Peso arrived stock with a front chrome bull bar that was, to say the least, a little weak and more on the decorative side. The side arms were bolted on originally so we welded them, but it still felt incomplete. We wanted to protect the front and sides a little better and have a different look so we cut off the arms and replaced them with arms that protected the front corners. Colin and his friend Will used round tube and bent the arms into shape with a JD Square pipe bender. We welded the new arms on and also added reinforcements to the snatch points since those seemed a little flimsy. We sent the bumper to get the chrome stripped and powder coated.
That was the easy part.
The original rear bumper was a simple tube design more for looks than protection. However, it would have been fine for the journey south except that we wanted a tire swing to mount the spare tire. Our new tires and wheels weigh 70 pounds each and would have been a bear to take off and put on the roof and it wouldn’t fit in the original spot under the van. Not to mention we already installed an auxiliary fuel tank in that spot. In order to keep the bumper light and not add too much extra weight to an already overweighted Deli, aluminum was the only choice. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any advice or plans from anyone who had fabricated a tire swing for a Deli so it was basically trial and error.
The challenge with the Delica is it’s a monocoque and there is no solid frame easily accessible to just weld onto for the strength needed for a heavy tire to cantilever when the swing is open. Colin and Will fabricated this bumper the old school way, no water jets, CNC’s, simply a few types of band saws, angle grinder, circular saw and miter with carbide blades. We used ¼ inch 5 and 6 series aluminum and the snatch points are half inch and protrude as solid pieces through the bumper and bolt to the van. The base itself was pretty easy. We fab’ed and welded some 3” stainless steel angle to the roll pan of the bumper and added some other square tube mounting blocks as well. On the angle and the tube we drilled ½ holes then welded ⅜ nuts on the back for bolting points.
The bumper mounted up and looked great, and was super light, probably in the area of 25lbs. That was the easy part. As nice and solid as it looked, we could tell that it probably couldn’t support the weight of the tire swing and spare tire. We knew this would be a challenge, but looking back now we definitely underestimated the job. The first big obstacle, in a world of mostly steel bumpers, is finding a carrier hinge that’s made of aluminum. After endless calls and searches on the web I came to realize there are none that are pre fab’ed and we would have to make one. Well, I take that back. I called Aluminess to see if they would just sell me their aluminum carrier hinge and they said no but they would sell their tire swing for $900.00, ouch.
Back to designing one. We decided on a very basic design and took the idea of a boat davit. Aluminum post with a sleeve and zerk fitting to keep it well greased. We drilled a hole through the top right side of the bumper and inserted a solid 1 ⅞ aluminum round tube through the bumper. Welded the top, bottom and added gussets down the inside to make it as strong as possible. On the left side we did the same but with a hallow 2” tube for the point where the bumper would latch and lock. We dry fitted it and it looked good and fit well. We took the bumper back off to finish some welds where they were only tacked and figured what the hell, lets add some more gussets to make it as strong as possible.
Aluminum is an awesome metal to work with, but is also tricky. The last gussets, well that was an unfunny trick played on us. We tried installing the bumper again and it wouldn’t come close to fitting, it was twisted and to the point where we weren’t going to be able to just bend it back. The heat from the new gussets was in the perfect place to warp the bumper. A few exciting minutes from having 70% of the work installed and then the realization “if it’s not broken keep fixing it till it’s broken.” We broke it. It was time to walk away for now, there was no wind left in our sails.
Luckily, Will is a wizard when it comes to aluminum and that evening in the stillness of the night he went back at it, cut out all the gussets and tried to bend it back but still to no avail. So he did what we hoped wouldn’t have to happen, cut the end off the bumper, hammered, beat and cursed the bumper back to almost straight then welded it back together and carefully welded gussets where we knew were safe. All in all we never got it fully straight again, but there were way too many other projects calling Colin’s name to find perfection on this one.
The swing itself is basic and made from ⅛ wall 1 ½ by 2” square tube and on the right end we welded a 2” tube that runs the vertical length to create a sleeve to go over the solid tube welded to the bumper, and it fit like a glove. To hold the tire on we used the same square tube, but gusseted it with three ¼ thick aluminum triangles, one on the bottom and one on each side. Then shaped and welded a ½ thick circular plate to mount the tire to. By design, tire studs wouldn’t work to mount the tire to the swing so I drilled and tapped the aluminum plate and threaded 3 bolts with the right thread pitch through the back and red locktighted them to keep in place.
Now with the swing finished and tire mounted, it was the moment of truth to see how structurally sound the bumper would be with the 70lb tire attached. I feel deep down Will and I knew the way we designed and mounted the bumper it wouldn’t be strong enough to support the heavy spare tire once opened, but the already somewhat defeated side of us wanted to believe we would mount it, cheers with a beer and walk away. Unfortunately no cheering today, just a bumper that pulled so hard on the rear of the van that it distorted the sheet metal to the point where Peso would have some serious structural problems in the not so distant future, like an hour or two lol.
Most rigs with tire swings have a body on frame structure and this is an easy fix, or not even a fix but rather something you design from the beginning. Either the bumper attaches right to the frame (and is usually made of steel) or the side flares of the bumper that wrap around the vehicle then go under and attach to the frame. We don’t have that luxury since the Delica doesn’t sit on a solid frame per se. And to make it even more challenging to fabricate brackets to support the bumper there is a big empty space that is the future home of our auxiliary tank, which required too many times to count dry fitting of the fuel tank to make sure the tank and bumper would not obstruct each other for assembly or removal. In the end after many prototypes of brackets, we made some in a triangle shape for strength that would bolt to existing threaded holes under Peso and welded tabs to the side of the bumper and drilled and tapped them to attach to the bracket. It worked, not perfect but enough where we feel confident it can last through our expedition.
Often times the finish details seem small and go unnoticed, but I was shocked how long it took me to figure out the systems of latching, locking and holding the tire swing out, albeit this was my first time designing and building a bumper. Once again the hard part is this bumper is made of aluminum and EVERYTHING on the market is made for steel. If this bumper was mild steel we could’ve just looked online and taken my pick of how we wanted to design it, but not the case with aluminum. McMaster Carr which had already become a close friend of ours, as they probably have the best hardware selection in the United States, now would be where we would order way too many brackets, latches and locks to see what I could get to work. With the help of Zach at Symfab Fabrications we fabricated some new brackets to attach all the latches to and got all the latches on which came out awesome!
My friend Ken at Studio 180 milled a nice circular piece of stainless to cap the tire swing top so a security fastener could be added to keep someone from just stealing the swing and our spare tire. He also milled some Nylatron bumpers for the bumper to rest on when closed to take the weight off of the spindle. If we were to build a bumper again there would be many things we would have done differently, but overall we are both really happy how it came out. We went straight from building the van to hitting the road so this post is differed a couple months post build. We just finished some insanely brutal off the beaten paths through remote Baja and the bumper has proven tough and working like a top and we feel will endure this trip well.