Small SUVs with modest tires vs. Full-Sized SUVs with larger tires - Page 2 - Pirate4x4.Com : 4x4 and Off-Road Forum
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Old 01-24-2012, 09:49 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Cee-Jay you might check the build out a few posts down. Lance is building a pretty nice C-20 Suburban that seems like it is about what you are looking for. He drives in similar terrain, and does much of what you are talking about. I had a lifted '81 2500 Suburban with 33's back in the early 90's and it was great. We traveled alot with it, pulled a small camper some, and used to haul my racing kart around. I off roaded it some, drove it through some serious snow, and it was awesome. For a large vehicle it did well off road, not a rock crawler by no means, but got around great. Very simple and inexpensive V8 power (350), solid tranny, Dana axles with a LSD and a 40 gal fuel tank. It is easily converted to a diesel like Lance is doing since many came with a diesel. My one drawback was it got about 10 mpg no matter what I had in it, behind it, or how I drove it. A new aftermarket fuel injection, or a JY 5.3 would be a nice upgrade.

Now the problem with any Burb is rust. To find a rust free model like Lance you will have to look at AZ or somewhere similar. If you find one rust free, it won't be long, just the way it is with the older Burbs. So Rhino Lining might be your friend.

Nothing against the other mentioned like Jeep( I own a '94 JGC now), Ramcharger, Land Rover, etc but cheap abundant parts for the Chevy make it a winner for me. Granted you will have to work on, repair on the trail, or somewhere have an issue with whatever you pick, so get something simple and common. Why do people overland in Europe, Asia, South America and everywhere else in Toyota??? because they are very common there and parts a plenty, much like Chevy here. My problem is I live in Indiana, and every Chevy more than 10 years old has rust problems, but my '94 ZJ is pretty much rust free

Sooo if you ask me the simple answer is early 70's -early 80's 3/4 ton Suburban on 33's. Pretty good storage, simple reliable power, easily upgraded, and millions on the road. I guess you could say large vehicle on moderate tires would be my thoughts...
A pic from of my old Burb in my racing days...

Last edited by BlaZeJeep; 01-24-2012 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:57 PM   #27 (permalink)
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We had a XJ, 1 kid was enough of a space reason to sell it. They are small for family adventure especially if you are going to pile on some hiway miles to get there. What about a ZJ with a the towing package, a little bigger and roomier than the XJ but not full size. We had an Expedition for years after we sold the XJ, just bought a Nissan Xterra and it is for sale, we are looking for another Expedition, that works good for our family of 4.
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Old 01-31-2012, 02:18 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Thanks BlaZeJeep. One of my good buddies has an ’89 Suburban with 35”s and 14 Bolt in the back. They are great rigs but I think I’d like something with a little shorter wheelbase. But there is no question that if you want to haul a lot gear, then that’s a great choice.

I often think about vans too. I’m not willing to pay the $$$ for late model specialty Ford off-road conversion, but occasionally I see older 4x4 vans for sale. There’s a ’79 GMC Ralley with 33”s and 1 ton axels for sale right now, but it needs an interior and I don’t know if I’m up for that right now. Realistically, I probably won’t find a finished enough van for the price I’m willing to pay. Someday though, perhaps.

Now if I was willing to put in the time and if I had more know how, maybe this is what I would get: 1979 4x4 Chevy Ambulance with a 400 and only 57,000 miles for $1800.

Last edited by Cee-Jay; 01-31-2012 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 02-01-2012, 01:36 PM   #29 (permalink)
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This is a good input tread for building an expedition rig. Bought a 1990 BroncoII a few months back (5spd, 4WD, 3.73 gears) and looking to build an expy rig and asmall trailer for added supplies. Since it's only me and no one else I just hope I didn't pick too small of avehicle for this.....
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Old 02-01-2012, 03:39 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by boogerp View Post
This is a good input tread for building an expedition rig. Bought a 1990 BroncoII a few months back (5spd, 4WD, 3.73 gears) and looking to build an expy rig and asmall trailer for added supplies. Since it's only me and no one else I just hope I didn't pick too small of avehicle for this.....
yours is a good pick. i have a 1983 ranger short bed 4x4, 5 spd from an '85 b2. my upgrades have been a 2in body lift, 4.56 gears, detroit in back, duraspark conversion, and a 27gal aux gas tank in the bed. my start for an expedition rig.
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Old 02-01-2012, 04:10 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Rather than pick a rig to go with your tire size, I would recommend picking a rig to suit the trails you want to run and what you are willing to put up with.

I wheel a Ramcharger around Nevada. It's great for everything except where there are lots of trees. Those areas, the trails seem to be Jeep or Toyota wide. A fullsize will fit, but you have to be careful and not afraid of pinstriping, or denting it.

For tight technical trails, the narrow width rigs are the best bet. Get a long one though, because a trailer is a big PITA when things get tight, or they get slick. The last thing you want to do is have to unhook the trailer, then winch it out of a hole because you couldn't pull it out.

As far as MPG goes, my Ramcharger gets 7 wheeling in the snow with a lot of that either idling or full throttle runs to break trail.

It will get 8-9 on mild wheeling runs idling along all day then driving 50 miles each way back home.

On a long trip with the cruise set at 65 it will pull 11 as long as it's mostly flat.

That is with 35" mud pattern radials. With my 15.50 swampers on it you can cut 1 mpg off those numbers.

