I thought I would share my most recent invention with y’all. I wrote this a while back and didn’t post it, so I thought I better post before things get crazy busy at work.
It’s a custom width Dana 60. I know many of you have wanted to put a Dana 60 in the back of your Jeeps, but they are too wide. There are kits out there that allow you to narrow an axle or you can buy one any width you want, but the cost is enormous and for most it’s not even an option.
Well, not anymore.
I spent some time researching OEM parts and developed a simple way to narrow a Dana 60 in a cost effective way. The solution gives me a full float axle with 5 on 5 1/2 lug pattern (could also be done to match 5 on 4 1/2, 5 on 5, and 6 lug patterns) and I engineered a solution using some custom-made parts and OEM parts to make it all happen.
I started with a full float rear Dana 60. This can be from any year. The one I am using came from a mid-60’s Ford Truck. These are small spindle, 16 spline units that will not accept 1 1/2″ 35 spline axles. They can be found for $100-$200 everywhere.
I removed the massive drum brake assemblies and set them on the curb.
This left me with just the OEM spindle that is a permanent fixture on the axle tube ends.
I then determined how wide I wanted this thing to be. I already have a front Dana 60 that has been narrowed to 63″ WMS, so that is what I want for this one.
I marked my cut-line on the axle tube:
Then I cut them off:
This left me with a clean housing ready for the fun part:
I designed 2 simple parts that make this conversion so easy and clean.
The first part is a 3/4″ steel collar that I had cut on a water jet table so it has perfect edges and is ready for installation with no grinding or clean-up. It is designed to match the outer diameter of the Dana 60 axle tubes with a nice press fit.
The second part is a custom caliper bracket that is cut on the same water jet table. It is made from 3/8″ steel and is designed for a standard 1/2 or 3/4 ton Chevy brake caliper. This is the same bracket I designed for the front Dana 60.
And here is the really cool part! I am using front Dana 60 spindles and hubs on the rear! This will give me the added benefit of having a locking hub on the back so I can unlock them for flat towing. But Dana 60 parts are very expensive to buy just about anywhere; especially on the internet. So I did some research and found that millions of Ford F250’s came with Dana 50’s (not 60’s). These are the funky independent front suspension (TTB) axles that are way more common than high pinion Dana 60’s. However, they used the same spindles and hubs as a Dana 60! (One small insignificant difference, but I won’t bore you with that here.) So I went to the junk yard and found them. And because these axles are generally considered to be junk, I only paid $34 for a set (1 spindle and 1 8 lug hub with bearings and races in perfect condition). Online the spindles are $100 each and the hubs are 3 or 4 times that.
You can see that the collar, caliper bracket, and spindle fit together nicely. I drilled the brackets myself on this first one, because I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to align everything. But on the next kit I will have the holes cut on the water jet.
Ok, so the collar slides on to the axle tube and is aligned and welded in place. It can be rotated in any direction to accomodate any desired pinion angle and to keep the caliper up out of way. I haven’t welded anything yet in these photos. This is just a mock-up for the story.
The caliper bracket and spindle are then bolted to the collar. The caliper bracket is designed to self-center the spindle.
Then I had Dan Sullivan machine down the 8 lug hubs to 5 on 5 1/2. And I bought new F150 brake rotors and had him put it all together with the OEM studs. Look how nice these look. This is the same thing I did on the front Dana 60.
Then from this point on they go together like any other axle.
Now, I will purchase my ring and pinion and locker of choice. I am going with a 4.56’s and a Detroit Locker. Then I will measure for axles. The axles are splined on both ends and will be 1 1/2″ chromoly. Then I will go with 35 spline Warn premium hubs to match the front.
This axle will be amazingly strong and will last forever. And all the parts are available from any auto parts store.
This kit would work extremely well for any Jeep owner that wants to upgrade to a Dana 60, but wants to keep it narrow and maintain a streetable vehicle. Not everyone wants the tires sticking out beyond the fenders. But to buy a complete custom width Dana 60 with this kind of strength costs about $4000 minimum. This axle is costing me $1750. It would cost a little less if I wanted to stick with 8 lug wheels and go with 30 spline axles and locking hubs (which would have come with the spindles and hubs from the junkyard).
The other thought on this as I mentioned before is the ability to flat tow without turning the rear axle and t-case, etc. Quite a few of us live in subdivisions where we don’t have room for a 16 foot trailer and for some it’s just too much weight to pull with our primary vehicle. And flat towing our Jeeps is something we would not normally consider with a stock Dana 35 or 44 rear axle. With a full float setup like this it is no longer an issue.
This axle is going in my Willys wagon. The Currie Ford 9″ is either going in Whitney’s TJ or I may just sell it and build another one of these 60’s for hers as well.
One last note. For those who only want to run 35″ or 37″ tires; this would also work using a Dana 44 center section with the same 60 outer hub assemblies. That would give amazing ground clearance. They do make a 35 spline ARB for a Dana 44. That would be a sweet set up. Just another option.
Great write-up Kevin. I happen to have a perfect candidate for this kind of modification sitting in my garage right now. Wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but this looks like a great way to both narrow it and convert to 5 on 5.5, both of which I wanted to do. Just curious, what is the “small insignificant” difference between the Dana 50 hubs/spindles and the Dana 60 versions (I like boring details)?
Jay, you are the first person that came to mind when I posted this. In fact, our discussion a while back is what drove me to design this solution.
The difference is on the back side of the spindles. The part that extends inside the knuckle and centers it on a 50 is about 1/4″ shorter than a 60. That’s it.
In your case, it plays a role because you will be using the 60 spindle. Right? But I have already solved that issue as well. I designed a spacer that takes up the difference. I used it on my front Ford 60.
Kevin I’m curious in this with the exception of converting to 5×5.5 and just leaving it at the 8×6.5… however if you wouldn’t mind letting me know what in general you had invested in the rest of this stuff so i can compare just doing a simple disk conversion or if it would fit into my build having the lockouts just in case…. Seems like it would be nice to unlock should i break on the trail and repair once in a better spot…
BTW this is for my new Toyota build i started a week or so ago that I’m posting in the Toyota section @ planet if your interested.. I just bought a dodge dana 60 ff for the rear and will be looking for a dodge front 60 for it now and doing a 3link front with a 4 link rear..
p.s: how do you think this will affect strength wise on the rear with having a lockout as opposed to jsut a straight axle?
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