Driver's side prototype engine mount bolted in place. Ignore the goofy spacing of the bottom two bolts. The stock bolts are too long, and we are waiting for the shorter replacements to arrive. Keep in mind, this is a mockup to make sure design plans are to spec, then production models will be laser cut and precision formed so they don't look so...amateur. Everything is 1/4" steel plate or tubing.
Here you can see the 1" x .188 DOM crush sleeve that took the place of the stock cradle centering bolt. A 9/16" Grade 8 bolt resides her, and on the opposite side, a nut plate drops into place inside the engine mount, as you will see the hole in the next set of pictures.
The prototype mockup off the jeep. As mentioned in several of the following pictures you will see a hole on the side plate inside the engine mount. The nut plate will drop into the slot cut in the top of the motor mount, and this will add rigidity to the entire unit and keep the weight of the engine from pushing down on the entire mount. As we continue the build, you will see the passenger side will be pretty much the same, but a few changes that will be necessary as we add the removable bolt on cross brace that ties the two mounts together, stiffens the front unibody, and also acts as a trackbar brace. The trackbar and steering box will be added soon so you can see how everything ties together, stiffens the unibody, and is completely bolt on.
So far this week we added the steering box plate and the outer reinforcement/trackbar mount plate. Production model SFA kit will have the steering box plate designed into the inside plate. You will see there are two 1" spacers welded to the plate. The third hole at the top takes a 1" OD crush sleeve that slides into the unibody, and on the outside of the unibody, a 7/16" bolt comes through and bolts to the steering box. Last thing to be added to the steering box plate are two triangular gussets that weld to the outside of the plate up to the bottom plate.
Here, you will see two 1/2" grade 8 nuts welded to the engine mount assembly. There are two 1" holes drilled into the bottom of the unibody so these two weld nuts will fit up inside. These two nuts are where the outer reinforcement/trackbar mount plate tie in for extra strength to keep the trackbar mount from moving under flex. You will see later on in the build that we will run a bar from the trackbar mount across to the opposite side to act as a unibody stiffener and trackbar brace.
There is another hole just three inches forward of the upper steering box bolt that also takes a crush sleeve inserted from the outside of the unibody to help reinforce the entire assembly. You will also see three 5/16" bolts that bolt to the pinch seem. In these pictures, you will see a crush sleeve sticking out that hasn't been cut down to size you, but you get the idea the amount of reinforcement and how everything is tied into each other for ultimate strength. Also, besides drilling a few holes, it is necessary to trim away part of the pinch weld to fit the outer reinforcement/trackbar mount plate, but this was a two minute task with the dremel.
Slowly trucking along. got the steering linkage machined and mounted using Chevy one ton tie rod ends and 1.25" x .281" DOM links. This helped us get started on making the trackbar mount at the axle end and made an adjustment to the mount at the unibody, needing to lower it by 1" to help level it out so our axle mount wouldn't be too tall. For the trackbar we decided the white HD PVC pipe wasn't going to quite cut it, so a custom trackbar is being machine as well. It will be 1.5" OD x .120" wall DOM sleeved over the 1.25" OD x .281" DOM that is getting machined for 1" Currie narrow Johnny Joints. You can also see we added a few gussets to the steering box mount. The axle mount for the trackbar will have plenty of gussets for strength. The axle trackbar mount is just in a temporary spot until I do a little more geometry to determine the best place for it.
Made some progress on the coil spring/shock mounts. This is just a temporary mockup, actual production model will look a lot cleaner and will not have the 2x1 mounts that go into the stock A-Arm pockets. The production model will be laser cut and formed to fit perfectly and also mount into the A-Arm pockets without the tubes. The two upright braces running from the stock strut mount down to the new coil/shock mount will be plated to give a much cleaner look. We are just using stock Cherokee coils for mock up, but from initial measurements, the Rubicon Express 4.5" ZJ Grand Cherokee coils along with the JKS ACOS are going to work out perfectly. The nice thing with the ACOS is the bumpstop can be unscrewed to make it longer by atleast 4", so the big gap between the ACOS bumpstop and the axle spring perch bumpstop will be narrowed to control flex exactly as we need it.
Front is almost done, engine cradle and trackbar mounts all painted and mounted. Upper coil spring brackets need to be painted and mounted. Front axle is out from under the jeep, all mounts finish welded, ready for cleanup and paint.
So, we are in the home stretch with the front end. Axle got a good 3 days for the paint to cure, then it was time for full axle assembly and mounting under the Gila Monster. Still need to run brakelines, finish the upper mounts for the coil springs/shocks, and do the antirock swaybar links, but it is finally sitting with the 35" Toyo's under it. As it sits, we measured center of hub to bottom of flare, and it is currently sitting at 26.5", meaning most KJ's we have measured in stock form are at 18". So this puts the Gila Monster at 8.5" lift. Of course these measurements were taken on the passenger side, so the driver side may actually be sitting closer to 9.5-10" lift as the driveway slopes a little. As some of our SFA colleagues have mentioned to us when this whole thing was in it's planning phase, it seems about every other SFA out there was sitting atleast 8"+ of lift. I wanted to get away with 6" of lift and was certain I could do it. Of course you don't know until you do it, and it seems that anything less than 8" of lift is going to be pretty hard to get away with. However, unlike the other SFA KJ's running stock width axles and 8" lift with 33-35" tires, the extra 7"+ of width we have with the full width axles makes it look a little more proportionate and the 8" lift with the width and 35x13.5 Toyos really doesn't look so tall or top heavy, and could easily get away with running 9-10" lift and/or 37"+ tires (keeping this in mind when I build "my" SFA KJ). As this is our first SFA build, after finally getting this far, we are very pleased with how everything is lining up and working, however there are a few issues to address as well, but nothing major. As it is known, the trackbar and draglink need to run near parallel to each other and be almost the same length to prevent binding or bumpsteer. As can be seen in the pictures, we have the parallel part under control, and the actual length differences are less than 2" off, which is pretty dang good, so bumpsteer will be very minimal. However, the problem we ran into is while jacking the driver side of the axle up with the tires on, the trackbar will most likely hit the diff at the top of the cover upon flex. So, this means we need to move the trackbar mount on the unibody side up, but then we have to move the draglink up. We will be reaming another draglink from the top down, putting the draglink TRE on top of the pitman arm, and then we will have to move the trackbar mount up about 3" to match the angles. A little extra work, but a pretty simple task since the trackbar mount is easy to unbolt from the outside of the unibody and replace with the revised mount.
