Commander's Log

(*edited for summary. most images on main page)

DEC 26, 1009 04:00

It's hard to believe this is the 4th major road tip for me in 4 years. I had a friend along this time to help in case anything goes wrong. My friend Jacob, he has a strong back, isn't afraid of adventures, and a keen eye for ladies (you ought to meet his GF), and that combination is always worth something. No she's not coming along.. Not her thing - BUT she does not mind him going off the radar and messing with MVs. See my point. Anyway to make the intro, Jacob, AKA Yomerswanson, is my technology apprentice. He is taking this short break from College and will probably choose from electronics or physics degrees.

Fortunately I didn't have to eat another Chicken Stickie. I have heard it is also poor judgement to buy a 1/2 lb. brick of pepper cheese and munch on it for half a day.

The M35 was made ready and driven to Chester, IL, home of 54Reo. I had previously arranged the purchase of an M818 tractor from GL and it was waiting at the farm. An M109 box was foind, and a trailer-mounted diesel generator had been bought. A lift gate would be aded, we "winged it" and got one from a junkyard near Chester. First was the drive drive 80 miles north to Gainesville TX and pick up the sacrificial diesel generator trailer, and then head east on TX 380 to I-30 and on into Hot Sptings to the KOA there. Then on to Chester, IL.

This time was different. Instead of spending time visiting previously unexplored repositories of surplus goods, there was a definite special project to be done. To create a custom military truck, which is best called an M8109.

Road trips are not without perils. Dragons to fly through the pouring rain at night and smash into windshields. Preluber oil hoses can come off at a rest stop make a slick for people in $300K motorhomes to park in (their own fault), causing them to scowl. The top alternator ear can break off while replacing fan belts that broke earlier in the day. A switch can be left on and the batteries drained. One can imagine the engine is making strange noises while driving at 3 AM in the middle of nowhere. It can also make real noises. The turbo oil return pipe seal can leak and generously spew oil everywhere. Once can get lost at night somewhere in the forest on a 2-lane road and stop to check the maps only to hear the banjo music from "Deliverance" eerily being played in the darkness, accompanied by weird squealing noises. The exhaust manifold gasket can blow out at 2 AM when leaving a truck stop in a mountainous area, filling the cab with fumes for hours.

The above things have happened ofer the last few years on these trips in the M35. That is why these are called adventures. The key thing is to remember, at least in my case, the truck and its occupants belong to Jesus.

Great adventures don't just happen, or do they? No doubt, many excellent adventures lie in wait along the open roads for those who have the nerve to take them.

So let the fun begin.

DEC 27, 1009, 03:18

We reached the KOA in Hot Springs Arkansas at about 01:00 DEC 27.

There is some problem, If it is a rear main seal or bad clutch, I am not in a position physically or tool-wise to repair that on the road, I usually pay a diesel shop for heavy stuff like that.

Right now I am in the KOA in hot springs. Everything is good and truck is running great and smooth except the clutch slipped a few times when putting the pedal to the metal up a hill. I do not know why. Maybe it has gotten some oil on it as there is a small leak at the front of the engine, that even though it is small it makes a big mess due to the wind spreading it everywhere. I hope there is not another leak at the clutch area such as a rear main seal or something that I did not find when I last power-washed it and checked it.

If I had known anything like that was going to happen I would not have started out until it was repaired whatever it is. But I am halfway there so I need to make it the rest of the way. Tomorrow (later today anyway) I will check the oil level and determine how much oil has been used in order to determine if there is a new or large leak. The leak I am aware of is about 1 quart per 1000 miles. I have done about 380 miles and have about 400 to go. (Hot Springs to Chester).

