jumped in it the next morning and drove it 250 miles to the customer’s house on the Northern California coast. It drove perfect up California’s curvy Highway 1. When the customer took us for a test drive, the only place for us to sit was in the back! Good thing we believe in Quality work!