Our project Mega Titan went from mild to wild in 2005 to educate our readers about how to put together a rig to be competitive at our Top Truck Challenge event. To execute the build we solicited help from well-known truck builder and former TTC competitor, Toby Lavender. Toby is the owner of Triple X Traction in Seaside, California. When he agreed to take on the project his motives were to help bolster his corporate image and to show off his fab skills through our pages. The rig went from a daily driver to insane TTC competitor in a week-long wrench-fest shortly before the 2004 SEMA show.
For more than five years now the Canteen Green Mega Titan has been run very hard over some of the toughest terrain in the West, all the while it has received little or no "regular maintenance". The continued use left the truck in a desperate state. Basic improvements such as a re-built rear drive line, new front CV axles and even simple items like changing out the original spark plugs were imperative. With a massive "to do" list looming, neither Toby or myself could justify spending the time and money required to get the truck back in order. That is until I go a call from Joe Collins of Clay County 4WD Club of Ocala, Florida...
You see, Joe started an event called South Eastern Tough Truck Challenge or SETTC for short. His plan was to provide a venue for wheelers of the Eastern Seaboard to compete in a TTC style showdown. His desire to enter his own monster Ford Ranger buggy in the real TTC was always nixed by the huge expense of transportation from his home in Florida to California and back. His solution; make a South Eastern version of the event through the resources available at Florida's Hard Rock Cycle Park. Joe didn't want to get into any legal trouble so he tweaked his event slightly and loosely modeled it after the six individual challenges found at the real TTC. He contacted me to see if I might be interested in covering it for Four Wheeler. Not only did I agree to check out the event, but I decided to enter our project Mega Titan. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward three months: While Joe and his hard-working club members were finalizing the various event courses in Florida, a group of skilled truck builders were trashing to finish a total make-over on the Mega Titan. A recent appearance at King of the Hammers in Johnson Valley left the rig's OE electrical system non-functional and begging for attention. Two weeks before the truck was to be picked up for SETTC Toby started cutting out the corroded factory wiring in an attempt to isolate the electrical issue. He quickly realized the significant task at hand and informed me that we would never be able to make it to Florida in time. Every part of the truck's electrical system was affected by the salty coastal California air. I accepted Toby's challenge and got in touch with my buddy Bob Graham, who happens to race Nissan Titan trucks in Baja. Bob informed me on how to eliminate the factory wiring harnesses altogether. The clock was ticking...
I showed up at Toby's shop the next day. I had a plan. I'll admit, it was a lot to get done in a week and a half, but I simply couldn't dissapoint the group in Florida who were salivating at the opportunity to see the Mega Titan compete.
Ten days before the event the truck looked as if it were headed to the crusher. Those who frequented Toby's shop and knew the Mega Titan couldn't believe their eyes. "Did it get stolen and stripped or something?" asked one visitor. Another assumed "Nissan's finally taking this thing back huh?"
It was obvious that the vehicle was in no state to compete. And it remained that way for 4 more days. However behind the scenes, Toby and myself were hard at work designing brackets, securing parts and running full-speed ahead towards our goal to get it done in time for SETTC.
As parts started to arrive at Toby's shop, I headed south the Los Angeles area to round up some very important pieces of the equation. Pantara EFI of Santa Ana was the company who had developed a stand-alone engine management system for the 5.6L V8 in Bob Graham's race Titan. I spent two days wrapping my mind around the various components of the system.
Here, Pantara's owner Lance Nist can be seen explaining how his Engine managment software works. A stand-alone engine management system does exactly as the name implies. And since the Mega Titan's factory ECU was 100% dependent on the O.E. wiring harness, a stand-alone system was our only option.
Part of the new stand-alone system included a new engine to ECU wiring harness. Skilled wiring guru Nick DeAlvia spent nearly 8 hours assembling our specific harness. We were amazed at how it went together. Everything from fuel injectors to throttle position sensors were incorporated into our new harness.
In the meantime Toby spent several late evenings after work readying the trucks chassis for the new suspension revisions. Several Solidworks files were e-mailed to Ballistic Fabrication of Tucson, Arizona to be made into parts for the build. This "outsourcing" gave Toby the time necessary to continue mapping out several critical items:
Cable-driven throttle pedal
Sending out the rear drive shaft for repair
Rebuilding the Longfield CV axles
In order to make the Mega Titan's rear Dynatrac Pro80 axle steering functional, a new double tri-triangulated rear link geometry setup was necessary. To achieve this a massive lower link-mount sub assembly was required. In three days time, Ballistic Fabrication had taken Toby's SolidWorks design and laser cut it from 1/4-inch wheel sheet along with new front shock mounts and radiator supports. As the pieces arrived at Toby's shop we started feeling more confident about the task at hand.
