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Old 12-01-2017, 08:30 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Donor truck recommendations for Willy's P/U truck body swap???

Looking for recommendations as to what truck should donate it's frame and drivetrain for a vintage Willy's P/U truck body swap???

I was initially leaning toward a 1993-2002 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 w/5.9L Cummins engine and manual transmission, but that's like a unicorn before you even start trying to narrow the choices down to a single cab with a short bed (trying to get the wheelbases close'ish) or something that you won't have to trade your first born for. . .

. . .still leaning slightly towards a Dodge Ram 4x4, but I may have to stick with a gas engine for a while and do a Cummins swap later down the line. I was thinking about gas engine though and if I'm gonna have a gas engine I'm thinking it would probably be better to get a Chevy that already has an LS drivetrain. I could be happy for a LONG time with an LS for an engine. . .may never decide to go with a diesel.

Ideally it would be something that had enough of them on the road that I could find a truck that has been cosmetically totaled, but still has a good frame/drivetrain.

So what would you suggest as an affordable donor 4x4 platform with an EFI engine and a decent suspension platform to start off with. . .that way I can do just a body swap and enjoy the truck for a while before wanting/needing to tackle suspension/drivetrain upgrades.

Thanks. . .looking forward to hearing what you guys recommend and why!
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Old 12-01-2017, 08:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 12-01-2017, 08:37 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I don't think you will be disappointed with a gas dodge engine. why the preference for LS over everything else?

What are you planning on doing with it?
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Old 12-01-2017, 08:54 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Honestly...... Replicate the frame with square tube, toss in whatever engine and drivetrain combo you want. LS/4L60/np205(Ford) with HPD44/D60, 3-link and coil spring front, leaf spring rear. Pretty cheap and easy combo that will push a Willys around pretty well. Would probably be less hassle to do it that way than deal with reinventing an OEM chassis to make to the dimensionally smaller Willys....
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:58 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Honestly...... Replicate the frame with square tube, toss in whatever engine and drivetrain combo you want. LS/4L60/np205(Ford) with HPD44/D60, 3-link and coil spring front, leaf spring rear. Pretty cheap and easy combo that will push a Willys around pretty well. Would probably be less hassle to do it that way than deal with reinventing an OEM chassis to make to the dimensionally smaller Willys....
That's an option, but as I see it the time to make sure your suspensions geometry is correct and cutting, fitting, welding a custom frame, then making link armss (which admittedly building the link arms doesn't take that long if you are going with DOM links, but the link arms are probably the easiest part of a project like that), figuring out where to put the motor, welding in motor mounts, transmission mounts, getting adapters, sourcing the engine/trans/transfer case, new driveshafts, sourcing steering components, getting the steering laid out to cooperate with the suspension all would take WAY longer than it would to weld new body mounts onto an OEM frame and modify the firewall and floorboard to fit a rolling chassis.

The Willy's P/U cab and bed is so simple they could be mounted to anything with super simple body mounts. . .I've built two buggies from scratch and that's not really my goal here. My goal is to have a reliable, fun to drive vehicle with a modern drivetrain and vintage looks. . .something that I can drive to and from fun-runs and not worry about. I've currently got a couple other projects that have been long-term builds because of the amount of custom work involved and that's not really the goal here.

I've seen the Willy's P/U on the TJ frame in one of the magazines and that's kinda what got me thinking. . .Jeeps in my area are not cheap though (or they are completely wrecked) which is why I don't just replicate what they did (which included and engine swap, blah, blah, blah). . .I just want to drop a vintage body on a modern chassis (I know it's not going to be without problems, but I've been there and done that with custom builds and I'm not interested in that particular headache right now).
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Old 12-01-2017, 10:03 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I don't think you will be disappointed with a gas dodge engine. why the preference for LS over everything else?

What are you planning on doing with it?
I know more about the LS platform from dealing with cars than I do about the Chrysler engines. . .that's the only reason behind that.

Goals. . .vintage looks combined with modern reliability; initially it will be something fun and reliable to drive to and from mild trail rides. . .something that I know will get there and back without (reasonably speaking) problems and that will be easy to find parts for. . .the more modern 4x4's have so much aftermarket suspension support (for whatever you want to do whether that's rock-crawling or desert-racing) it just seems silly to re-invent the wheel right now.

