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Old 05-05-2019, 03:12 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Cost effective “best” crawler

Put this in newbie section because it will probably help newbies. So in your opinion what is the best road legal wheeler for the price with upgrades.

Essentially I’m curious of where is the sweet spot for a build. I would think a vehicle with a stock drive train, leads a 44/60 setup 37s lunch box locker/welded rear would be the cheapest most cost effective setup for a crawler that is still street legal.

What would u build for most cost effective but capable street legal wheeler. And for how much?
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Old 05-05-2019, 04:16 PM   #2 (permalink)
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while my current build is by no means the most cost effective route to go I know a few guys whose rigs may fit the bill.

1) suzuki samurai with toyota axles, lower gears and 33's. slow as hell but will go anywhere. I think he has about $5500 into everything
2)S10 with a hp30 and ford 8.8 33's, factory 5 speed and 4.3 v6, and he bobbed the bed a few inches. right around $7k so far
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Old 05-05-2019, 08:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
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For sure, I know there’s a bunch of wheelers u can build on a budget but those vehicles, for instance, would they wheel better with 35s or 37s? Is it worth the price jump over 33s?
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Old 05-05-2019, 10:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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For sure, I know there’s a bunch of wheelers u can build on a budget but those vehicles, for instance, would they wheel better with 35s or 37s? Is it worth the price jump over 33s?
Just depends on what you build. 31s on a samurai go about as far as 35s on an xj. I am a suzuki guy but I think the best bang for your buck would be a 98 grand Cherokee in streetable shape $2000.... welded rear..... $500 33s or 35s and trim what runs. Wheel it and fix/upgrade as you see fit.
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Old 05-05-2019, 10:50 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Just depends on what you build. 31s on a samurai go about as far as 35s on an xj. I am a suzuki guy but I think the best bang for your buck would be a 98 grand Cherokee in streetable shape $2000.... welded rear..... $500 33s or 35s and trim what runs. Wheel it and fix/upgrade as you see fit.
Those are definitely one of the cheapest 4x4s to aquire. I had one that ran and drove for $150 last year. Under $1000 is still common. The problem is that the drive train is made of glass. The cv axle shafts are about the same size as the tracker ones So all the money you saved on the rig will have to go to swapping axles.

I think if you just wanted to cram some 33-35s and have fun. I would look at Mitsubishi monteros, Isuzu 4x4s (rodeo, amigo, trooper, Honda passport, ect) maybe Nissans. Then you get the Japanese durability, but don't have to pay the Toyota tax.
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Old 05-06-2019, 04:11 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The most cost effective crawler is going to be any old shitbox sitting on a pair of tons from an '05+ superduty.

XJ, Explorer, doesn't matter, you're gonna want it on tons eventually.

Whatever you do don't be an idiot that pays a premium for a particular vehicle (yes, I know that basically rules out every Jeep with a folding windshield and all Toyotas). In the long run you're not buying a vehicle. Just a body and interior.

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Old 05-06-2019, 04:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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The most cost effective crawler is going to be any old shitbox sitting on a pair of tons from an '05+ superduty.

XJ, Explorer, doesn't matter, you're gonna want it on tons eventually.

Whatever you do don't be an idiot that pays a premium for a particular vehicle (yes, I know that basically rules out every Jeep with a folding windshield and all Toyotas). In the long run you're not buying a vehicle. Just a body and interior.
Why not just start with a truck?
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Old 05-06-2019, 04:56 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Why not just start with a truck?
Because to get a Superduty or any other fullsize truck to wheel like a XJ on Superduty axles is going to require more work and money than just sticking the axles under something smaller. To wheel well you need good approach/depature breakover angles. To get those in a fullsize truck requires big tires which means you need to put money into your axles. Then in order to not be dragging the body all over things (hint: your fenders put a lot less power to the ground than your tires do) you've either got to make the nose/tail narrow (massive PITA) or go wider ($$ on different axles). It's just so much easier to put tons under a slightly smaller vehicle.

Don't get me wrong, you can do it. It's just a heck of a lot more expensive. I had grand plans to build up my F150 then once I laid out all those plans on paper it became glaringly obvious that I could have something that wheels just as well for a fraction of the price and is more streetable by using the Ranger platform as my starting point.
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Old 05-06-2019, 05:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Because to get a Superduty or any other fullsize truck to wheel like a XJ on Superduty axles is going to require more work and money than just sticking the axles under something smaller. To wheel well you need good approach/depature breakover angles. To get those in a fullsize truck requires big tires which means you need to put money into your axles. Then in order to not be dragging the body all over things (hint: your fenders put a lot less power to the ground than your tires do) you've either got to make the nose/tail narrow (massive PITA) or go wider ($$ on different axles). It's just so much easier to put tons under a slightly smaller vehicle.