I've wheeled a lot of places with a lot of different types of rigs, and they all have their drawbacks. With 4 people, one dog, an ice chest and 2 duffle bags, I still have room for tools, spares, water, and enough room to go shopping for groceries or yard sales along the way. Try that in a smaller rig.

I had a Tacoma for awhile. It was nice and it wheeled good, but with more than 2 adults and a dog, it was full. Add 2 kids and life sucked. Same with a CJ jeep, or an FJ-40. A grand cherokee would be the smallest thing I would try to wheel with the family.

Aside from space, there are some things that other people have mentioned that are worth considering.

Fuel capacity is a big one. At 10 mpg, you can cover 350 miles with a 35 gallon tank. That is a long weekend in most places. At 15 mpg with a 20 gallon tank you can cover 300 miles. Not many smaller SUV's have more than a 20 gallon tank. That leaves you with carrying 3 gallons or so, just to get to the same range. As someone who has carried his share of gas all over the west, I can tell you that the gas can that doesn't stink or leak, is a rare animal. Definitely not something you can go to Walmart and buy. They also act as a big magnet for people with sticky fingers.

Drivetrain strength.

On paper a Dana 44 is the same as a 10 bolt give or take a little. In the real world, I've seen more broken 10 bolt differential parts and they have a lot smaller locker selection.

A 14 bolt full floater is indestructible under most street driven rigs, but it also hangs down making clearance a big issue. Yes it can be modified, but it will always hang down farther than a smaller diff axle. The metric 14 bolt is highly under rated by most wheelers. I've seen quite a few abused pretty hard and they didn't break with tires up to 35's on them driven like they were trying to kill it.

Limited slip differentials are something to consider. The Ford Sterling axle is a good axle, but the factory l/s is a trac lok piece of junk. Worthless if you lift a tire off the ground. The Dana 44, 60 and 70 axles can be had with a Power Lok l/s which will be stronger and due to it's design can be almost everything a locker can be, without the crappy handling issues or the clanging and banging. The GM Gov-Lok is another idea that is hit or miss. The newer ones seem to be a little better quality, but they still suffer from some quirks. You couldn't give me a 10 bolt with a Gov-Lok in it. The 14 bolt, even the metric one, isn't too bad, but it takes some getting used to and has to be treated like you can break it if you try. The other Eaton type GM l/s diff's work pretty well and with the carbon fiber clutches and upgraded springs, can be pretty decent in most mild wheeling applications.

Lockers aren't easily available for every axle out there either, so if you are looking for an ARB or E-Locker, choose wisely. The difference can be a couple hundred dollars between a common axle and one that is less common. Spline count is also an issue. In some cases, you have to upgrade shafts to get a locker that you want, which adds considerably to the complexity of a build.

Full floating vs Semi Floating rear axles. I would avoid the 28 spline GM 10 bolt, the Dana 35 or Aluminum Dana 44 like the plague for any wheeling with 35" tires, unless you like changing shafts and fixing things in bad spots. The Ford 8.8 and the regular Dana 44 rears are at the lower end of what I would allow under a heavy rig. A quick look at full size bronco forums will find plenty of 8.8 axles broken when wheeled with 35's. Those are the axles I see have the most problems in the Semi float arena. There could be others, but those are the ones that I see broken the most. I'm sure a lot of it is driver error or installer error, but whatever the issue, those are the ones I see on the side of the trail or road with a c-clip out, or a shaft snapped. I don't think I've ever seen a Ford 9.75, a Chrysler 9.25 or a Metric 14 bolt with an axle hanging out after a c-clip came off or the shaft broke. I'm not counting rock crawling, since you can break a ball bearing in a sandbox with the right person in charge.

Full floaters have their place, but they are heavy, which translates into slower speeds in the rough stuff and a worse ride on washboard roads. True, they are tougher, but they aren't the panacea everyone seems to think they are. It's also true that you can swap them to disc's to lighten the load, but that's more $$$ and you may lose the parking brake. Maintenance is also an issue. With some axles you can access the rear drums without pulling the hub, on others you have to pull the hub to get to the brakes. Not a huge issue, but drums have been know to lose a spring or have the nail pull out of the retainer on washboard roads, especially if they are older and not well maintained.


Just about any engine built since 1990 will be fairly reliable in design. All brands have their weak points. The Dodge TBI being a fairly reliable, but utterly gutless P.O.S. in my opinion. GM has a good TBI, but I'd take the Dodge magnum engines or a Ford FI over a TBI any day.

It's your choice. No auto with more than 100K miles can be counted on to perform without the chance of failure. No clutch with more than 100K miles will perform as new. Stay away from the Ford 1/2 tons with the 5 speed transmissions. Unless it's a swapped in ZF, it will be the Mazda P.O.S that is nothing but a paperweight in my experience. There is no need to have a TH-400 in anything that weighs less than 9K lbs. Up to that weight, the TH350 or the 700R4/ 4L60 will do the job just as well if built with modern components. The Ford E40D is almost as good as the old C-6, but with an overdrive. The Dodge 518/618 transmissions are pretty reliable as well.

O'h yeah, almost forgot in this book I just wrote. I wheel with all kinds of different rigs. The only places the smaller rigs go that I can't, is between trees and rocks. Otherwise, I usually do everything they do, but with more comfort at the expense of gas mileage.

Last edited by WILLD420; 02-01-2012 at 04:19 PM.
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