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Is there anywhere we can see more of that motorcycle you built?
It looks amazing
Here’s a couple links:



So over the time I've owned the van I've put on about 60,000 miles so far. That marked the end of the BFG tires and I'm impressed with the mileage that I got by rotating the spare into the mix but it was time for a change. Ever since I've seen these vans I've loved the proportions and look and 35's always looked "right" but 37's look righter. I've avoided them because of the issues I've had but I figured it was time.



I decided to try an Mud Terrain tire and went with the Maxxis Razor's as I've heard a lot of good things about them and I didn't want to use the Toyo's or BFG's that are typically run. Also, they're supposed to be lighter.


Unfortunately when I built the spare mount I cut it very close for the 35's and the right door ended up hitting the tire by 1/2"





I ended up cutting the one vertical bar in a way that I could just slice out a wedge and tip the mount over.


While the wedge was pretty simply it made the other side extremely wonky with many compound cuts and lots of fiddly grinding.


When we test fit it the door cleared but the spare was not quite square to the back of the body...


I cut one of the tacks and then tipped it slightly to get the alignment correct and tacked it back with a slight gap I was confident I could fill.



I final welded the rack back and then primed and repainted the rack. The Duplicolor Bedliner has proven to be very durable so while it's a pain in but to spray it works.


The old tires were 98lbs and these are 114lbs so not a huge increase but lifting the spare up that high is a two person job. When I do the roof rack I might look at incorporating a lift of some kind but it's not a thing I do much.


It's high and tight and still keeps the taillights visible - a pet peeve of mine with most spare racks.


No beauty shots as I haven't had a chance to get out of town but so far the tires aren't too loud, have better wet grip than the BFG's they replaced and they look great. I get a tiny amount of rub on the back fender of the rears so I'll see about clearancing that. Otherwise I'm pretty happy and think it really kicks the look up a bit.


There are precious few ladders available for our vans - basically the expensive side ladder from Aluminess and some off brand steel ones that don't seem very well thought out. I'm not a fan of side ladders. I've spent my whole life wheeling in different places around the country and I have yet to find a trail that doesn't end up with some really tight spots. Every truck I've owned has been striped by trees and this van is no exception so putting a solid ladder on the side just doesn't seem wise.

My plan is to build one from aluminum and have it clip on the top of the door and then bolt into the bottom. I have replaced all the rubber seals on the van in the last year and the doors fit up very tight now. I think this will work. If I'm wrong I'll look for another option but I want to test this theory.

The ladder will be the test for bending the tubes - my material is 1.5" .120 wall 6061 - so if the ladder works out the roof rack should go well. Plus I'm looking for ways to practice my aluminum welding.



I couldn't see anywhere posted if the DW was cured.

My truck has 7" lift and radius arm drop brackets brace back about 16" and are heavily gusseted.

Also the drop trackbar bracket is triangulated and bolted to the main crossmember

I've never had issues with DW. Looking back on the videos you posted it seems that there is movement both laterally in the trackbar bracket and fore/aft in the radius arm bracket.

Here's a picture of reference how large the bracket is. 38" tires for scale.


Thanks for your suggestions.

One of the things that was tried was a beefed up track bar mount. I think this helped but it didn't fix the issue. What "fixed" it is three Fox steering stabilizers. In talking with other builders and doing the research it seems that the issue is more likely with heavier vans such as the V10's and diesels because they obviously have a lot more weight. One of the differences between the F and E series is that the frames of the E series are not as beefy as the F series (and never designed with 4x4 in mind).

20190807-Colorado Utah9685

My theory is that braking feeds forces into the axle which is pushed back into the radius arms. The radius arms are obviously bolted to the frame rails but there's nothing tying them together to prevent their independent movement aside from the fairly stock cross braces which were never built with the forces in mind that an extra 3-4000lbs could generate. That independent movement allows the axle to twist and set off the wobble.


I was planning on building a cross brace between the rails for the trailing arm mounts but the stabilizers fixed the wobble - well, masked it. I can still feel the slight shudder when braking downhill but it never propagates. So, we'll see how 37's work. If they magnify the issue I may go back and brace the frame to test that theory.



If the braking is flexing the radius arm mounts, then it needs bracing. Add a cross-over X brace to stiffen laterally too.


New member
Wish we were your neighbors!!!
I would also like to hear about the tires as we're considering 37's in maxxis or goodyear.
Although you've probably already considered, one thing about a ladder is the offset from the body shell to allow enough space to create a platform for the foot versus a toe hold.


