Karl, unfortunately, Trailmaster has recently stopped making this old Dodge suspension, so you are outta luck there, but Skyjacker and Rancho both still have suspensions available. You'll spend less money if you get a kit with front leaves and rear blocks, and you could always upgrade to replacement rear leaf springs later. All you're going to need is a 4-inch lift to fit 35-inch tires on your Ramcharger, and your gear ratio is fine for a V-8 daily driver with 35-inch tires. The 4.56:1 gears would be better, but that's going to cost you around a thousand dollars to do both front and rear ends, and you'll find 3.55 gears are just fine for your 35s on the highway and for moderate off-roading.
Does your high school have an auto shop (I hope so)? If so, sign up and I bet the instructor will let you rip into your Ramcharger for credit, and will be able to help you through the process. Otherwise, start reading up on articles and you can decide for yourself if it seems like something you could do. But you'll need to make sure you have enough tools and jackstands to do the job safely. If you don't, I'd suggest befriending one of your local repair shops and seeing if you could pay them to install the suspension while you help. Having someone showing you what to do the first time around is worth a lot.
As for tires, I'd suggest trying an aggressive all-terrain like a Cepek F-C II.
Hey Jerrod, amen, brother! I just got the February '10 issue of the magazine and I love the Rant, and couldn't agree more with your sentiments on suspension travel. I am by no means a suspension genius. As a matter of fact I'm still trying to figure out how the heck to tune a bypass shock, but I feel like suspension tuning is the key, and is vastly more important than how many inches you have (haha). And I also totally agree about the Raptor. If you watch any video on Youtube of the thing blasting through the rough terrain, you can tell the massive amount of time and money that was put into the suspension R&D from both Fox and Ford-even though it only has 11 inches of travel. Anyway, keep up the cool articles, man, and I love the magazine!
Disc Brake Retrofitting
Hi, my name is Robert Luna.
I have a 1961 Chevy 1/2 ton 4x4 (stock, factory). I have been working on this truck for about 4 years now, and I am trying to keep it somewhat stock. I have a 12-inch lift and a small block for power. I do all the work on the truck myself (as much as I can do). But now I am at a roadblock and I'm writing to see if you can help. My stopping power is not the best. Working with the stock axles, I have been trying to find someone who can tell me what's my best option. I can't find a disc brake kit for it and everyone has their own idea of what axles to put under it. Agh, what to do?! Can you give me any help? I want to leave the stock axles if I can, but go to disc brakes. Or what axles can I put under it to give me a nice balance of off-roading and highway driving? Can you give some recommendations what axles (new or from the junkyard) would work? Thanks.
You have a cool truck, Robert, and I totally understand wanting to keep the stock axles under it. But according to my sources, GM started putting the Dana 44 under their 4x4 trucks in 1960, which means it wouldn't be sacrilege to swap out this old Dana 44 for a newer GM Dana 44 with disc brakes. For cheaper than you could retrofit disc brakes onto your existing axle, you could buy a 1970's front Dana 44 (for around $250) and swap it under your sweet '61 Chevy. The swap and changeover to disc brakes would definitely be worth it.