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Project: Midnight Panic

Skipped_Link

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I've been asked enough times now to bring the build thread over here to the new site, I suppose I'll start the copy & paste process. I had been avoiding posting the same content in multiple places, but it seems there are plenty of people that are done with PBB, & FB is a terrible place to document a build of any kind, So here goes, maybe someone can find some useful content in a big dumb mud truck build.


I've never really been one to name my rigs outside of what project they are, But when my daughter was about 4 years old (a little over 3 years ago) she suggested I build a monster truck, I thought it was a great idea, & this is about as close to a MT as I'll ever get, She was also the one that named it "Midnight Panic" & has already weighed in on a few important decisions like color, & wheel pattern design,
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The current plan/outline will be a tube chassis, rear engine late 70's Ford,
Powertrain will consist of a 547ci Blown/injected Ford, backed by a shorty C6, & 18" reverse rotation SCS drop box, 1550 series / 8.5c drive lines & Axletech 4000 diffs,

The parts gathering stage started over three years ago, beginning with engine ,suspension, & drive train parts,

One of the first big ticket items was eight 26" travel Overtime CNC nitrogen shocks,
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A couple of short tail shaft C6 transmissions, I bought them for the output parts, but it appears they have a lot of good stuff inside, & turns out they actually came from the Bigfoot shop! (this is actually kind of a big deal in a small way to me)

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Another critical part I gathered up early on was the differentials, A pair of Axletech 4000 steer axles, (that's a Torque 14 bolt next to them)
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Early in this build I jump around a lot, playing with different parts, & never really focusing on any portion for an extended amount of time, just tinker with small things when I had time between other projects,
An example of that is the wheels, when the 19.5L-24 R2 tires became available I knew that was the tire I wanted on the truck, so I bought a set, then ordered some 24x12 rim shells, I sat down & drew around a half dozen different patterns for wheel centers, then left the final decision up to Allison on what style the truck would run, of course she picked probably my least favorite design, but after many attempts to sway her I knew it was a loosing battle, & just went along with it, now that they are done, I have to admit, I'm happy with how they look,
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The wheel shells were stripped of paint & tabs, then a 3/8" steel plate flange was cut & welded/gusseted in, the wheel centers are 3/4 7075 aluminum that were cut on a water jet table, then machined/polished here at the shop.
since they are a tube type tire internal double bead locks would not work with tubes, & rather than use a bolt on outer bead lock I opted to go with rim stiffeners on both inner & outer beads, then rim screws on the outer bead to keep the wheel from spinning in the tire.
They've only seen light testing on the buggy so far, but look like they should work well,
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Since I have done several sets of Axletech 4000 steering arms, it's only fitting I built the ones going on this project, only this set is a little different, rather than use 1" mild steel, or 3/4" T1, this time 1.25" 7075 aluminum was the material of choice, kind of an experiment to see how they hold up,

Once complete there will be a double shear tab under the Aluminum arm for added support.

8.jpg

There was enough material left over to build some lower king pin caps as well, rather than cutting down the stock steering arms,
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Another part that is pretty well sorted out is the brakes,
Rather than run wheel brakes, or even pinion brakes, I figured mounting them up on the t-case/drop box would be a safer location,
7075 aluminum adapters were spun up, then drilled/tapped for both the rotor, & the flange pattern, so no nuts are needed to bolt the drive lines in place,
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Next the rotors were cut out of 3/8 plate, machined flat & sent off to be liquid Nitride coated,
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One of the Willwood calipers is mounted directly to the case, the second will have a bolt on mount that attaches to the other side of the SCS & will be used on a second rotor on the opposite output shaft,
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The drop box/T-case was originally an SCS 12.66 standard rotation piece, after I had I received it I decided an 18" drop case would be better, rather than try to sell this one for a loss, I went ahead & ordered the parts to make it an 18" reverse rotation case, a couple evenings on the mill had it converted, but I did not get any pics of the process.
 

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The engine is yet another area I have been tinkering with off & on,
Long story short, it will be based of a 460 Ford, using a Ford Motorsport A460 block, bored 4.500", a 4.300" stroke Scat forged crank, Groden 6.900" aluminum rods, & coated Icon pistons, for a total of 547 cubic inches,
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For the top end I found a set of "New Old Stock" Blue Thunder "B" heads, that had never been assembled. They were shipped out to Kentucky where they were finished & ported by Charlie Evans,
The "B" offers a strong exhaust port which will come in handy for the supercharged application,
Another good score for this engine was picking up a matching Blue Thunder blower manifold from a buddy of mine that had been stashing it for a while,

Mounted on top of that will be a Littlefield Hi-helix 14-71 retro blower with the "delta" opening, that was rebuilt by TBS in Boise, I'll probably start off with a moderate 20% over drive on the pulleys to get everything going.

