A CJ-5 Built with Intent to 'Wheel
Sencer L. Geswein of Laurens, South Carolina, has what some enthusiasts would call the ultimate job - Spencer's a motorsports test driver and engineer for Michelin Tire Company. Although Spencer's job affords him the opportunity to drive all manner of hot wheels, his dream in life was to build a Jeep CJ-5 unlike any other. After locating a '77 CJ-5 that had been in storage for roughly 15 years with only 22,000 miles on the odometer, Spencer knew that he had found his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Working solely from his carport, Spencer was able to fabricate all of the custom parts on his 4x4, which is an amazing feat in itself.
To start things off on the right track, Spencer installed a 4-inch Rancho lift kit, complete with Rancho RS 5000 shocks. The original Dana 30 front axle and the AMC 20 rearend were both retained since the axles showed low mileage. For wheels and tires, Spencer chose 33x12.50R15 BFGoodrich Radial All-Terrain K/O tires mounted on 15x8 American Racing alloy wheels. For increased articulation on the trail, the antisway bar was disconnected.
Aiming for reliability and tractable power on and off the road, Spencer decided to leave the factory '77 AMC 304ci V-8 stock, especially since it had such low mileage. The stock exhaust setup was swapped for free-flowing headers and an exhaust system, both built by Thrust.
With the preliminaries out of the way, Spencer began to work toward making his CJ-5 the most trail-capable vehicle possible. Wanting to keep structural modifications to his Jeep at the bare minimum, virtually everything that Spencer fabricated was designed to be bolted and unbolted from the body and frame. Using 1/8-inch diamond-plate aluminum, Spencer fabricated a plethora of items for exterior protection and durability, using only the tub and body as templates. Next, Spencer set forth to build custom front and rear bumpers from 2x2x1/4-inch tubing. Custom Hi-Lift jacking channels were incorporated into each bumper to help eliminate shifting while raising the rig on uneven ground. To house the two massive 15,000-pound clevis hooks, two Class 3 receiver mounts were built into each bumper on the outside. The central receiver on each unit is incorporated into a cradle, which houses a pair of Superwinch S9000 winches - one at the front and one at rear of the Jeep.
Safety is always a major factor to consider while four-wheeling; that subject was addressed with the fabrication and installation of a full dual-hoop rollcage, constructed from 1-1/2-inch-diameter, 3/16-inch-thick tubular steel. Coming down through the body to the point where the nerf bars meet the frame, the rollbar material is welded into place for maximum strength. Attached to the rollcage are five-point, lever-action Auto-Pro adjustable safety harnesses along with dual fire extinguishers, which reside within arm's reach of any of the rig's occupants. The interior of the CJ-5 was reupholstered by Spencer in black vinyl and cloth. The original seats were replaced with fully adjustable, reclining and folding Schnell buckets in the rear, and Bestop seats up front. The rear tub was sprayed with black Herculiner bedliner material to protect the sheetmetal. Adding a touch of adventure to the interior is an eight-day aircraft clock that Spencer recovered from an old aircraft wreck site.