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Spen Trailer Restomod build

Discussion in 'Jeep Trailer Tech' started by givemethewillys, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. Mar 19, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    Good morning everyone! Last summer, I had the good fortune of finding a Spen model S for sale ~4 hours from home. My girlfriend and I made the trek out there with the plans of towing the trailer home. The seller assured me that the tires were in good shape and would make the trip no problem! Well, 5 miles down the road, the first tire blew out, and another 2 miles further, the other tire was flat as well :( Needless to say, I was not happy. Given that it was a Sunday afternoon in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't find any place to buy new tires from.
    I was able to find an Advanced auto parts store that was still open, and with a tire iron in hand, set fort to try and pry my dryrotted tires out enough to fit tubes. While I was struggling, a nice guy came over and offered me the use of his manual tire machine at his house 15 minutes away! What luck!!! I mentioned to him that I was actually thinking of just flipping the darned thing into the back of the truck, when he said to me "hold on a sec...."

    The guy walked up to these BIG COUNTRY football player looking high school kids, and said, "Hey, y'all look like some big dumb rednecks, why don'cha come over here and help up lift this into the truck?"

    5 minutes later, this is how the trailer sat:


    [​IMG]


    I'm planning on using this trailer for general yard maintenance, as well as for a cool camp hauler behind either the Jeep or my girlfriends FJ cruiser. I have big plans for it, and I hope you guys will enjoy as I chronicle the build

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013
  2. Mar 19, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    So I'm updating this fairly rapidly, since I'm actually quite a ways past the initial "stare at it in wonder" phase. When I got the trailer, I thought it was in pretty good shape. Upon further investigation, however, I realized that the front part of the frame on both sides was rotted out where water would sit stagnant. While I could probably patch new metal into the rotted spots, I wasn't confident that the rest of the steel was so solid.

    I decided to start fresh, and soon realized that to do so meant getting custom C-channel bent up for new frame pieces. I made contact with a local company who specializes in custom sheetmetal work. They took my order over the phone based on my dimensions, and a week later I had the pieces for a new 1/8" frame assembly for the trailer. When I went to pick up the pieces (oh yeah), something was wrong!!!! Apparently, 38" doesn't translate over the phone very well, and I had 4 crosspieces 30" long :(

    I was debating my decision on the frame thickness as it was, so this setback gave me the last little bit of oomph to tell the guy, "make it again in 3/16"". Because of the messup, I volunteered to buy the 1/8" pieces, but got a deal on the 3/16". While I was at it, I had them weld the frame into the proper shape to match the original Spen frame. So, now I have a thicker frame for my trailer which other than thickness matches the original perfectly! I'm tickled pink!

    [​IMG]

    The L-bracket on the front part of the frame is one of my first attempts to use my new Hobart 140. Some of the welds look better than others but I think I got good penetration and it will be plenty sturdy. If not, I'll grind it off and do it again, right???
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013
  3. Mar 20, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    One thing that I really like about the Spen is the tailgate. It lends a very classic look to the trailer and adds quite a bit of usefulness. What it doesn't do is maintain a rigid structure in the rear sheetmetal section of the trailer. As you can see in the above pictures, this lack of rigidity has caused stress cracks on both sides of the trailer where it angles outward. To remedy this, many different configurations have been tried over time. The angle iron supports on my trailer were a less than successful design. Rather than try to build something off of that design, I'm going to incorporate supports that combine taillights and a rigid support together. This taillight bracket is what I'm envisioning, (ignore the ugly exoskeleton bash-guards):

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Mar 20, 2013
    SKT

    SKT I Like CJ's...

    Location
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Messages:
    491
    .

    Wow, that's a shame about the tire situation, but glad to hear that it worked out!

    Looking forward to following the progress of this trailer build!


    .
     
  5. Mar 21, 2013
    technologyteacher

    technologyteacher Member

    Elkin NC
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2009
    Messages:
    826
    Excited to see how the build progresses
     
  6. Mar 25, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    This past week I made a bit of progress in the form of new shoes and socks for the trailer :) A few months back I found a great deal on some American Racing Outlaw II's at my local pick and pull yard. I want to match the trailer's wheels to my Jeep but the Spen has a 5 on 4.5" pattern rather than 5 on 5.5". I haven't decided yet to swap out the axle so therefore don't want to spend too much cash on a nice set of matching wheels in a different bolt pattern. What I found are these:

    [​IMG]

    Compare that to my new outlaw II's:


    [​IMG]


    In addition to the SWEET wheels I picked up I talked my buddy into giving up a pair of BFG AT's that he's been hoarding for a few years now. I got them for $20 a piece and they have 50% tread, so I'm happy! The only possible issue is that they're super wide 325/60?r15's. If anything they should provide some great flotation on the beach this summer! I'm hoping that they'll squeeze in without having to add a spacer.
     