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While everything is here to build the engine nothing is assembled just yet, but I did take enough of the "spare parts" & put together a mock up engine to use while building the chassis,
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After a few hours of playing with Bendtech & learning the basics, I started cutting & bending tube, it did not take long for the tubing pile to get smaller, & a chassis on the table to start taking shape,
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The goal here is not shooting for style points, just brute strength, & hopefully not terribly hard to work on when finished,

The upper main frame rails are 2"x.188", along with s couple of the short vertical tubes that will have components mounted to them, the stringer rail & remaining tubes are 2"x.120"
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The shock hoops are also 2"x.188"
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The frame halves were setup, & squared up, upside down on the table,
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Then tied together in a few areas to keep things in line.
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With the basics of the main frame rails in place, link mounts were figured out & cut on dads Plasmacam
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The upper link mounts are 3/8 plate, bent in a press brake to get the correct width once welded to the 2" tube,
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The lower mounts use a 1/4" plate welded to the inside & outside of the main belly tubes, this gets the overall width to 2.5" the link tabs are 3/8" plate, & the inner tabs are double bent to get the last 1/8" needed to fit a 2.625" wide joint,
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Between the inner & outer assemblies there is not only a 2" tube, but also a 2" wide x 1/4" bolster strap tying them together,
 

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The actual skid mount / belly itself is 1/4" plate, the square holes are for battery placement,
29.jpg


The battery openings were boxed on the top side with 1/4"x2" strap to strengthen the large flat belly,
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The hole pattern around the perimeter of the plate is for the actual skid plate, once finished it will have a 1/2" 6061 aluminum plate bolted to the bottom, & will be what the batteries are actually sitting on,
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Once the belly was mostly weld in, the chassis was pulled from the table, flipped over to right side up, & started planning for powertrain install,
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Skipped_Link

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Hanging parts in the chassis I'm using a Kieth Fulp aluminum mid plate,
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wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw==

Along with my own home made front motor plate, got the engine & trans square & level,
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Then figured out the drop box mount I spent most of a day on wasn’t going to work.
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With this plate welded in as planned, there would be no way to pull the transmission without taking the engine out, I already have one rig like that & would prefer to no have another.
 

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So version 2.0 was drawn up, cut out, & cleaned up, this one bolts to a pair of flanges that are welded to the chassis & after pulling the drop box the whole mount can come out making plenty of room for the trans to come out from under the rig.
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A mount under the transmission also ties into the plate to prevent for/aft movement in that big wide plate.
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With the engine, trans, & t-case in place, it was time to start fitting a body, I have 3 cabs sitting on blocks, but decided to pull apart a truck I've had sitting in the yard for close to 15 years,
The donor cab comes from a 1973 Ford "super camper special"
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A little over 6 hours to completely gut the interior then remove the front clip & cab,

And not a single metric tool was used,
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A couple more hours cutting out the floor & it was ready to start laying out cab mounts,
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A couple perimeter tubes were bent up & welded on with a couple angled down supports per side doing my best to catch those node points.
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Some 1.5” x .120 wall square tube was machined up & 4 were welded to each of the perimeter tubes,
Interesting fact, the rockers on 73-79 Fords are tapered from front to back, the rear of the cab being 1” wider than the front.
I chose to make the perimeter tubes, & mounts strait with the chassis, then built spacers in different lengths to make up the difference.
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Once the cab could be bolted on the rest of the fire wall & floor was cut out.
52.jpg


With the cab bolted in place & floor/fire wall out of the way, it was time to start on the cage,
The B-pillar/hoop is a simple 2”x.188 DOM part, that will be tied into both the perimeter tubes & the main frame rails,
53.jpg


2”x.120 A-pillars & brow bar were bent up for the front of the cab,
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More A-pillar, & brow/windshield bar.
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Fitment in the cab actually turned out pretty decent.
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Continuing with tube work, lucky for me Chestonscout from PBB saved me a bunch of time & hauled another pile of tubing out from SLC, then hung out & lent a hand for a bit.
The shock hoops front & rear got an X-brace & down tube,
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Then back inside the dash bar & lower windshield tube were fit in place as well as the center roof tube,
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And with no further need for it, the rest of the dash was cut out.

