roulette wheel has come up '00' -- replacing the frame on a RHD to LHD model 81 turbo diesel conversion (1 Viewer)

John Young

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I love my life. It keep throwing me curveballs. I've written about the turbo diesel RHD to LHD conversion I bought a couple of years back at auction, and we got it up and running and it has passed inspection. This year more chickens have come home to roost. The inspectors found cracks in the frame up on the driver's side near the power steering:
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The inspectors want the entire frame to be replaced. Ordinarily, I would be pushing for a repair, but there are other problems with this conversion which causes me to favor going ahead and doing a complete replacement. I need some collective wisdom from the forum on these topics:

First question:

I have access to a possible donor vehicle:
1607525413579.png

Here is the driveline for the donee that would be getting the frame:
1607525584729.png

Are there any material differences in the frame between these two types of chassis that my guys would have trouble with?

Second question:

I've never done a frame swap, and this truck is eventually coming to the US. Should my guys cut out the stamped frame number and weld it over the same place in the new frame? Should they weld it next to the stamped frame number so both are visible? What do the DMV's expect here?

Third question:

At some point it its life, the donor truck has had its automatic transmission replaced with a manual:
1607527101925.png

Is it likely that the PO made problematic changes to the frame to accommodate the manual? Put another way, are there material differences between the frames of a manual transmission and automatic transmission late model 80?
 
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TurboDennis

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Cool - a LHD HDJ81 conversion. I am just finishing one myself. I looked through your other thread and it actually looks like they did a pretty decent job. Not perfect, obviously, but i dont see anything criminal either. I've heard of some real shady practices when these trucks are converted to LHD in Philippines. I would be curious to see their approach to wiring under the dash..

As for your questions, there might be very minor differences between the frames - nothing that you cant work with. When your truck was converted to manual tranny, the tranny crossmember would have to be moved a few inches forward. So that would need to be done on your A/T donor frame as well. Pretty minor job compared everything else that needs to be done for a frame swap.

As for chassis number stamping on the frame - i cant comment on how US DMV would look at it, but in Canada nobody would care. I have never seen, or even heard of any government official checking the stamp on the frame for any reason whatsoever. They only look at the door jamb sticker if they want to verify the VIN for whatever reason. Having said this, frame replacements do happen, and im sure there is a procedure that you can follow to add a note somewhere in the documents for the vehicle that the frame was replaced along with the new frame number. If i was an inspector and i saw signs of welding around the VIN frame stamp, that would actually raise A LOT of questions from me.... Tampering with the VIN numbers is ILLEGAL. Replacing the frame is not..
 

John Young

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As for chassis number stamping on the frame - i cant comment on how US DMV would look at it, but in Canada nobody would care. I have never seen, or even heard of any government official checking the stamp on the frame for any reason whatsoever. They only look at the door jamb sticker if they want to verify the VIN for whatever reason. Having said this, frame replacements do happen, and im sure there is a procedure that you can follow to add a note somewhere in the documents for the vehicle that the frame was replaced along with the new frame number. If i was an inspector and i saw signs of welding around the VIN frame stamp, that would actually raise A LOT of questions from me.... Tampering with the VIN numbers is ILLEGAL. Replacing the frame is not..
Thanks TD. All of this is most helpful. On the frame, that is why I wondered about cutting the VIN off the old frame and welding it next to the VIN on the new frame, so both are present. That way all information is preserved. I'm hopeful of getting some more feedback.
 