So, first will be pictures of the cradle mounts all painted and bolted up, then progress of axle assembly, then some pictures of it sitting about ride height.
Wheels turned checking clearance. Front bumper will need some trimming, but nothing that will look too major once completed.
Daytime pics, not much accomplished today but did get a new pitman arm reamed out from the top to flip the draglink. Angles look much better. Working on new unibody trackbar mount.
Well, it is sitting on it's own weight now, with the JKS ACOS and Rubicon Express ZJ 4.5" coils in place. New unibody side trackbar mount finished, bringing the trackbar up 3" higher than the previous mount. My measurements were just slightly off so the trackbar and draglink were off by about 1.5*, but at ride height they look dang near parallel. I also designed the new mount to allow the trackbar to be lengthened a little more, so now the draglink and trackbar are off by only 1", which will greatly reduce any bumpsteer. It is sitting a little higher than expected, at approximately 10" of lift, but until we get this thing on level ground, it is hard to say the true amount of lift. The ACOS are spaced down about 1" and the coils are 4.5" ZJ coils, so if necessary, the ACOS can be adjusted up and some 3.5" ZJ coils can be used to drop the lift 2" and still keep the same spring rate. Anti-Rock Swaybar links painted orange (of course) and installed. Besides shocks and brakelines, and of course all the adjustments for centering the axle and alignment and correct bumpstops/limiting straps, the front is done.
Brakelines run after determining the amount of down travel we wanted. The jack is almost maxed out with a 24" piece of 4x4, so should have plenty of down travel. Also got measurements for the limit straps.
Pictures of the arms and crossmember/mounts:
Got her turned around so next we get to tear into the TCase and throw the Atlas in, then on to the rear axle. She is moving under her own power today, only missing shocks which will be here sometime in the next two weeks.
Atlas II TCase installed and painted the crossmember today. Atlas II is very heavy.
Rear end was torn out a week ago, but ran into a snag, the jack stacks we had holding the Gila Monster up near the rear control arm mounts were in the way, and this thing needed to sit pretty high for work...so new jack stands were orders. They did the job nicely and still had a good 12"+ of lift available if necessary. Rock Jock 60 placed close to ride height to figure out where to mount the control arms. Outer plates for unibody stiffeners are drawn up and formed, just need to drill a few holes and bolt it up. Stay tuned...
Worked on the unibody stiffeners with the rear control arm mounts. Got everything figured out, just need to weld the lca mount on after doing a little trimming, then we just need to do the exact same thing for the other side. You can see the stiffeners off the jeep how the 1/2" through bolts work and along the bottom there is a nut plate that goes inside the unibody for the 5/8" bolts. There are 3/4" OD x .120 DOM crush sleeves that go inside the unibody for those 1/2" bolts. Once finished, then we will finish up the belly pan which will tie into the crossmember and the unibody stiffeners.
Finished up the driver side unibody stiffeners/mounts and about done with the passenger side. Just some pictures of how the crush sleeves work and the final install of the driver side. All of the crush sleeves sit flush with the outside of the unibody, just a few aren't pushed in completely in the pictures to show what they are. Once the passenger side is done, we can throw the axle under it and get the driveshafts and exhaust done. Belly pan will be last so we can atleast get this thing mobile.
Haven't updated lately, but getting a lot accomplished. Finished the shock mounts and a few little welded pieces on the rear axle, finished the rear trackbar mount and installed, rear axle is mounted, rear upper coil spring perches relocated back one inch, Parking Brakes attached and adjusted, and tires mounted. We tested the up travel and measured for bumpstops, and as you will see from the picture, the rear axle is just in the right spot.
Not at ride height, still on jack stands, tires sitting on the ground. will update with actual ride height once coils in place.
Sitting on it's own weight. Also took some pictures of the front shocks now mounted up.
Got the rear driveshaft installed, HD unit with 1350 CV driveshaft from Jesse at High Angle Driveline. Exhaust routed to the front of the oil pan to give clearance for the front driveshaft that is also being made by Jesse. Have been driving it all week, the OME front shocks aren't going to work as they are too soft, which we thought might be a possibility as they are from a leaf sprung YJ Wrangler application, so we yanked the Rubicon Express Monotube shocks that were on my XJ and tested those, and they are perfect, but have to modify the upper coil/shock mount as the shocks are too long to mount like we did with the YJ OME's. The Rubicons from my XJ are for a 4.5" lifted ZJ.