At this point I was getting somewhat burnt out on tube work & decided I needed a change of pace,
remember earlier in the pics, those fresh sandblasted Axletechs? this is what they look like after a couple winters in the car port.


Nothing a little flap disc action won't fix up, besides once all the tabs & brackets are done I'll have them blasted again before paint.

To start, the front axle was thrown on the table, de-braked, & cleaned up in the areas I would be working on.

Then all the parts I've been gathering for the axles & steering were drug out to make sure I had everything I needed.
This project will be running all EMF joints, with the exception of the 3/4" rod ends on the shocks.
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Skipped_Link

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Starting with installing the high steer arms, & getting an idea where I wanted the cylinder, A mount was drawn up in plasmacam, & cut out of 3/8" plate,
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2.5"x10" DE surplus center rams will be used front & rear.
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They required a little bending for fit & strength,
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71.jpg
 

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Allison weighed in again & chose from a couple different cylinder guards I had drawn up, her choice was cut out, cleaned up, fit & tacked to the cylinder mount,
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All the parts were built two at a time so the rear axle should go pretty quickly

With the steering tacked in place it was time to slide the axle under the chassis, & start figuring shock mounts,

The plasmacam is actually pretty handy for putting some rough measurements into a visual,
75.jpg
 

Skipped_Link

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With a rough idea if what I needed, I designed some lower shock mounts, & cut out a bunch of 3/8” plate parts, I decided the overall width was a bit more than I wanted, so everything was stacked together & machined down just a touch,
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Once I liked the width one part was tacked together & checked fitment,
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Then everything was assembled & welded out for the lower shock mounts.
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Skipped_Link

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With a known mounting point at the axle, I was able to figure out what was needed on the shock hoops.
For the upper mounts, a 3/8 tab was welded to both sides of the X-brace & down tube, (one in front, one in back, on both sides)
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Those will serve as the inner tab/mount,

For the outer tabs 1/4" plate was laminated together forming a 1/2" thick mounting area,
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The laminated section does not cover the whole mount, just the area where a little extra strength will be useful,
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These parts will span from hoop to hoop, the width of the chassis, tying everything together along with the X-brace.
84.jpg
 

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Aside from some fancy tig welding, the outer laminated plates seem pretty simple, but once you start placing them on the chassis, a guy realizes they are a fairly complex part, for just being flat plate anyway.
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To finish out the upper mounts several 1/8” plates were cut & dimpled, then welded in to tie everything together,
Again, a couple patterns were drawn, & Allison chose what design she liked best,
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This time she even helped with the dirty work,
Here's a video of her running press, a quick pointer on going to 20 ton on the gauge & she was right after it, all I was doing was moving the die from hole to hole.

https://www.facebook.com/10146664133...dmin_todo_tour

Pretty fun having her involved in the build, even if it's just a little bit.
 

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While doing all the parts for the front, they were duplicated, so what took a couple days to finish the front only took about half a day on the rear,
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Rear mounts.
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With the chassis side of the shocks being pretty well buttoned up, I drug the rear axle in the shop, up on the table, & gave it the same treatment as far as de-braking, & steering mount.
95.jpg
 

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Before getting to deep in installing the rear diff, I decided to build the remaining caliper mount for the brakes on the t-case,
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I figured it'd be best to do that while access was easy, because mock up links were getting close on the priority list.
 

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But before links, the next step was fitting a couple gussets & filler plates, pull the drop box, & start welding out the belly,
Hours of welding!
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I was thrilled that even after all of that wire burning/weld shrinkage, the drop box bolted right back in without any issues.
 

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Finally it was time for mock up links, & by design the suspension is symmetrical front & rear, so I only need one length upper & one length lower,
And I got really lucky in the fact the length I needed I already had laying around!
The upper links on this rig are the same length as the rear lowers on the "Monster buggy" and the lower links on this one, are the same length as the front lowers on the buggy.
Another crazy coincidence, is the fact I had replaced the original lower links on the buggy years ago, but still had them laying around, then they were replaced again in 2016 when I switched to aluminum, So all I had to do was clean up & install joints, & the mock up links were done.
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After about 3 years of hanging on the wall, I finally got to throw a little nitrogen in & mount up the shocks, along with the tires & wheels.

