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Old 3rd August 2018, 11:49   #1
AVR
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Default Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

“Human wants are unlimited” - a line in my Economics textbook is something that we as offroad enthusiasts adhere to everyday and twice on Sundays (OTR-day!)

While I still drive my trusted MM540 offroad and have kept it rather barebone, our group OCG (Offroad Club of Gujarat) has a fair amount of Thars in varying stages of mods. As is the nature of an offroader, no vehicle is complete and the urge to continuously keep tinkering/adding capabilities is something most readers will relate to. This thread will talk about the evolution of a Thar from being fairly stock back in 2014 to an extremely tastefully and purposefully modded one today.

Back in September 2017, some of us decided to visit the Pune Annual Offroad Carnival hosted by a gracious group of folks and we really had a great time. Unfortunately that trip was going to cost one of us much more than just hotel, fuel, “consumables”, time and energy.

One of the vehicles on the Pune trip was a fairly well modded Thar. Here’s a list of what it had when it reached Pune:
Mechanical
- Eaton MLD
- MTs
- Ironman torsion bar and Foamcell shocks
- Winch, Snorkel and offroad bumpers
- T8 Stage 2 Tune with a Performance Exhaust
Non-mechanical

- Hardtop from Azad 4x4 which has help surprisingly well in face of abuse
- A Yellow driver seat. Cops once stopped the Thar at 1am and the only question they had was “Why one yellow seat?” The owner’s a designer and they have their quirks.
- A Thor hammer decal
- Lots of stickers from trips to Spiti in Feb, Leh in Summers, Jawai in Winters et al

Here’s a picture of it in butt-freezing temperatures in Spiti circa Feb 2017.

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-whatsapp-image-20180803-11.31.26-am.jpeg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-whatsapp-image-20180803-11.25.01-am.jpeg

You’d think this many mods would typically suffice. Yes? No. Read on.

Coming back to the Pune event, it did quite well in a couple of stages and we were having a good time though we did notice how the level of competition and vehicle abuse has gone up significantly and somewhere deep down we got the feeling that a Thar with all the mods that we had was still not quite enough for even the modified class, forget the Extreme category!

In one of the SS, somehow the Stage 2 tune, a few rocks and a turned front wheel conspired to break the axle causing our Pune trip’s agenda to significantly change!

On our way back, as most Jeepers do, we reflected on the why and whats of the wrongs with the vehicle and were rather cheesed off with the front axles breaking. From reinforced axles, the thought veered to the inefficiencies of IFS vis-a-vis SFA and as you’ll know by the end of this thread that we went much far and further than we imagined with this Thar.

As is the case with over-enthusiasm, we decided to convert it to Solid axle ourselves. So we started talking to the Jeepers about parts needed, potential issues etc. We found and collected 550 OKBJ axles and other obvious parts that would be needed for the same. Let me clarify here, though I am a qualified Mechanical Engineer, I’ve never worked on these things and the owner was a Designer so between the two of us and other OCG enthusiasts we definitely gathered the confidence if not the capability to go ahead with the SFA conversion.

On one of those calls was to fellow bhpian Rajith, and I was asking him about SFA and he in turn mentioned another bhpian Arka from Chennai working on a similar conversion there.

People who know Arka from team-bhp remember his debates on the IFS vs SFA thread which kept many of us hooked back in the olden days when the Thar at launch was analyzed ad infinitum. I know Arka from 2010, when I bought my Jeep and I know him to be an extremely knowledgeable and comes with his brutally honest opinions about all things Jeep. I called him up and he said he does SFA and we discussed a fair bit about what he’s been up to and what’s possible. He sent me some pics of his work and goes without saying, it was an option we were seriously considering.

The more we talked, the more we got convinced to send the Tha(o)r from Ahmedabad to Chennai for a SFA conversion. The “initial” plan was to go with a simple solid axle conversion at the front which should take us a couple of months including the transportation. So in Dec-2017, we trucked it to Chennai and waited with bated breath.

The initial tasks outlined were:
1) Front solid-axle conversion using OKBJ 550
2) Steering setup change from Thar R&P to Bolero Camper PS with RTC Steering Damper

Last edited by AVR : 3rd August 2018 at 11:56. Reason: Formatting
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Old 5th August 2018, 19:06   #2
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Default re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

So Arka has recently been working silently on the professional front modifying suspensions for Thars and other vehicles and we were very excited about this journey. As is the nature of Jeep-induced excitement, when it came to transferring money, there was a glitch in the banking system and the first time money was transferred it didn’t reflect in Arka’s account so we did it again. Eventually we had paid twice the amount to Arka and some dry humor from Arka triggered another thought in our minds. Now that the money was out of our bank account, what could more could we get Arka to do? So we asked Arka, and he shared multiple options including a remote-reservoir setup upfront and/or rear or a coil-spring setup rear.


