This is posted as its own thread as well, but... I thought I'd repost it here, in its edited version...
In talking to Matson and Doug over at Metalcloak, I discovered that they were planning on releasing an aluminum version of their "Frame Mounted Bumper." I was pretty set on getting the Savvy bumper, but I've had great experiences with Metalcloak so far, and they offered me a great deal, so I ordered the first one off the line just to see how it was. I've seen a good bit on the forums about the regular version of the Metalcloak bumper, and have been somewhat on the fence about it. On one hand, the guys at Metalcloak have great customer service and put out quality products, which are very well machined. On the other hand, I wasn't really wild about the design, either for appearance or functionality, at least from what I had seen so far.
I ordered the bumper last monday (the 14th), and received it on the 23rd. It probably would have arrived at least two days earlier, but the huge snowstorm hit, and put shipping back a bit. Doug was great about keeping me informed of the bumper's status, and even emailed me a copy of the installation instructions so I could look them over in the meantime. Finally it arrived; I ordered it uncoated, because I wanted to paint it to match my arched tube fenders. Normally they don't ship them out this way, but they agreed to do it as a special thing for me. I didn't take any pictures of the bumper before I painted it, but here it is after getting treated with self-etching primer and Rustoleum hammered black.
As you can see, it came out pretty nicely. I wasn't entirely sure how all the parts would look before I ordered, so here are some detail shots of the individual components. The fairlead is Metalcloak's own design, made specially to work with their bumper. The caps are the crawler caps.
Finger for size reference; it's pretty beefy.
The installations were fairly straightforward, but you have to be careful to pay attention to which directions you're reading... The YJ instructions are mixed in with the TJ ones, and there are different instructions depending on what parts you ordered for their modular bumper system. If you have half a brain it's not difficult, but if you're not paying attention you could get confused.
Here's the fairlead mounted on the bumper:
Here's one of the first issues I ran into. There were several throughout the install process, but this one was perhaps the most annoying, and stupid. They have several options for recovery points: up top, on the upper slanted face, and on the lower slanted face. I chose to have just the top ones, although you could mount all 6 recovery points if you really wanted to. The problem is, without at least one set on the slanted faces to take away from the length of the hex head cap screws, there's interference. It's not a difficult problem to fix; Metalcloak just should have thought ahead and included shorter bolts for people who don't have those recovery points. I ended up having to leave 2 bolts on each side off, so I have holes in the bumper instead of those cosmetic bolts.
Here it is assembled; you can see the holes up front. I was pretty annoyed that this even happened; I'm fairly confident that if anyone at Metalcloak ever attempted to put the bumper together without these optional
recovery points, they would have noticed this and corrected it. After this review, the issue has been fixed. 3/4" bolts should be supplied for this type of application from now on.
Here's the view from the inside; you can see all the cosmetic bolts that you have to install... Thankfully they don't need to be torqued down much at all.
Got the winch installed; the easiest way I found was to turn the winch upside down and put the bumper on top of it. Slightly awkward, but easily installed.
Installing the bumper on the Jeep was a huge PITA. This was one of the more disappointing parts for me. Two of the holes for the bolts to screw into the frame weren't lined up properly, and I ended up having to break out my Dremel tool and grind away until I opened the holes properly. This was not in keeping with the rest of my experience with Metalcloak's products and their attention to detail and quality. Once I got those holes opened up, it fit nicely.
After getting the synthetic line installed, I discovered that I'm really not a fan of Metalcloak's fairlead design. It's plenty beefy, and is wide enough that it shouldn't cause hotspots or wear on the line, but it's situated down too far for my taste. Due to the angle of the bumper face, the thimble can't be pulled against the fairlead to secure it without messing up the paint.
edit: Part of this is me being an idiot. I had things set up wrong; the fairlead is still low in comparison to others on the market, but that's part of the design; they want to get everything as low as possible to improve strength. If the line comes out at an upward angle, it will rub; but with their type III anodization, this isn't an issue at all, and won't cause extra wear.
Here's the finished product, shown alongside the rest of my Metalcloak stuff.
And now, my thoughts.
Overall, I think that Metalcloak has a good product here. While I'm not a fan of the look that results (cosmetic bolts.... more parts with no purpose), the modular aspect of the bumper allows it to suit the needs and style of many different types of Jeeper. It's well made, although tolerances could be better on the frame holes, and it would be helpful if those bolt lengths were corrected for people with only the uppermost recovery points. edit: They've taken care of this issue; it turns out I was the first one who ever ordered one with no accessories at that spot. They're also testing some zinc-coated black bolts, so they won't be nearly as obtrusive.