I'm sure that I will want to take the truck farther eventually, but right now I just want something fun and reliable without having to spend a year collecting parts and then another year trying to figure out how to put them all together only to take it all apart because I learned new stuff and realize that what I did at the beginning is sub-par. . .so an OEM rolling chassis seems to be the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to achieve this.
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Old 12-01-2017, 10:09 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm not entirely new to the game, but up until this last year I haven't had a newer truck (got a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 with the 5.9 Cummins last February and I LOVE it) ever. . .so really I'm just looking for platform suggestions based on input from those with experience with those platforms. . .

. . .you know like, hey the GM's have great engines, and the IFS front end rides really well, but here is the weak link of the IFS front end. Or, I would recommend a 19XX-2XXX blah, blah, blah, but stay away from this engine or this transmission or look for one with this combination. Stuff like that. . .I'm just not familiar enough with newer trucks to know what people have gravitated toward or shied away from for whatever reason.

I started with looking for a Ram 2500 4x4 because that is what I currently have and it's been a great truck; I mentioned a GM truck because I know how great the LS engines are. No one truck is all pro's and no con's, but it would be nice to know what those pro's/con's are so I can decide what I would like to get based on my goals.
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Old 12-01-2017, 11:19 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Local guy put one on an S-10 frame. Looked pretty good IMO.
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Old 12-01-2017, 06:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Been years but...
I was gunna do a swap on my 62 truck
Iirc
Mid 70's -80's chevy , possibly a shortbed . Chassis
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Old 12-01-2017, 10:12 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Been years but...
I was gunna do a swap on my 62 truck
Iirc
Mid 70's -80's chevy , possibly a shortbed . Chassis
That's a terribly weak frame.

Not that the second gen Dodge Ram has a great frame, but it's miles ahead of the squarebody GM trucks.


If OP uses a second gen Dodge frame then keep in mind the rear suspension is built totally wrong, and the front suspension sucks, even at ride height, and gets way worse if you lift it. I'm in the midst of trying to figure out the best way to unfuck my 2nd gen Dodge chassis/Jeep truck thing.

I could tell you what the wheelbase is of the various Dodge chassis if you want (Wikipedia does not list them correctly), but I can tell you right now they are all too long for a Willys truck. Also, the position of the front axle relative to the length of the frame will quite possibly not play well with what you're trying to do, Dodge put a lot of frame in front of the axle as they needed to fit a long I6 engine, rad, intercooler, etc in there. It may be fine, but you may find you have to mount the body a lot higher on it than you want and the front crossmember will still be sticking out a long ways.
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Old 12-02-2017, 09:01 AM   #11 (permalink)
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1/2 ton short bed single cab dodge should be dirt cheap... a 1997 or earlier f150 would probably be cheaper. The ttg front end on the Ford works really well but a sas using a 70s front end is only a 1 day project and mostly bolt in.

If it was me though I'd do something stupid like an ss trail blazer with a 6.2. 2000ish escalades with the 6.0 are also getting cheap.
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Old 12-02-2017, 10:34 AM   #12 (permalink)
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My avatar truck was dropped on a '95 F350 by the PO. 351/e4od/D60/Sterling/leafs. I'm happy with it. Parts availability is fine, though not as good as the '76 Chevy K20 I had. The frame was sectioned two places to match, and the firewall got chopped up.

Why diesel? Unless you tow heavy, they just seem like an expensive PITA.

Why Dodge? I've never had one, but my buddy has, and parts seemed really expensive ($300 starter!) and harder to find used.
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Old 12-05-2017, 11:54 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Been years but...
I was gunna do a swap on my 62 truck
Iirc
Mid 70's -80's chevy , possibly a shortbed . Chassis
I was wanting to stay newer than this. . .preferably mid 90's at the latest. . .

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That's a terribly weak frame.

Not that the second gen Dodge Ram has a great frame, but it's miles ahead of the squarebody GM trucks.


If OP uses a second gen Dodge frame then keep in mind the rear suspension is built totally wrong, and the front suspension sucks, even at ride height, and gets way worse if you lift it. I'm in the midst of trying to figure out the best way to unfuck my 2nd gen Dodge chassis/Jeep truck thing.

