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Loren Squire's '99 Dakota 3/4 Ton Short Cuts

By: John Nutter - 9/2000

Loren Squires '99 Dakota with F250 axles

What can you do about an IFS equipped 4x4 that won't hold up to trail use? Loren Squires found the answer with the help of Dave and Bob at Ken's 4x4.

Photo by: Janet Nutter
The nearly finished Dakota. The bumper was left off to show the frame brackets for the leaf springs.
Photo by: Dave Niles
Bob starts the disassembley.
Photo by: John Nutter
Some of the IFS parts that were removed.
Photo by: John Nutter
More of the IFS parts that were removed.
Photo by: John Nutter
Bare frame rails before they were cleaned up.
Photo by: John Nutter
The frame rails didn't drop far enough originally, so they were built down using heavy steel tubing and plates.
Photo by: John Nutter
Test fitting the front spring hangers, early in the process.
Photo by: John Nutter
The front Dana 44 in the process of being cleaned and rebuilt with Chevy 8-bolt outers.
Photo by: John Nutter
Clean frame rails, ready for the fabrication to begin.
Photo by: John Nutter
Test fitting the front spring hangers again.
Photo by: John Nutter
The frame rails were notched and a pocket boxed into them to carry the shackles for the front springs.
Photo by: John Nutter
Part way through gusseting the front spring hangers.
Photo by: John Nutter
The nearly finished front suspension.
Photo by: John Nutter
The F250 Dana 60 fits the Dakota like it was made for it.
Photo by: John Nutter
A view of the front end from underneath.
Photo by: John Nutter
Notice the round tubing added to the skid plate to allow clearance for the driveshaft at full droop.
Photo by: John Nutter
This view shows driveshaft clearance at full droop.
Photo by: John Nutter
Testing the suspension.
Photo by: John Nutter
27" of vertical suspension travel before any fine tuning. Much more is possible.
Photo by: John Nutter
The rear flexes as well as the front.
Photo by: John Nutter
Photo by: John Nutter

Loren's tale of IFS woe began nearly a year ago. He had purchased one of the first lift kits available for the '99 Dakota, as detailed in the Previous Feature, but soon learned that it was just not up to even mild off-roading. On the first outing the lift bracketry was seriously bent from a mild encounter with a stump. Loren set about fixing and beefing the IFS components, but at the 2000 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab he realized that he was fighting a losing battle. Somewhere in Pritchett canyon, Loren tore the bracketery for the upper right A-Arm nearly completely from the truck. He was able to winch it into place and a passerby with an on-board welder stuck the brackets to the frame well enough to get him back to camp. That evening the speculation of which axles and springs to use for the solid axle swap began.

Back home in Minnesota, the guys at Ken's knew exactly what to do to add in the durability that Loren required. A solid axle swap with leaf springs was in order for a truck of this size. A reverse rotation Dana 44 front axle and a Dana 60 rear from a '79 F250 were selected for the swap. The front springs from a solid axle Chevy would provide the load carrying capacity and flexibilty that Loren required. The guys at Ken's have built several custom suspension and performed 2wd to 4wd conversions. Building brakets to hang a solid axle from the front of the Dakota's frame wasn't a problem for them.

The results are impressive. Without any tuning of the suspenion and with brand new springs, the Dakota showed 27" of vertical suspension travel at both ends. The Dakota should gain several more inches of articulation with some fine tuning, moving a couple of brackets, and trail time to break in the springs. Unfortunatley, the Dakota wasn't fully finished as of this writing (8/31/00), but the results look promising.


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