Build Thread Building An Ultimate Family/Trail Buggy

Lil Rich

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So a prelude or sorts:
I have always been a big fan of Twisted Customs' vehicles. Having bee in the sport of Rock Crawling since it's inception (Competition Wise), I have seen build trends/builders come and go. The simplicity of rigs like what Twisted Customs, Jesse Haines, and Jimmy's 4x4 builds; on top of the way they flat out work make them great candidates for long term success. While these are some of the best working rigs on the planet, they also happen to be some of the most affordable to get into. Still, building or buying a buggy isn't cheap by any measure. Regardless, it is all worth every penny by being able to watch my kids grow up in the same sport that I grew up in.

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Previously I owned one of Jesse Haines Willy's Buggies. It flat out works and is often thought of as a "sleeper". Many times I was told by other drivers that I "Should" follow them because they can help me find the lines and recover me if I get stuck. I find this funny because even though I have been in the sport since 1997, I took a 3 year break and moved to Alaska. In that time, many new faces entered our sport and I was only remembered by those that were there in the beginning. Half way through the trail, those same drivers would have me jump in front of them on the trail. The bummer part about Jesse's Willy's Buggy is that it was a 2 seater. I reluctantly hacked it into a 4 seater so that my kids could go with. But it was small and tight, and my kids are getting bigger.

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Running around on Facebook, Jesse sent me a link to a chassis that was for sale built by James Treacy. James builds car very similar to Twisted Customs, many parts are interchangeable for ease. James built this particular vehicle for running around in the Pacific North West, between trees, slick rock, and the occasional comp. It has 3 seats but has very little room to squeeze a super small bench in. With some minor adjustments, I could get the whole family out wheeling a little more comfortable.

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Furthermore, the Willy's had 37's and some drivetrain limitations (22RE, Manual Trans, Dana300) and while that worked REALLY WELL, I was ready to push the envelope of what Hardcore Trail Riding is for me. I felt I needed 40's, rear steer, and a little more power. The new James Treacy (JT) Chassis was set up perfect for this change.

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The specs on the original JT buggy were 5.3, TH350, Atlas II, 40" tires, rear steer, 106" wheelbase, and 78" wide for dodging the trees of the PNW. With the subtle changes in mind and the fact that we don't have trees to miss, we will keep the drivetrain, and increase in other areas... 42" Maxxis Treps on 17" Raceline Beadlocks, 109" wheelbase, and roughly 84-86" wide (The width and length are also to help with compesating for the 42's). These sizes will bode well for the southwest wheeling that Sand Hollow, AZ Trails, and pushing into a more difficult realm of trail capability.
 

Lil Rich

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Jesse's Original Willy's Buggy was great for tight, technical, tough trails. I found that with a lot of patience, I could fit that little car into place most couldn't take more "Capable" buggies. The rig just flat out works and many that went on trails rides with us were amazed at how well it would do. In fact, Jesse and I would laugh at it's capabilities and how funny that people looked at it as just a little, old, beat up Jeep.
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But the simple fact is, when I tried pushing the limits at Sand Hollow, I was often denied due to the shorter wheelbase and width, as well as the lack of power. The rig is set up perfect for what Sand Hollow currently offers for trails... But I want to build and drive even more difficult terrain, Plus have a little room for my growing family.
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You can see here, that there is just simply no room for their legs with the addition of a small soft side ice chest. The rig would have worked for maybe a year or two more, but with this chassis becoming available, it just made sense to make the upgrade now.
 

Lil Rich

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So I started with the low hanging fruit, I already had the wheels and tires, just not mounted yet. I hate spending money I don't have to so I greased up the inner bead of the tire, slid the tire over the wheel, and had the kids starts putting bolts into the beadlock.

My son claims that I am building him a Transformer and that it is his rig, lol. So he has told me he wants to help his transformer come to life by building it with me. So Cool! He also picked the colors of Optimus Prime which means the rig will be Red, Silver, and Blue. He placed all the bolts in the wheel and headed to bed, I finished up torquing them while watching Trump win the election.

In the last picture you can see the Transmission and Tcase. I got the TH350 Trans from Novak Conversions. It is a great looking trans with attention to detail. Came with a 2300 Converter, dipstick, and everything ready to go. We went with a TH350 because of the size, the oil pan and valve body shifted to the passenger side, and the fact that this chassis was built to house one. Changing to a TH400, or any other trans for that matter, would be cause for major changes that I didn't want to deal with.

The Tcase is an Atlas II which is the only real option in my opinion. I have run several different cases in the past and the Atlas is always one part that I never have to worry about. Plus Vic at Advance Adapters and I go WAY back and I like buying from people I have relationships with.

