You might be wondering what happened to the Mail Truck column. It's still around, we just gave it a snappy new title befitting its new direction. From now on, your questions will be answered by a revolving panel of industry experts in addition to the staff of the magazine. This month, we've got Early Classic Enterprises' Stan Hammond and McGaughy's Suspension owner, Mike McGaughy, droppin' all kinds of suspension knowledge. Some of these questions were pulled directly from the forums at sporttruck.com, and the rest came right from Mike's email in-box. If you'd like an expert answer to a question concerning your truck or the magazine, visit the forums or send Mike an email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who Needs Four Wheels When Two Will Do?
I have a '78 Chevy Blazer 4x4 that I'd like to lower and convert to two-wheel-drive. I also have another Blazer to use as a parts donor. I'm confident that I can do the back conversion without any problem, but I'd like some direction on how to make the swap up front. Thanks.
Heath, the swap can be done without removing the engine, but is definitely easier to do with the motor removed. First things first, make sure you measure your wheelbase. On the Blazer it should be 104 inches. After you have removed the four-wheel-drive components with the frame on jackstands, roll the complete two-wheel-drive crossmember under the frame. I strongly recommend keeping the crossmember complete to measure your wheelbase to get the correct location of the crossmember. Any amount that you are off will give you troubles later during the conversion. You can actually lower the frame right onto the crossmember to get your wheelbase set to the same measurement as before.
Using the crossmember as a template, mark the holes (14 in total) and remove the crossmember to drill the holes. The steering gear actually mounts in the same location, but the holes are different from 4WD to 2WD trucks. Once the 800-series gearbox is mounted to the frame, take the complete center drag link with pitman and idler arm attached and mount it to the gearbox. Make sure that the gearbox is centered and swing the pitman arm up to the framerail on the passenger side while making sure the center drag link stays parallel to the center crossmember. Mark and drill your holes for the pitman arm bracket.
The drag link will be very close to the crossmember but should not hit it.
Now the motor mounts can be installed in the existing holes and motor can be dropped back in place. The hard part is done, however a new automatic transmission crossmember will need to be installed. ECE offers one that will bolt in place (depending on motor and transmission combination, you may need to drill the holes). You will also want to get a 2WD fan shroud since the engine will now be in a different location.
Early Classic Enterprises specializes in hard-to-find parts for old-school trucks. The shop has done all of the popular conversions, including longbed-to-shortbed swaps, and 4x4-to-2x4 drivetrain rebuilds.