At first, being the innkeepers of the Black Angus Motel in the small town of Poteau, Oklahoma, seemed to satisfy Vaughn and Traci Barnes. Life was good. But minutes away in Clayton, Oklahoma, the rumble of V-8s and big tires filled the air several times a year. Four-wheelers from Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma fought their way up mud-slick trails in the Kiamichi Mountains; a place where horsepower, mud tires, and lockers are a way of life; a place where Vaughn needed to be.
The rest is history. Vaughn purchased an '83 CJ-7 and immediately pulled out the stock six-cylinder motor and transmission. He bolted in an AMC 304 V-8, which is an easy conversion for most Jeeps. The 304 was better than the old 258, but it still was not good enough. So Vaughn custom-built an AMC 360 and equipped it with all kinds of performance parts. But the Jeep still didn't perform the way Vaughn thought it should. So with the help of Kevin Ritter, Vaughn installed a Street & Performance ZZ3 crate motor with a tuned-port injection. It was about this time, as Vaughn says, "The CJ-7 started coming around."
With the motor in place, Vaughn could finally finish building his Jeep. The T-18 transmission was replaced with a 700-R4 automatic at Sam's Off-Road in Tulsa. After consistently breaking the differentials, Vaughn took his CJ-7 back to Sam's for a pair of Currie 9-inch axles with 4.89 gears. Each axle has disc brakes for maximum stopping power in the wet Oklahoma weather. The 35x15.5SX Super Swampers provide traction on the muddy back roads. Off Your Rocker corners and rocker panels provide real body protection. Xenon Flares guide the flying mud back to the ground, but are still flexible enough to bend without breaking when the vehicle slides up against an embankment. Of course, you can't go 'wheeling in Clayton without a winch, so a Warn 8274 model was installed up front for those times when all else fails.
On another trip to Tulsa, Vaughn had Sam's Off-Road custom build a rollcage, install a five-row radiator, and mount a Canyon City tire rack on the CJ. At this point, Vaughn was satisfied with the way his Jeep was working, so he began adding creature features. The first stop was at Burton Tool where Charlie Davidson customized the dash to hold oil, water temp, and volt gauges. Next, they installed a tilt steering column. Then Steel Horse seats were mounted in the vehicle and the body was painted Lemon Glow Yellow by Sims Paint & Body. Vaughn says everything works great.
If you have never heard of Poteau, Oklahoma, you probably would not know that the town is the home of the tallest hill in the United States and some pretty rough 'wheeling. During the Memorial Day weekend festivities in Clayton, many four-wheelers find their way over to Poteau for more serious 'wheeling. Look for Vaughn's four-star CJ at the Black Angus Motel.
SpecificationsVehicle: '83 CJ-7
Owner/Hometown: Vaughn andTraci Barnes/ Poteau, Oklahoma
Engine: Factory Chevy ZZ3 V-8
Induction: Holley 670-cfm Projection
Transmission: SM420 four-speed with 7.05:1 First
Transfer case/Low range: Dana 300/2.62:1
Frontend: Currie 9-inch with Detroit Locker
Rearend: Currie 9-inch with Detroit Locker
Brakes: Front and rear disc
Tires: 35x15.50-15 Super Swamper SX
Added features: Warn 8274 winch; 21-gallon fuel tank; custom dash; five-row radiator; tilt steering column; Steel Horse seats; custom yellow paint; Canyon City tire rack; quad front shocks