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-joe's truck

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(aka: jack-in-the-scout, aka: pumpkin)

Joe's truck is of the 1973 flavor, the majority of which spend some of its sadder years in a scrap yard in South- Central Nebraska. It began its long and treacherous journey in search of a caring master in June of 1998. Thrown from the back of its hauler and into the driveway without the power of self-motivation, its heart in its cargo area, it was left feeling as though its days with a current registration were over. But alas, from his abode with the tools of automotive facelift in hand and eye protection in place stepped Joe, owner of the driveway before him. Began the months-long, painstaking surgery after surgery that let to the proud and yet humble, docile yet capable truck that it is today. -Chris

In The Beginning...

1997-Genesis- I was working at UNL when I met Clint Chapman. He was a graphic artist in the same building where i was working. My brother had already bought his first beater scout and I wanted to be like him, so I was kinda thinking about one, too. Over time, I learned Clint's brother who was in the Edison, NE area had a "auto recycling" yard. He also happened to like Scouts. Clint came in with photos of this poor old '73 that was waiting for a resurrection. The truck had a manual transmission, and bad engine (it was in the back of the truck!!), but was pretty rust-free for a Scout.

It seems like it took me a long time to finally decide I wanted it. But, in June 1997, I took delivery. Tim (Clint's brother) hauled it up to Lincoln for $50 on his flatbed trailer. We rolled it off into my driveway- nearly through the garage, since the brakes were bad. The Saga was beginning....

First in order was an engine, of course. The easiest thing to do for that was to find a running truck and swap one in. It wasn't long and I discovered a derelict '75 Scout parked with a sign in it. This thing was in really sad shape. The body was nearly falling off the thing and the rear quarter had been sawed up to gain access to the gas tank filler hoses and such (I guess removing the tank was TOO complicated for Cletus). I called the number, found out it didn't run and went too discover it was something simple to fix. I offered $125. He talked me up to $150. Chris and I towed it to my increasingly smaller driveway.

We scrapped the truck in the driveway. We saved the axles, brake system components, Firewall with all the gauges and such, front body panels, hard top, tail, marker, and head lights, engine (345-2bbl) and all the drive train. The rest got hauled to the scrap yard in the Chris's Scout-- A fitting funeral procession.

Over the next month or so, we swapped in the engine w/auto trans, axles and brake components. We fixed a lot of little stuff and we started wheeling. Over the next year or so we would go climbing around in our Scouts, at construction sites and such and pray for snow in the winter. We never went too far from Lincoln, though.

You know.. that engine always did have a funny knock in it. It got kinda bad, especially when I first started it up. I replaced all the rod and main bearings in the engine. It seemed to help, but in 6 months or so it was knocking again. It was inevitable, I would need a rebuild soon.

Here's the photos of the newborn, sittin' in Tim's junkyard. Look at that bumper!-jh

This photo was to show how little rust there was in the fender lips. This truck was relatively rust-free.-jh

A Soul Reincarnated

1998-Engine rebuild- I tore down the engine in spring of '98. I had the block and heads done and bought an engine kit. I built an engine stand out of 3" pipe. I had heard stories of how wimpy the engine stands others had bought were and the IH 345 block is a HEAVY one. About the same weight as a GM big block. The engine is all stock configuration except for a "RV" cam.

Now, a lot of people don't get why I didn't use a chevy engine for the rebuild, citing cost and parts availability. The answer is, I'm nostalgic. I bought a Scout goddammit!! A chevy engine would just be WRONG!! (at least at this stage of the story). Plus the durability of the IH engines is amazing. The 345 is the same engine IH put in smaller dump trucks and such. It's a commercial grade engine. The machinist who did the block said it took forever to bore the holes because he hade to change cutters after every one. All eight holes on a chevy block can be done with just one.

With the engine install, I put on an MSD ignition system. That was pretty much it in the engine dept. I broke in the engine by driving the country roads i figured the intersections every quarter-section would give the engine a decent break in and I wouldn't ever go to fast and i could accelerate slow from the stops. It musta worked, because she still doesn't burn any oil.

