Kevin Hawkins is well-known in wheeling circles as a builder and driver of Jeeps that work. His first flatfender was affectionately called the "Frog," owing to its green paint and the way it would hop effortlessly over obstacles with its 1/4 elliptical springs in back and gutsy little Buick V6. When he set out to build this '51 CJ-2A, he knew it was going to be bigger, better, and still green, hence the name Bullfrog.
Instead of using the complete CJ-2A body and frame, Kevin procured a YJ Wrangler frame, cut off the back third, and tubed it. He then started a two-month buildup, hoping to finish in time to bring the Bullfrog to Easter Jeep Safari in Moab where he leads the Pritchett Canyon Trail on Big Saturday.
Currie Enterprises built the hybrid 9-inch frontend with trimmed and skidplated housing, Dana 60 knuckles, and Wilwood disc brakes. A Currie high-pinion 9-inch third member was built with 4.88 gears and a Detroit Locker. The Currie reverse-cut Dana 60 rearend has Currie disc brakes, 4.88 gears, a Detroit Locker, and a heavy-duty cover. Kevin built a reinforced bridge over the third member to attach the triangulated upper rear control arm.
Although Kevin's first flattie had 1/4-elliptical leafs in back, this time around he wanted to use coilovers. Sway-A-Way 2.5-inch coilovers and Sway-A-Way hydraulic bumpstops reside at all four corners. Kevin worked a long time dialing in the valving and spring rates so the Bullfrog would work in not only the rocks but also while moving fast across the desert. The rear features a three-link design with long lower control arms and a triangulated upper arm. The front is four-link with long upper and lower control arms. Front and rear Currie Antirock sway bars allow the Bullfrog to be tuned perfectly when on slickrock, boulders, sand, or whatever. HM rod ends were used on the heavy-duty control arms, tie rod, and drag link. Kevin performed lots of tricks when fabricating the suspension. Check out the photos to see some of them.
To turn the 39.5-inch Interco Irok bias-ply tires mounted on Walker Evans Racing 17x9 beadlocks, a 4.3L Chevy V6 was installed under the fabricated aluminum hood. The trusty V6 was mated to a Chevrolet Turbo 350 three-speed automatic tranny and a 3.8:1 Atlas transfer case. Tom Wood's custom driveshafts delivered what power there was to the front and rear ends.
And that brings us to the problem Kevin had. Although the Bullfrog was completed in the two-month window and made its debut at Moab, the most glaring shortcoming was that the Jeep needed more torque and horsepower than the 4.3 could supply. For a few years, the Bullfrog traveled the country taking on the toughest trails, but eventually it came time to swap in something more potent.
Kevin found a 6.0L Cadillac V8 sitting in a warehouse. The 6.0L smacks of going from underkill to overkill, but really, can we ever have too much horsepower and torque? Motor mounts were fabricated, and work commenced shoehorning the big V8 into the little flatfender. To cool the 6.0L mill, Kevin installed a Ron Davis aluminum radiator with dual electric fans. The radiator was a bit wide, so the headlight buckets were shaved to make room. The work was worth it as the V8 never runs above 190 degrees F, even on the hottest days in the desert. As anticipated, the Bullfrog has no more problems when it comes to horsepower and torque. Kevin reports that he seldom gets past half throttle, even in the dunes.
A custom fuel cell holds 22 gallons for long-range exploring and also acts as a deck for storing tools and cargo. A Power Tank is mounted on the rear passenger side and handles any emergency air needs. Auto Meter gauges on a custom aluminum dashpanel look great, are easy to read, and work well. The owner-fabricated rollcage has protected the occupants well when needed; it has been needed at times. He also built the custom spare-tire carrier and front winch mount that carries a Warn HS9500 winch. The MasterCraft seats are comfortable for all-day wheeling.
The Bullfrog is a worthy successor to the Frog and, with the addition of the 6.0L V8, has plenty of flattitude (flatfender attitude). The suspension has to be experienced to be believed and proves that a rockcrawling Jeep can be built to successfully navigate off-road at speeds that are sometimes excessive. A greater testament to the Bullfrog's reliability and strength is that it's never been spotted on the side of the trail being worked on. Like everything he builds, Kevin Hawkins' Bullfrog is a work of art - both on the trail and on the trailer.
After removing the 4.3 V6 that was originally installed, Kevin procured a 6.0L Cadillac V8 from a late model Escalade and shoehorned it into the Bullfrog. The V8 actually fits well, but the big aluminum Ron Francis radiator required massaging of the headlight buckets as it was so wide. The radiator came with a shroud and twin electric fans. The workmanship is superb and the Bullfrog never gets hot, no matter how hot the day is or how slow the Bullfrog is crawling. The finned power steering cooler is mounted in front of the battery. Attention to detail is evident here, where even the valve covers are painted to match the Bullfrog's green paint. An Optima sealed red top battery is mounted where the brake master cylinder usually is.