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1970 Jeepster Commando C101: Bright Ideas

Posted in Features on May 1, 2012
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For some, bright colors come from a need to be noticed no matter what. Others choose loud hues as a crowning touch, a way to compliment the hard work and innovation that lies under the glowing skin.

John Haynes’s 1970 Jeepster falls squarely into the latter category, starting with the very selection of the vehicle itself. Haynes, of Victorville, California, traded a custom self-built V-twin motorcycle for the Jeepster. The Jeepster wasn’t stock, but John had a list of additional modifications in mind that, once completed, would make the rig even more off-road worthy than it already was. Two years of modifying, tuning, and tweaking resulted in the iteration we saw at the 2011 Cal 4 Wheel Hi-Desert Roundup.

Hard work and innovation are always welcome, but life is easier when you’re starting off with a modification-friendly canvas. Since the Kaiser-built Jeepster came to life in 1970, it’s old enough to not be hassled with biennial emissions testing. As such, engine choices and modifications are unshackled. Next, the Jeepster is a C101 model, meaning it’s got a 101-inch wheelbase from the factory. Owners of TJ and YJ Wranglers know this wheelbase works well and routinely stretch their wheelbases to be at (or near) this length. The Jeepster’s got a real frame underneath the body: a solid foundation to build on. Finally, it’s got an open top so things are easy to reach.

Instead of four-cylinder Hurricane or Dauntless V-6 factory power, there’s an AMC 360 under the hood these days. The 360’s stock carburetor has long vanished, replaced by a Retrotek Powerjection III EFI system. The fuel-injected 360 feeds into a Turbo 400 transmission and finally into a Dana 20 transfer case. The front driveshaft turns a 3/4-ton Dana 44 front axle, while the rear ’shaft spins a full-floating Dana 60. With this drivetrain and 37-inch Interco IROK’s gripping terra firma, John’s trail options are as wide open as the top of the Jeepster.

A 3/4-ton GM pickup donated its front and rear axles to the Haynes Jeepster project. The front is a 3/4-ton Dana 44 that features eight-lug hubs, stronger spindles, and bigger brakes compared to a standard 1/2-ton Dana 44. John doesn’t like stopping to turn the manual hubs, but does enjoy the traction provided by the Detroit Locker. The donor truck was spring-over, so the Jeepster was converted to run the same configuration.

“My wife and I have had so much fun and so many adventures with this Jeep,” Haynes informs. “We take it out regularly to enjoy the great outdoors.” A recent trail trip was running the Mojave Road. When John and his wife Roxanne got to Soda Dry Lake, it wasn’t exactly dry. Most trail rigs are well-advised to bypass the Soda Dry Lake section if it’s not living up to its name. Haynes decided to press on. “We had a blast crossing the lake,” he related. “The Jeep proved to me it can handle the mud as well as the rocks.”

Take a closer look at this unmistakably orange Jeepster. We think you’ll agree that the ideas are as bright as the paint.

A Saginaw steering box combined with an AGR Rock Ram is a proven combination of trail-worthy parts.

Vehicle: 1970 Jeepster Commando C101
Owner/Hometown: John Haynes/Victorville, California
Engine: AMC 360 V-8
Induction: Retrotek Powerjection III self-learning EFI
Transmission: Turbo 400 three-speed automatic
Transfer case/low range ratio: Dana 20/4:1
Front end: 3/4-ton Dana 44
Rear end: Full-floating Dana 60
Ring and Pinion: 4.56
Front Differential: Eaton Detroit Locker
Rear Differential: Eaton Detroit Locker
Suspension: Owner-built spring over front, owner-built three-link rear with Fox air shocks
Tires: 37x14R16 Interco IROK
Wheels: 16x8 American Racing Outlaw II

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