I could tell you what the wheelbase is of the various Dodge chassis if you want (Wikipedia does not list them correctly), but I can tell you right now they are all too long for a Willys truck. Also, the position of the front axle relative to the length of the frame will quite possibly not play well with what you're trying to do, Dodge put a lot of frame in front of the axle as they needed to fit a long I6 engine, rad, intercooler, etc in there. It may be fine, but you may find you have to mount the body a lot higher on it than you want and the front crossmember will still be sticking out a long ways.
Great info. . .thank you for that!!!

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1/2 ton short bed single cab dodge should be dirt cheap... a 1997 or earlier f150 would probably be cheaper. The tv front end on the Ford works really well but a sad using a 70s front is only a 1 day project and mostly bolt in.

If it was me though I'd do something stupid like an ss trail blazer with a 6.2. 2000ish escalades with the 6.0 are also getting cheap.
What do you mean by "TV front end"? Was that a typo for TTB? or are you talking after the switch to IRS?

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My avatar truck was dropped on a '95 F350 by the PO. 351/e4od/D60/Sterling/leafs. I'm happy with it. Parts availability is fine, though not as good as the '76 Chevy K20 I had. The frame was sectioned two places to match, and the firewall got chopped up.
Good to know. . .

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Why diesel? Unless you tow heavy, they just seem like an expensive PITA.

Why Dodge? I've never had one, but my buddy has, and parts seemed really expensive ($300 starter!) and harder to find used.
I was initially thinking Dodge because I already have one and I'm getting familiar with it. . .as far as diesel I was initially thinking reliability, durability, and mileage; but the weight (and cost) was really giving me second thoughts. . .once I started thinking maybe gas I know the F-150 and Chevy 1500/Silverado's have great aftermarket support (and I know the LS engine has proven to be an AMAZING engine with lots of support). I was initially leaning towards the Chevy because of the engine. . .I was leaning toward a 2500/3500 (250/350) because of the heavier duty frame. The Chevy has IFS for their HD's which would be cool, but could end up costing more and taking longer. . .solid axles are relatively simple.
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Old 12-05-2017, 11:57 AM   #14 (permalink)
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If we narrow the field a little now. . .would you guys choose a half-ton as the donor (cost is MUCH cheaper) or would you choose an HD platform for the beefier frame, axles, and potentially transmissioin?

If it's a half-ton then they are all IFS now, but if you would choose the HD chassis. . .solid axle (Ford, Dodge) or a Chevy (IFS)?

Thanks again for the input. . .the last string of comments were quite helpful in confirming what I was kind of already thinking.
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Old 12-05-2017, 12:24 PM   #15 (permalink)
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What's the goal of this? A nice driver, tow rig, wheeling rig, looks good in a picture?

The GM IFS is reasonably tough for road use, and rides nice. Beyond that it sucks.

Ford Superduty has better axles than the comparable Dodge generations, but otherwise is something of a wash, save for the 2nd gen having such shitty rear suspension.

SASing a 1/2 chassis might make sense for a wheeling rig, as it would probably be a good compromise of strength and weight.

If you're just cruising around I'd totally drop it on a GM half ton chassis with a 5.3 and use as much of the GM stuff as possible.
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Old 12-05-2017, 03:39 PM   #16 (permalink)
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What's the goal of this? A nice driver, tow rig, wheeling rig, looks good in a picture?

The GM IFS is reasonably tough for road use, and rides nice. Beyond that it sucks.

Ford Superduty has better axles than the comparable Dodge generations, but otherwise is something of a wash, save for the 2nd gen having such shitty rear suspension.

SASing a 1/2 chassis might make sense for a wheeling rig, as it would probably be a good compromise of strength and weight.

If you're just cruising around I'd totally drop it on a GM half ton chassis with a 5.3 and use as much of the GM stuff as possible.
The initial goal is to get a project vehicle that has been sitting idle for too long up and running. . .so initially a nice driver that would be able to comfortably go on a fun run. . .

. . .down the road that could evolve. I recently saw the "Trophy Rat" and it immediately reminded me of my project. . .that would be cool in the long run, but maybe more like an Ultra4 styled pre-runner. . .like a rock-runner vs. a prerunner (purely talking out loud here). . .

. . .but again I just want to get it up and running, functional, reliable, and fun as quickly, with as little headache (and cash output. . .not cheap necessarily, but an efficient use of cash output) as possible.