Therefore we have to rise early and get a move on as daylight is going to be short and in case this turns sour I do not want to be stuck along the interstate at night. The problem seems to be when in 5th gear, in the range of power where you are getting 10 PSI boost and 1000-1100 degrees pre-turbo, 2000 RPM and leaning on it. If I stay backed off the throttle I can avoid it. The issue is, if it is oil, what will happen if it slips occasionally and I immediately get off it? will it make it worse? If it is not oily, then the thing has "suddenly" wore out with no dang notice whatsoever. That seems unlikely. It has never done this before.

I will get under the beast a few hours from now and take a look

pics of the good food at flying J buffet in Texarkana, and a rather bad pictue of Jacob and the truck (and sacrificial generator trailer). Didn't exactly have time today for it just trying to get from A to B.

till then, l8tr.. Too bad Memphis equ is not open sunday. Not that I know what is needed here.

Truck Stop Buffet (was much better tasting than the image suggests) - Flying J in Texarkana

Yomerswanson @ M35 with generator trailer in tow - Flying J in Texarkana

It turned out this problem was caused by the transmission being overfilled. This wants me to say "dammit boy!" which is a trucker saying for when someone did something stupid, at least I hear it in TX.

The lubes were just done, and I thought the trans had been filled too full because of the way the guy was doing it, but couldn't tell. Serves me right for being lazy. well I can't do much checking or drain it here at the KOA they are persnickety and will have a fit. That explains also the trouble coming and going, rather than the engine constantly oiling it, the tranny just pukes a little when hot. This said I have driven the truck a few times, just not >40 miles at a stretch.

The truck started immediately in the morning 06:00, 25 degrees F., and is warming up. The GPS says about 2PM arrival at Chester, but I would say that is optomistic. Or just nuts.

The proper amount of lube is about 20 Oz. less than the level called for in the book. The transmission uses no front seal, but does have a spiral oil groove on the input shaft.

DEC 27, 18:21

Distance about 15 miles from Chester, IL.

got in about 7 PM. The transmission being overfilled seems like the culprit due to the behavior, the hotter it got, the more likely it would be to slip. Since it only acted up Hope to check it over the next few days. Thanks you guys for the advice on it. It is rather cold here and we drove all day so I am not as motivated as possible right now. Mostly sore.. There was a locked compartment on the project equipment, 54Reo cut off the lock and we found what is in the picture. I a glad that security measures are strictly enforced otherwise someone might have stolen these things. More pics later, tomorrow. Time to crash.

Junk found in M818 tool box (12" crescent wrench not shown). Was a surprise, could have been anything in a locked box like that.

DEC 28, 23:47

Today the M109 body was sourced from an ol boy in Mo. and was to be delivered Wednesday DEC 30. It was alot crappier than he had stated, but I suppose one man's junk is another man's treasure. It is sound, the price was fair, and the rust hole can be repaired, so no problem.

Many parts no longer required on the M818 will be removed (5th wheel, tool boxes, etc..). We broke a few bolts, torched out a hole to push a connector out, possibly fixed a fuel leak (haha not..), replaced an oil pressure gauge, lots of wenching.. I am glad Brian and Jacob are helping, as well as Brian's dad. This is a lot of fun.

There was much consternation over how to remove the electrical connector (trailer plug) bolted through the pintle mount. Several advised to cut the wires, push the pins out, etc.

DEC 29, 21:35

Today we started removing the wheels. We also removed the seats, replaced the cab mount bolts after removing the last of the tool box rack brackets. Cleaned out the cab, was pretty dirty under the seats, went and sourced the lift gate, and cleaned down the sacrificial lighting tower generator set to the machine and frame so I can tomorrow bring out the wiring and load bank it before going further. The leftovers of this are four 1000 watt metal halide arc lamps and ballasts. I took care to do this so the wiring is easy to connect back up. Huge credit to 54Reo and his dad Al for their help. This would not be going anywhere otherwise.

While sourcing the lift gate component we took some pics in the salvage yard. That place is truck heaven.

DEC 30, 21:46

Note by the hours of data entry, we are working 12" hour days.