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So far the 37's are doing well. The van is taller (obviously) but the kids can still get in. It has a couple of small spots that it rubs on full bump so I'll look into that but so far that doesn't happen much. While it's only a 5% increase the van seems quieter and calmer because the motor is turning a bit slower. I don't really notice much of a decrease in power but then again I don't really wail on it.


So far so good!



So, as rioters took over the capital last week my natural inclination is to build a bridge. Unfortunately my shop is small so I settled on building a ladder. Is it what we need as a nation right now? No. Is it all I can build at the moment to distract you and I? Yes. Will it drown out the 24 hour news cycle? No. Will I keep asking rhetorical questions? Most likely.

I had originally planned it for the back door because I never understood making a vehicle wider. I even made a nice drawing so clearly I'm really committed. Then I spent about an hour looking at the rear door and realized that: there just wasn't that much material, it wasn't very strong, there was glass, and there were hinges. None of those things were going to be advantages.

While not thrilled with the idea I decided that I won't be threading any super narrow trails with the van and that a side ladder had more going for it. I'm screwed because I no longer have a drawing so I'm winging this.

I decide to work on what would be a clamp for the drip rail. I was going to make it in steel but decided a decent chunk of 6061 would work and allow me to weld to it. So, make a clamp, bend some tube, weld it up. How hard could that be? Here's a couple of blocks of 6061 with a slot milled for the drip rail.

The problem with winging it is that when problems arise your whole plan has to change. I'd planned on these being upside down but then they seemed to work better the other way. Trouble is that the drip rail and roof have a variable gap so I'm milling some clearance. Just the front one...

At this point I'm thinking I don't need a clamp - just a hook and this will be fine. I'll bolt the bottom to the body and that way it will be locked in.

I have not bent much tube despite owning this for more than a few years. My JD2 bender was an aspirational purchase. A someday-I'm-going-to-build-a-frame sort of purchase. So this is good. Today is the day. Since the van is not square I make the first bend 80 degrees instead of 90...

Seems to be about right. I couldn't make it shorter because the bender needs a place to grab the tube. I'll cut off the excess but for now the bend and the angle seem right.

I make a 20 degree bend about midway on the body line and another near the bottom that's 80. So theoretically 80+20+80 = 180 but it's not quite that simple as my bend radius is pretty wide and I want to keep this closer to the body.

It took a surprising number of cuts to get to this and I'm not sure it's perfect. To make both bends the same I marked the spot on the tube where the die started and then made a template on the paper. Cutting here will allow me to keep the ladder close to the body.

Both bends are within 1/4" so close but not perfectly identical. For a first effort I'm satisfied. I'm now at the tricky place of both determining the width and trying to tack it up. Right now I'm at a fairly large 18" width and slightly tapering the section above the belt line. This helps me fix the slight length mistake but also makes the ladder a bit less blocky. I want the back vertical rail to match up with the slight angle of the back of the body.

Since the van isn't square I'm a bit unsure how to progress. Building the ladder square on the ground will most likely not line up or fit and trying to do it one tack at a time on the van will be tricky but probably my only option.

So that's where I'm at. No plan, almost out of argon and a country in chaos! How will it end? Will my ladder be what we need to reach across the divide (from the ground to the roof)?

Stay tuned!



New member
Thanks Gregor for your time documenting all of this. Your pictures are incredible. How do the 37” tires seem to work with your gearing? If I remember correctly you had geared to 4.30?
I have a RB 7.3 that I’m hopefully going to get into this year and like the idea of 37” tires... well.... just because!


Thanks Gregor for your time documenting all of this. Your pictures are incredible. How do the 37” tires seem to work with your gearing? If I remember correctly you had geared to 4.30?
I have a RB 7.3 that I’m hopefully going to get into this year and like the idea of 37” tires... well.... just because!
I avoided 37's because they seemed to go past the point of making sense and I ended up putting them on because... they go past the point of making sense. If that make sense. They look amazing on the van and seem visually proportional and the 4:30 gearing seems fine - it has no trouble going up hills and feels relaxed on the highway. It's dropped the mileage about 1mpg which is close to the percentage that they are larger than 35's. The 4:30 gearing was perfect for 35's and for towing. I haven't towed yet with this gearing so I can't answer to that. I think it may be a bit low for towing at least if we're talking big mountain passes.


