A case study in tinkering run amok... by TD (Troy) Graham  


Part 1: Genesis.

After beating the stuffing out of Mazuki for two years, a few things became apparent:  The rotary motor and tranny were keepers, handily kicking the teeth out of both the original Zook motor AND the breathed-on 1.6 I'd previously had in there, using any yardstick.  The modified Zook axles and the GRS2 tcase stayed glued together, the REP8000 winch survived, the new MT/Rs rocked in the rocks, the RCI seats are an off-camber lover's gift from above, etc, etc.

But some serious limitations of the basic vehicle were beginning to show through.

Abusing the thing in the rocks every chance I got, and with the amount of trail rash she now was wearing, avoiding a potential rollover situation was becoming less of a concern with each new "badge".  True, she was stout, only logging 1 shattered U-joint and 2 tcase rubbers through the thrashing, but in the meantime I was mentally logging a whole laundry list of items to re-engineer over the loooooong Indiana winter of 2000/2001:  

Axle wrap: The torque of the motor, through the GRS2, was wrecking my springs and U-joints... and I'm always conscious not to stick my foot into it when I feel things load up.  In Attica (where I do most of my playing) I couldn't run the sand hills any more, AirZuk style... which was one of the reasons for the rotary in the first place.

Steering: The Breeze crossover system worked acres better than an old drop drag link, but without a panhard rod, the missing links made steering nigh impossible at times.  Even with 2-3/4" backspaced wheels, my front tires were rubbing the springs at full lock.  And muscling the fully-locked front all day was a pain (I'm lazy if nothing else).

Leaf springs: Their incessant squeaking, and short life span, coupled with wonky on-road handling was spooky... Mazuki also had developed what Naval types term a "list" to the right rear corner.

Leaf spring hangers: All four were seriously knackered, one was close to terminal; they were getting dragged over everything.  Mid-summer I had to spend an hour or two beating them back into shape and welding 1/8" plate over the open sides.

Missing Link shackles: Although they afford some nice flex, they stick out of the front and rear of the vehicle 4" more than stock, making a serious dent in your approach/departure angles.  Putting poly bushes in them to make them on-road tolerable cost me flex, so I compromised with rubber in the spring eyes... but it's just that: a compromise.

Front driveshaft: Even with "clearancing" the yokes, the tcase-end U-joint would bottom at full droop, causing the tcase to chatter and shake like you'd just blew an output bearing.

Winch mount: Sticking out 10" in front of the vehicle wasn't helping my approach angle any... an 81" wheelbase vehicle that was now close to 12'-0" in overall length.

Rear bodywork: In the way... i.e.: many "lovey spots" to show off.  And the tailgate was kissed by a tree over a year ago.

Front fenders: Even with liberal clearancing, I was still rubbing my 33" tires.  In addition, the front corners were starting to look a little (OK, a lot) worse for the wear.

Fender flares: Part of my post-ride maintenance ritual: putting all the fender flares back on.  For no other reason than to hide the UGLY extrusions that I'm too lazy to remove.

Rockers: Score: 1/8" diamond plate rockers, ZERO, rocks ONE; can't get the driver's door shut now.

Conferr tcase skidplate: &#!@%! J-bolts; a stout plate, just a poster-child PITA to remove/install.  Not to mention the 2" of ground/breakover clearance I'm losing with it.

Motor mounts: If I did roll'er over on the roof, I was afraid they would wouldn't hold the motor.

Stock Mazda 4V carb:  Although better off-camber than ANY other carb I've seen... it still has a limit.

Silver sucks: I seem to be cursed with only being able to purchase silver vehicles, and as a matter of fact, it's a running joke among my friends.  The reality is, silver don't get you in the mags.  Even though I run the ZookiMelt, and spent some time with the photog, did I get a mug shot in the mag?  Noooooooooo...

Plus many other little foibles.  My original thought was to address most of these bugs, along with a serious spit-and-polish session to spruce the old girl up.  But there were some things, like the rear bodywork, I just couldn't "fix".  

TD's Quips, Chapter 3, Verse 12:  "Don't treat the symptom, fix the (insert appropriate expletive) problem."

For instance, even though I might add a panhard rod to the front, and a traction bar to both ends, I still have to deal with the inherent leaf spring approach/departure angle, squeaky, shifty, saggy hassles.  Therefore, the problem ain't fixed, just shifted it to another area (accountants seem to be particularly adept at this).  Besides, I'd be halfway to a full-linkage setup at this point, which would actually fix a myriad of problems, in theory anyway.

I wasn't going to solve my body clearance problems (I mean Mazuki's!) without either a spring lift, a body lift, or both.  Great, now my center of gravity (CG) goes out the window.  And I'd still be rashing the the sheetmetal.  So why not remove the parts that are in the way, ala Todd Myers' "Sniper"?

Need some form of power steering, but I have yet to witness a system on any big tired/locked vehicle that don't squeal, leak, throw belts, or all three at once.  Last year, the guys competing in the rock crawling contests were starting to tinker with full-hydraulic systems, which were working out quite well.  Then, four-wheel steering is just another short step...

It was this sort of thinking that sort of got seriously out of hand about last November, and started me on the path designing a complete, ground-up rebuild/conversion around the parts that work, binning the ones that don't.

Like I said... a loooong winter:  




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