1/2 ton to 1 ton conversion


Junior Member
Two things... has anyone ever done this? I am converting a 1/2 ton 86' suburban to a one ton. I have a dana 60 for the rear, and I am looking for a dana44 for the front. If anyone has any suggestions and/or knows where to find a cheap 44 it would be greatly appreciated. I heard I have to be careful of "unsprung weight"?

Thanks all.


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Seems to me there might be more to that upgrade than just swapping axles. Especially in light that you have a corporate front axle that is the equal of a Dana 44.


PlowSite.com Addict
If you're looking for a real 1-ton truck when you're done, you'll need another Dana 60 steer axle up front. Much beefier unit than the corporate/44.

Also, 1/2-ton frames aren't as robust as 1-ton frames on those GM trucks, so if a true 1-ton truck is what you're after hanging the heavy axles off a 1/2 ton frame seems a bit self-defeating.

The 60 rear/44 front with 8-lug wheels will result in what's basically a 3/4-ton unit, which is probably strong enough IMO.

My experience has been that you're probably better off looking for axles as "mates" that came off the same truck - that way you know the gear ratios match. Plus I've always had better luck and got a lot more for my $$$ buying and scrapping a whole truck than one specific part.

I've never really thought about a Suburban 1-ton upgrade, but I wonder if the best approach would be to swap the 'burban body onto a 1-ton frame if a true "tonner" is what you're after. Catch there is 1-ton 4x4's aren't super common, at least not in my area. And, the ones with single wheels in back (as opposed to duallies) are even more hard to find.

John DiMartino

PlowSite.com Veteran
IMO,the best way to get a suburban 1 ton,is to start with a 3/4 ton at least,this way you get the 4l80Hd trans,or TH400,and the HD engine,and cooling system.Also the frame is beefier,especially by the spring mounts.Id plan on xhecking into the master cylinder/proportioning valve too,you should get these off the donor truck as well,the bigger wheel cylinders/calipers will react differently,and need a larger amount of fluid than most 1/2 ton units can provide.


PlowSite.com Addict
Not sure if this was the case in the later '80's John, but I know that the 1980 3/4 ton 4x4 my friend had appears to have the same style frame as the 1/2-tons, while the 1-ton is different (stronger) - for example, the frame is "kinked" (for lack of a better term) to clear the shocks on the 3/4, while the 1-ton has a separate bracket riveted in place to hold the shock - no "dimple" in the frame.

Wondering if they "cheaped out" as the '80s wore on to keep the trucks lighter.


Senior Member
Fairbanks AK
What are you gunna use the rig for? If you give us a little more insight, I think we could answer your question a lot better.


Power mad

I just did a 3/4 ton swap on my 78 Blazer.
I used a 14FF and a D44 8 lug front .
If you get a 14 bolt from a 3/4 ton it will bolt right in.
On mine I had to mow the shock mounts off and relocte them,
But that was it. I used Napa's u-joint #348.
There are two different u-joints that can be used. If the cap is 1 1/16" diameter then it will take the 348 if it is 1 1/8 it will take the 447.
I bought some 15x10 4 1/8" backspacing, wheels from 4wpw.
I had to do a little grinding to the calipers and backing plates but all in all it was a fairly easy swap.
I did it outside in the gravel by myself and it took me 2 days.
Now I just need to whack off that lip on the 14bolt and that will gain about an inch of clearance.

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