I also can't find a good place to mount my fog lights. I was told that you can simply drill into the top of the crawler caps to mount them. That's true, but the caps sit quite high off the bumper (a good 1.5-2"), and would raise the fogs too much. I have JK turn signals in my grille, which makes that 2" extremely important. If I mounted my fogs where Metalcloak recommended, not only would they be higher than I want and look goofy, but they would completely block my turn signals. Again, they're working with me. They've volunteered to send me the mini-crawler caps, which will save me about 2", and should work for my application.
I look forward to getting it out on the trail for some more testing; it gives a great approach angle, and is quite light. The version I have weighs in (I was told) at 22.3 lbs sans winch. That's not much heavier than the stock bumper, and it is certainly beefier.
Caution: edited from original review
Originally, when I looked at the construction of this bumper, I didn't think it would be strong enough to withstand the forces required for winching applications. After talking with Doug about the design process though, my fears have been put to rest. The double bend in the front, combined with the bend downward behind the winch, provide the strength needed. In a post in my bumper review, Doug linked to some materials data, which shows that in this application, the aluminum is at least as strong as steel. It's nowhere near as resistant to rock rash, but that's why the end caps are still steel; they put the protection on the part of the bumper most likely to need it.
Ultimately I think that Metalcloak has a fine product here. It's surely not for everyone, although with the number of variations on the theme they're certainly attempting to make it that way. Personally, I think I'm going to try a different one, and see if that suits my needs better; but if you like the styling and options of this bumper, don't hesitate to get it, or any of Metalcloak's other products.
Edit for followup:
Doug at Metalcloak contacted me and asked that I should clarify a few things in this review.
First, the bumper caps are steel, not aluminum. They were designed this way because the steel will stand up to rock rash better than the aluminum, and the ends of the bumper are the parts that usually see this kind of damage. Doug also addressed my concerns over the strength of the aluminum. Doug, I hope you don't mind me quoting you on this, but... "Hot rolled steel plate a36 has a yield strength of 34,000-36,000psi dependent upon vendor. Aluminum 5052-H38 has a yield strength of 38,000-40,000psi dependent upon vendor." He doesn't think there's any danger of anything happening in my application, and he'd be one to know. I had thought that the slant downward in the front and the slant behind the winch might not be enough to act as a gusset, but again, he has assured me that they offer plenty of strength.
He's offered to send me some new low profile end caps to take care of my fog-mounting issues. This just goes to show the great customer service that Metalcloak offers; they really do care about your satisfaction as a customer, even after they have your money, and even if it costs them a little extra. Doug, I appreciate it. The only concern I'd have with that fix is that I would lose the beefy recovery points directly tied to the frame, and would instead have to install the bumper face recovery points. I'm sure they're plenty strong, but I like the peace of mind that it gives to have directly frame tied recovery points. Of course, this would also solve the issue I had with bolt interference. Even if I don't go that route, Doug has offered to send me a set of shorter bolts to correct that issue.
As far as my fitment issues are concerned, I'm not really sure what went on there. Doug said that (I'm guessing since this was first in line for the aluminum base) he test-fitted the bumper on their 06 TJ before it left the shop... Maybe my Jeep is just weird. Either way, that wasn't an issue I expected to have with a product of theirs, and as far as I know I'm the only one who's had it so far with their bumpers.
I spoke with Doug at length on the phone today, and cleared up a few issues about the bumper. After reading the issues I had with it, he's working with me as much as possible. Truly great customer service here, guys.
To reiterate what was said above, the bumper is designed to be plenty strong enough for winching. Rock rash on the aluminum shouldn't be an issue because of the steel caps, and the double-bent front and bend behind the winch should give plenty of strength for winching.
As I mentioned above, he's providing me with the low profile mini-crawler caps to help solve my fog light issue. Since those will do away with the beefy frame-mounted recovery points, I'm putting the stock hooks back up top. He's also hard at work on a light bar, which will mount on those accessory holes to either side of the winch, which should have recovery points incorporated into its base. So I'll end up being able to have four total recovery points, and two sets of lights. I'd like to point out that this product isn't even out yet, and when I first spoke to Doug about it, the light bar didn't have recovery points. He's going out of his way to redesign part of his product so that I (and other future customers) will be happier with it.
As far as the "cosmetic bolts" that we all know and hate, there's good news. Not only will he be sending me a set of the 3/4" bolts to fix my clearance issues until I get my light bar, but he's sending me a full set of bolts with an experimental black zinc coating, so they'll be much more aesthetically pleasing.
Did I mention he's sending me this stuff free of charge, just to help out a customer? These guys are great!