TO BOAT OR NOT
Q I have a ’78 Chevy K10 that I want to boat side but some people tell me that welding the new rockers to the body and the frame will tear the truck up when the truck flexes. I was wondering if this would actually happen or if it would have any affect at all? Also is there anything I should look out for when doing this.
A That all depends on how you do the job. If you cut off your rocker panels and build thick steel plates that weld to the body and to the frame, then it may warp your body if the frame flexes. But I think just the opposite will happen: It will actually stiffen the frame by tying it into the cab. Of course you may also want to tie your rollcage in to the frame, and this will help stiffen the whole cab and chassis together. However, tying everything together makes for a louder vehicle on the road because all chassis noise and vibration is passed up into the body of the truck.
When we built the Ultimate Adventure Super Duty in 2009 (“The Ultimate Ranch Truck,” Aug. ’09–Jan. ’10) we boatsided the cab and welded the rockers directly to the frame so the cab would have to be cut off if it was to be removed. When we built the UA F-150 in 2011 (“Ultimate F-150,” July ’11–Jan. ’12) we boatsided the cab, but these were not tied to the frame, just to the cab. This protected the cab and made clearance for off-road abuse, but the cab was still supported by the body mounts. That truck had its rollcage also tied into the cab, but not to the frame, and we cut off the lower portion of the door and replaced it with thicker steel armor.
If you are building a primarily off-road vehicle, tying them all into the frame would be my first choice. This will help stiffen the chassis, and I’d rather have the suspension do the majority of the flexing, not the chassis if possible. The ’78 half-ton frames are not exactly rigid in stock form, so plan on plenty of gusseting and triangulation of your cage to make it rigid. If you expect to drive the truck on the road or as a daily driver, then boatsiding just the cab but having it still supported via the body mounts will make it more comfortable.
I think there are a lot of people considering boatsiding these day as a way to keep their cab but still add ground clearance out where rock, boulders, and logs like to bash body panels. We used to always add rock sliders, but now cutting and trimming the rocker panels makes a svelte truck for twisting through hard obstacles. I have picked your question as this month’s Nut’s, I’m Confused Letter of the Month. Your prize will be a copy of the latest Ultimate Adventure DVD showing our annual on- and off-road trip to some of the craziest trails in the nation.