with Don Clark
Frame Extension and Shackle Reversal
Why I did it
After driving my Samurai for over a year with a 2" S/R I decided that I wanted even more lift and articulation. I searched the web and asked almost everyone that I met online questions about their lifts. I had 3 goals in mind for the lift that I would do to my Sammy:
- Fit 32?s now and 33?s later
- Use the ARB Bull Bar
- Retain the ride and handling characteristics of the Calmini S/R
Since installing the ARB Bull Bar and Calmini shackle reversal are mutually exclusive of each other the Calmini shackle reversal would have to go. Knowing that more than 4 inches of lift was necessary to fit 32?s I decided to look into weld on shackle reversal kits. The front could be easily raised 2" with a weld on shackle reversal from warrior products. The two main benefits of the weld on kit over the bolt on were the ability to place the front spring hangers exactly where they needed to be and the ability to fit the ARB bumper.
To achieve the best ride possible along with a reasonable increase in articulation I decided to use my rear springs up front. In order to use the longer springs up front extending the frame was necessary. After carefully measuring the rear springs under load it was apparent that extending the frame 2.25" forward would accomplish what I needed. This would move the front axle forward about one inch giving additional clearance in the rear of the wheelwell for the 32?s.
The rearward angle of the shackle is very important for proper droop on the trail and compression on the street. If the angle is too steep then the front shackle won?t have enough room to move back when you drive over bumps. If the angle is too shallow then the axle will not be allowed to droop when needed. I feel that 30 degrees from vertical provides the right amount of both droop and compression. Placing the shackle reversal towers 2.25" forward would put the shackles at about a 30-degree angle.
Building the Extension
Frame Preparation: In order to strengthen the frame and prepare for the ARB bumper I reinforced the mounting holes and the tube at the end of the frame. The bumper mounting holes in the end of the frame were enlarged to 0.5" and reinforcement pipes were welded into place. The reinforcements strengthen the ARB mounts. Additionally, a piece of 1.25-inch schedule 80 pipe was placed inside of the tube that runs between the frame horns. Three holes were drilled in the tube to butt weld the pipe in place and each end of the frame tube was welded to the schedule 80 pipe. In order to install the extension pieces it is necessary to remove the tubes that the front shackles bolt to. A hand grinder makes this an easy task. If possible it is a good idea to try to save the tube that the bushings bolt into as it is an odd size and can be used to make missing link shackles.
I used sections of 2"x2"x1/4" angle iron to extend the frame forward. As you can see in the photo above the pieces will extend about 8 inches back from the front of the frame. This gave a lot of room to weld the pieces to the frame and to each other. Half-inch holes were drilled in the extension pieces to match the bumper mounting holes in the end of the frame. One nice thing about this setup is that the additional thickness of the steel makes it very easy to tack weld the bolts that retain the ARB bumper.
A chopsaw and drill press were used to cutout the extension pieces. The diameter of the front tube is roughly 2" so I used a 2" holesaw to cut the half-moons in the extensions. It is fairly important that the fit between the tube and the extension pieces is very close. An extra inch of material was left on the front of the extension to make it easy to trim back to the correct length. Once the half moons were cut I tested the fit of the pieces, and marked where they needed to be cut for 2.25 inches of extension.
Installing the Extension
Once the pieces were cut they were cleaned with a wire wheel and held in place with C-clamps and bolts through the reinforcement pipes. After tack welding the pieces in place the clamps and the bolts were removed to finish the welding process. The tight tolerances between the frame and the extension pieces made it easy to get a nice solid weld.
Once the extension was completed it was time to install the shackle reversal. Following the directions that came with the kit I held the reversal in place with C-clamps and welded a section at a time allowing the pieces to cool before I moved on.
Matching Lift in the Rear
The Warrior shackle reversal provides 2" of lift in the front. Between the thickness of the frame extension and the use of rear springs there was an extra 3 plus inches of lift. To match that in the rear I could use either longer shackles, or a set of Rocky Road missing link shackles with CJ springs. I contacted Glenn Wakefield and got the specifics on his missing link shackles. They would raise the rear about 2.5 to 3" when used with a set of front CJ springs. On top of allowing greater articulation than stock the combination of the MLinks and the longer springs would give a better ride than stock springs alone.
Once the lift was installed it was apparent that the front set about an inch higher than the rear. The set of rear springs that I moved up front included the top three springs from the rear spring pack and a shorter spring from a local spring shop. On the next lift that I do I will use the top two springs from a rear pack and the bottom two from a front set. Because the front springs are not as arched as the rears this should make the lift a little more level. If after taking it out wheeling I find that the springs are still too tall in the front it will be necessary to redrill the hole in the frame spring mount.
Extending the frame is something that most people would not consider doing. There are dire consequences if the welds to the extension fail. Take your time and do it right the first time, otherwise there may not be another time. It took about 20 hours to design, build and install the pieces for the extension and shackle reversal. Now that my Samurai is totaled I am in the process of doing this lift again on my ?new? Sammy. I think that the second time it will take only an evening or two to build and install the extensions. After being disappointed with the quality of the Warrior Products kit the next shackle reversal will either be home built or purchased from another manufacturer.
Don?t get me wrong. For the person that does not weld the Calmini shackle reversal kit is great. I feel that the Calmini kit is a far better value than the Warrior Products kit. In the photo above you can see that the holes for the bolt that holds the spring were misalligned on the warrior kit. Plus for $30 more you get a set of rear shackles, a set of bushings and a quick and easy installation. The ONLY reason that I removed the Calmini kit was to fit the ARB bumper and extend the frame. The ride improvement of the shackle reversal is immediately noticeable, and when fitted with 235?s the Samurai looks very stout. If you add a 4.16 transfercase and a locker to that you will immediately have a daily driver that can go and do many, many more trails than most people dreamed possible.