Today marked some good progress. Removed the 16.00x20 tires and LAV rims from Brian's wrecker and put the 11.00x20's from the M818 on it for the time being. They are not that great, have some checking, but he wanted rid of the 52" tires.

If we are lucky Gimyrobb will show up Monday. Tomorrow we will be tacking up something new to the ol'M818 that should be of great interest and there will be plenty more pictures. I also need to go pick up 4 new batteries.

This really should not have been titled so much as a road trip but a super cool project.

Today's pics- the wheels,also note the truck was originally tan..

One thing to pay heed to: in the pics of the Budd nuts, we show that there is some damage to a few of them. I have plenty of spares. The point is that until I thoroughly cleaned up the nuts, the damage was not readilly visible.This is a most important point- to always clean and inspect any hardware being re-used. Even the the old nuts held the wheels on just fine, there is no excuse to re-use ones with unacceptable damage. The pictures show one that is really bad - trashed that one. Two that are usable, with maybe 1/4"of one thread mising. The new ones from Ryder can be seen to have shorter external threads but this was not an issue with the thicker rims. The Budd inner studs fit fine on the front hub, but will nor screw on all the way on the rears due to the rear studs thread stopping before the hub surface.

So far, so good.

DEC 31, 22:39

I ended up easily removing the trailer lighting socket by trying brute force (what did I have to lose?).. It can also be put back together, even 20 years old, as I did exactly that once it was free of the frame hole. It has to be twisted to fit back in, and then it is easy to hold it in place while screwing the nut back on, by using a trailer plug to lock it in place. I am surprised at myself. huh. maybe it was late, maybe I was tired, but I decided to hit it with a drift and hammer.

Stan came by today and helped us do some work, really appreciated that!! We changed out the windshields and hardtop from the M35 to the M818 and countless other tasks.

Since the frame was exposed, all rusty places (very few on this clean machine) were treated to a liberal application of zinc based prmer. I have used this stuff before ad it really does work. New batteries were installed. Not 6TLs as NAPA ridiculously wanted $250 each, but four 650CCA car batteries. I think they will do fine. Some heavy duty trailer wiring was bought from NAPA, having 4 conductors and an outer covering enclosing them to protect from abrasions. This will extend the lights at the back of truck when done. The driver side fuel tank was removed and the brackets modified and the quiet water cooled generator set was mocked up. The dynamo will extend through the drivers step and the whole thing will be enclosed. This is a lot of fun so far. There is a lot more to do! We used a magnetic base drill to help make some holes in the side of the frame rails. Beats holding a 1/2" drill in place half the day.

Jan 01, 20:45

Happy new Year 2010!
Today, finished up the basic generator mounting, and added the lift gate. There is more wiring and some fuel line plumbing to do, and some work to repair and clean the gate. The M109 body has not yet been delivered and this is throwing our schedule out. Looks like Saturday JAN 2, before that will happen.

JAN 02, 12:23

It is freakin cold here, the front came in. 7 degrees this morning once the sun came up. Today the M109 body will arrive and be set in place.

Also, the rear deck of the lift gate will be replaced as it was rusty and bent due to a few small cars destroying themselves into it over the years it was on the donor vehicle. We tested it and it works real well. It's a MAXON brand. We found that its stroke let it come up higher than the original rear deck before coming up against its natural stopping point. The result was the pump did not strain at the end like they will in most applications, so we are going to try and have it work like that.

We will need to stack two "2x4" planks on each frame rail to improve the clearance and allow plenty of axle articulation. Luckily Brian has two 2x12 oak planks we can rip and coat with linseed oil. It is really a shame to sacrifice these because they are from the original construction of the building the family restaurant is in, he found them in the attic at one point. I'd say they are definitely seasoned. The M8109 will gain some history and character from these components!

With this height, the vehicle should be 141", minus the stock plank used in the M109, plus 3" for the stacked 2x oak planks. So maybe just less than 144".

