Experts.  We’ve all heard of them or run into them from time to time.  Some seem to know more about a subject than others and some seem to SAY alot but in the end, don’t have a clue.

But what or who is really an expert?  And why or why not, should you listen to them?

Websters dictionary says an expert is anyone “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced”.  Well that leaves the door wide open for interpretation doesn’t it.  No wonder so many people think they are experts.  Thats why it’s so dangerous to take advice from so many different people on forums and websites as to what is right or wrong in a given field.

But then the REAL danger comes from those whom you would expect to be experts.  Those people who have been in a field for a very long time and have had success in that field or endeavor.  They have the trophies and plaques.  Ribbons hanging from all over.  Pictures of themselves standing on the podium in first place, placed on the walls.  Those are the people we go to for advice.  And why not?  They have succeeded right?  They’ve won.  They must know what they are talking about, right?

Wrong!!!  Not all the time will that person give you the best advice when it comes to your trucks build or your station in life. Just because they have won a race, or have built this ultra class rig, doesn’t mean they’re experience or advice is going to be good for you.

Let me give you an example that happened to me just a few weeks ago.

Many of you know that I, along with the help of some very close friends and associates, have built the “Beast”.  A 6184 pound 2005 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 that will go just about anywhere I point it on the trail and still cruise down the freeway at 80 + mph when I want.  I’ve modified just about everything in this truck to do just that.  I’ve climbed over every inch of it and know it pretty well.  It’s been the first in many things and has pushed the bar in rig building.  But it’s not the best.  There is always a bigger and badder dog just around the corner and thats why I’ve always said….. “I’m no expert”

Now, some of you know that I also have a 1978 Super Beetle Convertible that I got for my wife a couple of years ago.  It’s my first bug although I’ve worked on them as a kid.  I didn’t know much about them so when we bought it we didn’t realize it had an entirely wrong engine in it.  Since it’s a ’78 it should have had a fuel injected motor but instead it has a carburetor on it.  The engine was not built correctly and suffered because of it.

Well, being the home mechanic that I am I pulled the motor to rebuild it.  I got my manual and loads of internet articles and started to study what this motor should be.  I soon found out that it was going to be near impossible to put it back to fuel injection without spending a fortune so I went the route of a nice carb motor of that period instead.  I researched about it and soon found that this motor didn’t have any of the “cooling Tin” that is required to keep it from baking itself to a crisp.  I wanted this car to be a good and fun vehicle for my wife to drive and take to the beach so I wanted to get it as reliable as possible.  To me that meant taking the motor to near stock.

In building it I needed to get the thermostat and vanes back in, most of which people said you don’t need in California near the beach.  I found that not to be true.  But what I did find is that I didn’t need a heater in it.  Wife said she didn’t want one so instead of using the heater box’s that come off the exhaust, I used something that was found on the VW Thing.  It’s a J pipe that goes in place of the heater box because most “Things” never came with a heater.

Now because of this they had to have a special shield made, by the factory, that shielded the heads from the heat of that J pipe.  These shield were simply called “Industrial Shields”

In comes the “expert” we’ve been talking about.

During my search for parts for this rebuild, I found a company in Riverside, California that has been in the VW business for years.  They have had great success in racing bugs in the Baja 1000 and other such events.  The owner is a self proclaimed Expert on all things air cooled VW and they have a thriving retail business.  Great!  Just the people I need to talk to about this rebuild.  They had parts I wanted and needed at a good price and they were in the area so I didn’t have to pay for shipping.  Winning!!!

Not so fast!  I went in the shop and as usual it was filled with all the flashy race stuff.  Chrome air cleaners, shinny headers, a big race motor sitting on a stand and more fiber glass and plastic than some Hollywood stars have.  These guys know whats happening.  I’m in good hands.

I stood in line, waited my turn and walked up to the counter.  ” Hello, I need some cooling tin screws, a thermostat and a couple of “Industrial Shields”.  You’d thought i just cursed at him. ” What do you need a thermostat for here in California and what is an Industrial shield?”  I stepped back for just a second then told him what I was trying to.  I wanted this Bug to be a nice daily drive for my wife and I wanted it reliable.  He then told me that there was no such thing as an industrial shield and that I shouldn’t believe everything I read on the internet.  He basically called me stupid in front of other customers there and proceed to say he had been working on bugs longer than I had been alive.  Well, that kinda made me feel better because I later found out that he was just 5 years older than me and I know he wasn’t wielding a wrench at 5 years old.  Means I look younger than I am.  Anyway, I then told him that VW used industrial shields on the VW Thing because they didn’t have heaters.  He told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that VW air cooled vehicles ALL had heater box’s and non ever came with a piece of scrap metal between the head and J pipe. Then he told me that he had won the Baja 1000 time and again and that none of his cars had a thermostat or any of the lower engine tin on them and he still won races with them.  At that time I just left and decided I would go somewhere else.

