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LEXUS 1UZ-FE Engine Swap My blood sweat and tears. It will be worth it!!

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  #1  
Unread 10-29-2009, 07:33 AM
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Default Toyota Tacoma Fender Supports

I have already cut out and strengthened the passenger (left) side front fender of my Tacoma and I'm in the process of doing the drivers (right) side. Why? Well to make more room under the hood. I had to do this to make room for a large intake on the left side and of course I have to make the right side match, plus the added room will allow me to shift the fuse assembly, the charcoal canister and the battery away from the engine a little bit.

I've also wanted to do this for a very long time. The Tacoma fenders are somewhat strong but if one structural portion of the whole fender wall or front support gets bent or dinged - the whole thing folds like a house of cards. So cutting all this weak stuff out and plating it with 1/8" steel and bracing it with tubing is what it really needs. After a little bit of that kind of work the left fender was SUPER strong and I haven't even braced it with tubing yet. I'm pretty excited about how strong the whole front end is becoming. I remember going over rough terrain and watching the front end jiggle around in front of my eyes... like the hood was bopping up and down and the fenders were flopping a little too much for my taste. Now it's going to be rock solid. Keep in mind that I've built onto the stock frame supports but I'm building in polyurathane supports for vibration/noise.

So check it out and I hope this gives some people some ideas! I've always wanted to do this and it's so easy I wish I did it a long time ago. All you have to do is have a 4" grinder or two, a stationary belt sander helps and a small MIG welder... that's basically it. Then you just need to go bum some steel from your buddies. I was able to collect steel from 3 friends to bring my whole thing together. Thanks to them.

Here is my left side pretty much done. I'm just going to paint it when everything is bolted in and I'm completely done with the supports that I want to put on the corners. This is TOTALLY strong enough but the small corner supports I want to put in are so easy and will double the rigidity of the whole front end. The Lexus V8 in this Tacoma will really be stressing this body and chassis so I'm just playing it safe with more supports.

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Unread 10-29-2009, 07:43 AM
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This is basically what I've got on the left side. I wanted to post this picture because it also shows my main tools in the background. I have a grinder with a grinding wheel and a grinder with a cutoff disc on it. I recommend buying 15-20 cutoff discs because if you have thick steel they burn out fast. If you buy 5" cutting discs they last a LOT longer than the 4'5" discs... so take that into consideration. You just have to be SUPER careful using these tools. They cut very very straight lines on their own without any guides... they are amazingly fast too.

You will go crazy changing wheels on the grinders. I highly recommend you have a nice one and then go buy a cheap one like a craftsman or a Harbor Freight special. The higher end grinders are always more quite and that makes a difference when you are working with them for more than 5 minutes! MAKE SURE AND WEAR EAR PROTECTION the whole time you are working with this sort of stuff. The cheap ear foam plugs just pop in real fast and you can still hear most everything including the stereo so you get way used to it. Plus when you are grinding and welding bits of steel just want to go into your ears naturally so you will actually feel your ear foams blocking fragments that are trying to deflect into your ears... seriously ear protection is important.

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Unread 10-29-2009, 07:50 AM
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With these pictures you should be able to replicate anything I do pretty fast. I spent a long time thinking about what I was doing when I first did it to the left side. Then when I got to the right side I was able to really speed things up and get crazy. It took me about 4 minutes to outline and chop out the whole fender with the cutoff wheel on the little grinder. Hold onto that thing tight when you get close to the corners!



I have a lot of time and experience using these grinders and I always wear thick long sleeved shirts and gloves. If you don't you'll be miserable. Just grab some crap denim clothes for your steel working outfit. And I recommend buying one of those skull caps from the welding supply store to keep grindings and sparks out of your hair... because you WILL feel that stuff going right to your head.
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Unread 10-29-2009, 07:52 AM
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And here we are all cut out. Removing everything and peeling it back is easy and takes about 2 minutes if your quick. Hold the wires away from where you are cutting with one hand and take your time cutting slowly to be safe. The cutting wheel cuts very well and is easy to control if you take your time. And wearing ear protection will allow you to focus and not be stressed out by the shrieking tool while you are doing it.

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Unread 10-29-2009, 08:07 AM
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As in the picture you can see that I cut underneath the curved portion along the side. With this done you can pull out the sheet metal (wear thick gloves! the cheap leather work gloves work great for everything except welding cause they catch on fire : ).

Then once you pull it out grab some big channel lock pliers or use your hands and bend it outward to make each piece concave style. You have to cut the length of the fender inside with vertical slices because there is a slight curve to the whole thing and it makes it much easier.



