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Old 08-19-2015, 12:17 PM   #1
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Build 4x4 in stages?

In a previous life when I owned a Jeep TJ I used to drool over the Quadratec catalogs on the regular. One thing that always appealed to me was their "Stage" build examples. Anyone familiar with the catalogs knows that they usually show Stage 1/Stage 2/Stage 3 build outs. Stage 1 was usually a 2" budget boost lift with the largest tires that could be accommodated and some fender flares, Stage 2 was likely a short arm suspension lift with bigger tires(35's), larger fender flares, and a winch bumper, and then Stage 3 was the full blown rock crawler stage.

What I would like to know is if anyone has or has thought about doing this with the Ford vans. The reason I ask is that in doing some research it seems like it could be done. From what I understand, UJOINT uses existing Ford components so theoretically couldn't he build a van up to a 4x4 over time? For example starting with a stock van, the stages might look like this:

1) Upgrade rear axle to LSD
2) Add a lift kit(Camburg/Action Van/Etc...) and larger tires
3) Add front axle that would accomodate a front locking differential configuration
4) Send to 4x4 shop to link front and rear axles via xfer case and fully setup/tune the suspension.

Could this be done? Do the 4x2 lift kits get tossed out completely when going to 4x4 or if the right parts are put in over time could they be reused? Would it be a complete waste of money to build the van up in stages? I would hate to spend $5-6K on building up a 4x2 just to then turn around and rip all that stuff out and spend $12-15K on a 4x4 kit. However, if I was shown a path to get to the 4x4 stage, I could add the correct parts over time and each step of the way make the van more and more capable. Then I could either get to a point that I don't feel that I need to add more ability to the van and I could stop upgrading(I know, I know, not very likely ) or when it was time to go to 4x4 I already had 80-90% of the parts on the van that I needed and the jump to 4x4 wouldn't be so drastic.

I have read many discussions about how far out there a 4x2 can get, and it would be nice to explore the limits of a capable 4x2, at a reduced cost, first and then truly decide if 4x4 is needed based on experience. Then at that point, financially, I don't have that much farther to go to get the 4x4 system completed.

Thoughts?
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Old 08-19-2015, 12:46 PM   #2
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Re: Build 4x4 in stages?

UJOINT is the only vendor offering the DIY guy a way to convert their van in stages. If you ultimately want to have a 4x4 van, then you should not get a Camburg or Action Van lift as those pieces will not be used in the conversion. Instead, you would buy UJOINT's conversion kit and a front axle. Once you install those components, then you could run around in your van in 2wd. When you have more funds/time to put into the van, then you would get the transfer case, transmission output shaft, front drive shaft, modify the gas tank, etc.

If you could find a front axel locally, that will save you money over buying a rebuilt one from UJOINT. Although, I've read some threads where people rebuild a local one and end up spending close to what a fresh rebuilt UJOINT axel would cost.
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Old 08-19-2015, 03:11 PM   #3
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Re: Build 4x4 in stages?

Ramsey told me a while back that he would do just the front suspension too.

Leaving you time to do XCase and driveshafts, fuel tank etc...

I wouldn't bother with a camburg or action van kit either. I've added a rear leaf, and am adding Moog CC880s springs to my front to give me a bit more clearance. If I ever decided to go 4x4, the leafs will stay and the springs are only $100.
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Old 08-19-2015, 03:25 PM   #4
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Re: Build 4x4 in stages?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waterski02
Ramsey told me a while back that he would do just the front suspension too.

Leaving you time to do XCase and driveshafts, fuel tank etc...
^^^Dang, I wish I would have known this!

If you do end up getting a Camburg or Action Van lift because you want the look, you could always sell those components if you decide to go with 4x4. Used lifts for these vans rarely come up for sale and when they do, people snatch them up quick.

As much as I wanted 4x4 for my van, I couldn't justify the expense for speculative usage. I went with the Camburg setup for a cleaner look over the Action Van bracket drop.
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Old 08-19-2015, 03:33 PM   #5
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Re: Build 4x4 in stages?

The bulk of the Ujoint kit cost is in the front axle it seems. So if I am gonna do the front axle I am gonna need the front springs, and once I get lifted front springs I am gonna have to lift the rear end, and next thing you know I have pretty much installed the entire 4x4 kit so that one doesn't really seem like a step by step process it seems more like I would be better off just doing it all at once. Maybe I am missing something there.

Well then maybe this:

Quote:
I've added a rear leaf, and am adding Moog CC880s springs to my front to give me a bit more clearance.
to allow larger tires and get a little better ground clearance and a LSD/True Trac in the rear diff for added traction then from there go straight to 4x4 vs spending the money on Camburg/Action Van.

Just looking to see if there is a a good middle step before full 4x4.
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Old 08-19-2015, 03:39 PM   #6
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Re: Build 4x4 in stages?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben10281
The bulk of the Ujoint kit cost is in the front axle it seems. So if I am gonna do the front axle I am gonna need the front springs, and once I get lifted front springs I am gonna have to lift the rear end, and next thing you know I have pretty much installed the entire 4x4 kit so that one doesn't really seem like a step by step process it seems more like I would be better off just doing it all at once. Maybe I am missing something there.
I spent some time talking with Chris (UJOINT) in length trying to figure out what was the right approach for me with my '93 RWD van. The axle, front and rear springs are the easy part. It's the transmission, transfer case, shafts and fuel cell that take the biggest bulk of the time. The axles and springs you can do in your driveway over a weekend or two - the others, no so much - doable, but much tougher IMHO.
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Old 08-19-2015, 03:56 PM   #7
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Re: Build 4x4 in stages?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben10281
The bulk of the Ujoint kit cost is in the front axle it seems. So if I am gonna do the front axle I am gonna need the front springs, and once I get lifted front springs I am gonna have to lift the rear end, and next thing you know I have pretty much installed the entire 4x4 kit so that one doesn't really seem like a step by step process it seems more like I would be better off just doing it all at once. Maybe I am missing something there.

Just looking to see if there is a a good middle step before full 4x4.
The kit includes front and rear springs, shocks, etc. The stage 1 front axel is around $3,000. You could save money by finding a front axel from a salvage yard or CL. Install it and run it as is since nothing will be connected. The UJOINT website tells you which axel you need.

The hard part (as audisnapr mentioned above) is the actual 4wd components that need to be installed, made, or modified. I would think the gas tank modification is probably the hardest part or the transmission tailshaft (?) for the DIY guy. If you have the 5R110, then apparently its a pretty easy bolt on/bolt off process, but if you have the 4R100, you have to take the transmission apart.

Since this kit allows you to basically have a working van with the front axel installed and all the components from the kit, that's why its considered being able to do it in stages. You can install the transfer case, shifter, drive shaft, etc. at a later date when you have the funds and/or time to get to it. In the mean time, you can keep driving your van.

If you decide to just level the front, you would just need either new springs for the front or a "puck" type spacer. The rear doesn't get touched since its already higher. I think most people run 265's with the leveling kit. Another member just bought the Moog cc880s springs to lift the front of his van, but he only netted about 1" of lift. I think others have reported about 1.5" of lift.
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Old 08-19-2015, 07:56 PM   #8
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Re: Build 4x4 in stages?

You guys explained it as good or if not better than I could!

We've had many many guys over the years do the conversions in stages. Even here, I did my 1st van like this too. Yes the tough parts are the transmission & fuel tank mods. We do offer a complete tank and I'm working on a new kit for the 4R70/75 transmissions to make that easier. Still has to be torn down but some guys have had issues with transmission shops not willing to think outside the box.
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