The four new lower link arms were built from 3-inch O.D. 1/2-inch wall tubing. Ballistic Fabrication made up 8 custom threaded inserts on their CNC mill. These beefy parts would allow the entire weight of the truck to rest on one individual arm without even the slightest sign of bending.
The new front shock mount brackets arrived just in time for Toby to start welding. He had less than 5 days to get the structural pieces attached and painted. The new towers would provide a significant increase in strength over the tubular mounts they were replacing. Each of the Fox 2.5-inch coilover shocks and 2.5-inch bypass shocks mounted to the these massive brackets.
Longfield Super Axles are the cat's meow for Dana 60 axles. When owner Bobby Long caught wind that we were competing at SETTC, he took good care of us.
The whole stand-alone engine management thing created a whole new problem: The Nissan Titan's 5-speed automatic transmission TCU exists inside the valve body and requires signals from the factory ECU to shift properly. To solve this issue, we ask Bob Graham what to do.
Bob explained to us that the Nissan's automatic transmission shared architecture with the 2003 Infinity G-35 4-door sedan, yet the car's version of the transmission had a external TCU and manual valve body. The good folks at Valve Body Pro hooked us up with the part you see here. We were excited to have the correct valve body to make the Titan's automatic transmission work with a stand-alone transmission controller, now we just needed a controller.
Next, we contacted the folks at Powertrain Control Solutions. PCS builds fully-adjustable, universal transmission control units designed to solve issues of racers and other automotive customizers. Because PCS had set up Bob Graham's race Titan with a TCU designed to run the Titan transmission, our application was a piece of cake for them. They simply pulled up Bob's calibration and programmed it into one of their TCUs. Then, they built us a wiring diagram to refer to when hooking up the TCU to the new manual valve body.
A good friend of mine, Jonathan Burgess is a super smart wiring guy. He came out to Toby's shop on a Sunday afternoon to help us sort out the TCU to Valve body wiring process. We're glad he did too, because to us, the job looked very intimidating.
While the Transmission parts were being sorted out Toby started working on the new rear steering setup.
Evolution Machine supplied us with a pair of their Bomb Rams to ensure the Mega Titan’s rear 46-inch Claws could be pointed in any direction we desired. These Rams are super-heavy-duty and built to last. Toby mounted them above the tie rod to prevent potential trail damage.
Summit Racing came through with this K&N filter kit for the trucks new intake setup.
We also sourced this 5.0L Ford Mustang throttle body from Summit Racing. This is the part Pantara EFI recommended to control the airflow to the Stillen supercharger.
Giving the new Pantara EFI ECU the proper input signals to ensure the engine would run was a super critical step in the stand-alone engine management conversion. The ECU requires a crank trigger signal to maintain proper timing on the engine. To attain this we had 60 individual slots cut into the inner portion of the Harmonic balancer. To do this we took a trip to Nichols Manufacturing Inc. in Milpitas, California to have our balancer machined on their CNC mill.
After the 30 teeth were machined into the balancer we needed to have two of the teeth removed to make a master tooth where the computer could start counting from. Toby did this at the shop next to his on a manual end mill.
The new crank position pickup trigger sensor was mounted to the engine block.
This is the new fly-by-cable throttle pedal assembly Toby fabricated. It uses a Lokar universal pedal supplied from Summit Racing.
While Toby was finishing up the rear steering ram mounts, Jerry Sparkman bent up a pair of new shock hoops to support the new fabricated plate shock towers.
PSC hooked up a whole assortment of rear steer related parts. They sent us everything we needed to plumb the new rear steering. All hose, fittings, control valve, coolers and even a sweet aluminum reservoir. Thanks Tom!
Here you can see the way Toby set up the new Rams connection to each steering knuckle.
Next Toby installed the new intake tube with a inlet air temp. sensor.
12 Volt Guy made us a custom switch panel to serve as the central control point for all functions of the truck including worth front and rear winches, lights, ignition and rock lights.
My good friend Jeff Arabia stopped by to help on the last day of the build. He took care of the rear steering control valve bracket as well as the secondary TC power steering pump mount. Thanks Jeff!
Due to the changes in the rear suspension and the new added area of motion of the rear tires it was necessary to flex the Mega Titan's rear Suspension and cycle the steering so that we could mark out the necessary fender trimming on the Glassworks rear fiberglass bed sides.
A slight trim was necessary on each side of the truck to allow full range of motion of the rear steering during suspension flex.
With the truck reassembled, I installed the newly rebuilt rear drive shaft featuring the awesome Cornay CVX-30 cv joint.
Finally, with the truck running and ready to send to Florida, we topped it off with 110 octane race gas. This would serve as added insurance for the lean running conditions we might experience while dialing in the new EFI system
Bye bye California, Hello Florida.