Then I use a big hammer with a flat side and the other side has a ball on it. This is just for metal working and they work great for stuff like this if you haven't used one before. You just tap the metal and it will do anything you want it to. The metal will fall into and up against what is left and the bottom edge will pop against the outer fender and the part that was cut will hold the bottom up when it reaches that point. You want to get the whole thing pushed up in there with the hammer and come back to tack weld it all. It makes it pretty rigid with this alone. I think I measured 8" from the firewall that I left in tact. The rest is collapsed all the way to the front.
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Unread 10-29-2009, 08:09 AM
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Then I cut out a little plate and welded it to cover up the hole that is left towards the rear. I just use a piece of cardboard for any shape I want to cut out. Then with a knife I get close with the shape and then use a pen to make any notes on it or small lines that I'll need to cut with the grinder.

Here you can see all the sections collapsed and tac welded up into the out fender. Pretty smooth so far eh?
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Unread 10-29-2009, 08:27 AM
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This is the optional part that ups the ante quite a bit. This is more advanced stuff here so read through before you decide if you want to consider cutting out the footwell area of the cab. As you see above mine has taken a beating and I had to hammer back the seams of the body because the tires were hitting them constantly. They also take a beating from rocks that are spun up and off from the tires. I remember hearing loud pops that were really annoying. They were a lot louder than normal becuase the material they are made from is so thin.

Plus you can't weld ANYTHING to the cab of the Toyota Tacoma. The material is just super thin and even if you were able to connect anything to it the material would just pull apart since it's too thin to support any kind of force.

So I just grab the ol cutting wheel and cut it out. Cutting the steel to cover up the hole is a little tricky and when you weld it - it takes forever cause you have to use the lowest setting and use tack welds around the whole thing or else you will burn through the body when too much heat is applied. It takes a long time.

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Unread 10-29-2009, 08:32 AM
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If you do this you surely want to integrate the curved section here with your supports. This is the last strong section in this whole area and you want to preserve this rail and the pop welds that are holding it to the cab. This is a decent foundation (well all you have to work with) to help you strengthen this area. So grab a knife and cut back the bonding glue so you can see where the seam is. When you can see the seam you can then cut back the thin steel right up to it and remove the angular, jagged edges from your first cut. This is the surround you want to prep to weld your steel plate to so shine it up good. I like to use the grinding wheel to get the steel nice and shiny to prep for the best weld possible.

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Unread 10-29-2009, 08:38 AM
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I was pressed for time as the day winded down so I didn't take a picture of the prep before I installed the plating. But here it is and that kind of welding takes forever. As you can see the curved edge is welded to it. Once you start welding that curved part you can use your hammer to bend the rest of the curved part and the outside cab wall closer to the steel. The steel plate is straight and bending the cab against it straightens things out a little bit more while you are welding it up tight.

Yeah this is 100 times stronger than the factory Tacoma cab and fender supports.
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Unread 10-29-2009, 11:22 PM
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So today I went just a tad backwards. Moving back to the left side I test mounted the front clip (grill) and the new headlights up to the front of the truck. Well I already knew the mounting points were only going to be the same along the top. I knew I would have to fudge the bottom mounts to make them work as well as the mounts for the new headlights. Instead of spending the time to modify the stock sheetmetal I just decided it would be wiser to just build it from scratch. I should have done this at the beginning but I was just intimidated by having to do this detail oriented work. But in the long run it needs to be done and it's not a good idea to put any time into something that you'll just want to redo later on.

I just cut the top headlight mounting area and it basically just come off. I have plating welded in behind the sheet metal that is just below the headlight so I cut it free to reuse it. I also cut another plate the same size so that I could make a 3D piece to work with instead of just a single plate of steel.
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Unread 10-29-2009, 11:32 PM
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Here is what I have now. The red arrows show where the new clip will mount to just fine. I'll be using tubing below for the bottom which will have tabs welded on with these square holes. Then the blue arrows simply are mounting points for the outer fender and I'll have tubing stretching out to that side with tabs for mounting those. Then the green arrow shows the original ear of sheet metal that goes into the bumper bracket I made that goes across the front. I'll just recreate this in heavy steel and the rear of it will be welded at a right angle to the steel plating that will be the front of the body. Kinda hard to picture it I know but it will all be done tomorrow. That piece with the green arrow is just resting on the boxed frame mount that I made.