By this time we are accustomed to the best pizza ever. Accustomed to it, but never tired of it. I really love the pizza. Fresh and hot and the steam rising as you open the box! The sauce is the best -home made and hearty, the dough is made right there and is just right and not at all greasy like most pizzas, and there is no skimping on the very farm-fresh and toppings including the cheese which is special and comes from many miles away! This is Marcello's Italian Restaurant in Chester, IL.

It is decided that the genset will use the same fuel tank as the truck.

I do not think this truck will be top heavy, as the chassis weighs 22,000 by itself with the tires. The M109 chassis is about 12,000 lbs and the M109 is 130" tall, so this is 13-14"taller, just 10%, yet most of the weight is still low.

Today there were not too many pics taken because we worked on a lot of little details necessary to be done before the box is set in place. Working on the fuel lines for the truck and genset, the electrical wiring, replacing a brace on the lift gate and getting rid of those beat-up outriggers, repairing the hardtop as it has a few pinholes (cold use a better one) and also adding braces for the genset mounting as well as slightly moving one air tank. A lot of wrenching and torching and bending tubing and pulling hoses. Brian's dad, Big Al, he is the expert on wood and you can see the fine aged 2x10 oak timbers being precision cut for use. These were planed as well, and stacked with a coat of glue between and many screws countersunk inside to hold them. One picture shows the skid plate for the space under the genset with the larger cutout there for reaching in and changing the oil as necessary. This whole thing ought to be in MVM or maybe some extreme 4x4 rag.

I should also add in case no one has figured it out, the days here in this work are 12-14 hours each. Not complaining, this is the most fun ever, but it is more than I am used to!

Got word that Gimpy's heading out tomorrow JAN 03.

JAN 03, 19:37

Today the box was set. The truck was started for the first time in a while. Big smoker at 7 degrees F till it caught and ran. Lots more little details.. The temp was too low to paint so we heated the rattle cans and the hard top so the paint would spray and stick. Someone knocked over a can of Dr Pepper, notice the spill froze instantly to the wood. Check the fit with the oak planks and with the lift gate height. It is perfect and will articulate fully.

Here are some questions about the M818-

This beast does not like the cold weather and takes alot of cranking to start. Normal for the Cummins? (yes for the NHC250 apparently)

There is/was a problem with an air leak in the fuel system, we think we got it, will know more tomorrow when we go to start it. However, a symptom the engine shows is that when stepping on te throttle, the engine sputters a bit before coming up to RPM. The nature of the problem seems to be more of a delay of power than a loss of power. The problem was noticed by Stan and Brian when the truck was recovered. Could this be an air leak getting sucked into the fuel lines or some other issue maybe with the governor? The truck does come up to speed OK once it gets past this little delay and has plenty of power on the open road.(note- -it is in the diesel shop in DFW for this as of FEB 7 2010.)

JAN 04, 08:23

Some helpful comments were made regarding removing that rubber wiring plug in the pintle. This is very important, and worth repeating here.
"Unless its a rubber part intended to come in contact with petroleum oil or grease (seals and o-rings) do NOT use petroleum based lubes on rubber parts especially things like: engine/trans/cab mounts, grommets, weatherstripping.

Some types of synthetic rubber are designed to resist the effects of oil/fuel/gasoline/grease. These types are used for oil seals and o-rings. Common examples are Viton and nitrile (Buna-N) rubber.

Natural rubber and some synthetic rubber are chemically attacked by petroleum based products - given enough time fuel and oil will literally dissolve some types of rubber.

If you need to lube mounts/grommets/tires use soapy water. Straight water will not work because it beads up and runs off rubber. Soapy water will stick to rubber, is plenty slick, and cleans up easily."

