Watch How to Build a 6x6 Off-Roader for Cheap

Screenshot: Garage 54 ENG/YouTube

I’ve always wondered what it would take to build a 6x6 drivetrain, and as this YouTube video shows, it’s actually not too hard! All you need is two ordinary run-of-the-mill transfer cases, a bunch of driveshafts, and a bit of fabrication skill, and you can power all six of your vehicle’s wheels for maximum traction.

What we have here is yet another video series from the wacky Russian fabricators and backyard scientists at Garage 54 ENG. The first of the two YouTube videos doesn’t show the drivetrain, but does exhibit lots of welding and hacking away at the Niva’s body, and it displays how the team used two inverted leaf springs, some steel rods, and an axle shaft mounted to two pillow block bearings to create a suspension that ties together the two rear axle housings:

You’ll notice that the pinion on the rearmost axle is pointed upward. The reason for that is to allow for a driveshaft to reach back to that differential without interfering with the middle axle. Here’s a look:

gif: Garage 54 ENG/YouTube
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But the interesting part of the video series comes when Garage 54 ENG shows us the drivetrain:

The way they’ve set this 6x6 drivetrain up appears to be quite simple. Usually a transfer case has a single input on the front coming from the transmission. Then there are two outputs: one on the front, next to the transmission input, that goes to the front differential/axle, and then one rear output on the back of the transfer case that sends power to the rear differential/axle.

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What Garage 54 ENG appears to have done here is install one transfer case normally, such that power from the transmission goes into the transfer case input, the front output sends power to the front axle, and then power is sent rearward off the rear output—a fairly typical system. Except, instead of that rear output driveshaft going to the rear axle, it goes into the back side of another transfer case.

The back side of the second transfer case, which only includes a single output normally for the rear driveshaft, is now the input, and there are two outputs on the other side which correspond to what’s typically the transmission input and the front driveshaft output. Those two outputs are hooked up to driveshafts sending power to the rear axles.

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Here’s how it looks under the Niva:

Gif: Garage 54 ENG/YouTube
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And here’s a little drawing I made showing what I’ve interpreted to be Garage 54 ENG’s basic drivetrain setup:

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It actually seems quite simple and cheap (considering a number of the parts are either used or home-made), and I kind of want to try it myself sometime. Because 4x4 is great, but clearly 6x6 is greater.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio