My Design Project

I draw dreams for inventors truck
The truck is 2 weeks old
The truck started out stock in 1996

The Fabrication of the Frame & Other Features

The truck, when it was finished, weighed in at 14,660 lbs. One tire and rim weigh 530 lbs with one rim by itself weighing 177 lbs. Why the weight reporting? Well, if you think about it, that means I have to balance a small block Chevy motor, complete with heads and intake, at each wheel spinning down the highway at 55 mph. Oh, that would be 4 small blocks; one at each wheel. Mind boggling when you think about it. So I ended up putting 6 lbs of ceramic beads in each of 3 tires with the remaining one wanting to see 7 lbs. They shudder a bit coming up to speed but at 55 mph it drives like a truck. I’d like to say “it’s a dream to drive” and that “I hardly notice any vibration” but I can’t. It drives like what you’d expect a 14,660 lb vehicle to drive. I don’t mind it bit.  So to the left is the frame that I added to accommodate the 4-link suspension in the rear as well as the box support. I ended up supporting the front bumper off the frame as well due to the weight. The bumper hangs off the reinforced boxed end frame and then, with the weight coming down, pushes back against the frame. It works well.

Fire Suppression - Rear Steer - On Board Air - Inverter

Here’s some pics of, what I call, the control box.  The red bottles are a fire suppression system. There’s two bottles for the diesel tanks and engine compartment and one bottle for the propane tanks in the rear of the bed. The rear steer motor has it’s own reservoir built into a “bi-rotational” motor. There are two valves going into an aluminum block that separates the hydraulics from, what’s virtually a starter motor that goes either direction. That’s the, “bi-rotational” part of it.

The compressor supplies the rear steer release, the air horn, and the air seats. There’s a reservoir tank for the compressor that enables the compressor to get a break. The switch allows connection with one battery, both or off. There’s an inverter that’s out of the picture that supplies 120V to the cab if you want to run a laptop or charge your phone with a conventional charger.

Propane Injection - A Diesel's Best Friend .... sometimes

frame for propane tanks


I know, I know; kind of a dramatic title and even a bit cheesy. But here’s the skinny on propane. The propane helps the diesel burn clean and it adds a bit more power. I carry 45 gallons in these two tanks. If the tanks are full, it will last about four months. The propane begins to feed when the turbo produces 5 lbs of boost. So it has to have at least a slight load for the propane to feed. You can destroy your motor if you drill out the orifice to over 0.25″. Usually when someone complains that “the propane system destroyed my motor”, it’s because something was “amiss”. That’s a nice way of saying that ahh….”somebody” drilled out the orifice tube or made their own injection system under the false premise that if a little propane is good, then a lot of propane must be better. Even too much ice cream could destroy your body. What’s the cure? Don’t eat too much ice cream and you’ll be fine. Same goes for propane.

The Interior Console & Fabricating the Controls

This is the sort of the interior project that you look back on when you’re done and wonder how you kept the inertia to stay on it. If I knew all the work that was ahead of me, on just the console alone, I’m sure it would have taken the wind out of my sails. Anyone who has completed a difficult, unending project knows what I’m talking about. It seems that you can work all day and create a box to fit inside a given area, and after looking at it, you ask yourself; “what took so long?”

Well, enough of that. The console now controls the rear steer, the fire suppression system, the on-board air compressor, an Inverter, the cameras (4), the mirror motors, heaters, and lights, the running lights on sides and top of the cab and some underside lighting for those times when you break down on the road at night and need more than a flashlight to see what’s going on.  It took some time to fabricate this and not make it look too homemade, but in the end, it works and I like it. So what can I say? I could stop saying anything and just add some pics. Okay, more pics.

console design in progress
center console side panel
center console in progress

When Normal Leaf Springs Just Aren't Enough

Leaf Springs have been around since the horse and buggy days. They’re not a bad solution to the keeping your teeth in your head. It’s a fast, easy way to regulate the amount of spring you want in a ride. With the weight of the truck being very close to 50/50 weight distribution front to rear, the front leaf springs saw a lot of weight transfer on braking. The solution? The rear shackle on the front springs cannot travel in the same arc as the spring has. Otherwise, you’ll have the shackle swing back and up against the frame. You want the shackle to swing back in a larger radius arc than that of the springs.

I used leaf springs for the front end and I designed a 4-link system that uses coil-over shocks for the rear. Why leaf in the front? Because my bank account wouldn’t allow the expense of a 4-link in the front as well. They work very well together and after 11 years on the road with the redesigned  frame and suspension, I’ve had no problems related to the differing systems.

leaf springs
19 leaf springs to offset spring dive and still leave a nice ride.
rear steer and suspension
Rear Steer with Steel Cage Protection & 4-link suspension
Rear Steer with 4-link suspension
Rear Steer, coil over shocks using 4-link suspension.
rear steer lock outs
Rear Steer is Locked Out for Highway Driving by Collars

The Tires - Did They Really Need to be That Big? Really?

The tire you see on the left is a military surplus tire used on troop carriers for 5 ton trucks. It’s also fairly clear that, although the tire is a radial, it’s very stiff. That’s not Photoshop, that’s actually just how stiff the tires are. I’ve run two sets on this truck; one set of Michelin tires and one set of Goodyear. Oddly enough, both tire suppliers make them as 53 inch radials. They go on a 20″ split rims that were originally made for a 5 ton differential.  I run plates that adapt the split rims to the 2-1/2 ton Rockwell. One rim weighs 177 lbs and one “tire-and-rim-combo” weigh in at a staggering 530 lbs.  I change the tires by using a sledge hammer to break the bond between the rim and tire and then, upon taking the rims apart, I can pull the rim halves out along with the inner liner to change tires.

It takes me about 3 days to change 4 tires.  It’s a big, heavy tire. To balance the tires I put 7 lbs of ceramic beads in each tire. I’ve seen claims that a mere 32 oz. balances a 53 inch tire and, with some, that may be true. In the two sets I’ve had, 32 oz. of beads didn’t do a thing.  I kept adding beads until it smoothed out. Six to seven pounds became the magic numbers.

So why 53″ tires? A 2-1/2 Ton Rockwell differential comes with 6.73 gearing. For those unfamiliar with differential gear ratios, a normal car or truck comes with about a 3.08 to 3.50 gear ratio. With such a high ratio in the Rockwell, smaller tires would increase the engine rpm and lower the mph.  So 53″ tires, with a 6.73 gear ratio, along with two overdrives, will net 1600 rpm at 55 mph. That allows me to get up to 15.6 mpg highway and around 12 mpg city. Not bad for a 14,660 lb vehicle that has a drag coefficient of an apartment complex.