Monday, March 7, 2011

Marking time...

Build ingredients so far (read text for details)

  • Blazeland arms
  • Sway Away torsion bars
  • Black Magic coil springs for rear
  • TreadWright 285s in a GoodYear MT clone tread

Like all buildups, these things ebb and flow. I've been in an ebb, mostly because of work constraints.

The first challenge of building a 4x4 is where to start. I find that building for the terrain you'll run most of the time seems to be the best approach.

We did the Pinyon Canyon run last weekend, and I learned a lot about the terrain out here and what I wanted.

The 4Runner did as well, fully aired up, as a 2010 Wrangler did aired down. But it was far less capable than my last two trucks. As it should be, it's stock!

I've been researching what to do for lift on the truck. I want 37s badly. But, it turns out, not badly enough to do a SAS (Solid [front] Axle Swap). In researching options, I ran across 4Wheel Underground's bracket kit for a 3-link front end. It looks very interesting and if I was doing a SAS, I think that's what I'd go with. The guys at FROR/Diamond turned me onto them.

After doing a bit more research, I decided I really wanted to try the LT IFS route. I have a feeling I'll tub the fronts fenderwells at some point so I can run 35s. But that's a ways away, and quite a few $$ too. While AxleIke runs 35s on Morph with just a balljoint lift (it's also had some serious surgery),  I don't expect to be able to use the same tricks in a long travel implementation.

To solve my long travel angst, I priced out the Total Chaos and the JD Fabrication setups. Both very cool. Both a bit pricey for my budget right now.

Another option is the Blazeland kit. It's been getting good reviews, and I figure it probably compares well to the TC balljoint kit - but at a much lower price.

Last week, I bit the bullet and picked up a set of Blazeland arms and Sway Away torsion bars. $400 for OE balljoints makes this lift a bit pricier, but still cheaper than the other options by a lot.

I was also trying to figure out what to do with the rear. Blocks are out if at all possible. And if I'm going to spend some real $$, then I want the Deavers. Except I need to spend that $$ elsewhere right now.

Then I remembered the ZUK spring mod. Zuk turned me onto this thread where the fellow replaces his 4" lift blocks and maintains his 4" lifted height. While he still doesn't sit level, the important part is he replaced 4" lift blocks with springs and actually gained 1/2", and the ride got a heck of a lot better.

Now all that's left is to order shocks and brake lines - and figure out what to do with the LSPV valve (rear braking load adjusting valve. See thread above for his experience with this important valve).

All that was left was tires. And man, are they ever expensive nowadays! Which led me to Treadwright and their 285/75R16 Guard Dog M/T, a Goodyear MT/R clone. Sorta. They retread tires, and I can specify what brand casing I want (not necessarily the model, however).

I was not able to find any bad reviews for the tire. For the $$, compared to new, I couldn't pass them up. I called and doublechecked, and was told that the casing's speed ratings are retained. The only gotcha is the warranty is null and void if you air them down. Like if you're wheeling. I'm willing to give 'em a shot for the $$ difference, especially given the lack of negative reviews.

Stay tuned as I keep sorting out what's next!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Before you build, test... (Pinyon Canyon, Feb 2010)

Given how capable my K5 Blazer was stock, and the good things I'd heard about Toys, I figured the first thing to do was to take it out and see what it was capable of.

In addition, I'd moved to a new area and didn't know what the terrain would look like. Did I need lockers, or was it pretty straightforward?

Also, I need to consider the dirt. When I moved to Oregon, I had 32" BFG ATs on the Blazer. My first trip out, I couldn't cross the clearing since the clay was so slick and gummed up the tread. It was fun sitting there blipping the throttle and throwing mud, not going anywhere fast, but was not a good combo for many trails up there. However, I grew up in the desert of Arizona, and ATs work great there. What would I find in the SoCal area? Well, I found clay and mud. So MTs are definitely on the parts list.

Before this trip, I had 225/75R14s. No way were those going offroad very far.

While searching Craigslist, I scored some 245/75R16s (appx 31" tall) off a 2010 Toy. However they're Dunlop AT20s, so tread pattern was very street friendly. On a wet day like when we went out, that made for poor traction. The tires wouldn't be long-lived, but I did want 16" wheels.

This was my first real 4-lo wheeling experience with this truck. I was excited!

Overall, it was very educational. I got to meet some new folks (from the BeachNToys San Diego Toyota club), drive a new, exciting trail, and figure out what needed to change on my truck.

Pinyon Canyon starts right off of S2 near Highway 78, on the way to Ocotillo Wells ORV park. It is not an ORV area, and vehicles must remain on the roadways.

The first thing I found was that ground clearance was in fact decent.
The next thing I found is that having a narrow rig sure is nice. But that if your tires don't stick out a bit, you still scratch the paint.

The first real obstacle is The Squeeze. Legend has it someone has taken a fullsize Dodge through here with no body damage.

Looks good from here. Keep going! (it's raining, which makes it even more fun!)

I should have been more right (left in the pic)

Here the door lock is getting "offroad-buffed" by the rock wall.

And now the bumper is earning its keep as I drag it over some rocks. This short section here dented the bottom of the rear tube. It's a Smittybuilt rear bumper (and front) but it's not very robust.

I didn't get through unscathed, but I was far from the damage award winner on this section. Sorry, no pics of that!

The next tough section is this rock that overhangs the trail right at window-height, with the trail crossing some rocks that put your flex and lockers to work. I don't have either, so I got strapped through it. There's a lot of glass on the trail under that rock. Unfortunately, I didn't get pics, so I'll need to go back! >:)

One of the drivers went at it with too much exuberance and added to the glass on the trail, smashing out his driver's rear glass on his shell. Ouch. No pics of that either, he was having a bad day and I didn't want to add to it.