54Reo had to be at work this week. Today while he was at work, Jacob and I gutted the nasty old hillbilly style cabinets in the box (hard to believe the military did that work!), connected the lift gate power lead, installed the generator set ground and cranking cables, installed the hard top with new bolts and a bead of silicon sealer on the back surface (previously it was just sitting there for the picture), and planned out the wiring for the battery equalizer as well as found the connectors, also ordered some bolts for the shelter mounting. The plan is to use the proper springs and clamps to mount the shelter so I gave the spring and bushings a good wire brushing.

The M818 has a rail riveted on each side of its frame that was used to mount the 5th wheel. The rail is flush with the frame and is several feet in length. This will serve as the lower set of brackets for some of the clamps. The rearmost clamp on each side will be welded to the frame extension. We have therefore cleaned up the original 109 box mounting springs and bushings and will reuse them.

Here are the notes on the new bolts to be used when the box sits on a 3.5" tall stack of planks on an M818 chassis: The bolts with the 5/8" shanks will be 10" long and the bolts with the 1/2" shanks will be 12" long. This basically adds 2.5+ inches to the bolt length. We have ordered grade 8 fine thread bolts as that was what was used originally. Grade 8 locking nuts will also be used. This hardware had to come from Indianapolis.

So far, the only delay has been the 109 box when delivery was 4 days late because the commercial wrecker we needed was not available (no fault of the driver, just busy). This has put us behind schedule but we are working long hours to catch up. We were unable to judge the bolt length and pre-order, so the bolts not being in stock is also a delay. The days have been getting colder; it was a high of 10 degrees today. Once the sun goes down and the wind picks up, it becomes very difficult to work outside.

The main annoyance so far is that the gentleman we got the box from said previously it was in good shape with only a little rust when in fact it has numerous rusty places and a few holes. I suppose he meant that the holes in it were properly shaped. Or, perhaps that it was in good shape compared to the rusted hulk next to it. At risk of repeating, one mans trash is another mans treasure I suppose. It's not that bad really, I just did not expect to find such a big hole! This can all be repaired, will be done later as time constraints have prioritized certain actions. To clarify, I do not indicate any dishonesty, as he did keep to his word and kept it for us. There was a difference of opinion on the condition.

JAN 04, 21:59

At this point, we (Opcom and Yomer S.) are in the hotel room wondering where Gimpy is. He should have been at 54Reos' by now. 4 degrees above zero - the guy is driving here at night in an M35.

54Reo's Wife kept us informed, for which we are very grateful. She's a real fine lady. Turns out he was broke down at I55/I70. 54Reo was en route with parts and tools. I was a curious and maybe slightly put out why I had not been called out to go along and help but it was in case something else was needed, I could have taken it. Cool heads plan ahead.

JAN 04, 22:58

Word came that he was on the other line with Stan and 54Reo should be onsite soon. I called 54R a little later and it looks like the issue was a vibration and loose wheel, and is broken lug nuts at this point. 45R is almost there and will call us if he needs anything else on the scene. So I'll have my phone here for that as well. Chilly night, hope it is just the wheel and all will end well.

JAN 04, 00:53

54Reo's Wife posted that the truck is back in one piece again, should be in chester in about an hour! They got in at 03:22. Must have gone pretty slow, were delayed with that midnight repair.

JAN 05, 23:07

No rest for the wicked. Started at 0700 today and it was not long before Gimpy and 54Reo showed up as well as 54R's dad Alcon. Today the items done were:

Fitting the box mounting bolts and springs, some welding and making of brackets for the box, installing the 12/24volt battery equalizer so that the 'lower' battery won't be discharged when using the lift gate or starting the onboard diesel generating plant. Also starting the construction of the enclosure for the genset. Brian worked mostly on the box mountings and Al and Gimpy worked mostly on the genset enclosure.

The truck was started, cranked well but still needed ether. Plenty of white smoke till it caught, just a cold natured beast.

JAN 06, 23:12

Today we worked on the generator mounting and did the final work to secure the box as shown. Time is running short, and we will complete as much essential work as possible. Some of the pics there are of the front brackets for the M109 box - the ones with two springs.

