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Starting my trip down the SAS/Add 4x4 road. Project DigEm355 on Carla the truck is under way...

3064 Views 40 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  DigEm
Starting down the long road to upgrading the suspension, running gear and converting to 4x4. Also on the table is an LS swap. First piece to the puzzle is the 97 Isuzu Rodeo rear axle swap. At this time it will remain a spring under swap as the next step in the process will be the LS swap. I have stripped down the 97 D44 axle and am replacing all the bearings and races. Adding an Aussie Locker and will either run the 4:30 gears that came in the axle or may upgrade to 4:56 gears. I will post pics later.

This is going to be a longer build as I am buying and building on a budget, and the goal is to have the finished Project up and running by CFSM in April of 2023.

Some of the particulars are as follows, The transfer case, already on hand, will be a Dodge Divorced NP 205 with a passenger drop. Coil spring front suspension with a three link set up, leaf spring out back with a two link. Crossover steering on a 74 Jeep Wagoneer front Dana 44 with an Aussie Locker. and 35 inch tires.

Stay tuned for progress and pictures!
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Sounds like you have your work cut out for you! My overland build project is on temporary hold while we buy a house on 10 acres. But......we close tomorrow and included on the property are a 1,700 sq ft pole barn with a car lift and a detached 8 car garage. :p I will no longer have to work in my driveway.
Sounds like I need to load up parts and come to your house! You have plenty of room to work!
As promised a rear axle pic.
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That looks like.......a rear axle.
Are the shock mounts higher than on a 355 axle?
That is the rear axle. I haven't picked up the front yet. I will have the same shock mounts as the 355 for now. The ones on the leaf spring mount plate. No configuration changes right now, just a different rear axle assembly. Eventually that will be changed to a spring over set up with two links or traction bars as some call them. Also this axle has disc brakes.
What’s the primary use for this rig?

As someone who built a ford 44/9” as wild as you can and stuffed them under my rock crawler... ditch the low pinion 44, especially if you are planning to do a V8.

what’s the plan for the front? Leafs, radius arms, 3 link?
Primary is anywhere I might want to take it. It will be going to Windrock in Tennessee, Stony Lonesome in Alabama, Many different parks scattered around Florida and planning a trip out west in a couple years to include Moab. The front will be a 3 link set up. As for the high pinion stuff, I don't have money in the budget for a new high dollar axle or a used one for that matter. Not a full blown rock crawler truck, just the difficult terrain stuff. It also still has to function like a primary vehicle at times. Thus the choice of gears in the 4:30/4:56 range.
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I won't be on anything that difficult. maybe some rock piles or buried pipes and stuff. I am not trying to build a extreme rock crawler here in Florida, where most of my off road driving is on flat wet sandy mud roads or in clay. I will use it on what I know it can take at the parks here and avoid anything else. I know her limits now, as a two wheel drive truck, probably why I have not broken anything but a G80, and I don't baby it now. I think when the whole project comes together and you all see how it preforms you might be surprised. I have been to MOAB before in a TJ Wrangler with Rubicon on 35's running basically the same set up I am putting in my truck. we did not break anything out there and that Jeep is still making trips to all the places I have mentioned with out issues. Basing my build plans off of that. The only difference is he doesn't have a V8.
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ive heard all kinds of claims... "my brother cousin runs XX size tire with XX motor on XX axles and never had problems!" fact is... you gotta account for your wheeling style and location.

the slick rick in Moab means maximum traction, requiring very little wheel speed. slow and steady wins most of the time.

things are very different here in the MUD-west... many obstacles require wheel speed to get over. going from very little traction to instantly finding traction can be very rough are parts. the waggy/ford/gm dana 44s use 760/297 joints. its tiny. when you go to chromo shafts/300M joints or RCV shafts... now your weak link tends to be locking hubs and/or ring and pinion. the more modern JK and JL dana 44s are completely different animals, using a bigger joint and ring gear, and are a much better option strength wise.