I wasn’t looking for a race car.  I wanted something that we could drive from stop light to stop light and not worry about it over heating like before or running poorly.  What he failed to realize is that a race car does VERY poorly on the street.  Not to mention he doesn’t have a good grasp of what VW really built and why.  Time and time again, people think they can build something better than the factory did.  Many of them don’t realize that any modification from factory specs will compromise another area of performance.  You take off all the cooling tin and don’t run the thermostat and your going to have issues with cooling and proper operating temps.  Put a huge cam in and your going to suffer at idle, where most of our cars run at for a good part of they’re time.

I did more research and found tons of information on factory industrial shields and why you should put the thermostats back into these street driven vehicles.  All from people who had achieved the very thing I was trying to do.  Non of them had ever won the Baja 1000 and non to knowledge had ever raced in it either.  But all of them have rebuilt they’re bugs and have had very nice running bugs that behave well on the street and don’t overheat.  Thats what I was looking for.

What is the lesson here?  Be careful with who you get your “expert” information from.  Take into consideration what you want your outcome to be and then find some one or company that has had the same outcome you’re looking for.  That will be the expert you’ll want.  However, don’t rely on everything from this source.  It may not have all the knowledge your looking for on a certain project.

After applying the info I had found, I put the motor back together and upon start up it came to life with just one twist of the key.  It sounds healthy and ready to hit the streets once again.  Had I listened to the guy at this very popular shop, I would have ended up with a poor performing street machine and would have wasted money on something we couldn’t use.

Be diligent and careful in search for expert information.





Daily Driving a 40″ tire sas part 2

Since I posted the first “Daily Driving” , It sparked some conversations, all valid, about why certain vehicles can be daily driven and why some of them shouldn’t be.  The most obvious criticism of course is the amount of money being spent on certain vehicles like mine.  Thats an easy one and a point most people would go to but it’s not always correct.

We can all point to the person who has poured countless thousands of dollars into a show truck but none of us would take the chrome ladened, eight shocks per wheel, leaf springs that are arched like a U, anywhere near a street and heaven forbid, on the freeway.  He spent just as money if not more into making his truck one hell of an eye catcher but it’ll never see anything over 50MPH.  So lets take money out of the equation.

Lets focus on how the vehicle was built and maintained because thats where the truth in the pudding is really.

If it’s built right, regardless of how much money is put into it, it can be driving on a daily basis.  Now, we all know that it’s going to take a certain amount of money to get it done right anyway.  Lets face it, your not going to get a properply built SASED truck done for $2,500.00.  It’s just not going to happen unless everything was given to you for free, and how often have you won the lottery?  However, you can build one using junk yard parts for a very good price and have a very reliable vehicle that can be driven daily if you so choose.

Lets start with the axle’s shall we.  I’m not going to put price tags on these as some people will find better deals than I will and others won’t but you can get it done for a fraction of the cost of my truck.  First, go shopping on the internet to see whats out there.  If your building something that has 37″ tires or bigger your going to want to run a Dana 60 or bigger.  A Dana 44 is just going to buckle under the strain of the size of those tires and since your on a budget, building the 44 to hold up to those big tires is out of the question.  Just ask my good friend Eric.  LOL  There are plenty of Super Duty Fords and some Heavy Duty Dodges that have solid axle’s in them that will work just fine.  Anyway, once you’ve found your axle, take it apart, inspect it and then head to your nearest discount auto parts store and start replacing all the seals, ball joints and so forth.  Those are the first things to go on most of these rigs.  The ring and pinion is probably going to be replaced since your running larger tires so it’s not important what condition those are in.

Next, your going to want to stop this rig so a good set of disc brakes are in order.  You can find Chevy 1 Ton discs and calipers for a really good price at any auto parts store with life time warranties.  Get yourself some nice manual hubs and a locker for it, probably not a selectable locker since those are pricey, and your on your way.

Now the suspension.  Some people think that a link suspension is out of the question for a budget build but thats just not the case.  You can build a nice three link or radius arm set up using regular shocks and coil springs for not much more than you would pay for a good set of leaf springs.  Remember, your going to be daily driving this so if your building it with leaf springs, you’d better find some that will be good off road and on and thats going to cost a little.  Now, thats not to say that you can’t build a good leaf sprung truck that can be driven daily.  Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Nissan, all of them have done so in the past and you can too,  It’s just easier to get a nice riding rig using links and coil springs than it is using leaf springs.

Again, use good quality parts found at your local auto parts store and you’ll be just fine.

The rear axle and suspension will be attacked just like the front.  Find a good junk yard source, take it apart and using good parts at a good price, build it up.  You don’t have to spend a fortune, just be diligent in building it right.  Get yourself a good source book as to how to repair or rebuild your specific axle and follow it to the letter and you can’t go wrong.