Don't get me wrong, you can do it. It's just a heck of a lot more expensive. I had grand plans to build up my F150 then once I laid out all those plans on paper it became glaringly obvious that I could have something that wheels just as well for a fraction of the price and is more streetable by using the Ranger platform as my starting point.


Its more expensive to add bigger tires to an F250/350 than it is to put 1 tons on an XJ and still be streetable? Do you even wheel bro?
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Old 05-06-2019, 06:38 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Its more expensive to add bigger tires to an F250/350 than it is to put 1 tons on an XJ and still be streetable? Do you even wheel bro?
That's not what I said. Please into reading comprehension. I said that dollar for dollar the fullsize rig will not wheel as well as the midsize rig. An XJ (or any other SUV about that size) on tons probably costs about $2-3k assuming you already have the XJ and some basic fab skills and equipment. That will then run circles around a hell of a lot of other rigs and if you keep the ride height and spring rates sane and toss on some garden flares it's streetable. To make a fullsize wheel as well as a rig like that it's gonna cost more money. Sure you already have big axles but they're not a silver bullet in a vehicle that size because you have a lot more weight to break things with.

Even ignoring axles just slapping tires and lockers on a fullsize does not get you something that nearly as well as slapping lockers and slightly smaller tires and lockers on a smaller vehicle.

Unless your idea of wheeling consists of getting road head from your sister while you hit the mud bog it's gonna take a lot more than tires to make an F250 wheel like a smaller vehicle on the same axles.

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Old 05-06-2019, 06:56 AM   #11 (permalink)
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That's not what I said. Please into reading comprehension. I said that dollar for dollar the fullsize rig will not wheel as well as the midsize rig. An XJ (or any other SUV about that size) on tons probably costs about $2-3k assuming you already have the XJ and some basic fab skills and equipment. That will then run circles around a hell of a lot of other rigs and if you keep the ride height and spring rates sane and toss on some garden flares it's streetable. To make a fullsize wheel as well as a rig like that it's gonna cost more money. Sure you already have big axles but they're not a silver bullet in a vehicle that size because you have a lot more weight to break things with.

Even ignoring axles just slapping tires and lockers on a fullsize does not get you something that nearly as well as slapping lockers and slightly smaller tires and lockers on a smaller vehicle.

Unless your idea of wheeling consists of getting road head from your sister while you hit the mud bog it's gonna take a lot more than tires to make an F250 wheel like a smaller vehicle on the same axles.

AKA no I dont wheel.
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Old 05-06-2019, 10:09 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I’m partial to Samurais but a solid axle swapped Toyota truck is very capable with a little work. Seems like the best option to me. XJ’s are what used to be the word on the street for cheap wheelers. but now they are all 20+ years old and aren’t littering the junkyards like they used to. Or so I think. Maybe an xj with superduty tons swapped would be most cost effective tough wheeler
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Old 05-06-2019, 10:28 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I think it really depends on what you can get in running/streetable condition stock form for the lowest price.

so, pick a budget and hit up craigslist.

next it depends on what you are trying to or area you are in. i think a 37" tire is a pretty solid 'max' for a daily driver/weekend crawler.

there is no need for dana 60s and 37" tires unless you are starting off with a fullsize truck. in that case, starting with a full size truck would be economical because it is pretty cheap to just start chopping away and saving weight and size

a 2door mini truck or sami on a 35" tire and a couple lockers will do just about everything the average high school or entry level person would want to do and MOST stock axle and suspension setups will handle that with minimal breakage of stock parts
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:39 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Those are definitely one of the cheapest 4x4s to aquire. I had one that ran and drove for $150 last year. Under $1000 is still common. The problem is that the drive train is made of glass. The cv axle shafts are about the same size as the tracker ones So all the money you saved on the rig will have to go to swapping axles.

I think if you just wanted to cram some 33-35s and have fun. I would look at Mitsubishi monteros, Isuzu 4x4s (rodeo, amigo, trooper, Honda passport, ect) maybe Nissans. Then you get the Japanese durability, but don't have to pay the Toyota tax.


