When Mike Childs bought this '69 Jeepster Commando from a local cop, he had no idea how extensive a project he had just committed himself to. He barely made it 50 miles down the road before the engine started belching black smoke and showing off just how much abuse it had suffered in the last 30 years.
The amount of rust on the body was so extensive that Mike decided it would be simpler to just pull the tub off and have it sandblasted rather than grind each section individually. Luckily, a friend owned a paint shop where Mike could take his time blasting every surface area inside and out. Once he had it cleaned up, Mike primed the entire body.
Meanwhile, he got down to work on the frame by grinding off the dirt and rust, as well as the original under-coating. He then welded up all the cracks, boxed the frame in the rear, and replaced any bent sections with new pieces. After applying a good coat of paint, he installed a new Aero 23-gallon gas tank and wrapped it with a custom diamond-plate skidplate.
With the tub free of rust, Mike had some friends help him flip it over so he could lay down an initial coat of paint on the underside. While he was down there, he trimmed the rocker panels 3 inches and welded in 2-1/2x2-1/2-inch steel tubing for some nice custom nerf bars. After eight friends helped him flip it back over, Mike sprayed the interior and put the tub back on the frame.
By this point, Mike had been working on the old Jeepster for a year. Not having been able to drive it during that time, he decided to get the drivetrain and the axles in shape to get it out on the road. The mill of choice was a Buick 225 V-6 that Mike had rebuilt and bored 0.30 over for a little extra grunt. Then, in his own words, "everything that could be unbolted and baked was power- coated in the original GM Blue-Green." Further adjustments under the hood included a heavy-duty radiator with an electric fan, a Saginaw power steering conversion, and a new master cylinder to handle the new 11-inch rotors from 4 Wheel Parts Warehouse.
Because the old T-14 three-speed tranny didn't have the gearing for the kind of rockcrawling Mike wanted to do, he replaced it with an SM420, which now connects to a rebuilt Dana 20 transfer case equipped with a Tera Low 3.15 gear kit. Sending the Jeepster's newfound power front and rear are two fully polished drivelines from San Jose Driveline Service.
Mike then moved on to the axles, replacing the stock Dana 27 up front with a narrow-track Dana 30 out of a CJ-5. Both the Dana 30 and the Dana 44 in the back were torn apart, powder-coated, and then rebuilt using 4.27 gears. The 30 is equipped with a Detroit E-Z locker, while the 44 features a 19-spline full-floater kit and a Detroit Soft Locker. To ensure their safety, Mike fully trussed both axles, incorporating skidplates beneath the pumpkins. Rounding things out are 10x15 wheels, that have been powdercoated white, and 33x12.50 BFG Mud Terrains.
Providing a new ride for the old Commando is a springover conversion with 2-inch arched springs, a front shackle reversal, and Con-Ferr shackles in the back that are 1 inch over stock. Altogether it provided 7 inches of lift. Mike also installed dual Explorer 3000 shocks front and rear to help control axle wrap, and finished with a chrome-moly tie rod from Currie, a 4-inch drop Pitman arm, and sway bar quick disconnects up front.
With the end in sight, Mike pressed on with his custom skidplate/storage box combination underneath and the custom six-point rollcage inside. He then custom-built the rear bumper as well as the front towbar, which mounts through the original chrome bumper. After installing the new carpet, the seats, and the console, Mike took the Commando to the paint shop where the interior was sealed off and two thick coats of DuPont Centari Oxford White were laid down, along with a little orange peel on the hood.
This Jeepster was not only brought back from the brink of ruin, it was given a new life. And as the classic it is, this Commando will be drawing looks on every trail it tames.
SpecificationsVehicle: '69 Jeepster Commando
Owner: Mike Childs
Engine: Buick 225 V-6
Induction: Rochester two-barrel carb
Transmission: SM420 four-speed with 7.05:1 FirstTransfer case: Dana 20 with a Tera Low 3.15 gear kit
Frontend: Dana 30 with Detroit E-Z locker
Rearend: Dana 44 with Detroit Soft Locke
Suspension: Springover conversion with 2-inch arched springs; dual Explorer Pro Comp 3000 shocks front and rear; front shackle reversal; Con-Ferr rear shackles
Tires/wheels: 33x12.50 BFG Mud Terrains/10x15 steelies powder-coated white
Added features: Custom skid- plate/storage box units; a six-point rollcage; a custom rear bumper; a custom front towbar; polished drivelines; a modified heater box; custom axle trusses; a custom Aero 23-gallon gas tank; Auto Meter gauges; an 11-inch brake con-version; and a heavy-duty radiator