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1984 Jeep CJ-8 - Black Widow

Posted in Features on December 25, 2006
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When it came to building a custom creation, David Dahlberg spared no expense. David is the owner of Embee Performance which specializes in high-performance engine pistons and coatings for the racing industry. Some of the competitors running Embee products include Robby Gordon, Carl Renezeder, and Charles Carpenter. If you've traveled around the Southern California show circuit, then you've probably seen some of David's other rigs, including a sand-stomping drag car that pushes over 700 hp. This time around, David wanted to create something that would not only easily overcome whatever stood in its path, but also accommodate the entire family.

The build started out as a bone-stock '84 Jeep CJ-8, but in the ensuing 16 months the Jeep would no longer even resemble its original self. The majority of the Jeep was custom-built in house by David and the guys at Embee Performance. The original frame was hacked apart and replaced with a 1-3/4-inch chrome-moly custom tube chassis that would allow David to radically modify all suspension mounts and allow proper clearance for a much larger engine. Also, all paint on the vehicle was laid down by Embee Performance.

Under the hood, we found a 350ci Chevrolet Ram Jet crate motor pushing 350 hp with 400 lb-ft of terrain-tackling torque. Keeping the truck running cool is a custom-made aluminum radiator built and installed by S&K Performance. A strong motor needs a strong transmission, so David decided to swap in a Turbo 400 with straight-cut gears and a heavy-duty input drum. We also noted the 13-inch OC Transmissions torque converter with a stall speed of 1,800 rpm maintained by a B&M transmission cooler. Knowing that much of the terrain this Jeep would see requires great crawling ability, an Atlas II transfer case was installed with a 5:1 Low-range ratio and a twin-stick shifter.

Checking out the frontend revealed a beefy Dynatrac Pro Rock 60 axle running 35-spline axleshafts and 5.13 ring-and-pinion gears. Giving the tires total traction is a Detroit Locker. The five-link front end sports 14-inch Sway-A-Way coilovers, giving the driver ultimate ride comfort and adjustability. We also noticed a set of TeraFlex quick-disconnects with custom-built torsion bars.

Under the rear is a matching Dynatrac Pro Rock 60 axle also stuffed with 35-spline axleshafts, a Detroit Locker, and 5.13 ring-and-pinion gears. The rear four-link was installed and fabricated in house and also boasts Sway-A-Way coilovers. Stopping this beast of a machine are GM disc brakes equipped with stainless steel hard lines. There is also a JAZ 19-gallon fuel cell mounted out of harm's way in a custom-fabricated rollcage under the centermost portion of the rear end.

Hella Rallye 4000 off-road lights line the top of the vehicle and are also firmly mounted to the stinger front bumper. A Warn XD9000 winch can be called to duty in case of an emergency or the occasional oops. Custom skidplates have also been mounted to protect everything under the vehicle from rocks and rubble.

Inside the cabin are six Beard racing seats with Deist five-point racing harnesses. As we mentioned before, this rig was built for David's entire family to enjoy, so the three rear seats are child-sized. An assortment of Auto Meter gauges lines the dash, and a Grant steering wheel keeps the Jeep going in the right direction. Icon-TV also provided David with a 6-inch TV screen that displays video from both the front and rear cameras, allowing David to keep an extra eye out for rocks and other obstacles. 37x13.50-15 Interco Super Swamper Boggers surround custom-painted 15x10 TrailReady beadlock wheels.

PhotosView Slideshow
A great deal of enthusiasts would love to be running a Chevrolet Ram Jet 350 crate motor.

There really isn't much that can get in the way of this Jeep. As we made our way through the trails of Big Bear, California, all of us were impressed with how easily the suspension seemed to walk over even the biggest of obstacles. At the end of our day traveling through what would have been a very tough section for most modified rigs, we decided to head back down the way we came and give it one more go. Just as easy as the Jeep went up the hill, so it came down.

Year/Make/Model: '84 {{{Jeep CJ}}}-8
Owner/Hometown: David Dahlberg
  Santa Ana, CA
Engine: {{{Chevrolet}}} Ram Jet
  350 crate motor
Transfer Case: Atlas II 5:1
Frontend: Dynatrac Pro Rock 60
Rearend: Dynatrac Pro Rock 60
Ring-and-pinion: 5.13
Front Suspension: Four-link w/Sway-A-Way
Rear Suspension: Custom four-link
  w/Sway-A-Way coilovers
Tires/Wheels: 37x13.50-15 Interco
  Super Swamper
  TrailReady beadlocks
PhotosView Slideshow

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