We are not much into competitions as such and remote-reservoir somehow slotted in that category for us but the coil-spring rear was something that definitely caught our fancy. Since, the money was already with Arka we saved him the trouble of returning it back and in fact sent some more for the coil-springs.

So now the plan was:
1) Front solid-axle conversion
2) Steering setup change from Thar R&P to Bolero Camper PS with RTC Steering Damper
3) 5-link with Coil-spring rear using the Mahindra parts bin


Now for the tough (or fun) part! Imagine a Whatsapp group with 3 people a) A designer with no technical knowledge b) a mechanical engineer with extremely limited practical knowledge and 3) A professional/technical guy who can kill you with technical details. In such a group, either 2 people can crack jokes or one person can talk technical. Nevertheless, we all evolved. Cut to today, we two also talk a fair bit technical and Arka also cracks jokes

Coming to the point of the thread, work started and now I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20171208wa0010.jpeg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180216wa0010.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180205wa0011.jpeg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180118wa0007.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20171227wa0018.jpeg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20171227wa0020.jpeg

Last edited by AVR : 5th August 2018 at 19:35.
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Old 5th August 2018, 19:31   #3
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Default re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

While the work continued in Chennai, we were anxious to see it in person sitting in Ahmedabad.
As per plan, few of us from Ahmedabad would visit Chennai for a trial run in the famed Palar sands in February.

4 of us took the early Saturday morning flight to Chennai. The plan was
Saturday
1) Reach the hotel by 9am
2) Leave for "The Farm" around 12ish and try our hands on the reincarnated Thar
3) Hang out with the Terratigers Saturday night
Sunday
1) Early morning head to Palar
2) Offroad as much in Palar
3) Catch the red-eye back to Ahmedabad!

Some pics from Day 1 at "The Farm"

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180217wa0011.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180218wa0004.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0001.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0005.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0011.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0013.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0027.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0031.jpg


Here's a video of the Thar in action going cross over a mound. The idea of going diagonally was to let every wheel articulate itself and hopefully also cross it!




Later that night we all hung out late into the night and caught up on how the entire offroad scene has changed from the times we just went out together and when shackles and MTs were a reasonable amount of modification!

Last edited by AVR : 5th August 2018 at 19:35.
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Old 5th August 2018, 19:55   #4
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Default re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

It seems if you have a 4x4 in Chennai, Palar sands are the rites of passage and it was only natural for us to test this vehicle there so early Sunday morning we left for Palar along with the entire Terratigers gang.

More pics of the testing here:


Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180218wa0016.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180219wa0031.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0049.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0051.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0052.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0059.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0064.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0067.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0068.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0072.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0073.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0079.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0084.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180220wa0089.jpg

A few videos from there:






Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180218wa0015.jpg

Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion-img20180218wa0014.jpg

The last two pics make for a very interesting story. Not sure how many of you have had parts of your vehicle overtake you. Yes. Seeing them from your window go past you is a very odd feeling. After a long day at Palar we were on our way back to catch a flight and me and my friend in the Thar were gloating about the awesome experience we had. On a small country road whilst taking a turn I see something flash by and suddenly the Thar made a weird grinding sound. We then realized that this flash was our tyre which had gone into a field and scared off a sleeping dog. I ran after the tyre and had to face a very angry dog but finally got the tyre back.
It seems, the bolts weren't tightened well enough or came off for some reason. Pics from Palar showed all of them in place during obstacles so that's a mystery we've to live with.

Last edited by AVR : 6th August 2018 at 11:46.
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Old 6th August 2018, 11:51   #5
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Default re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

Once we were back from Chennai, we waited for Arka to clean up the work and send it out but given that Summers are usually low-enthusiasm for OTRs it wasn't pursued very strongly by us.

Eventually, lots of small stuff was done along with a new roll-cage and other odd mechanical issues that Arka is best placed to solve for us.

In the meanwhile, Arka moved to a new workplace where he can take up such conversion projects and the Thar ended up being with him for much longer than we thought. At one point, we thought Arka was in love with the Thar so much he just didn't want to send it back

Eventually, he had to send it back and we got it to Ahmedabad last month.

As a summary of our experience with the whole project we did with Arka was:
1) Solid Technical knowledge which gives you the confidence to let such mods be done remotely
2) Very clear about finances and costs. The cut-and-dry personality that he has definitely helps here. To add to the clarity, the pricing was pretty good and for the quality of work it was worth every penny
3) Speed of doing things was great till February but since then for a multitude of reasons things took longer than we wanted. I understand that now he has a proper setup so subsequent vehicles should not have any issues.
4) Nothing really comes to mind that was negative as such. Yes the wheel overtook us once but I wouldn't judge his capability based on that. Stuff happens and its done and dusted.

