Torsion-free subframe PART 2:

National Stainless Steel Centre based in Bredell, Kempton Park sent us the most beautiful machined stainless steel pins. Precise, heavy-duty stainless-steel pins to allow the TF system to swivel from side to side, and holds everything in place. The centre pins are there to control the level of the box, and will oscillate slightly, while the end sections allow the chassis to flex. We were fortunate that they invested their trust in our venture, and sponsored the bushes and pins at no cost.

The stainless-steel components are valued at R6500, and would be worth investing in if your thinking of building a torsion free subframe. This is where the home becomes one, with the vehicle, and will keep our foundations from cracking!

(Above: Beautiful bushes and precise pins!)

(Above Left: The Bushes, to be welded into the subframe – Above Right: Pins for swiveling)



(Above: The centre bushings will carry the box weight and oscillate slightly)

We started putting all the pieces together, and got on the phone with Paul from Umdwebo Projects, and he walked us through the welding.

As I would have oved to weld this system together myself, we decided to leave it to the professional as the system is probably one of the priorities on our build. We quickly realised that we made a mistake by painting the end units, as the bushings had to be welded into place. After a quick clean up session with a flapper disc, we fitted everything together, and made 100% sure that all the components were in place exactly as they should.

Vusi tacked it together, and we then decided to attempt at pressing in the first PTFE bush (machined by Plastem) using the hydraulic press. It went in with no effort at all! We were quite impressed with our sponsors and ourselves, as it looks like there were no mistakes in dimensions from all three the sponsors.

(Above Getting all the pieces ready for welding)

(above: Jolandie loves puzzles)

(Above: Centre unit)

(Above: All the steel components)

We had some trouble with the welder, as it needed adjusting to create a nice weld between the stainless-steel, and the mild steel. With the help of a local resident on the farm Tieri, we eventually managed to get the welder melting metal with ease.

We finished off the day, as time was up. Hopefully we can get the torsion free subframe done on the next day we spend with Betsy.



Our prediction was far off. The system would take another week to complete, and was a challenging section of the build.

(Getting ready for the day)

We continued with the welding, and Vusi even offered to come in on a Saturday to help us – free of charge. I am not experienced in melting metal, and decided it be best if the TFS was welded by someone with skills.

It was around this time when I was rewarded the Amy Wynn & Christopher T. Byrd Award for Adults with FA. The award is given to an individual with FA each year, and aims at assisting the person with his/her goals, and amounts to $4000. This gave us peace of mind that the next big step in the build would be covered. The aluminium needed for the habitat frame is extremely expensive, and we would also need to employ a professional aluminium welder to assist us. Back to the story.

(Middle section welded)

(Middle section pin welded)

All the sections were welded, and we started sanding down the steel in preparation for paint. We made some mistakes, and later had to go back and re-do some of the work, so take note:

Over excited, we started priming the pieces. After the first coat, it became apparent that we didn’t do a great job at sanding down the steel. There was a very thin layer of what I think is anti-corrosion paint/dip on the steel. It is rock solid at places, but flakes off at others. You could see it clearly, and we knew instantly that we’d had to sand down all the pieces. This was extremely frustrating, as getting out to the farm everyday costs fuel. Nevertheless, we grabbed a grinder, polisher, and some flapper discs and got into it.

Paul Bosch from Umdwebo projects (Designer) popped in for a visit, and to check out the TFS. He confirmed my fears, and told us that we would have to re-do some of the welding, and this meant going back two steps. Vusi also had to go to Swaziland, as the chief of his village had given his land away, and we were stuck without the confidence to weld the system ourselves.

Pugs phoned me up: “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while on the farm?”

I explained the situation, and Pugs invited us to come around, and show him what needed welding. We were back the next day, and he welded everything that needed strengthening.

It is great having Pugs in the workshop, as he is always willing to give us a hand. He is knowledgeable, and we appreciate his opinion. He called Jolandie over to where he was working and told her to grab the welding helmet, and proceeded to teach her to weld!

(Pugs teaching Jolandie to weld)

She did great, and it only took her 10 minutes to get the hang of it. I’ve only welded using an arc welder, and stuck my pride in my pocket, and let Jolandie teach me to weld. What a great moment and memory.

It took us two days of work to get back to where we were before Paul did his quality control. Looking back at it, I’m glad he got there when he did.

The steel was sanded, and we prepped it for spraying.

(Jolandie masking up for paint)

(New welds done, washing steel with acetone)

Painting is the most exciting step. I grabbed the gun, and Jolandie mixed up the paint. The priming went down without a hitch, and we “flatted” it using 600grit sanding paper.

(TFS Primed)

The next day we returned knowing that we’d finish the most crucial step in building our truck. Without a Torsion Free Subframe, the route we’ve planned out wouldn’t be possible as the habitat would break if flexed too much. The final day challenged us again, as installing the pieces gave us some surprises. Some of our bolts were too short, and we had to make a plan. Eventually we had the system mounted to the chassis.

A couple of days before, we bought some timber in order to build a mock-up floor. This step would reveal the results. By installing the mock-up floor, we could test the system by jacking up one of the wheels, and hoping that the floor doesn’t flex, but stays parallel to the middle section of the chassis.