I found a set of 30" mudder tires for cheap (Yokahama-- I know!! Japanese tires don't fall under "nostalgic").



Spring in the Step

1999-Shackle Reversal- In the spring, I decided to follow Chris's lead with a shackle reversal/buggy spring/spring over. Chris had tried a "buggy-spring" setup, but had taken it out. I liked the idea and decided I was going to go whole hog with the buggy.

The first step to all my upcoming suspension mods was a shackle reversal and buggy spring. The idea is to move the shackle from the front of the spring to the back to make the suspension dynamics better. The buggy spring is just a spring with a eye in the "free" end that forms the top of the shackle. The fixed end is attached to the frame. The idea is to allow the shackle end to drop away from the frame, increasing travel.

I measured the "weight on" angle of the springs where the axle mounts and the eye to eye length of the springs. All this while the truck was resting in the driveway. Next i removed the axles, and measured the same stuff with the springs sagging under the otherwise level truck. Now I removed the springs and ground off all the brackets and mounts.

The reversal requires the fabrication of "towers" to drop the front spring eye down far enough to keep the angle where the axle mounts the same as when the spring was in it's stock position. This will be 4 or 5 inches. I estimated the position of the spring ends and cut two towers out of box steel that was 2-1/4" with 1/4" walls. i clamped the setup together to measure all the angles again. When I was satisfied, I drilled a hole in one of the towers for the front fixed spring bolt. I tacked it into position on the front of the frame and mounted the spring in it with new urethane bushings.

Now I could locate the rear shackle position accurately. I bought a spring with an eye on both ends and cut it in half. I then assembled the spring to be the top of the shackle. I clamped the "buggy" spring end to the frame and lowered the truck onto it to accurately represent ride height. I readjusted the buggy a couple of times and then marked the position.

To mount the fixed end of the buggy, I welded two lengths of black pipe into the frame for two grade 8 9/16" bolts to go through. I found the bolts to closely fit the inside of the 3/4" black pipe. I then drilled the springs for the bolts and bolted them in.

Now I repeated the setup on the other side and finish welded the towers in.

Considerations: Be sure to carefully measure the axle position in relation to the body and frame so you don't change this position. Otherwise you may make clearance problems with the body. I replicated the spring angles (eye to eye) and axle mount positions (fore-aft) as closely as possible to avoid any clearance problems.    

Spring Over- Since the front axle was going the be the most difficult and time consuming, I started there. One of the common things to modify as part of this project is to induce a little caster into the front end. Stock Scouts have a 0 deg camber angle. Most cars have no more than 2 deg. This helps the vehicle track straight down the highway. With big tires, etc, this would help control the beast en route to the off-road areas.

So, in order to get caster you need to tilt the angle of the top and bottom ball joints, or lean the axle backward in the spring mounts. This will point the differential pinion shaft toward the ground. Tilting the pinion toward the ground makes the bottom u-joint angle bigger (that's bad).

The way around all the bad stuff (u-joint angle) but still get the good stuff (more caster) is to grind the welds loose at the axle tube to knuckle joint and twist the knuckles around the axle tube. Chris had done this to his truck and made a jig to hold the knuckles in place while jacking the axle tube to a new alignment relative to the knuckles. Since this item  was being stored in my driveway, I decided to use it.

I stripped the axle down to the spindle mounts. I put the axle on a couple of jack stands in the driveway and started grinding on the welds. I sprayed WD-40 into the joint from the knuckle side. The idea was that the WD-40 would be wicked up into the press fit joint toward the weld and would help loosen the joint for the rotation to come. It also helped to make the joint visible once the weld was ground away enough.

Joe's hot tip- you wanna get some OLD grinding wheels for this so they are smaller. the smaller wheels can get in closer to the welds without taking off a lot of metal from the knuckles that in just in the way. Keep the plane of the grinding wheel relatively flat to the axle tube. Don't cut in at an angle too much.