This is pretty much full bump.
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Full droop,
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And mid stroke, which will probably be the initial ride height until I get shock valving, nitrogen pressures, etc. figured out. hopefully being able to drop it a few inches.
110.jpg
 

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This one being on nitrogen shocks, sway bars are pretty much a must, & I have very little experience with sway bars,
I had a little chat with one of the best Mega truck builders out there, & he recommended 1.75" bars front & rear, Beings he is an SCS dealer I just bought the bars & mounting blocks through him,
They ended up being a custom length bar, but they were still shipped within a couple days of ordering them,
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To attach the mounting blocks to the chassis I started off with a chunk of 1"x3" strap, cut it down to 2.25" to match the mounting blocks, then machined a 2" cope to sit nicely on the tube work,
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With bar mocked up in place I figured out I could get a 24" arm on each end for the front sway bar, so I got a pair of those mostly done,
Nothing real special here,
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Before continuing on with the front sway bar, I needed to get my bump stops rebuilt/re-valved (old 2.5"x4" Kings from the buggy),
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Since now they were done, I went ahead I installed the rear cans & bumps on this project,
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The front bump stops are going to be a little different.
 

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Back to the front sway bar,
A lot of guys run tractor links, I think a lot because they are cheap, but also they have a lot of misalignment in the joints they use,
but I just couldn't bring myself to do that,
Instead I started off with a stick of 1.75" 7075 aluminum, cut & faced to length, then drilled/tapped for 1-7/8 LH & RH threads,

And for some reason I thought they would look good fluted,
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I don't think I was wrong,
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For those that have followed my builds for a while know I've done a lot of machine work at my dads shop,
In the last couple years I had picked up a small Logan lathe, & a cute little Bridgeport "M" head milling machine,
Then just over a year ago I ended up getting a little bigger Clausing lather, & a "J" head Bridgeport just like dads,
So pretty much all the machine work picks you see now are done in my own shop.

Back to the front sway bar,
For joints on the connecting links I'm using EMF 7/8" joints with a 3/4" through hole.
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I was able to get a lower mount in place with the mounting bolt oriented properly, while still being in the working range of the joint.
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Then a couple more tubes were added, as you can start to see there's a reason for the arms not being complete yet, the connecting links being so beefy, & needing the bump stops ready.
126.jpg
 

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Having seen IFS desert trucks run their bumps on the upper A-arms, I thought it was pretty cool that they do not have to worry about the bump stop contact pad moving around throughout the suspension cycle, I thought I would try something similar on the sway bar, since the contact area shouldn't be affected by articulation,
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Apparently I have not taken any pics with the bump stops installed, but I did get video of testing it.

https://www.facebook.com/10146664133...dmin_todo_tour

And a finished sway bar arm.
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While I was in there welding on the front end & the shocks were off, I notched a couple pieces of 2" square tube that will serve as both a cab support, & framing of the center firewall later on.
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It's probably pretty apparent, but everything about this project is pretty big, & even though I have plenty of faith in a 1.25" EMF medium joint on the link bars, they just didn't fit the rest of the build, So I got with Clay & ordered a set of 1.5" large joints, they're a lot more proportional to the rest of the built, & offer that much more strength,
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Using up all the room.
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For comparison, this is a 1.5" large joint, next to the 8.5C U-joint that is used on the pinion yoke, (the u-joint that looks like in belongs in a steering column is a 1410 joint.
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Just for filler, Here is a crossmember I whittled out of a chunk of 4" I-beam,
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133.jpg
 

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Continuing with welding up front while the shocks are off,
year before last at mountain havoc I won a Warn Zeon 12 winch, I figured this project would be a good home for it, so more plate was cut,
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The same lamination technique was used, only this time I MIG welded the two parts together,
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After a pretty good break from it, I was ready to get back to some tube work,
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Some of this seems like I'm just dumping pics in here, & that's pretty much what it is, nothing special about the details, just welding tube or plate together.

Back to tube, I wanted to tie the B-pillar into the rear shock hoop, but to do that & still have the cab removable, that section of the chassis would have to be removable, So some tube connectors were utilized, now that whole section can be pulled for cab, or engine removal,
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Then back inside the cab, for more tubing in there,
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The Upper X-brace & horizontal bars got a slight bend so I could push the seats back as far as possible.
149.jpg
 

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For those thinking "Ha! those down bars going to the rear shock hoops aren't even close to a node!"
That's just cause the node hasn't been installed yet.

That's where these guys come in.
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I'm sure running the roof line/A-pillar bar into that part of the B-pillar would have been easier, this should do about the same job.
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