Once you’ve gotten your rig up and running the most important part is maintenance.  And thats where most people fall short.  Loose nuts and bolts, poorly maintained bearings, and bad bushings have been the down fall of many 4 Wheel Drive vehicles.  If you purchase a vehicle from someone who has built it, it’s your responsibility to go over that truck with a fine tooth comb to make sure it’ll perform as you intend it.  If you find something that is worn or on the border, replace it or repair it.  And don’t just check the obvious things like belts and fluids.  Check to make sure your front wheel bearings are good, that your drive shafts are in good working order, and that your tires are balanced.  Look for damaged wires because i can guarantee that if it’s been SASED, it’s also been modified electronically to some extent.  And we’ve all heard the horror stories of the rats nest of wires under the dash that burned down your pride and joy.

So with all that said, it’s not the amount of money that went into a truck like  mine that makes it a decent daily driver.  It was the attention to certain details while building it like proper suspension geometry, the use of good quality parts and constant good maintenance that keeps it cruising down the highways and tackling those Black Diamond trails.

Don’t fall victim to the easy out of money makes it a good daily driver.  We’ve all made it to some extent, me included.  But when you look deeper, you start to recognize that there are more reasons than just money for the good performance of these rigs both on road and off.  Yours can be one of them if you just build it and maintain it properly.

Daily driving a Solid Axle Swapped Truck

Many people have gone the route of swapping their rigs.  Some of us call them Sac’s while others call them Sas’s.  But they both mean that an IFS front suspension truck has been converted to a Solid Front Axle truck.

There are a number of ways of doing this conversion.  One way is to use the old tried and true, and in my opinion outdated method, of using front leaf springs.  It’s easy to set up and if done right can provide a decent riding platform if the terrain doesn’t get too bad.

Then there is the coil sprung suspension which has a number of subgroups in it.  You have the radious arm setup which can use coil springs and separate shocks or the coilover setup that has a coilspring that is surrounding a threaded shock body.  Then you have the link system which can have two or three links that use a panhard bar or you can have any multiples of four link systems out there.  In any event, these coil systems, whether they be a coil and shock combination or a coilover system, tend to drive better than a leaf sprung set up and tend to have better articulation limits than leaf sprung trucks as well.  Now I know all about the very few of you that have a leaf sprung set up that rides like a Caddilac and has more flex than an 18 year old gymnast but lets face it,  That is very few and far between.

So lets get to the daily driving bit.  Can you daily drive a solid axle truck and better yet, can you daily drive one that is sitting on 37″ to 40″ tires?  Thats the big question and there has been plenty of debate about it as well.  Some say it’s too combersome and others say they get crappy gas mileage.  I say both can be overcome.

If you build your rig right, and maintain it properly, there is no reason why you can’t daily drive your Solid Axle Swapped truck.  I do!

My SACed truck is a 2005 Toyota Tacoma sitting on either 40″ GoodYear MTR’s or 41″ Super Swamper IROK’s.  It has Currie Rock Jock 60 axles front and rear and has a three link suspension with opposing panhard bars front and rear using 14″ coilover’s in the front and 18″ coilovers in the rear and no sway bars.

We spent many hours trying to figure out how we can make this rig crawl like a tube buggy but still play nice on the highways and take the family to the movies and we accomplished both.  Now, does it ride like it did when it was stock?  Of course not!  It’s been heavily modified dummy, and anyone who tells you that their truck does is high as a kite.  And don’t believe those that say you can build one for less than $5,000.00 either.  Run for the hills when you hear that.  Thats a dangerous rig running on the streets.

There are many other examples of rigs that can been daily driven but the key is to build them right. There are leaf sprung trucks that do it as well as any of the coil sprung setups that can be daily driven too.  You just need to build it right.  Follow what has worked in the past and don’t try to reinvent the wheel if you haven’t done it before.  Use quality parts when you build your rig and take your time and never cut corners.  The manufacturer of your truck spent years and millions of dollars building your truck.  Don’t think you’ll build one that is both reliable and safe by cutting corners.  Remember, If your going to build a Rig, build it as if your families lives depend on it!

If your using a junkyard axle, go through the entire axle and replace worn parts.  Study what has worked and what hasn’t worked, and please use caution when building yours.

Here is a link to some of the best Solid Axle trucks out there.  Many of these are daily driven and most can be daily driven.

Swapped Toyota’s

And here is a video of mine during my hour long drive to my office from Huntington Beach California to Redlands California.  70 miles one way.

You can build a very nice daily driver and weekend warrior if you take your time, study what works and what doesn’t, and never cut corners.

Hello World!

Get ready for Wyatt’s Rants.  Here you’ll get to see and read whats really going through my mind about Off Road trucks, Toyota’s and anything else I feel is appropriate. ;)


Stay tuned, Wyatt