After much grinding I started to see the crack show up all around the knuckes. I mounted the axle into the jig. I used a punch and a hammer to mark the "home" position of the axle tube/knuckle relationship. I attached a couple of 2"x2" box steel tube to the spring pads on the axle tube with the stock u-bolts and put my Hi-Lift under them. I gingerly jacked, sledge hammered and ground on the knuckle joints until I began to see a little movement. The movement started slow but after it finally started it was easy to move with the jack. I rotated the tube about 5/8". This gave me 2 deg caster while pointing the pinion shaft up toward the transfer case. Something like 22 deg total rotation.

Now I tacked the knuckles/tubes together with my 110v welder. I wasn't going to finish weld anything until I had everything figured out. Next I ground off the spring pad on the left side. The right-side spring pad was cast into the bottom of the dana 44 gear case. In order to mount the spring on the right side, I would need to grind away a good part of the casting on top. I "mounted" the axle in the truck, loosely bolting it to the left-side spring pad and lowering the truck onto it to simulate real-world. I jacked the pinion shaft up to line up with the t-case and marked and measured every angle I could think of and drew it all out.

I calculated and measured for the angle of the normally compressed spring related to level. This was about 6 deg. I marked my 6 deg angle onto the cast iron on the axle for the right-side spring perch. I started with a sawzall to remove a lot of material fast. Then finish fit it all with a grinder. This took awhile. I had to get the angle right for the spring to rest on and keep it flat too. The key angle in all this was the pinion angle. Check all your angles often. The pinion angle will rotate a bit and throw off all you measurements. Go slow and careful.

Now that all the spring pads were fitted and my pinion was pointed in the right direction--- and it had all been checked 25 times--- i removed the axle and hauled it down to a welding shop and had the knuckes welded onto the tubes permanent like. Back home, I finished up all the spring pads and mounted the front axle back in.

The rear axle was really easy. I measured the pinion angle with weight on the truck. Then took the axle out and replaced the spring bushings with urethane, reinstalling the springs. Next, I just ground off the spring pads and set them on top of the axle, loosely u-bolting the axle back in. Then I tapped the pinion up and down until the angle matched. Don't forget to "bounce" the suspension a couple of times between adjustments to be sure it's right. Now, I just tacked the pads in place for finish welding later.

Now, of course all my shocks and brake lines were too short. I tracked down some 18" stainless steel brake lines. After my brakes worked, I took the truck over to a concrete retaining wall and twisted it up to measure the max drop and compression of the suspension. With this data, I ordered the longest travel Rancho 9000 shocks they make. I fabbed some shock mounts (ugly) and installed the shocks in the front and rear. The long-travel shocks, It turns out, are too long, but they only bottom out under extreme circumstances.

Now to test the new setup. Again I went to the retaining wall and twisted. No rubs and the shocks don't bottom out or fully extend. Total travel is about 13". COOL!

Chris and I learned about this place in Kansas, Tuttle Creek ORV area and planned a trip.

We had NO idea what we were getting into here....



New Front Shock Hoops

shocksoverall.jpg (25453 bytes)
Here's Pumpkin torn apart again!

shock_swamps.jpg (24726 bytes)
(fig 1) the 33" swampers have created some clearance probs.

2002- After wheelin' the pumpkin for about 3 years, it's time for some changes. The 33" swampers have created some problems with clearance and those have necessitated some rebuilds. (fig 1)

From the first heavy axle twist up front, i discovered an interference between the brake calipers and the shocks when the wheels are turned to full lock. I wound up with dents in the outer tubes of the Ranchos. But I have lived with it. With the addition of the wider swampers, now the tires are also hitting the shocks at full lock. Plus, you know, i never really was too proud of the triangular mounts for the top of the shocks.

The shocks used to mount low behind the axle (the bottom of the shock was even with the bottom of the axle tube). The resting extension of the shocks was about 24" and they travel about 12".

Well, you know Chris needed a tubing bender for his Grog truck... so he made one. We whipped up some dies on a lathe at my former work, the Lincoln Urinal-Star newspaper. I asked Chris to bend me up some 180 deg shock hoops from 1-1/4" tube. They are bent on a 3.5" inside radius (we like our tubing bent tight!). I'm copying Chris's design of penetrating a 2" pipe as a mount.

