Front: Dana 60

Well I finally found a Dana 60 front that was actually in the state of Florida! And again I have eBay to thank. This deal was one of a lifetime I guess, and ironically I found it surfing eBay when I was on my break in my calculus class. I almost did the "Buy It Now" right then and there, but I thought I would give it some time to email the seller and find more about it. Well actually as soon as I got home I hit the "Buy It Now" button. This beast came from a 1979 Ford F-350 Lowboy 4x4. In 1978 there was no such thing as an F-350 4x4, but you could get a F-250 with the "Snow Fighter" package and there you would have the same Dana 60 front they used in '79. Kinda interesting how they did things back then.

Click Here to see the original eBay ad!

Black Gold!

Underneath all of the filth and slime from the leaky 351M, there is a high pinion king pin knuckled Ford Dana 60 in there. When I bought it on eBay, I wasn't sure what ratio it was since the cover never got pulled off, nor did I care since the price was right. Well it turns out according to the ID tag, it is a 4.10:1! Also the Dana website says it's a 4.10 open differential according to the BOM #. One great difference of the early '78-'79 axles is the placement of the pinion. It is more inline with the center of the vehicle, whereas on 1980-1997 60's had the pinion moved further towards the driver's side wheel to accommodate a wider frame and more transfer case offset (NP-208, BW-1356, BW-4407). Since my van already has a passenger driveline offset, this helps keep the front driveshaft angle to a minimum. Of course an '80-'97 axle would have worked fine as well.

Rebuild time

For this axle, all I plan on doing is freshening it up some. The ring and pinion were left in place but the open differential was swapped for a Spicer Trac-Lok limited slip. I have already decided that for the van, a crossover steering system would work best. So I will ditch the driver side "front to back" steering arm and replace it with a custom made passenger side "side to side" steering arm which mounts on top of the knuckle. The stub shafts are only 30 splines, but it really does take a lot to break them so I will keep them and slap on a set of Superwinch lockouts.

Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving and what looked somewhat good on the outside, was the complete opposite on the inside. The more I took it apart, the more that needed replacing. There was rust inside the hubs which ate up both spindles due to spun bearings. Also the splines in the hubs were destroyed since there was so much play in the bearings. One other thing, inside the chunk there was some chocolate milk and that ate up the carrier bearings, but the pinion bearings were fine. The cost of rebuilding this axle exceeded the initial cost of it. But hey, at least it will be done right and I will have peace of mind knowing that it will last for many more years to come.

The axle everyone wants

Unfortunately, since this axle is the axle of choice for serious off-roaders, Dana 60 fronts are expensive and hard to find since they're in such high demand. The Ford versions have it worse since people use them in, well, Fords, Jeeps, customs, newer Dodges and even in Chevys to eliminate their IFS. The Chevy/Dodge crowd can share parts to make things easier and more plentiful. I looked for a good deal on mine for over a month. I didn't want to pay shipping so I waited for a deal to come to me, and finally it did. I called every junkyard in my neighboring counties and found none. One idiot even said he had one out of a '95 so I drove 50 miles away to find several mid 80's F-250 TTB units on the lot. Man was I pissed. Bottom line- if you must have a model 60 front, the price can vary greatly from $500 to or more $1500 for the Ford units, and that's in junkyard condition.

Above is the condition of the axle upon arrival. Not bad but extremely greasy and grimy. I have never worked on an axle, engine or transmission coated this badly. The lockouts and rotors were shot. After being torn down we found out that both spindles and a hub were also shot and could not be reused.

Above are the pics of the removal of the kingpin. These are tightened to about 500-600 ft-lbs of torque and are going to be hard to break loose. A 10ft long pipe and the 3/4" drive impact socket over the 7/8" hex bar-stock were no match for the wore out kingpins. The tree, basketball pole and heavy guy (myself) standing on the housing to keep it from rotating all made the disassembly possible.

Final assembly of the axle included many parts from Advance Auto Parts, PartsMike, ORU, JKW Offroad and Central Auto Parts. New style Superwinch hubs replaced the rotten Ford units and the crossover steering arm was manufactured by Jarvis Knife Works (

Rear: Dana 70U

My van was originally equipped with the 28 spline 3.25:1 ratio 9" rear axle. Up at a junkyard in Daytona, FL my brother found me a Dana 70 axle from a 1986 E-350 dually cube van with a 4.10 ratio and open differential. The axle shafts are the desirable 35 spline 1.5" units. It was hardly a question as to which axle to use. One thing about the van axles is their placement of the spring perches and the offset of the pinion. The perches are about 5" wider on vans and the pinion offset is about 3" to the passenger side to accommodate the wider floor space of the driver's foot compartment. Full size truck axles have an almost centrally located pinion. Having a van axle to be put in a van just makes things a lot easier. Also the dually model is 2" wider on each side; 2" from the longer axle tubes.

I really like the look of the pinion snout. It may be somewhat stronger than other 70's (except the 70HD) since it is really thick iron. I sure think it looks better than seeing a bunch of uneven angled ribs sticking out everywhere. But that's just my opinion.

This model is technically the 70-1U or just 70U. What that means is it uses certain sized pinion bearings only specific to this model. Models 70, 70-2U, 70-3U and 70B axles have different sized bearings too. As a note, the best 70 to have is the 70-HD, it uses even larger carrier bearings and 4" diameter axle tubes! From what I have seen on the internet, they are found in older Chevy dually trucks and in heavy duty Ford vans (the ambulance models). I would have loved to get the HD for my project but this unit is still overkill.

Let the hunt for new parts begin

I got off cheap rebuilding this axle. Since it already had the ratio I needed, that was one less expensive item to buy. All it needed was seals, wheel cylinders, brake tubing and shoes. Some new grade 8 axle shaft bolts help dress it up too. The drums were turned by a place in Orlando that specializes in heavy automotive/ truck parts.

It would have been nice to convert the heavy drums to disc brakes. Unfortunately this is a dually axle which means the hubs are spaced further out from the backing plate forcing me to keep my drums since normal Dana 60/70 disc brake kits are designed for SRW axles only. However there is an outfit (I think they are EBS Brake Systems) who sells a kit to retrofit Dodge dually Dana 70's into disc. That kit was almost seven hundred bucks!! I think I'll keep my trusty drums after all. And besides it is nice to actually have a working parking brake.

Lefty loosey, righty tighty: not always!

When having the brake drums turned, I noticed that this axle had the big and goofy drivers side left hand threaded 9/16" wheel studs. I wanted to change this larger size for the smaller 1/2" to match the front axle and do away with the left hand design. Ironically the local parts store (Advance Auto parts) had exactly what we needed to change the old into new. A few grunts lifting the drums and hubs onto the press and the new studs were looking fine.
For now, I am happy how an open differential handles on the street, so I will keep using it for some time to come. The front will have a limited slip so that will help somewhat to "pull" the van out of a situation if need be.

Click here for a future project!