So the boxed plated piece will just weld to the bumper mount and tubing will go up from there to mount to the inner fender support that looks like a diamond in the upper left. And tubing will go out to the blue arrow fender mounts. Might as well do it for the long run. It will only set me back a day and it will look much better. I'm still retaining the stock sheet metal piece that goes across the whole hood line. It's the last thing that keeps the truck looking Toyota and not full race when you pop open the hood.

Now I feel like a real idiot. Before I did my whole engine swap I could have just cut all of this out in the first place! That would have made things incredibly easy for engine placement and measuring and fabbing all the adapters... jeesh! I feel dumb. BUT rebuilding the whole thing after all that time would have really been hard. Now I'm starting to wonder if I should make that whole top sheet metal piece detachable. Well when I put the tubing across the whole front end then it's going to be permanent so I'll just leave it there for now. I see myself making tabs for those mounts eventually... hmmmm. >:\
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Unread 10-30-2009, 08:43 PM
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Today while making my boxed front fender mounts I thought it would be fun to MIG weld one together and then TIG weld the other one. A lot of this build is instructional and I have a lot of people wanting to talk about the differences between the two methods. So this is kind of a neat way to demonstrate the outcome of two different welds on the exact same type of part.

I'm sure everyone reading this knows which one is the TIG welded part right?
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Unread 10-30-2009, 08:53 PM
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A little more about MIG and TIG welding if anyone is not a welder here: One is obviously showing much more consistent welds. The one on the upper left is MIG welded together. It's a pain in the butt to get the wire to puddle up flat all of the time because as soon as you hit the trigger the power is ON and you can't adjust the amount of current but you have to lay down the wire into puddles anyhow regardless.

With the TIG on the lower right you can see the pattern of welding is MUCH more consistent. This is due to much more power being at your fingertips and you can add the rod material when the temperature and the material you are welding together is ready to take it. But in contrast when you use the MIG it's GO GO GO as soon as you pull the trigger. With the TIG its a much slower process but it's more controlled, albeit, a little more complicated because you are using a piano pedal to control the rate of current, your primary hand holds the gun and the other is in charge of adding material with the rod.

If no one is going to be looking at your work, go ahead and MIG everything up and call it a day. But with some more patience and practice you can TIG things together for a stronger bond and a much better looking outcome. As you can see I went ahead and grinded then belt sanded most of the MIG welds as they are inconsistent on such old steel and get a little sloppy sometimes.

Here is actually how the parts will rest together on the front of the truck. I had my front "bumper" looking bar poweder coated krinkle black. The black bars main purpose is actually to mount the radiator but I made it look and could function like a bumper/hoop.

The Toyota Tacoma headlights basically mount just above these boxed supports on each side.


I was thinking of making tab on the front of those boxed pieces I made so that I could take the bumper piece off and on the front like it did on the stock body material. But then I just started thinking why? I'll just weld it together and get it over with. I'm not planning on taking it on and off and it doesn't need to come off for access to the radiator or anything. So I'll just weld it all together in the morning and then start working on the fender mounts. I'll have to grind back some of the powder coating but no big deal. Needs to be done.
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Unread 11-06-2009, 07:50 PM
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Alright! I'm back! I took a little time off to go to the SEMA Show out in Las Vegas this year. I had to go check out all the new stuff, say hi to all the hot models, talk to some mfg reps and take tons of pictures of other peoples fabrication work. It was a crazy time as usual.

Now back to work. I feel guilty as ever for the pause in the progress due to my absence. As you know I just chopped off the whole front end off so I can just put my efforts into building the front end right. All this work to make things nice and straight up front is key in regards to getting everything built to last.

I could have just put things off until tomorrow but I wanted to make sure and weld the boxed supports to the front cross member support. Then tomorrow morning I can move forward with the fender supports.

Before welding things together I had to break out the angle gauges and squares to get things straight and true. Just eying things won't due here and there is no way I'm going to weld things together without making damn sure the measurements are going to be the exact same on both sides.

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Unread 11-06-2009, 07:58 PM
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I moved things around to make all things level and the angles right. The Empire angle finder is perfect for my purposes. Yeah there are more accurate tools out there... I saw them at the SEMA Show and I was drooling! But the old fashioned tools work great for things other then aerospace engineering like this.



And here we are with one of the strongest Tacoma front ends in existence. I could have used tubing but I don't want to start cutting and bending it in my garage. The mounting possibilities on these boxed pieces are a lot more abundant as well. This way won't have to weld tabs with gussets on them or have to cut the tubing off and start over when it's time to cage the front end/ engine.

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