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27/04/2010
40" tires and 1/2-ton axles simply don't play nice together, even with upgraded axle shafts! So, after replacing numerous axle parts, it was finally time to upgrade to the much stronger Dana 60 front axle. The first step was to find a 1-ton axle, plan out the build, and order parts.

Out with the old stuff so that the fabrication work can begin.

Old spring on the left, new Deaver Superflex on the right. Should be a noticeable difference. The original radius arm brackets were removed and will not be used (plans for new ones further back on the frame). So we cut up the brackets and installed them this way for transmission crossmember bracing.

For this axle swap, a radius arm suspension was chosen. These brackets were designed and built to connect the radius arms to the axle, and bolt on the stock coil retainers. The brackets were made to work with Ballistic Fabrication bushings.


The brackets for the frame were built next, which included a crossmember to connect both sides for added rigidity. The brackets were made for the huge Balilstic Fabrication rebuildable joints!

The axle housing was positioned under the truck, and the previously disussed brackets were all put into their respective locations on the frame and axle tubes.

The next step was just a matter of connecting the Ballistic joint to the bushings using some DOM 0.25" wall tubing and plate. All the pieces were tacked together, including the bushing housings and tube adapters.


After getting everything just right and tacked in place, we completely welded the newly built radius arms and axle brackets. One picture shows a comparison of the new radius arm with the old one, where one can see a big difference in mounting and length. This mounting style helps prevent axle wrap. The length increase helps reduce caster change during suspension travel, and it also reduces forward and backward axle movement.

The mounting location for the panhard bar was next, which was designed for double shear (versus the stock single shear design on the Dana 44).

Adding paint, and setting up the 5.13 gears in the axle. For now, the stock open differential was left in the Dana 60. Eventually we'd like to upgrade the shafts, u-joints, and add a locker.

We had to do some grinding on the calipers for 15" wheel clearance. Then the rest of the axle was assembled.

Since the new suspension has much more travel, we had to modify the transmission crossmember to clear the driveshaft.

All done and ready for testing!

 

21/05/2010
We did a bit of testing, and we immediately found out that the suspension travel was too much for the driveshaft. It would bind up and destroy itself when the driver side front wheel dropped.

The solution was rotating the axle housing to decrease the driveshaft angle. Unfortunately, to accomplish this, the entire front suspension had to come apart, and the brackets on the axle housing were cut off.

Caster angle is important for steering, so we couldn't just turn the housing and remount everything. We had to keep the knuckles in their current position while rotating the rest of the axle housing. This is achieved by rotating the inner C's. The factory welds on the inner C's were cut down. Then axle was welded to a jig, the inner C's were heated red hot, and then smashed with a sledge hammer multiple times. This process was ongoing until the desired angle was achieved. The second picture shows the inner C beginning to rotate, we kept going until both sides were the same.

After that, the inner C's were welded into position and the bracketry was rewelded to the housing. Everything was reassembled and we went back out testing. Everything in the front end works great with the rotated inner C's and were very happy with the suspension performance.

 

28/05/2010
After knowing the front suspension worked as expected, our next project was a 460 big block swap for the truck. We picked up a donor truck and removed the engine right away (after some quick testing).

The teardown revealed that very little parts were needed; valve stem seals and a new timing chain.

A little bit of Ford blue paint, and it's ready to be installed.

Out with the old tired 351M, in with the 460BBF.

We were very happy with the swap, the new engine made much more torque than the previous one. We even managed to accidentally hydrolock the engine when we sunk the truck in a swamp. Fortunately, the engine was fine after pulling all the plugs and an oil change.


 


 

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Serge Goulet & Joel Goulet