I am probably way wrong but doesnt a 98 grand Cherokee with the 5.9 have a dana 44 in the front?
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Old 05-06-2019, 12:45 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I am probably way wrong but doesnt a 98 grand Cherokee with the 5.9 have a dana 44 in the front?
No, some don't even come with a 44 rear, and even then it's fucking aluminum
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Old 05-06-2019, 01:27 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I am probably way wrong but doesnt a 98 grand Cherokee with the 5.9 have a dana 44 in the front?
for a rather minimum amount of money and a decent ability to learn, it would be easy enough to put some dana 44's and any of the 8-10" rear axles that match for cheaper than buying super duty axles
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Old 05-06-2019, 01:58 PM   #17 (permalink)
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1. Stock height Track/Kick with some 235/75r15 retreads and welded in the rear.
2. 2-3” lifted Cherokee with 31-33s welded rear.
3. IFS Yota 31s welded.


There is my top 3.

The first two I had personally, both took a good beating and will learn you a lot about picking lines. The Yota my buddy ran for quite some time, on the limiter and momentum were his best friends. He surprised a lot of people in that rattlin raisin.
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Old 05-06-2019, 02:21 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Solid axle 1ton with zero regard to body panels and heavy use of the skinny pedal. Welded rear.

Corncerning lighter vehicles, once you cross the 31/33 threshold you really need to invest $3k+ or youre going to be the broken rig in the middle of the trail. Make/model doesnt matter.

Or $299 a month on a used rubicon like the rest of the posers.
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:34 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Go into the XJ section and read my build thread called Nillionaire.

Cut tons of weight. Create tons of clearance. Add some safety. Put some 35" stickies on it and run with the buggies.
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:46 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Go into the XJ section and read my build thread called Nillionaire.

Cut tons of weight. Create tons of clearance. Add some safety. Put some 35" stickies on it and run with the buggies.
DaFuk.....? There is an XJ section?....learn something new er'day!

Straight axle Toyota gets my vote for cheap and street legal on a platform that usually keeps more than you throw away. Best aftermarket support.
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:07 AM   #21 (permalink)
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DaFuk.....? There is an XJ section?....learn something new er'day!

Straight axle Toyota gets my vote for cheap and street legal on a platform that usually keeps more than you throw away. Best aftermarket support.
He said road worthy so as long as there is no hills or interstate a Toyota would be great.
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:16 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Go into the XJ section and read my build thread called Nillionaire.

Cut tons of weight. Create tons of clearance. Add some safety. Put some 35" stickies on it and run with the buggies.


Newbie and building that thing do not go hand in hand.
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Old 05-07-2019, 09:53 AM   #23 (permalink)
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He said road worthy so as long as there is no hills or interstate a Toyota would be great.
I always laugh when I see guys in climbing Donner at 40 mph in the slow lane getting passed by truckers in their "built Toyota's" headed for Fordyce/Rubicon.....

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Old 05-07-2019, 11:32 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Newbie and building that thing do not go hand in hand.
I built a full tube buggy at 15 years old, not knowing a god damn thing. I'm pretty sure anyone with a bit of thinking power and physical ability can pull off a similar rig.

I have a friend who bought one of those shitty weld in cage kits He chopped the whole roof off level with the floor. I boat sided the jeep after plaiting the frame. Then he bought one of my stubby bumpers and I tied the front into it. Chopped out the inner fenters. Swapped in a cheap plastic fuel cell and moved the battery to the back. Then he bolted on a 3" rough country lift kit and a HD steering kit from someone. He has bone stock axles with factory shafts and gears. Welded spiders. The Jeep is on 38" TSL's and MRW double beadlocks. He runs 0psi in the rear and 3psi up front.

Little beater goes everywhere. Cost him about $5k.
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Old 05-07-2019, 12:02 PM   #25 (permalink)
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I built a full tube buggy at 15 years old, not knowing a god damn thing. I'm pretty sure anyone with a bit of thinking power and physical ability can pull off a similar rig.

I have a friend who bought one of those shitty weld in cage kits He chopped the whole roof off level with the floor. I boat sided the jeep after plaiting the frame. Then he bought one of my stubby bumpers and I tied the front into it. Chopped out the inner fenters. Swapped in a cheap plastic fuel cell and moved the battery to the back. Then he bolted on a 3" rough country lift kit and a HD steering kit from someone. He has bone stock axles with factory shafts and gears. Welded spiders. The Jeep is on 38" TSL's and MRW double beadlocks. He runs 0psi in the rear and 3psi up front.

Little beater goes everywhere. Cost him about $5k.
Well yer a homo prodigy, not sure what else to say



edit: OP said ROAD WORTHY. Yer talking hillbilly Cherocrawler.
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