I got my monthly email from Super Scout Specialists today, and one of their featured items is a rear swingarm bumper that’s currently on sale for 10-15% off until the end of November. Their bumper is a traditional square 2×6″ tube with a tapered bottom. Their swingarm is a single piece of bent tube, hinged on the right side with a lifting bar/pin lock on the far left side. The tire mount point is directly in the center of the tailgate. I see no provision for a license plate holder of any kind in their photos. They offer several customizations, so I priced out a swingarm model with two D-ring points, for a total of $807.
GRC Fabrication sells a swingarm bumper that looks just as beefy. It’s also a square tube base, but the hinge is on the left side. The arm is two tubes forming a welded triangle, and the way they have the standoff built there’s room underneath for a Hi-Lift behind the tire. The standoff is mounted offcenter to the left, so it’s closer to the hinge and directly behind the driver’s seat, and there’s space on the right side of the swingarm for a jerry can holder/license plate. I spec’d out a version on their site with no jerry can mount and two Hi-lift tabs for $1,175. I also had the opportunity to look at one of these in person at Nationals last year, and I liked what I saw.
The big question here is: would I rather try to (re)build the bumper I’ve got, or buy something that’s engineered to work out of the crate?
Looking on the Binder Planet, I saw a build where a guy is fabricating his own bumpers, and took some pictures of the mounts he built before he installed them. It shows exactly what I’d have to do with mine: remove the two square standoffs and either raise or lower them so that a thick bar support can be welded to their bottoms which will bolt up directly to the bottom of the frame rail. This would provide a lot more perpendicular support to the bumper and eventual swingout arm.
From what I can see he might have welded the supports to extend all the way to the bumper box itself to gusset the structure as much as possible, which is a great plan.
So, first I’d have to pull my bumper off completely. This is what mine looks like now, from the inside of the bumper facing out, and from the side (body on the right side):
I’d have to grind off the standoffs and buy new box channel to reach down to the bottom of the bumper edge. Next, I’d cut new mounting plates and weld them to the standoffs. Finally, I’d build and weld two plates along the bottom of the bumper and standoffs that extend to the factory jack mounts on the bottom of the frame.
This would theoretically give the whole assembly the vertical support it needs. All of this would require removing the trailer hitch and getting some longer bolts so that the new bumper mount will sandwich between the frame and the hitch mount.
After that, I’d have to radically alter the geometry of my swingarm. The tire needs to be lowered and moved closer to the hinge so that there isn’t as much unsupported weight bouncing around. In hindsight I welded the hinge on the wrong side—If I’d been smarter I would have put everything on the left side so that the tire isn’t blocking the view over my right shoulder. So the hinge would have to be ground off, and I’d need to rebuild the swingarm from scratch—lower and left-aligned so that the center of gravity was closer to the bumper and frame. Essentially, I’d be copying the GRC Fabrication design in a simpler fashion.
I’m not confident enough in my welding skills to trust them to be strong enough, so I’d have to hire someone for the finish welding. And there’s also the cost of materials—which are harder to get these days; the local steelyard closed down and the only way I’d be able to get the stuff I need is online ordering.
I think I’m beginning to answer my own question here.
The big question for GRC is: how does their unit mount to the body? If it’s just a set of standoffs that mount to the back of the frame box, than that’s no better than what I already have. And could I use my existing hitch mount if I had a set of longer mounting bolts?
I got tired of dealing with a swingarm that performed no function, so I broke down and pulled it off this afternoon. I had to disassemble part of the tailgate to get the license plate wire run back up to the OEM light, but once that got sorted out the rest went easy. Up until I tested the light, which doesn’t work. It was fine when I disconnected it a few years ago, so it could be the bulb is dead, or the socket isn’t grounded properly, but I ran out of time to test it. I may have to break down and buy a new one from Super Scout Specialists later in the summer.
So I put the spare up on a brick, remounted the J-hook and called it done. I have to get some larger stainless bolts for the license plate and run the wire back up into the tailgate.
I took a little downtime before the snow flew the other day to run up the Scout, do a few errands, and slip my rollbar pads on. They fit really well! So well, in fact, that I dusted off a pair of inserts I had up in the rafters of the garage and put them in for old time’s sake. These are the originals from Chewbacca so the passenger’s side is cracked where a protruding bolt head made it impossible to slide between the bar and the window. Luckily, I’ve got another good set covered in red river dust waiting to be cleaned up.
On the Binder Planet, a member called 540fan built a bumper based on the plans Brian and I developed, and it turned out really well. One thing I really like about his setup is how he handled the swingarm stop—an elegant and simple plate welded to the top right side prevents the swingarm from going past 180°. He also mounted his Hi-Lift on the backside of the triangle below the spare instead of the face of the bumper, so he was able to add a couple of clevis mounts to the face. It looks like his hinge pin mount is different as well; I think he may have welded it directly to the face of the bumper instead of adding standoffs. Overall, it looks great and I’m happy I was able to help lay some groundwork.
I stopped on the way home from work (the weatherguessers lied and claimed it would be in the low 60’s) and pulled my spare tire off. It’s changed the handling characteristics of the truck to the point where hitting expansion joints or non-parallel bumps in the road sends the whole truck into a sketchy front-to-back oscillation that I don’t like. I can see the tire vibrating back there and feel it in the handling; for a truck on springs this stiff, it’s not a good feeling. I’ve also noticed a lot more body creaking with the tire mounted out back, and the passenger door is getting harder to close securely.
I’m going to drive it a few more times with the tire off and we’ll see how it feels.
I bought six stainless bolts for mounting clips to hide the license plate wire, which I hope to put in sometime in the next day or so. Before I mounted it I drilled and tapped four holes on the backside of the main bumper, and there’s enough standoff to make installation easy.
The mirror mount got painted and reinstalled.
I also put the soft top bows back together as much as possible, but I need some 1.5″ stainless bolts to connect wider sections of the bracketry (I’m using nylon lockwashers this time, so I need a longer bolt to snug the threads). Now that it’s getting cooler I’m going to pull the bikini top, wash it, and store it for the winter. My hunt for stronger snaps is still underway; I’d like to get the door surrounds fixed before it really gets cold.
Last night I sanded the main bumper down and shot everything with a coat of black semi-gloss.
Last night’s progress: cleaned with Acetone, primered, and bondo’d. While I had everything out, I filled in the holes on the driver’s door, scuff-sanded the softtop hardware, and got as much ready for paint as possible.
After Finn went to bed, I used the evening to wire wheel the rest of the bumper. This section went a little faster because I wasn’t dealing with as many compound curves, but there were still a few areas I couldn’t reach with the angle grinder. After taking off the rest of the high spots, cleaning it all up with the flap sander and wire wheeling flat areas, I covered all of the welds, angles, and unsanded sections with a liberal coat of POR-15 and let it sit overnight.
Tonight it’ll get a rubdown with some acetone and then a coat of etching primer; while that’s drying I’m going to mix some Bondo together to fill in pinholes and other imperfections.
While I had the POR-15 open I put a coat on worn sections of the soft top bows and hardware. Tonight I’ll scuff it with some sandpaper and get it ready for a coat of paint as well.