Every hot rodder likes a rearend that is well put together. Go ahead, add your sarcastic comment – I’ll wait. While many enthusiasts tend to focus their attention on building an engine that can rival any other at the cruise night, oftentimes, that powerful cruiser is eventually left sitting along the side of the road with fluid leaking from the rear…. Okay, I’ll wait again.
When discussing automotive rearends, Currie Enterprises is usually brought into the conversation. The company has been messing with rearend and differential parts since 1959. That’s when Frank Currie started building drive axles for chicken feeders, golf carts, and forklifts. A humble beginning to be sure. Mr. Currie always had the blood of a hot rodder, and like many fathers, that desire was passed to his three sons Ray, John, and Charlie.
In 1986, the Currie sons purchased the business from their dad, and to this day, continue to build custom rearends for street rods, muscle cars, off-road vehicles, and of course, race cars. Currie Enterprises can build a complete custom housing for almost any vehicle and fill it with the differential and gear ratio you want. But, there was once a time when ordering a rearend could seem like a daunting and time-consuming chore. Here it is, 2018, and as rich as the Currie history is, the company is firmly planted in the 21st century, and aims to make ordering a rearend for your ride easier than ever.
I found out just how easy that can be while perusing the website. Like many of you, I have a wish list of parts I think would be cool to add to my ride. Before I started looking to see what was available, I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to piece together everything I wanted just by looking at the website. Let’s face it, I have had some questionable experiences filling out custom-order forms online before. This time, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. Currie has recently updated its internet presence, and has made it much easier for anyone to locate what they need.
For instance, I started my wish-build by thinking about what I actually needed. I know building a rearend using items like a spool and steep gears (like a set of 4.56s) would definitely make for very fun, red light-to-red light driving, but the daily usefulness of my C10 would definitely be hampered.
“Before you decide to order a rearend, making sure what you already have is a good idea,” Brian Shephard, Marketing Director at Currie agrees. “For instance, if your car has factory disc brakes on the front, I would suggest ordering either drum brakes or our Explorer disc-brake kit in this application. In this situation, ordering a rearend with Wilwood disc brakes is not a good idea. Only using a partial Wilwood kit can result in less-than-adequate braking operation. If you already have Wilwood brakes on the front of your car, then Wildwoods on the rear is perfect.”
During this entire wishful-shopping experience, I was surprised at how easy it is to find what choices are available and how much each choice will affect the final tabulation of expenditures. It was nice to know what each option cost, before I hit the order button. That said, ordering parts in this fashion can be dangerous for someone like me. Having so many options visibly accessible while placing an order could get me in trouble with my wife.
Getting Down To Basics
I began my search at the Currie On-Road Products section of the web page. Once at this point, you will need to select the brand of vehicle you’re working on. With GM chosen, all I needed to know is what vehicle to look under. I found Chevelle, Impala, Nova, Camaro, truck, Tri-Five, G-Body, and S10 as the options. In my case, I needed to look under truck rears. The next decision involved choosing between a complete, ready-to-install rearend or just a housing and axle package that did not include the center section or brakes. I don’t have access to a spare differential or brakes that could be used, so I am going to need the complete package. These are not universal, make-it-fit rearends; they are custom-built to fit your ride.
Decisions, Decisions, And More Decisions
Just because I needed to order the complete rear, didn’t mean I needed to put the credit card into cardiac arrest. Currie understands many enthusiasts have a budget that needs to be kept, and they have options that fall into accordance with that need. I began by selecting a five-lug bolt pattern and my gear ratio. Steep gears would not be part of the program, but I did want something that would at least get the truck to start moving at more than a snail’s pace. That’s why I selected a 3.89 gear ratio. While it might be a little steep for cross-country driving right now, I am planning to – someday – swap the Turbo 350 for a 700R4 or 4L60 overdrive.
This is where planning ahead can be beneficial. Brian agrees, “We tell people to build to where they think they will be in the future. That way, three years down the road, they haven’t outgrown their new aftermarket parts they paid for, and are now throwing them away.” While a 3.25 gear selection would be great for the current combination, by ordering the steeper gears now, I will not need to order another set when the transmission is upgraded. Also, the 3.89 gear would be better suited when pulling a trailer. This is, after all, a truck.
The next selection to be made was one that could really get me in trouble. There are many options available when it comes to differentials, and those options come with various prices. For instance, I could have save some money by ordering a spool – which is the least expensive option – but running a spool in a vehicle used mainly on the street is not advisable. Likewise, the benefits of the more expensive ARB Air Locker unit would likely never be realized. Being honest with myself, the Traction Lock offers the reliability and drivability of a factory-Posi unit without breaking the bank. That was my decision.
Choosing the brake options can also put you in hock with your creditor, if you so choose. I do not choose. What I decided was to upgrade a little and order the Explorer disc-brake kit. This brake option was only $30.00 more than drum brakes, and it seemed like a smart choice. The nice thing about the Explorer disc-brake option, is new pads are readily available off-the-shelf at the local auto parts store. There are also options available from companies like Wilwood and Baer, so you can choose accordingly.
Keep in mind, if your car is currently rolling on rear drum brakes, you will probably want to include an adjustable proportioning valve somewhere between the master cylinder and the rear calipers if you upgrade to disc brakes. This will provide a way to adjust the pressure to the rear discs. The key is to adjust the pressure to the rear brakes to prevent premature rear-brake lockup that can induce a loss of control. That handles the necessities of the rearend, but there are also upgrades available.
Are you the type of person who believes good maintenance is a must? If so, you will be interested to know you can order your rearend with a fill cap and a drain plug. Finally, you can also get either an unpainted rearend, or choose one-of-three powdercoat options. I chose the satin black coating. It added $199.95 dollars to the total, but, I think it’s worth it.
Once you choose all the specifics, the only thing left to do is enter your billing and shipping address and wait for Currie Enterprises to send the big truck to your house. By the way, Brian informed us the new website design has made it so easy for everyone, that production of Crate Rearends are currently seeing a 4- to 6-week delivery time from the moment you click the Order Now button. It’s a small price to pay to get a complete, ready-to-install rearend for your hot rod.