After 50 Years, This CJ Has Reached Its Prime
Some guys just can't leave well enough alone. They see something, they get an idea, and they just can't walk away. This is the only explanation for Oklahoman Jerry Cantrell and his '56 CJ-3A, one of the wildest custom 'crawlers we've seen on the trails. To the mind that conjured up this beast and the hands that brought it to life, we say, "Nice work!" This old CJ has evolved so far beyond its original design, it's practically another species.
When most people start a frame-off project, they see it as an opportunity to repaint the frame, run new plumbing, and so forth. But Cantrell saw it as an opportunity to do a little stretching, about 16 inches worth. The hood and fenders were lengthened a matching 16, and the rear fenders were cut out altogether.
Beneath the newly lengthened hood, Jerry installed an LT1 engine complete with an MSD Ignition, remote oil filters, dual Optima batteries, a Howe aluminum radiator, a Currie inline power steering cooler, and a Flowmaster exhaust. Backing up against the engine is a TH350 tranny and an Atlas II transfer case.
To handle the kind of extreme 'wheeling Jerry was looking forward to, he opted for Dana 60s front and rear, equipped with 5.38 gears, ARB Air Lockers, 35-spline axles, and Warn Premium hubs. Of course, when you're running 44-inch Boggers, you'd better have some heavy-duty axles or you're going to spend a lot of time picking up pieces on the side of the trail. With that much weight, the four-wheel disc brake conversion made a lot of sense, as did the AGR Rock Ram setup and high-knuckle steering, which makes turning those monstrous tires a lot easier. Providing some measure of protection for the lowest points on the rig are 304 stainless steel diff covers with rock guards from Custom Off-Road Equipment.
Suspension on such a custom rig requires an equally custom setup, so Jerry designed a three-link coil system front and rear that uses coils from Valley Coil Spring and spherical bearing assemblies for the control arms from Rubicon Express.
Inside, the CJ is all business. An eight-point cage attaches to the frame at five points to provide excellent protection in the event of a rollover. Beard seats are mounted directly to the cage and are positioned for easy access to the B&M shifter, as well as the twin sticks on the Atlas. Further back, you'll find a Currie compressor that feeds a custom-made air tank. If the unimaginable should happen and Jerry should find himself stuck, he has cables within easy reach for both the Warn XD9000I up front, as well as the Warn XD9000 in back.
It's important to give credit where credit is due, which is why Jerry told us flat out that without the help of Phil Beauchamp and Doug Stacy he would never have finished this project.
We're not sure what else these Oklahoma boys have been conjuring up out in middle America, but if this flatfender is any kind of example, then let the four-wheeling begin.