Building for overland adventures

4x4_Welder

Well-Known Member
Location
Twin Falls, ID
So this is a bit of a new field for me. I grew up in the Northeast, so most of my early 4x4 experience is with slippery snot clay, mixed with gravel, mixed with smooth granite. Most stuff was just play stuff, go out, wheel, break it, limp home, etc.
Living in Arizona, I spent a good amount of time roaming around Flagstaff, Payson, and Pine on the forest service roads in a little 2wd pickup. I started really liking the "journey as a destination" aspect, but haven't had the opportunity to pursue that until now. After a bunch of moving around, now I have a permanent location to work on this. And after a bout with cancer, I'm ready to get going on this build.
For the last six years, I've been building a truck off and on. I have pretty much all the components, and a decently solid plan.
I started with what I had, a 1981 Ford Courier longbed.
I am a fan of diesel power, so this thing needs to be diesel. I had a Mercedes OM617 basically fall into my lap, so that's what it's getting. I didn't really like the trans options (or their prices) that go with that engine, and the available adapters didn't really appeal to me, so I developed an adapter to a Ford small block bell, with a nice heavy flywheel to help low end torque.
For now, I have an M5R2 five speed, but the kit will work with a ZF as well.
I haven't settled on a case yet. I'm leaning towards reclocking an NP208 or BW case to clear the exceptionally narrow frame on this thing. I'd like to run something fancy, but have to be very fiscally conscious.
For axles, I have a left hand drop J2000 D44, and a Toyota 8" rear. I'm planning on TJ coils up front on a Ford 3 link, and the stock Mazda leafs out back with blocks and a traction link for now. Eventually I'd like to go to coils and a three link in the rear as well.
I'm not sure on tires yet. Heightwise, it looks like 32s or 33s will be a good fit. I don't plan on going wild off road with this rig, but I don't want a good sized rock or ledge to turn me away either.
Sliders are in the plan, and eventually an exo maybe.
This will be a fairly light rig, for long weekend trips, maybe more eventually. It'll of course pull DD duty occasionally during the summer, and be driven too/from trails, so it needs to be kept nominally street legal. I'm planning some M715 style tire covers, not Baja flares.
I know this truck will get beat up a bit, it's not going to be a mall crawler or trailer queen.
 
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mbryson

.......a few dollars more
Supporting Member
That looks like a cool rig on paper. Realistically swap costs are about triple what I estimate. Would you be $ ahead to snag a solid older Ranger, Tacoma ( more $) or similar and build that?
 

4x4_Welder

Well-Known Member
Location
Twin Falls, ID
I'm already well into the fitting it together part, I'll post pics as soon as CenturyLink figures out how to have uptime.
Most everything I got for cheap, had as part of another rig, or kinda fell into so costs are minimal. Most of the delays over the years have been due to a lack of workspace.
I made a huge amount of progress during the überwinter 2016-2017, but then lost my job. Both were related to the shop being empty.
I got the Courier in 2007 as a 2.3/5speed 2wd, primarily for making Craigslist runs in the Seattle area. I ran it till 2011, so I got my money's worth from that.
None of these trucks were factory 4x4, any sold as such new were conversions. It ran ok, but had a ton of miles, and then it started using oil like it was the latest and greatest thing, so eventually it got parked. The steering was trashed as well.
I had the radius arms and diamonds left over from an abandoned 72 F100 4x4 project killed by scope creep and life, I got the axle itself for about $200. I traded with a co-worker for the rear axle, and got the transmission for $50. I traded for the engine, and all said and done wound up about $400 ahead on the deal. I developed the adapter kit, and have sold enough copies I feel like I've broken even those. That's about the only way I can justify this stuff to my wife, the projects are really a form of therapy for me, but with incredibly tight family budgets I need to get creative in funding them.
I've done a few other diesel conversions, I'd love to make a business out of that but it's slow going.
 

Mouse

Trying to wheel
Supporting Member
Location
West Haven, UT
If you don't already have the NP208, I'd recommend considering a NP205 instead. Its a little heavier, but much stronger being all gear driven (vs chain). The NP205 is fairly small too. The NP208 is a lightweight case which should work OK, but AFAIK was never behind a diesel. I'd have strength concerns.
 

4x4_Welder

Well-Known Member
Location
Twin Falls, ID
I initially thought about the NP205, but I'm not sure about the anemic low range. The engine has a power profile very similar to the Ford 300-6, it's a bit shorter of a stroke than diesels would usually have. I don't plan on turning it up too much, and I did run a 208 behind a hot 300 without issues.
Is there any way to rework a 241HD for the Ford input? It has a nice low range, is light, and is narrow. Unfortunately it seems to only come set up for Dodges.
 

4x4_Welder

Well-Known Member
Location
Twin Falls, ID
These pics are from January of 2017. Currently the truck is sitting in the Boise area, I haven't made any further progress on it since then.
KIMG0049_zpszd22s5dn.JPG
This is the approximate height it'll be sitting at. I'll end up trimming the front and rear of the wheelwell opening to prevent rubbing. KIMG0124_zpsdpyosa5w.JPGThe engine sits a little high, I am going to pick the body up 1" to help with that. I'll still have to do a "power bulge" in the hood though.
 

4x4_Welder

Well-Known Member
Location
Twin Falls, ID
So I've been cleaning the junk out of the back of this thing, and found the Aussie locker I salvaged out of my wife's old Wagoneer. I'm planning on eventually putting something selectable in the Toyota rear, but am toying with just welding that for the short term. I need to tear the front axle apart and regear it to match the rear, so would it be worth it to install this locker?
Current choices are this or open, I know it's not an ideal unit, but would it be considered better than open?
 

Kevin B.

OLAF
Supporting Member
Location
Stinkwater
I had a Truetrac in the front of my '86 4Runner. It helped offroad, of course, but I had terrible understeer in slick conditions (mud, snow, et) any time the hubs were locked, even in 2WD. I could see an automatic locker in the front diff of a wheeling rig, but to me an "overland" build is a multipurpose build, and I think an auto locker in front would be a net negative.
 

4x4_Welder

Well-Known Member
Location
Twin Falls, ID
It's odd that a limited slip made yours push in corners. I'm going to be running a bit more weight up front with the diesel and D44, I'm still debating 33s vs 35s though. The Aussie locker does seem to unlock more than a limited slip, though, at least off power. The clamping force for the locks comes from the force of the pin against the locker, and without that force it's just some fairly light springs keeping the tapered teeth in contact.
 
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