Before I could weld the tubes to the mount I needed to finish the mount. With the discussion of the frame flex (where I posted this in my Garage Journal Thread) in my mind I decided that I should have it clamp to the rail just to be safe. I measured the angle of the body (20 degrees) and then milled a flat and right angle so that I could take some scrap aluminum angle and fit that into the space to act as a clamp on the rail.

I drilled and tapped the angle and block and then milled the angle flush so it would look clean. This is not even close to what I was planning but I think it's a lot better than what I drew. It doesn't need to be too strong so hopefully the threads hold in the aluminum. If not then I'll helicoil them. I should probably just do that but for the moment I'm going to see how it holds up.

Since I bent the back upright I'm going to base the whole thing off the front one since it's straight and should be vertical. My tack is actually a few beads since my first tack was small and didn't hold - aluminum needs some very serious tacks.

My plan was to look at the spacing of the rungs, clamp a couple into place and then pull the whole thing off as a unit and then tack the two rungs in to hold the structure.

That was a complete bust.

The top clamps are very snug in the drip rail and the ladder just can't stay straight while being tapped out and off the body. I spent about an hour trying to reassemble the thing to my marks on the welding table and it was an exercise in frustration; twisting, turning, and not staying square. By then it was dark so I gave up. I think the only way I'll be able to do this is to actually clamp and tack it in place on the body of the van when it's in the right position.

Since that plan was a bust I decided to spend some time practicing my welds on the coped drops. I scotchbrited them all and wiped them down with alcohol...

And for some magic reason my brain has been practicing aluminum welding in the background while I've been practicing wheelies. Much like wheelies the "zone" seems to have become wider and that spot between too cold and too hot seems easier to find and control. Also, this is 1/8" thick tubing so it can take a lot of heat before running away. That was my whole plan for this ladder and roof rack - thick tube that would be easier to weld and I'd have the chance to run a LOT of bead.

So while these aren't "Instagram Welds" they are by far the best beads I've done on aluminum so far. Certainly my best coped tubes which is much trickier. I still need to work on consistency and stopping before I get too out of position but overall I'm pleased.

Tomorrow I should be able to get the ladder tacked in and hopefully welded up over the weekend and then I'll make the bottom mount that will bolt into the rear quarter panel flange below.



So in the daylight and with a full night of sleep I got back on the ladder. Often times the best way to do something is not the easy way and in this case it meant fitting all the tubes onto the van and pulling the welder out onto the wet driveway and tacking the tubes insitu. I ended up tacking in three tubes on the van so I could be sure it wouldn't rack coming off but it slipped off without any trouble.

Welding something in place so so much harder than when you can maneuver it on your welding table. I used to think I should try to weld in all positions to practice but now I've decided that I will always try to make myself as comfortable as I can. My welds are better that way. One thing that has been good is switching up hands and feet - at this point I can use either hand for the torch or rod and either foot for the pedal. I'm a little better with the torch in my right hand but I can do either and that really helps with some tight spots.

This is something between a tack and weld. I knew that if I wasn't generous on my bead that things would rack and the tacks would break. I'm pulsing with my foot, all 200 amps and then letting the puddle cool almost to solidifying and moving to the next one. It's helping keep the heat down and allowing me to put a lot of rod in - each bead is almost 1/2" of 3/32 4043 rod.

With the straight rungs tacked in I measured the angle of the top part of the ladder - 11-12 degrees - and then tipped the head of the Bridgeport.

In order to make sure the tube notch or "fish mouth" is in the same axis each time I took a scrap tube and just clamped it down as a stop. This vertical tube keeps the cut on the other end in line.

Sean had turned me on to some really nice fine toothed hole saws but aluminum, especially this .125 wall tube, can be easily cut with a normal wood style hole saw provided you use plenty of lube or coolant. This really helps to keep the teeth clean and cutting.

The tubes just need a bit of clean up on the edges but otherwise the fit up is very good.

In the end I decided on 9" on center spacing. I think a normal ladder is closer to 12" but since the kids will be using it and I'll most likely be carrying cameras up it seemed like tighter spacing would be nicer. Plus I like the way that it looked. I don't want anyone to mistake this for an Aluminess ladder.

I test fit it in the dark before the top two rungs went on and the fitup was solid. I'll check it again in the morning and then finish welding the tubes in and figure out what my mount will be at the bottom. Fingers crossed it will be done this weekend.



This is a great armchair fabricator experience showing the process on a nice ladder. Helps with all the “That welded thing’s so simple.m, why’s it cost so much? I could just make my own.”