ive been to the hammers, harlan, royal blue, windrock, the badlands... and while my built 44 was largely reliable, all that meant was that it broke in the worst possible scenarios. being a trailer queen, it wasnt of much concern. limp it off the trail and drive the tow rig home. but i really didnt feel like i was THAT hard on it. if i were driving it to and from the trail, i would want more beef. your results will vary.
I get it, but I drove the Jeep in question at Moab and Stoney Lonesome, and followed it several places people did not believe I could go in my truck on 32's. I, however, do not want to build something else for off road fun. I drive the two wheel drive in all sorts of clay, sandy mud and water here all the time. the truck as it sits performs very well in these flat woods around here. It is limited on ground clearance and I can build it better, but not so over the top I cannot drive it to Daytona to ride on the beach or to Windrock with out having to trailer it. I carry extra parts and can fix most anything on it and get it back on the road and back home. I know about wheel speed and all those scenarios. I have been doing this stuff for 44 years since I started driving my dads hunting rig in the forests here when I was 12. This is is number 9 in the 4x4 builds and I have also built some lowered rigs, about 5.
Update... The rear Rodeo axle is off to the shop to have the new bearings pressed on. Waiting on the 4:56 gears to get here to put it back together. Decided I would run the 4:56, not run 4:30's. will update as soon as gears are here and axle is ready to be put back together.
UPDATE!! The 4:56 gears are in house along with A Spartan locker for the rear. Axle should be back at my house ready for perches and paint in about a week. Should be in the truck shortly after that. Pictures to come.
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Axle is home. Now to paint it and get it in the truck. Pictures to come.
I didn't do that part. Had my Mechanic do that. My electric Impact would not remove the Pinion nut, so I left that for the mechanic. When I got it back it was already assembled and ready to put back in the truck.

Update for everyone, unit has all new brakes now, using a hard line scavenged from a wrecking yard find. It is ready to install as soon as my trusted welder gets back from a pipeline refit job so we can set the perches and shock mounts. I just don't trust anyone else. I had hoped for it to be in the truck already, but, it isn't yet.
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Any pics?
I will get some, It is in my work shop. I haven't taken any yet because I have not painted it since we have to weld on the perches still. Try to go out to the shop and get some tonight.
So for an update, the new rear axle has had some technical difficulties and is back in the shop and yet to be installed. I am working on getting the front axle. Furthermore, my long lasting 3.5 I-5 is on its last leg. It is drinking a quart of oil a week. Some is leaking out the rear main and some is going out the tail pipe.

Last week I purchased a use 90xxx mile 5.3 from a 2003 Yukon. I will be swapping in this motor in the near future, and hoping to finish the suspension and axles buy April 1st 2023. I will have to wait a little longer for the transfer case and the drive shafts to complete the 4x4. But, by July to August 2023, I should be completely done with the swap and the SAS and adding 4x4.

Look next month for pictures of getting the motor ready for the swap.
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Well, the weekend had its ups and downs. I headed out to Orlando on Saturday morning to get my LS. About 12 miles short of the destination the the I-5 3.5 developed a skip, miss, misfire in the number 4 cylinder. Tried a new plug and a new coil but that did not fix the issue. So. I loaded up the 5.3 and drove it all the way home, 276 miles, on 4 cylinders. Got decent fuel mileage, around 17 and ran 70 all the way home on 4 cylinders. I kept having to reset the code with the scan gauge so I did not end up in limp mode. So, now to decide if we spend money trying to diagnose the misfire or just start the swap and spend all that money at once instead of over time. Stay tuned!
So the engine swap is being prepared. I am gathering parts. The truck is parked and my wife and I are sharing her vehicle. That is a fun activity! The truck may be going to the shop to see if my mechanic can diagnose something I cannot via his Tech 2. More updates later.
I got the engine in the shop and started the process. The engine looks very clean inside the heads for 90000 and change miles.
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So, I burned and chipped a valve in the 3.5. The scope picture is attached. It is now full speed ahead with an LS swap. 3.5 and the transmission are out of the truck. Now I have to get the truck home so I can work on it to get it ready for the LS. More pictures coming.

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Update on the Swap...

The Harness is ordered from CPW. I have sent them the ECM and TCM for programming for the Swap. I got my new injectors, Fuel rails from a 2003 Suburban showed up. My Badland Industries motor mounts showed up also. The wiring harness is 10 weeks out, so I am gathering other parts as I find them. I have coils and brackets on the way. Hopefully Sunday coming up I will be in the shop doing some paint removal and cleaning of the heads and block. I will post more pictures. The engine and Transmission are out of the truck and I have to go and get the truck from the shop to bring home so I can work on it. Also have to get the transmission off to the transmission shop..
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Update, motor and transmission are out of the truck. Next step is to get this engine bay cleaned up and ready. Not sure yet what all that will be, but I will post pictures.


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Looking good
How is yours coming along?
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