I'm thinking you're probably right about throwing it on a GM with an LS. . .it's a great starting point and has a TON aftermarket support.
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Old 12-07-2017, 05:21 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Fixed my typos.... I'll try to just re write it a little better...

The motors are the only advantage the gm platform has but anything can be changed.... I would go dodge because you can still get a decent motor with decent axles (already solid axle on coils) and they are cheap.

Second would be a Bronco or f150 chassis... the 5.0 motor has a ton of support, they can be found with a 9inch rear and a great ifs platform to expand on or do a 1 day swap with a late 70s Ford front Dana 44.
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Old 12-09-2017, 03:08 PM   #18 (permalink)
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One of the TV shows (forget which one) did a swap and dropped it on a K5 Blazer chassis. Obviously had to make mounts to fit, while the Axles are a bit wide for places that ticket for tires outside the wheel tubs. And not the strongest frame by far.

Supposedly the wheelbase is the same, but don't take my word for it, I never tried it. Like I said..just saw it on TV and you know how much they leave out on those shows to make it look easy.

I don't think a 5.9 AND a radiator will fit in that engine bay...every Cummins swap I've see on those has been the 4Bt. And those cabs are small to start with so no legroom to begin with before you'd be moving firewall back to make it fit.

I'd start getting accurate measurements....you will find yourself eliminating stuff that way.
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Old 12-12-2017, 02:46 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Fixed my typos.... I'll try to just re write it a little better...

The motors are the only advantage the gm platform has but anything can be changed.... I would go dodge because you can still get a decent motor with decent axles (already solid axle on coils) and they are cheap.

Second would be a Bronco or f150 chassis... the 5.0 motor has a ton of support, they can be found with a 9inch rear and a great ifs platform to expand on or do a 1 day swap with a late 70s Ford front Dana 44.
Bronco's are CHEAP too. . .you can find them all the time; I've always like them so I can't believe I didn't think of that.

I'm gonna check on that wheelbase now to see how close it is. . .TONS of parts for those things too!!!
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Old 12-12-2017, 02:58 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Just checked out the wheelbases and from the 2nd-Gen on up the wheelbases match the Willy's P/U wheelbase with less than an inch difference. . .that will make things a LOT easier.

Great suggestion. . .cheap, reliable truck that is SUPER easy to find. . .solid axle for the 2nd-Gen or go TTB or SAS on a 3rd-Gen or newer, fuel injected engines with TONS of parts and support, TONS of suspension and steering parts. . .I think this is a GO!!!

Thanks 2BigBronco!
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Old 12-12-2017, 03:23 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Why Dodge? I've never had one, but my buddy has, and parts seemed really expensive ($300 starter!) and harder to find used.
You realize dodge(or anyone) doesn't make their own parts and there's only a handful of electrical suppliers?
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Old 12-13-2017, 10:18 AM   #22 (permalink)
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how wide is the cab on a willys? some of those newer truck frames are quite wide. I know my friend dropped an early 50's international onto a mid 80's square suburban frame and I guess it was fairly close.
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Old 12-13-2017, 10:47 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Just thinking out loud but i don't think it's too hard to drop an ls motor in the frame set up, and I'm thinking the size would be close to the 13 letter shit spreader....... buddy was willing to give up the awesome doody cycle for a sbc though.
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Old 12-13-2017, 10:50 AM   #24 (permalink)
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how wide is the cab on a willys? some of those newer truck frames are quite wide. I know my friend dropped an early 50's international onto a mid 80's square suburban frame and I guess it was fairly close.
Not sure, I'll measure when I get home. . .I know the bed is flush with the stock frame rails though. I'll check compare the cab width with the frame rail width (once I find it).
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Old 12-13-2017, 11:12 AM   #25 (permalink)
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I was able to find a factory drawing of a 1992 Bronco Frame (.pdf of pages of a Ford Body Builder's Book) and the Bronco Frame is 37.55" wide at it's widest point (this is the rear of the frame. . .straight frame rails); it is 34.57" wide at its narrowest point (somewhere around the front of the cab from the looks of it). . .it is wider in front of the cab than the rear frame rails, but that is the engine bay. . .probably not an issue.

This should be very doable. . .
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