Right after that section, is this part. The 4Runner, she would go no more. At this part, I started to get a little frustrated with the 4Runner. My '88 K5 Blazer, stock, would walk have walked up this (locker in the rear, stock). The 4Runner made it to here, then lost traction to the left front and right rear. Nothing but air. With traction aiding devices, she was done.

Once again, here comes the strap. Greg was real nice about it all day, with his FJ.

As you can see from this pic, it doesn't take much to run out of flex on a stock 4runner (with newer tires!). The LF and RR are in the air or barely touching. No more forward progress...

Fortunately (really!), someone brought their rental Jeep out on the trail. Same size tire, similar street tread. And same problems in the same places!!! Trail Rated? You decide! ROTFL
The blue toy is running 35s, a Marlin doubler, etc. It didn't know it was supposed to be struggling!

After that, you go down this little hill called Heart Attack Hill. It looks far more imposing in person. Once you drive it, it's no big deal.

Don't let that fool you, one screwup and it's bad on this hill. This gal apparently broke her back during a different trip. Lots of things went wrong here. She starts down the hill around 1:15 into the video

By the way - even though you're going 5mph, wear your seatbelt.

I'd seen the video, so know which line I didn't want to take in a stock truck on slippery street tires with no flex and an automatic (hinders compression-braking down things like this, even in 4Lo).

At the same time, I'd seen the videos of people driving up this hill too (and would have likely tried in one of my last two!).

This section  is a controlled crash with limited flex and street tires. You don't get to choose exactly where to stop.

By this point, all 4 wheels are on the ground again and life is looking longer. LOL

Look at that rear wheel - suspension travel is important. Notice the passenger seat is empty? Andrew and I decided it was best if he walked. And, yes, I'm wearing my seatbelt!

Here's the group at the bottom of the hill, after no exciting moments. :)
Lunch break!

It was a beautiful day. The rain had cleared, the ground was wet, and seasonal streams were running.

After that, it's more cool road/trail, then this. Once again, a strap came to several of our rescues!
Here's the blue toy once again just cruising up things

Notice a difference the wheelbase and flex (and line!) makes? :-D

This is what I looked like (but not me). This is a RHD diesel truck. Man it's cool. No lockers, though, so he got strapped too. That's me standing in the pic.

I wasn't brave enough to try this line with the 4Runner (plus he's locked at both ends). No traction, no lockers... Strap please!

I'm standing by the rear bumper in case an extra 250# helps keep the rubber down. LOL

Quite a bit more driving and you come out to Fish Wash. Just past here, there was running water in the wash, and Wind Caves. The caves are apparently popular, lots of people drove up the wash (easy, but 4WD required in most conditions because of the sand/mud) to go there.

I need to go back and see what those are.

I shamelessly have stolen this pic from one of the other guys to represent it as my own as we didn't take any

This was a great ride and I wish we had had more time to explore more of it.

The water out there appears to be highly mineral-rich. Where I took the paint off the wheels and bumpers, the metal  started to rust a fluorescent orange within days because I was lax in washing the truck (I was just happy to have it dirty!).

My super thanks to the BeachNToys gang for putting up with our truck on there. Granted, no one thought I'd have a problem, but that's 'cause their trucks are so awesome they didn't realize a stock vehicle was a no-go.

I got to meet a great bunch and have a great time and can't wait for the next run - with a slightly more capable truck!

A little history before we dive into the buildup...

One of the challenges of building a 4x4 is where to start.

This Toyota is my 4th offroad truck.

My first was a 76 International Scout II. It was orange with a white top. The 345, 4 speed, Dana 44s and a well-worn TracLoc in the rear that was useless just about everywhere. The engine was heavy-wall cast and weighed about 900#. Mud and this truck were not friends. But you couldn't dent it, and you didn't care if you did. It did OK offroad, but I never lifted it and clearance was the biggest issue. And mud.

Eric's 88 K5 Blazer on Little Rubicon in Tillamook State Forest

My next truck was a K5 Blazer. It was quite capable bone stock. With a Gov-Loc in the back (limited slip/locker combo), it's really a 3WD when you move the short lever in the 4wd position.  Throw on some good tires, disconnect the front swaybar, and it happily went a lot of places most stock trucks struggle through. When driven properly, a Gov Loc is pretty capable. I've also blown up a couple. Mid- and late-80s Blazers, like mine, came with 28 spline axles with c-clips. That leads to moments like this. :)

My next truck was a class 1700 JeepSpeed Jeep Cherokee. The cage was set up to seat 5, and it went through the dash down the a-pillars. Just awesome. However, I learned that I didn't like having all my rear cargo room taken up by cage and shocks. This was during the tech bubble, so I had a little bit of coin to throw at it and was able to get it all done at once. Dave Turner Motorsports did the work, and they did a fabulous job. All welding was TIG, etc. Really well done. It worked great and we did race it. I wish I didn't have to sell it because it was so capable. But we never really bonded, that truck and me. It was super cool and ultra fast. It ran PRP seats and nets, BFG MTs (still my favorite), Deaver springs, Bilstein 9100s and air bumps, etc. Desert Mike at Kartek provided much of the hardware that went onto the truck.

Now I'm onto my 4Runner. I've always wanted one. And, so far, we've really bonded. I really like the truck, even though it's noisy, it vibrates (Total Chaos solid motor mounts), it's loud (the muffler has got to go), it's slow (intercooler, where are you!?), and it doesn't wheel very well stock (as well as a stock 2010 Wrangler at least). How's that for funny? In some ways, I really like it better than the Cherokee - which was far more urbane, comfortable, had better handling, and was faster. But the 4Runner is giving back about 17mpg with 32" tires on it and an automatic. On this ethanol crap we need to run nowadays. That's pretty cool.

More about the wheeling part in my next post!