It started to snow today, although it was temperate in the afternoon.

We have been working spheres to the barrier nonstop, so there have not been many pictures. I promise to put more pics of the details tomorrow.

The cummins NHC250 may be misbehaving with a miss at idle, and at light loads which makes it run uneven, this is detectable at 1000 RPM. I have been told that I need to put some new fuel in it, and drive it.. I do not know much about the NHC250 nor does Gimpy or 54Reo. There is no smoke from the stack when idling or fast idling, etc, so I do not know wat to think of it. Any suggestions? Note I have not put the engine under a big load yet. Thye did recover this with no issues, said it ran fine and outran the M35. Does the cummins run unevenly at no load? No. it has a miss. Maybe a fouled injector.

JAN 08, 00:12

long day - this is JAN 07's log entry.

Today was quite a red letter day, seeing as the lift gate is now fully installed. The missing link was the 'deck' that goes between the box and the gate. Brian and Gimpy made this of 1/4" steel plate and massive C channel braces. It seems indestructible. the entire thing is closely toleranced and perfectly straight. Besides that, the job of removing the electronics etc. from the "old" M35 and packing it in the new truck has been occupying Yomer's time, and I have been getting more of the minor details done.

First thing this morning I repaired 54Reo's old SUN battery charger since the meter was not working. There was an intermittent connection to one side of the meter caused by a crimped wire lug. This is why I always solder after crimping, myself. No complaints, a date inside the machine says '55.

Next, check out the nice show we had, 5" of it.

The fabrication pictures are of the tailgate "deck" which is the stationary part behind the body that the gate proper rises up to meet.

Last, some pice from the heater install. The truck had no heater so one from one of Brian's old truck cabs was cleaned up and painted to serve the duty.

The hardware for the top hose is
3/8" x 3" nipple
1/2" x 3/8" bushing
1/2" ball valve
1/2" x 3" nipple

The lower hose there uses these fittings:
3/8" x 3" nipple
1/2" x 3/8" bushing
1/2" ball valve
1/2" x 2" nipple
3/4" x 1/2" bushing

It takes about 25FT of 3/4" heater hose to run the lines from the valves to the cab floor then around bhind the passenger seat and up the center to the heater core (not yet mounted) and there will be some pics of that tomorrow. Note the hoses were run well clear of the muffler. That was a bit inconvenient routing but has to be taken care of.

JAN 08, 21:29

Gimpy plans to leave tomorrow. He has a hub from one of 54Reo's trucks installed on his. The position BTW is front driver side. Yomer S. and myself plan to leave JAN 09.

JAN 08, 08:48

Today the operating rod and handle for the lift gate was done and also a chain was installed to allow the get to be locked. Mud flaps were put on and braces for them were started. The heater was installed and seems to work well. A 12V lighter socket was installed for the GPS. As the day drew to a close we got into the Pabst Blue Ribbon. Then we decided to look at an old inverter welder 54Reo had. It was from a dumpster and so this would be interesting. Nothing like working on an unfamiliar 240V piece of gear while having a few beers with friends. There was no cabinet and it was 3-phase 480/240V. since it had a simple 6-diode bridge rectifier with capacitor filter, we connected it to to 240V single phase. It wanted to work but there is a burnt resistor on the circuit board and that will have to be replaced. We did remove a few mud dauber nests and used ether and a wire brush to clean the circuit board. Improvisation. However we did try it out and it made some very interesting sounds like only a malfunctioning high power inverter can. It seemed to lack the voltage necessary to maintain a decent arc, but had plenty of current for making puddles, over 100 amps. I was sort of hoping it would wind (whine) up and blow out, no such luck. It's got alot of good parts. Big inductors and other stuff. We had pizza, burgers and bratwurst grilled in 3 degree weather, and of course PBR beer.

