Project Jeep Therapy: Axles
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By: Jeff Layton - 5/2000

Frame with axles under it
Currie front Dana 44
Dana 44 knuckle reinforcement
Dana 44 tie rod and drag link ends
Dana 60 shafts with 5 on 5.5" wheel bolt pattern
Check out the difference in thickness!
Differential covers, thick and thin.
ARB installed

Last episode we spent forever welding up a frame suitable for a tank. Still, the bare frame was a far cry from looking like a Jeep, and the ongoing delay in getting this project into high gear was beginning to take its toll on my motivation. Time for some real parts.

In episode two, I had sold off the front Dana 30 and rear AMC 20 axles - as good a place as any to start. Initially, after doing months of research on how to fab up a front Dana 44 from junkyard parts, I acquired a complete Dana 44 front axle from a ’79 Wagoneer and also the axle shafts from the front of a ’76 Scout. Also thrown into the mix was a spare set of CJ Dana 30 knuckles, 1980 CJ 6-bolt hubs, and new disc brake rotors and Warn premium 6-bolt lockout hubs. My intention was to get the housing and shafts narrowed locally to my specifications and fill the pumpkin with gears and a locker later. I would soon find this plan left a bit to be desired.

The first step in fabbing a home-made Dana 44 was to get the measurements off my Dana 30. Fortunately I had acquired the Dana 44 parts before hocking off my Dana 30 and began measuring for the coming front beef. Using a large piece of cardboard on the garage floor as a template, I began dropping plumb lines to mark overall width and pinion locations. After several attempts, none of my measurements agreed with the ones I had obtained from my research. Plus, I couldn’t get decent angular measurements: pinion-to-spring pad angle, spring pad-to-knuckle (caster) angle, etc. So, I looked to the local axle shops for advice….only I found out there weren’t any local axle shops that could (would?) do the work. Oops. Sooo, since I needed to ship off the axle for the machine work, and I couldn’t get the measurements to send to a shop anyway, I decided to contact the Experts.

Dynatrac, Currie, and Tri-County were called to see if they’d take on a partially-completed (OK, barely started) job like mine. Given no measurements and the Dana 44 core, Currie was most willing, so off the axle went, via the UPS man…in 3 or 4 boxes, including the extra steering knuckles to be re-tapered to allow tie rods to be mounted on top. All I had to specify was "factory wide-track measurements".

Currie did an excellent job, including this trick 3/8" knuckle reinforcing plate (shown with the axle upside down). While it was at their shop, I had Currie install a set of 4.56 gears and ARB Air Locker. They also machined the cast-in spring pad for proper pinion angle and cut and welded the knuckles for proper caster angle. I reassembled the axle, knuckles, hubs and rotors, and threw on these heavy-duty Chrome-moly Currie tie rods, now mounted on top.

Having just gone through the hassle of trying to make my own front axle, I decided to use the easy method of rear axle beef: I ordered one. I had chosen a Dana 60 rear over the Ford 9-inch due to the 9-inch’s lower pinion and my CJ’s short wheelbase. This, plus an extra portion of steel in the axle shaft diameter and ring gear diameter were the selling points for me. Again, I got on the phone and called Currie, Dynatrac and Tri-County. This time Tri-County was chosen, as they provided the best cost quote. According to some of the competition, this may be due to the use of reconditioned housing and tubes, but I wasn’t concerned about that - much of this Jeep was bought from a salvage yard anyway.

The Dana 60 from Tri-County arrived quite unlike the Dana 44 from Currie. Although both were strapped to a pallet, the Currie axle also came in a box and sitting on wooden blocks; Tri-County’s was just strapped in, and the shipping labels were stuck right to the axle. Fortunately the quality of the work looked better than the packaging.

The diff cover, however, was a different story. Maybe I was spoiled though, by the genuine Dana cover on my front 44 - very thick and stout. The rear cover shipped by Tri-County was a genuine Taiwan chrome special. With a little research at my local Dodge dealer, I found a Dana cover from the front of a mid-80’s truck for about $35.

Here’s a shot of the center section, complete with ARB. With the axles parked under the frame, it was time to look for a motor...

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