Hope this thread helped folks go through the journey with us and feel free to ask questions!

Cheers
Adi
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Old 7th August 2018, 09:06   #6
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Default Re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the 4x4 Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th August 2018, 15:01   #7
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Super thread. Have seen the modified Thar in action and it is impressive. Transformed in its capabilities.
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Old 7th August 2018, 15:32   #8
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Default Re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

This is what Thar should have been in the first place, but thank's to all the regulation it was neutered. Hope the next gen atleast will be closer to this design. As far as Arka goes his experience and skills would always talk for itself.

Darn good build! Congratulations.
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Old 7th August 2018, 16:51   #9
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Default Re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

Thanks Aditya for sharing the story. Wow, what a transformation. Good to know now Arka has started doing this professionally.

The improvement in offroad capability is obvious. What is the compromise on on-road behavior? Has the handling or ride comfort suffered as a result of this mod?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AVR View Post
Later that night we all hung out late into the night and caught up on how the entire offroad scene has changed from the times we just went out together and when shackles and MTs were a reasonable amount of modification!
Ahem... those days will never be forgotten.
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Old 7th August 2018, 17:50   #10
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Default Re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

Can the wheel coming off be a sign that the hub centering is not exact?
From what I understand from wiki, this will result in vibrations at road speeds and may lead to loosening of nuts.
In front wheels it leads to vibrating steering which dissipates the forces but still the wheel also vibrates.
"https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beam_axle" where shimmying is mentioned.
regards
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Old 7th August 2018, 20:09   #11
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Default Re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by risham View Post
Can the wheel coming off be a sign that the hub centering is not exact?
From what I understand from wiki, this will result in vibrations at road speeds and may lead to loosening of nuts.
In front wheels it leads to vibrating steering which dissipates the forces but still the wheel also vibrates.
"https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beam_axle" where shimmying is mentioned.
regards
Hi Risham,

We suspect a combination of the following

1) Short Bolt Type Hubs- Later changed to MM550XD Hubs.

2) Wheel Bolts for the OEM steel Rim- Changed to Scorpio Alloy Wheel Bolts

3) Tremendous power from the T8 Remap

4) Lowered Differential Ratio to 4.88:1

5) Soft Leaf Spring from old MM550 NGCS -Changed to custom leaf spring pack for height/weight

Since we were doing some powered runs on sand, the resistance is higher to overcome we power up, this causes axle wrap and worked the bolts loose.

We have seen wheels coming loose during the TPC competitions.

Regards,

Arka
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Old 8th August 2018, 13:36   #12
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Originally Posted by ex670c View Post
Hi Risham,

We suspect a combination of the following
=====
Arka

Thanks for your clarification arka. Don't know about some of the things you mentioned but will read up on them and learn new things.
regards

Last edited by Jaggu : 8th August 2018 at 13:59. Reason: Please avoid quoting entire large posts for short replies. Thanks.
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Old 8th August 2018, 16:11   #13
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Default Re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by AVR View Post

Hope this thread helped folks go through the journey with us and feel free to ask questions!

Cheers
Adi
How are you going to align your new front end? You are not going to be able to get a computerized alignment. On their computer they won't find an entry for "Thars with solid axle by Arka with his bulging biceps"...I have seen shops do a good job with long pieces of string and torches...I think spitting is involved also.

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Old 8th August 2018, 22:07   #14
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Originally Posted by DirtyDan View Post
How are you going to align your new front end? You are not going to be able to get a computerized alignment. On their computer they won't find an entry for "Thars with solid axle by Arka with his bulging biceps"...I have seen shops do a good job with long pieces of string and torches...I think spitting is involved also.
Not a concern. Back in Chennai somebody with bulging biceps instructed the front to toe his line. Rest is what they say. History.
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Old 9th August 2018, 10:38   #15
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Default Re: Solidifying the Mahindra Thar - Solid Axle Conversion

AVR, excellent conversion and very well documented in the thread.

Another modification I highly recommend for the Thar is switch to selectable locker at rear instead of the MLD. MLD is very good addition as OE equipment but for advanced offroading, it isn't predictable and sometimes you have to induce wheelspin to lock it.

MLD can be dangerous in sub zero temperatures, if the wheel encounters sudden wheel spin due to Icy patch, the MLD activates with a jerk and it does flick the tail out. Happened with us multiple times during our January Spiti drive.
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