  7. Mar 25, 2013
    mb82

    mb82 I feel great!

    Charlottesville Va
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Messages:
    2,715
    Can't wait for it to be done.
     
  8. Mar 29, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    Time for an update! Yesterday I made lots of progress on the trailer frame and finished up the main structure of the trailer. I still need to decide whether I'm going to use stock CJ-5 leaf springs for the suspension, or the 36" spen leaves.

    Anyways, I started off by welding on a receiver tube section. With this, I'll be able to add any type of hitch I want, plus I can extend the tongue to accomodate longer vehicles such as our FJ cruiser :)

    [​IMG]



    next, my plan was to make an a-frame using 3/16" c-channel. I was so impressed and confident with my masterful fabrication skills until I tried to fit it all together:

    [​IMG]

    Can anyone see what I did wrong? AAAAGHGGHHHH!!!! Luckily, I already had the same pieces made up in 1/8" which is actually slightly thicker than stock, so I decided to fab up the a-frame using 1/8". I think it actually ended up being a good decision in the end.... the front part of the frame is getting HEAVY! I also decided to change up the design of the A-frame to match closer to stock:

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    That's all for now, I hope you guys enjoy! Next up, I need to make a decision on the leaf springs, and sandblast the trailer tub.
     
  9. Mar 29, 2013
    Nightstr

    Nightstr Member

    Sacramento CA.
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2012
    Messages:
    253
  10. Apr 7, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    Update time! So my buddy the mechanic was nice enough to mount my new tires on the junkyard rims I acquired. When I picked them up I was shocked! They were WIDE!!!! So wide, in fact, that the backspacing became effectively too much for the trailer to take. The tires, when bolted up, rub against the sheetmetal. This will not do at all chainsawguy So, it looks like I'm going to have to get some spacers!

    Here are the tires mocked up on the trailer. You can see how they sit too far inboard:

    [​IMG]

    To solve this issue for now, I found a set of 1.25" spacers on Ebay for $50 shipped. Since someday I want to change out the axle to one with a 5 on 5.5" pattern, this should work for the time being.

    [​IMG]

    I was also able to make some serious progress on the spring assemblies. Having finally decided to keep the stock length leaf springs, I pushed forward to remove the bolts securing the spring hangers and leaf spring assembly. This was not an easy task with most of the nuts being unrecognizable rust colored blobs!!!! Luckily, judicious use of PB blaster and an air ratchet finally knocked MOST of the bolts free. I still have two resilient hangers that are going to need heat or a grinder before this ordeal is over with :(

    After what seemed like hours of clanging and banging, I finally emerged with a complete axle and leaf spring assembly. It practically shouted, "Clean me!!!"

    [​IMG]


    With that in mind, I set up my newest toy:


    [​IMG]

    Harbor Fright was having a sale on everything so I was able to get this little beauty for $50 shipped to my door! It took a lot of fiddling and a return trip to TSC for some finer sand, but after tweaking it I was able to get great results even with my smallish 21gallon compressor (5.6cfm).

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The spray pattern was pretty small and the fine media made for a slow rust removal process. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to hire out the tub sandblasting or do it myself. I'll cross that road when I get to it!

    Next on the list is to replace the Ubolts and leaf spring bushings, then mount the assembly to the new frame. It will be really nice to have a rolling chasis to work with. That frame is getting heavy :D
     
  11. May 7, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    It has been a little while since my last update, but I've made quite a bit of progress. Continuing on with preparing the new frame, I had to remove the old spring hangers and attach them to the new frame. It was a good thing that I didn't try to pull this trailer around anywhere because the bolts holding the hangers on were all but nonexistant!!! The nuts crumbled under the power of an air ratchet and vice grips, and soon I was able to sandblast and paint the hangers.

