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"Made-It-Myself" 4-Wheeler Uses Off-The-Shelf Components
"It's built tough but rides like a Cadillac and is very maneuverable. I made it from off-the-shelf components so it didn't cost much," says Alec Yeager, Hendley, Neb., about his home-built 4-WD all-terrain vehicle.
  The "Sidewinder," as he calls it, has a number of unique features that make it extremely maneuverable. Those features include:
  • Crab steering, which allows both the front and rear axles to steer separately. As a result, the machine can move down the road almost sideways.
  • A body supported by a computer-controlled, air bag suspension system. By pressing a button, the driver can adjust the air bags to tilt the vehicle's body up, down, left, right. Or, he can raise or lower the entire vehicle up to 1 ft.
  • A wheelbase that can be extended on-the-go. The rig's frame is "sleeved" and can be moved back and forth by operating a pair of hydraulic cylinders, allowing wheelbase length to be adjusted anywhere from 112 to 130 in. without the driver ever having to get out of the cab.
  • A homemade cab that sports a pair of Bostrom air seats in front with a bench seat in back built over toolboxes.
  "It's cool to watch and even cooler to drive," says Yeager. "It was one of those rare projects where the result exceeded my expectations."
  The vehicle is built mostly out of standard round, square and rectangular steel tubing and sheet metal. It's powered by an LS1 Chevy Vortec engine that's connected to a 700 R4 transmission. An air conditioner compressor is used to supply the air bags.
  He started with a pair of frame rails and the front steering axles off two Chevrolet 1-ton, 4-WD pickups. He rebuilt both axles and mounted one several inches ahead of its original position on one frame to serve as the front axle. He mounted the other axle the same way in the front section of the other frame to serve as the rear axle. Then he cut off about 3/4 of the rear portion of each frame rail. Rectangular tubing was welded to each axle, resulting in a "Y" design. A driveshaft equipped with 25 in. of splines supplies power to the rear axle.
  He used rubber conveyor belting to make the fenders. A friend painted the body with sprayable truck bed liner to protect against scratches.  
  "It works great for off-road driving and also rides beautifully on the highway," says Yeager. "It does take some time to get used to driving it. With the basic Y' frame suspension system I thought it might drive like an old tractor, but it drives great. The air bags give it a cushy ride, which I love and wouldn't give up for anything. I used it last fall to pull a 4-wheeled trailer during harvest. The rear steering axle made it easy to back the trailer into my shop, without having to use a skid loader.
  "By extending the frame to its full 130-in. length, I can safely go up steep hills. The adjustable air bag system works especially well for maneuvering through timber where the roads are curved and narrow. When making a tight turn, I can tilt the cab to either side in order to avoid hitting trees. To clear big bumps in the road I just raise the entire body straight up."
  The air suspension system also works great to keep the rig from getting stuck in muddy conditions. "I can tilt the front end up and the back end down to move the center of gravity back over the rear wheels. If both axles do get stuck in holes or deep ruts, I can adjust the wheelbase length to get the wheels out of the ruts," says Yeager. "I had no idea how many electrical cables, brake hoses, air lines, fuel lines, and hydraulic lines I had until it was time to bundle them so they could flex with the frame."
  Yeager has made two videos about the rig. The first is called "A Look At Sidewinder" and is a walk-around tour that also shows the machine in action. It sells for $15 plus $5 S&H. The second video is called "How I Built Sidewinder" and sells for $35 plus $5 S&H.
  "The cost to build this machine depends entirely on how good you are at scavenging parts, and on what parts you already have. Using salvage yard parts, you can expect to spend somewhere between $2,000 and $10,000," notes


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2004 - Volume #28, Issue #5