JAN 08, 22:01

Gimpy reported in - got home safe. Some discussion about a trailer hitch. It won't need one. the doors on the M109 body are wide enough for an ATV and the lift gate is going to be modified to attach ramps for supporting the rear wheels of the ATV.

JAN 09

Finished packing up the radios and test gear in the M8109. Got the 500 LB spare up into the box. That's what the lift gate is for.

JAN 10

Left for DFW. At 1940 hours, the M8109 was 90 miles east of Little Rock.

JAN 11

Made Texarkana at noon. Will make Dallas this evening.

JAN 12, 00:45

Finally made it back to the Bunker of DOOM. Woo-Hoo! adventure=accomplish! Unfortunately when I sat down in front of the computer and almost finished entering this post on JAN 11 at about 7 PM, I fell right asleep - Sorry about that, was a sort of long day.

Probably a good time to make some notes in no particular order:

M35 mileage TX to IL: 7.2MPG
M8109 mileage IL to TX: 5.6MPG

A good burger and/or plate lunch in Texarkana is at the Old Tyme Burger Shoppe. Buttermilk pie.

Lambert's in MO is a fine place to feast. "The home of the throwed roll". Hot fresh rolls are thrown to you, Servers also come around with buckets of fried okra. This is in addition to your supper. It's a nice family style place and you will not leave hungry.

Coincidentally, commuter pilots at the Burger Shoppe where we ate lunch mentioned Lambert's among themselves.

That inverter welder. - I have never seen anything as redneck as us taking that 3 phase 480V welder, re-strapping it to 240V, and wiring its cable directly to a 240V 50A extension cord socket (the extenstion cord is for another welder). Before we got to that point, we removed a large mud dauber nest on the printed circuit board. The tools available to do that with were screwdrivers and wire brush and ether and a fine job of it was done if I do say so myself. In the video, the bare 240V connections can be seen clamped safely in a vise for safety. Pabst Blue Ribbon will do that to ya. The video does not do justice to the sounds made by the welder. I think it could be played like a theremin with practice. I half expected for it to "wind up" one of those times and blow but it didn't. I wish we had more time to investigate the other similar welder.

The creampuff - the white minivan 54Reo loaned us while in Chester - That is truly a fine automobile! I normally dislike minivans but this one really grew on me. I think it was the rust and the 100W halogen baja lights on the roof. They work when the hi-beam switch is turned on. The night we arrived, we accidentally drove past Brian's place and he came after us with that vehicle, and suddenly the whole sky lit up. I thought it was the cops.

The lift gate came off an old Mack delivery van, and was used for moving office furniture. The mechanism of it seemed to have fairly low wear, most of the wear was due to time and the elements. It had no issues at all lifting the 500 LB spare plus Jr. so we could stow the spare for the trip home. On the way home, the spare broke the nylon tie-downs that were holding it upright to the wall. It didn't fall and is now leaning against other stuff in the box. Let that be a lesson about a 500 lb wheel.

The rear deck there between the box and the gate - -it is exactly -between- the box and gate, touching niether. Since the box is made to move a little on the M109 chassis and subsequently the M8109 chassis as we replicated the factory style mountings and hardware, the deck was fabricated very solidly, attached to the frame, and floats 1/8" off the rear wall of the box. This will allow water and dirt to fall down and not get in a corner between the box and deck. It also refrains from attaching such a stout item as a deck to the much flimsier box. When the gate comes up, there is also a 1/8" gap between the gate and the deck. This prevents the gate from crashing the deck which is something that happens on most lift gate installations, and eventually degrades the equipment. So that is real precision work there. Gimpy and Brian did most all of that.

The lift gate operating rod - it is very convenient there on the frame extension and somewhat hidden to avoid miscreants casually operating the gate as a prank. There is also a heavy chain and lock to prevent the gate from lowering by gravity without authorization.