John Young

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Do you know where you will settle down in the USA? If so, I would call that DMV directly. I imagine it varies by location.
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I just called Virginia's DMV and they are not taking calls at the moment for some reason. So I started googling. Got quite a lot of interesting information. Here's an example:
Do NOT weld over the old frame number! In Cali, if you are putting a vehicle together that has never been registered or fell out of reg long ago, it needs to go to the Highway Patrol for a vin inspection. I can assure you that the Vin officer knows where the secondary vins are located and if it is welded over, expect the CHP to cut your frame up to determin the original frame number. Registration goes by frame number in CA. Much easier to leave the newer frame number and explain with paper work rather than explain why you have an altered(covered up) vin which is a felony. I have seen guys bring in restored vehicles only to find out that the secondary vin confirms vehicle is stollen. Then the new "owner" gets to remove what ever component he can prove that he payed for (reciept) from the stolen and the recovered vehicle goes back to the insurance company or previous owner. Obviously lots of lost time and money involved in that. There is a guy right now removing parts from a stolen Honda 250R three wheeler. We also just recovered a stolen 70 camaro that was stolen in the 80's!

I think what I will do if I do this is to have the guys cut the VIN sections out of the old frame and just keep them with the truck. Looking at Virginia's regulation specifically, it seems there may be paperwork involved. Fortunately, I can get a bill of sale in Dubai with the donor vehicle's VIN on it.
 
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Neat. I was in Abu Dhabi for a short while working on MASDAR. I found that big LC parts junk yard place in Dubai and thought about bringing my 80 over and have it converted to stick, but then things changed... They had quite a few left hand drive Cruisers parted out at the time (12 years ago). Interesting place. Ned
 

John Young

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Thanks Ned! Masdar is an interesting thing. Not sure how it all is going down there.

On the transmission, I've been noodling that. I have no idea what transmission is in the donor vehicle, but assuming it is a 5F (which is what I've seen in other Middle East 80s), I wonder if it would stand up to a turbo diesel. There is also the risk that I will have import difficulties if I bring it in with a different transmission. I have to research that more. The regs talk about the original engine. But I've also seen references to original configuration. I suppose I could keep the original driveline but throw the tranny in the back for shipping and then do a swap here.

In any event from the feedback so far it sounds like the donor vehicle would work for the frame. Certainly it does not look like it should be restored as-is. Here are a couple of photos showing more.
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Interesting color choice...
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You see guys do that air box thing all the time in the Middle East. Not sure it does any good. Point is, this truck has been fiddled with. Between the transmission swap and this air box thing, I suspect the driveline has seen very hard duty. I would not buy it to repair it. I even think the nose has been pushed up a little:
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But I'd think that it would be possible to have the frame straightened as part of the process. I'd want to do that anyways.
 

ppc

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The cracks in the frame around where the steering gear box is mounted is a rather common failure. Recently there was a thread on the subject and there is someone/company that sells scab plates that can welded to the frame for a somewhat easy repair. Being it is a known problem it doesn't make sense to do a complete frame swap when your new frame could develop the same problem.


 
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I probably won't be much help, but if it's coming to the states after it hits the 25 year mark it's pretty easy as they fall under different regulations for federal import. At least it was for me. The only people I know who had a problem were the ones going to Cali since they have super strict rules. I registered in Florida where there's no inspections or emissions checks, and the DMV basically came out, looked at the VIN, scratched their head because the Japanese VIN wasn't the same format as the US, and put that VIN into the system anyway. Heck, I drove around on my J-Plates for two months before I could get it to the DMV! I'm RHD w/ no airbags, and the only issue I had was having papa government force me to pay sales tax on a vehicle I bought three years prior while living abroad... Definitely research where the vehicle is going, and you might save yourself some headache. That's my two cents.
 

John Young

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I wrote off to the Australian company with the reinforcement plates. This would be a lot simpler. I'm going to ask they guys at the garage for comment. The cost is about 100 USD, delivered in Dubai. Thank you for the suggestion, PPC. I'm actually fine going either way. Kinda tempted to get the donor truck for a 'fresh start' on the frame, plus it has front and rear lockers and it would do away with the crappy sway bar presently in the front.
 

John Young

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We seem to be getting nowhere in Dubai. I am looking at shipping the truck in its current condition and doing the frame work here in Virginia. The question is whether I can get an export certificate given that it has not been able to pass inspection.
 

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