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Lil Rich

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.Low hanging fruit is also cleaning up the motor and changing out the intakes. I bought a 5.3 from Dixie Salvage for $600 that has 90,000 miles and all of the accessories. Came with Starter, Alternator, Intake, Exhaust Manifolds that included enough exhaust to include the O2 Sensors, etc.

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When we pulled the Intake to change it from the Truck to the Car, it was pretty dirty underneath. Here I have my helper cleaning his Transformers heart. Take care of it, and it will take care of you.

With this change, the injectors are too short by 3/4". I ordered "Top Hats" which is a pretty common mod that will allow the injectors to be the same stock injectors and retain the length needed to connect the fuel rail to the manifold. The top hats only cost $35 vs. the $400+ for new injectors. Reading online, a lot of guys have run these with widespread success.

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woody

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#6
Great motor choice IMO...plentiful and inexpensive, and easy to mod for some minor gains in HP and torque - was my choice if I hadn't picked up the rig I did.

I'm curious how those "top hats" work...seems they would space the injector further out?

Good to see that boy earning his keep :p
 

JoeyATM

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Can't wait to see this when its done!
 

Lil Rich

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Well I am all but moved in, leaving to pick up the buggy in an hour

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#10
Looks real good Rich. Can't believe you've already got rock rash on those skins from the garage. That's talent.
That steering angle- holy cow!
 
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Lil Rich

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Gonna need warp speed for sure! Still waiting on a few parts and pieces to show up. Seats, gears, some links, axles, etc.

Also need to find a machine shop to machine out the unit bearings to 1.5"
 

Lil Rich

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So still on the list to buy is a Left Hand and Right Hand 1.25" Heim, Cutting Brakes, minor fittings, Brake Lines, and some aluminum. Might as well build a center column and dash while I am piecing it all together. Besides that, I think I may have already purchased the usually un-thought of $5,000 of small stuff that no one thinks of.
 

woody

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#15
That little stuff adds up quick...I'm finding that out with my rebuild already :)
 

Lil Rich

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So when it came to setting up the Steering, I found that a lot of people, including myself do not understand how much time it takes to set it up correctly. For this build, we went a different direction than most and had some custom parts built to achieve a better overall system. The Ram is is a custom sized 2.75 cylinder to create more capacity and therefore, the ability for more strength when turning. The larger ram meant that packaging would be more difficult.

The other thing that we wanted to focus on was more clearance. Running a single ended ram would allow for the Tie Rod itself to be the limiting factor in ground clearance. A double ended ram takes a rather large truss system to support it and to set up proper steering and ackermen, would take mounting the ram in line with the high steer arms. The width of the ram/truss/clamps protrude further out than a 1.5" Aluminum Tie Rod.

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Lil Rich

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Looking at the packaging of the Ram and Tie Rod, you can see that to achieve the 48* of steering that we did took a little effort to clearance the High Steer Arm. This was important to ensure we got full steering on an 8" ram.

Looking at a Single Ended Ram, One of the downsides is that the force of the ram is stronger turning one direction than the other direction. To help alleviate this, many rams have a different steering wheel adjustment from one side to the other. Essentially it takes more turns of the steering wheel in one direction to achieve the same radius. An example would be that the Ram takes 1.5 revolutions of the steering wheel to achieve full lock as it extends out, and 2 revs to achieve full lock going in the opposite direction as it compresses in. This difference makes it difficult to operate at high speeds, but most don't actually notice it because in a Full Hydrolic Steering set-up, the fluid is constantly bypassing the orbital in small amounts causing the steering wheel to slightly turn. For these reasons and the fact that this car is not built for high speed, we decided to go with a Single Ended Ram vs the Double.

During Compression is when the strength is lost. However increasing bore size of the cylinder while keeping the shaft size the same 1.25" will help increase strength overall but especially important during compression. The difference in strength between a 2.5" ram and a 2.75" ram is close to 41%.

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Lil Rich

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Hey @woody , Are you going to be home on the 27th? I would like to put together a small work party to nail out some of the rat killing right off the bat.

Stuff like grabbing the motor, pulling all the panels, cleaning the housings (Wire Wheel), etc
 

woody

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#19
Hey @woody , Are you going to be home on the 27th? I would like to put together a small work party to nail out some of the rat killing right off the bat.

Stuff like grabbing the motor, pulling all the panels, cleaning the housings (Wire Wheel), etc
We are in Vegas the night of the 27th, but no reason the shop can't be available :) Guessing we'll head down there mid-late afternoon...
 

woody

eternal noobie
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#20
....and you know, some direct-to-(surface)rust paint might be a good idea :) Believe I have some at the shop already....