The wheel stud torques - After about 30 miles, I stopped and filled any low tires to about 70 PSIG. One was at 32 originally and the rest were from 50-80. After about 100 miles, I stopped at a TA with a tire service shop and paid the guy a few $$ to inflate all the tires to 100 LBS (Goodyear 16.00x20 rating 17500 lbs at 110PSIG at 55MPH max) and torque all the budd studs and the nuts on the front. On rears it was simple because there are only the budd studs, and on the front which has studs and bolts this meant additionally loosening the nuts and torquing the studs then tightening and torquing the bolts.

Running - the truck ran OK coming home, plenty of power. But there is something wrong with the throttle/governor/injection. I will investgate over the coming weekends.

Starting - I am not so sure we got the suspected air leak fixed because after the truck has been off for 30 minutes to an hour, it has to crank forever to start. It is cranking like a mad dog now that the temp is warmer.

Driving - one or more wheel/tire assemblies is either out of round (suspected) or out of balance. The truck does the bouncy thing at low speeds and this smooths out at 50+ MPH. For all I know this may be normal. The beast has plenty of juice to do 55-60 all day and unlike the deuce I never had to put it to 4th except for one hill. With 16.00x20 tires, 2100RPM=redline=62MPH

Steering - it is pretty touchy and wants to over-steer itself. It's as though the chassis moves then the truck tilts and follows it in such a way that the original steering movement is increased. More exaggerated than the M35 yet the M35 I believe has a higher center of gravity due to the light weight chassis. This truck is right at 144" tall, so it is not very tall as trucks go. The M35 with the S-280 was right at 136" I think. Maybe a toe adjustment? too much tire pressure? I don't know. It is very exciting when the road is narrow and a 18 wheeler is passing. If it were a van or big car I would think "sway bars" but I don't think that can be done on straight axles.

What we did not finish:

  • The generator covering and mount - the mount is very substantial, but we did not have time to do the covering, only the rear panel (protection from FOD coming off the tire) so I will work the cover myself.
  • The RADAR - well, not so much as a picture of the screen.. there just was not enough time and that is a fact - -this project should have taken 3 months, we crashed it in thirteen 12-16 hour days and really all that is missing is the finishing of the genset cover and the radar mount. 2 more days would have nailed those.
  • Loading an ATV - Now, the gate is too short for an ATV with a 70" wheelbase. But slots or another mechanism can be made up that will allow ATV ramps to be attached or slid in to the rearmost section of the gate. I have a set of ATV ramps that can be cut down to fit.

    Credits for this once in a lifetime build go to the following, and I hope I did not forget anyone!

  • Brian 54Reo, for being willing to do a great bulk of the work including some amazing rigging, precision fabrication, and for having a place and tools and many, many pieces of heavy stock, as well as many contacts around town for sourcing materials and services.
  • Big Al (Alcon) - Brian's dad, for both supervising and getting his hands dirty, and putting in equally long days, helping us get the lift gate home, for immense experience and for keeping us from doing things that were too unsafe.
  • 54Reo'swife - for putting up with this, for running the restaurant from which the many fine pizzas came, and especially for picking up the chapstick for me at wal-mart. I just about used the whole thing in that freezing weather.
  • Gimpyrobb - for bringing the M109 mud flaps and for working on the project with us for a few days, the help was invaluable and was good to see you again. Next time though, try and not bust your wheel studs off!
  • Stan - for also helping us do alot of wrenching and preparation on the M818 as well as swapping out the hardtop from the M35 to the 818.
  • Jacob (YomerSwanson)- my 19 yr old electronics apprentice - for doing alot of the dirty work and turning more wrenches under the truck outside in the freezing cold than probably anyone else and doing whatever was asked, although I think he's done with the "Northern Winter Experience" forever and probably thinks I'd make a mean boss.
  • Steelsoldiers members - for the great support!
  • The State of Arkansas - for keeping the right lane of your westbound interstate in as bad a shape as I recall, so that I was sure I was not lost somewhere else.