    [​IMG]

    I also finished up adding some support pieces to the front of the frame.... it definitely gives it a more finished appearance :)

    [​IMG]
    Meanwhile, I was disassembling the trailer tub parts as well in preparation for sheetmetal repair and sandblasting. I'm getting the tub parts professionally sandblasted. It would take FAR to long to do it myself and my compressor would struggle with the task.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After drilling the holes for the spring hangers, I finally got the frame to the point where I could put some paint on it. I used rustoleum enamel and tractor supply enamel hardner. I think it looks pretty darn good!

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    After applying multiple coats of black, I slid the axle assembly under the frame, and WHA LAH!!! Rolling chassis :)

    [​IMG]

    Somewhere down the line my measurements must have been a bit off though... I had to push the springs outward for the centering pins to mount up with the axle holes. It's roughly 1/2" outward on each side. I don't like how it's binding up, so I think I'm going to redrill the holes on the axle to line everything up again. I'm planning on getting a new axle eventually anyways, so this will be a decent test fit for it in the future.

    Next up I should be getting my trailer tub parts back from the sandblaster this weekend and will be able to start right away on splicing in repair panels. More updates to come!
     
  12. May 7, 2013
    mb82

    mb82 I feel great!

    Charlottesville Va
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Messages:
    2,715
    Measure 3 times, write it down, and still drill twice. That is how I do it.
     
  13. May 7, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    hahaha thats the thing, I DID measure three times, and my measurements actually match up with the original holes! My only guess is that either I'm suffering from walleye, im the special kind of smart, orrrrr the trailer is wrong. yup, thats it, the trailer was built wrong. :rofl:
     
  14. May 9, 2013
    GeoffreyL

    GeoffreyL Well-Known Member

    moorestown, nj
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2012
    Messages:
    1,511
    Cant wait to see it finished, and how did you ever make out with the engine? I'll be following this one
     
  15. May 9, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    Thanks Geoffrey, I'm still working on the engine slowly, I've been meaning to take it to the machine shop to look over the bottom end. Ive already had them redo the heads with hardened seats, and I have a RV cam waiting to be installed once I get off my butt and get everything ready. My T-18 tranny is rebuilt and adapted to the dauntless bellhousing and is waiting to go in as well. HOPEFULLY everything will come together soon and I'll be able to get it buttoned up by the end of summer! I'll be flat towing the Jeep up to the willys reunion in June, maybe we'll see you there :)


    I got some bad news from the sandblaster today. he did a test blast on an area that looked like good metal and turned the sheetmetal into swiss cheese :( So, it looks like the tub is rustier than I thought. He said it would cost twice what I was quoted to blast it and who knows how many pinholes will develop. At this point, I'm looking into getting the panels custon made for close to the same price! I'll probably take off the accessories such as holddowns and fender mounts but everything else will be original. I'm really bummed at this point that the sheetmetal is in such poor shape, it looked solid with surface rust only! I might make some more mods to improve its campability at this point since nothing is going to be original Spen. We'll see.....
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  16. May 9, 2013
    GeoffreyL

    GeoffreyL Well-Known Member

    moorestown, nj
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2012
    Messages:
    1,511
    I'm trying to get my Dad to drive me, dont think i'll be able to bring any jeeps, not that they're much to look at. They look the same as they did when u saw them, but i got new seats for the B. Worst case i'll make my brother drive me.
     
  17. May 10, 2013
    technologyteacher

    technologyteacher Member

    Elkin NC
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2009
    Messages:
    826
    You may want to try an alternative method of stripping the tub. Sandblasting can blow holes in metal. Perhaps a wire wheel would get the rust off and preserve the metal that's left. Progress looks good!
     
  18. May 10, 2013
    aallison

    aallison 74 cj6, 76 cj5. Has anyone seen my screwdriver?

    Green Cove...
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,790
    What about soda blasting?
     
  19. May 10, 2013
    givemethewillys

    givemethewillys Sponsor

    New Kent, VA
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    907
    I've considered it and actually tried a wire wheel first, but wasnt satisfied with the cleanliness of the metal. There's something satisfying about the consistant gray color of freshly sandblasted steel! Now that blasting isnt an option I'll have to reconsider it. Thanks for reminding me of other options :)


    Im also talking to Rommel Juan about replacement panels, as well as custom bending new panels. Everything is easy to replicate with the exception of the ribs chainsawguy

    If I did go with new panels, would anyone have any interest in the originals? I'd let them go for scrap value!
     
  20. May 10, 2013
    GeoffreyL

    GeoffreyL Well-Known Member

    moorestown, nj
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2012
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    1,511
    I'd take em! i have a couple old boat trailers i could make into a jeep trailer!
     

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