I'm also trying to get away from welding stuff to the truck. Bolts allow changes and grinding off all theold welds and metal gets old. I'd rather rebuild than clean metal! These shock mounts will get bolt-on brackets.

In prep for the build-up came the cutting. I cut off the old (welded-on) mounts from the frame. I also cut off the stock bump-stop mounts. I never get that far up anyway (that's a REEAL big stuff!) and they were in the way of the new brackets.

Next I cut a piece of 1-1/2"x 1/4" flat and fitted it into the frame divot where the stock shock mounts were. I fit it in there so it would continue the vertical face of the frame all the way across the divot so the brackes could be bolted on (figs 2 & 3). I welded these pieces in and ground the beads flat where needed. (Yes, I WELDED this on-- the frame surface should be FLAT). The frame was ready for the brackets, etc.

So, now I had to figure out the mounts (heh)! I found a couple of pieces of 2" or so pipe (I wasn't too particular here) and hole-sawed 1-1/4" holes through the sides so the hoops could penetrade them at right angles. Welded together, this would form a very strong joint. Then I cut 2" holes in plates that were cut to fit the spots in the frame where they would mount (fig 4). I drilled holes for 3/8" bolts to mount the plates to the frame. The plan was to drill and tap holes in the frame for the bolts.

On the driver's side, I already had a backing plate under the steering gear to help spread the load of turning the swampers. Because of close proximity to the shock hoop mounts, I decided to just weld a piece of 4"x2" (or so) x1/4" to the plate. I hole-sawed the 2" hole in it to just clear the steering gear. Then I drilled two more holes in the whole plate (5 total) to bolt the inner end down to the frame.


I tacked the hoops to the 2" pipe and the 2" to the mount plates. I set them up so the height was about 1" under the brake master cylinder. This was my only limiting factor, fit wise. The heater core lower hose was kinda close, but I just pushed it over.

The hoops are on about a 5 deg tilt backwards. I was limited on my forward position by the alternator/air compressor bracket, so i just tilted the hoop. The shock will be tilted 5 deg, too.

My old lower mounts were attached to the u-bolt backing plate on top of the leaf springs. I cut off the old mounts and drilled a couple more holes in them for adjustment. Then I cut them to fit the backing-plate, but in a different spot (fig 6). I wanted the shocks to be over the axle tube so they wouldn't get bashed anymore.

The top mounts I wanted removable. I welded straps into the inner radius (fig 7) of the hoops and made plates to bolt to the radius plates. I built the upper mount on these bolt-on plates. This way if I need to change the mount (fig 8), I don't have to cut on the hoops, I'll just unbolt the mount and bolt on the new ones. :-).

I finish welded everything and began reassembly of the shock mounts and shocks After mounting the hoops I rerouted all the front brake lines. I quick-fabbed some tabs just behind the shocks for the lines to mount to.

Next, over to the test retaining wall. Initial tests are promising- no rub spots or travel limitations!!



shock_clean_drivers.jpg (25964 bytes)
(fig 2) here is the cleaned and filled frame divot...
shock_clean_close.jpg (21457 bytes)
(fig 3) ...and the close-up of the filled divot.
shock_clamped_up.jpg (25849 bytes)
(fig 4) the tacked and clamps hoops, brackets in position
shock_hoop_on_ground.jpg (24165 bytes)
(fig 5) The half-done hoops. This is the driver's side hoop with the front bracket integrated to the steering gear backing plate. The hoop is 1-1/4 tube with the ends penetrating 2" pipe. The 2" penetrates holes sawed into the plates.
shock_lowermount.jpg (24891 bytes)
(fig 6) The lower mount has three hols so the initial shock extension can be changed a bit.
shock_hooptop.jpg (22218 bytes)
(fig 7) a 1/4" strap was welded into the inner radius of the hoops....
shock_stopmount.jpg (23368 bytes)
(fig 8) and a removable mount made to bolt up.


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