When I decided to step up from 35″ Goodyear MT/R’s to 37″ MT/R’s, my goal was to make them fit without any additional lift. Not an easy task, but I’ve never been one to shy away from the cutting wheel and sawzall. In fact I have been called on more than once to cut up friends Jeeps when they were hesitant.
The clearance issue in the front of the Jeep was a much bigger challenge than the rear. The front fenders had already been trimmed to the max for the 35’s to clear. The rear portion of the front fenders were occasionally rubbed by the 35’s when the suspension was fully flexed, so I knew that no amount of additional trimming would gain me the clearance I needed. More drastic measures needed to be taken!
I have seen quite a few tube fender kits available, but I couldn’t be sure they would clear. Enter Hanning Fabrication in Tucson, AZ. I’ve hit the trails many times with Pat Hanning and seen the high quality fabrication that leaves his shop, so I was sure that he had the expertise to make my ideas a reality.
Before loading the Jeep on the trailer and heading to the shop, I did some preliminary work of my own. I wanted my tube fenders to bolt on using all of the stock mounting holes in both the body tub and grille. To make that happen, I first removed the stock fenders then cut, drilled and bolted in place a 1 ½” wide, by ¼” thick piece of flat stock steel into the stock holes in the tub of the Jeep (see photos). Up front I used the same material, but shaped it with a hammer (My favorite tool!) and anvil to follow the curve of the grille, then bolted it into the stock holes too.
Off to Hanning Fabrication
After some preliminary measurements, Pat started the project by bending some 1″ by .120 wall DOM tubing to form the outer edge of the fender, adding a slight bend toward the rear of the fender to follow the hood line. Pat nailed the angles the first time and tacked the tubing to the flat plate. Once the passenger side was done, Pat copied the angles and bent up the driver’s side tube to match. To this he added the angled down-tubing to fill the rear of the fender and as a custom touch, he bent up the support hoops for the front and welded everything in place. Pat took my thoughts and fab’d them into exactly what I had imagined, in only a few hours.
To complete the fenders, I used the sheet metal from the stock fenders to fill in the tubing (hey, I’m cheap ok?). Once it was cut to size, I welded it in place. This took allot more time than I originally figured, but I was able to retain the original top of the fender along with the lip that follows the hood line. I was also able to use the stock holes for the hood latches once I pounded the raised portion flat.
If you’re going to do this to your rig, there is one thing to note. A flat-fender setup like this means you’ll have to ditch the inner fender wells, which also means that you’ll likely loose the place where you once mounted some of your accessories (e.g. coil, MSD box, etc.). As you can see in the first picture below, I fab’d up a quick mounting place for me to put all of the stuff I needed (see orange arrow).
I am very pleased with the final product, from the quality of craftsmanship at Hanning Fabrication to the grinding, pounding and welding I did to fill in the fenders; the finished product is exactly what I envisioned.
This is where things get fun! I first started by measuring the compression of the rear suspension to the bumpstops and the up travel of the rear tires. For additional confirmation, I flexed the Jeep in my driveway to see if anything was going to be in the way. I marked all the offending metal that would have to be removed starting with the Rock Sliders. I also marked the body that would need to be trimmed for the tires to clear. Out came the, torch, cutting wheel, sawzall, grinder and welder. The only real issue I ran into was that I had to cut into the body seams of the tub in order to gain the necessary clearance, so careful cutting would be required here to leave enough material to be re-welded. I also had to remove a small portion of the body mount bracket, but not enough to weaken it substantially. After cutting, grinding, and re-welding everything, I have the clearance needed for 37″ tires.
Stay tuned as the whole Jeep gets cut in half and both the tub and frame get lengthened to gain the wheelbase this CJ-5 so desperately needs. The rear suspension will also be radically altered in an effort to take some stress off the frame of this 29 year old beast.