rc jeep willys build 16

Custom 1/6th Scale Jeep Willys Build – Part 1

Lexan bodies are by far the most popular option when it comes to R/C cars and trucks. They are straight forward to paint, trim and mount. They are also lightweight and can take a pretty severe beating without showing much wear. But, for the hardcore scale enthusiasts Lexan bodies usually fall short in the detail department. Which is why a lot of scale builders turn to hard plastic bodies for their custom builds. Hard bodies usually have a lot more detail externally and internally. They also allow you to add more scale details, as most have complete interiors including seats, dash gauges, shifters, armrests, etc. This allows builders to customize these bodies in ways that usually aren’t available to standard Lexan bodies. Builders can add their own personal touches such as driver figures, custom shifters, gauge lights, co-pilots and even a pair of fuzzy dice if they so desire! Plus, when shooting scale photos and video the hard plastic bodies look more realistic overall than their Lexan counterpart. The detail level is so high on some builds that it is tough to tell if the vehicles are real or R/C!

We have had this old 1/6th scale Jeep Willys for a couple years now, and decided it was time to dive in and start building on this thing! We wanted to base it around an Axial SCX10 chassis and skid plate. But, as most of you know the SCX10 is 1/10th scale. Which meant the chassis was way too short to use for this build. So, we did what any builder would do and cut two SCX10 frames in half to fit the profile and length of the body. It actually worked out perfect as you will see in the photos. For this blog installment of this build we will show you how we mocked up the frame to fit, dialed in our wheelbase to match the body, sorted out our intended ride height and dialed in our suspension travel. We are are piecing together this whole build with nothing but hand tools and what we have available to use for parts. The most high tech tool we will use is a Dremel and an electric screwdriver. The rest will be done with the basics!

First thing we did was strip everything off the Willys body, such as the frame and axles, the tools, side view mirror, seats, etc. This body was missing a few parts when we got it too. The windshield and steering wheel were gone before we got our grubby hands on it. So, we will have to come up with a steering wheel. The windshield was going to be discarded as we are adding a roll cage anyway. Once the body was stripped we lined up the two sets of chassis rails and marked them to be cut to length with our trusty Dremel. After the chassis’ were cut we grafted them together using old servo posts, mounted the skid plate and set everything in place on the body, with the body upside down on our bench. Next, we taped the chassis to the body to hold it in place while we worked on building our suspension links to the length we needed to fit the body’s wheelbase. Pay attention to your axle’s pinion angles when building your links, you want them to be in the proper position for correct driveshaft angles. Leaving them tipped up or down during the mock-up stage will affect your ride height, and where the tires fit the wheel wells if you wait to adjust those later in the build. Get your links properly dialed in top and bottom before fine tuning your right height.


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Here you can see that our wheelbase is dialed in, and the axle’s pinion angles for the Vanquish Rock Jock axles are where they need to be. We also bolted up a set of XR10 width wheels on the driver’s side and a set of original AX10 wheels on the passenger’s side. This will help us see if the shocks and links are going to interfere with either offset of wheel during the build-up.


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Next, we flipped the body over and started searching for our overall ride height by placing blocks under the chassis skid to see where everything will sit at different heights. This shot shows that we are right at 3″ for belly clearance, and our link angles are still reasonable, upper links are pretty flat and the lowers are at an acceptable angle for full droop. Having the lower links sit at too steep of an angle will adversely affect suspension geometry, so keep that in mind. Also, keep checking the pinion angles as you make adjustments. Our pinion outputs ended up pretty much parallel with the workbench, which is what you want. You may have to chase this around a bit with spacers on the suspension links to get everything sitting properly.


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Once desired ride height is established it is time to figure out suspension flex, and what shocks to run. Ideally the tires should just barely touch the body once your shocks are fully compressed. Suspension droop will be determined by overall shock length, and where the lower shock mounts are located on the axles. We are shooting for a fair amount of flex on this build, while still maintaining scale looks. During mock-up use your desired shocks without springs on them to determine if you can manage the proper ride height and flex with them. We used Axial SCX10 shocks for our mock-up, and they fit the bill nicely with some minor changes. First we cut the stock rubber bump stops down to about 1/16th of an inch. Then the shorty stock lower rod ends were swapped out for longer rod ends to increase the overall length of the shock. I think we have a stamp of approval from the big boss out back to move forward!


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Notice how nice the Pro-Line Super Swamper tire tucks into the wheel well.


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Time to figure out a way to mount the chassis securely to the body. Lucky for us, the front and rear of the extended chassis fits perfectly with the contour of this Willys body front and rear. After scratching our heads for a bit on how to permanently mate the two. We discovered that stock Axial servo mounts fit in place like they were designed for this task. Notice the splice point in the extended chassis too.


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In order to tie the frame and body together out back we also used servo mounts for the stock SCX10. Again, they fit like they were intended to be used here.


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Out front we used the same servo posts as the rear, but we had to stand them up, and trim them down just a bit in height. We really got lucky with mounting the chassis to the body. Everything literally fell into place!


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With the chassis taped in place at the exact location it needed to be, we scribed the profile of the servo mounts into the body and marked our holes to be drilled. In order to stop our drill bit from walking on us as we drilled into the body, we used a body reamer to start the holes first. This ensures the drill’s tip stays in position as we drill out the body mounting holes.


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Now it is time to attach the chassis to the body and drill the upper shock mounting holes! Attach the lower shock mounts to the axles with the suspension links in place. Re-establish your intended ride height again with blocks under the chassis skid. Position your upper shock mounts into the desired location and mark where they need to be drilled. Take a minute to measure a few spots on both sides of the body to your marked shock holes to double check that everything is somewhat even before drilling. Better to be safe than sorry here!


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Attach your upper shock mounts to the holes drilled in the previous step. And there you have it, a rolling chassis! As you can see we have already started mocking up a roll cage, and sorting out a front bumper. But, that is for another installment.


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Here is where things got interesting on this build! At ride height with the shocks mounted we noticed there isn’t much room for our Hitec steering servo between top of the Vanquish Rock Jock axles and the body. Once we mounted a servo up and set-up the steering, our fears were confirmed. There was hardly any room for the axle and suspension to cycle before the servo hit the body. Not a big deal, as we can cut the body to clear. But, we had already taken the time to mount our transmission under the hood of the Willys. And now we have to cut all that out in order to free up the suspension and front axle. It is tough to see in the photo but the servo touches the body before the shocks even hit half their travel.


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Before we started cutting away at the front of the body to clear the servo, we had to find a way to move the transmission up a little with a new sub-floor in the engine bay. We found a scrap piece of aluminum laying around that worked out great after a little quality time with a hack saw and file. There were two mounting tabs already in the body’s engine bay, so we utilized those to mount the new transmission plate under the hood.


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Time to break out the Dremel and make some room for that steering servo! After some estimating and measuring we started trimming the body to achieve the flex we were after! Since the electronics will be under the hood as well, we cut a little extra out behind the servo so the servo wire can be routed up through the floor.


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Next issue we ran into as the suspension cycled was the front axle truss hit the body before the shock could reach full travel. So, the body had to be cut for the axle truss to clear on one side, and for the steering linkage on the other.


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A mid-clearance shot of the area we cut out to clear the front truss. Eventually, we will cut more of this area away to clean up the overall look.


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One last shot of where the Willys sits now. Projects like these can be a tough undertaking! But, keep the end result in mind as you go. We are already getting excited about driving this beast. The overall weight and size is going to make it fun to maneuver in scale terrain! More to come in a bit as we sort out the next installment of our Jeep Willys build, so stay tuned!!




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