October 29, 2003
I stopped by Toys by Troy this morning to have a little more work done on what was already installed under the hard top. Troy and I have previously discussed putting in a dash bar. I wanted something from which I could mount a very small laptop (Panasonic Toughbook) and a dash bar looked like a good option. At the same time, I would be beefing up the existing cage with one more bar so I couldn't go wrong there either.
Our plan was to make it a bolt in bar. Troy's sport bar kit bolts into your TJ. He manufacturers a dash bar that can be welded in place. Lots of Jeepers don't have welders so Troy though he might try making a prototype bolt in bar and my TJ was going to be the test mule. As it turned out, the bolt in was not going to work on mine since we needed to remove the existing cage to do some of work. Since mine was welded to the factory roll bar, what started as a fairly simple fab project was going to take much more time than we had budgeted. The prototype was put on hold and we proceeded with a a weld in dash bar. My Toughbook would not know the difference!
Late breaking news: I just got off the phone with Troy. He was at the laser cutter's shop. They were working out the specs for the bolt in dash bar (the part that needs to bolt to the "T" bracket on the sport bar). Troy decided that it was time to get this item to production and said it wouldn't be too long before they would be available. OK, back to the rest of the write-up.
Since I was supplying some sweat equity for this project, I pulled Lady into the back of Troy's new shop (he moved to a really nice facility a couple of months ago). It took a few minutes to loosen the hard top and fold down the front window so we would have easy access to the front of the existing cage.
Troy hooked me up with Larry, one of this employees, for the remainder of the project. After Larry cut the required length of tubing, he placed it in the tubing bender and put the two requisite bends in the proper location. Troy gave me a little info on this tubing bender. Made in Germany, this little sweetie is microprocessor controlled. You tell it what bend to make, and it will even compensate for the ambient temperature of the tubing so that when the tubing springs back (bending pressure is released), the angle will be correct. TOO COOL! Kind of makes that $79 unit from the Chinese import tool store look pretty sad (which it really is). Oh....the cost of Troy's bender was well over what I paid for Lady (when she had 10K miles and was only a year old). People wonder why fabricated parts can be expensive. Obviously, there is more than just labor and materials that must get factored into the price that we pay. A quality tubing bender doesn't come cheap.
With the dash bar's bends in place, it was time to cut the ends of the tubing so that they would fit the roll cage. While I would have been forced to use a grinding wheel, Larry set up the next machine to cut the curved section out of the tubing. Larry set it up to cut at a slight angle so the bar would rest in the desired position once it was fitted and welded to the cage. No way would I have gotten something that exact with a grinder.
Larry cleaned up the burrs and we dropped the bar into position. Actually, it was just a bit too snug to dead blow into place, so we used one of those hydraulic power tools to push on the roll cage (just a tiny bit). The dash bar dropped into position and we were ready to go. Since I can't weld a lick, Yonik volunteered to do the honors. I've seen his work and many of you have to, assuming you have one of Troy's bumpers, roof racks, etc. I new it would be a good job. The guys grabbed some fire blankets and carefully cover the hood and interior of the TJ. Yonik lit things up and the bar was properly secured in short order.
I thought you might like to see what it looked like from an "end shot" perspective. Hey! I still have the majority of the defroster vent available for use! You can't beat that and its is straight too! We used one of those digital levels while we were fitting the bar into position. When we were within 1/10 of a degree, I told Larry we were close enough. After welding, it was still sitting where we put it.
I forgot to snap a picture from inside the vehicle once we finished up so I just ran out to the garage and shot off a quick one. Once I get the Toughbook bracket details worked out (the parts for the prototype are sitting the garage....just gotta put it together), I'll tape things up and rattle can the dash bar. Since the rest of the roll cage is also spray painted, it should look just fine.
A big thanks goes to Troy for squeezing me into an already tight work schedule. The dash bar turned out great. I think it was Gordon (he installed my Alumi-flex LA lift) that suggested I might consider applying for a job at the shop. While Larry was doing some work on the tubing, I managed to lend a hand on a couple of other things and didn't even drop a Jeep off of the jack stands either! Hey....if the job at the nuclear plant ever dries up, I just might check into it!
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