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The eBay Jeepster- Feature Rig

Posted in Features on February 1, 2013
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Photographers: Les BidrawnJohn CappaBrad Kayal
We know you Jeepster purist are probably firing up angry letters about how this Commando looks more like Jeep Wrangler JK than a Jeepster. For the most part, we will admit that you’re right, but that doesn’t make the Jeep any less impressive. The grill on the Jeep is from a Jeep Wrangler JK and the EVO MFG high-clearance hood and fenders are from the JK product line as well. Going with the new front end not only gave the classic Jeepster an updated look, but it allowed for the low stance and room for the 40-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x9 ATX Slab beadlocks wheels.

Buying and selling parts is a huge part of the off-road hobby. Rarely does one have the time or funds to go all-in on a $100K do-it-all wheeler right out of the gate. Over the years eBay ( has made a name for itself as one of the best places to purchase new and used parts. From 2½-ton Rockwell axles to Holley carburetors, you can find just about any piece, part, or complete vehicle you are looking for on eBay. eBay is very aware of its automotive commerce value and decided to form a friendly competition between four of the top automotive magazines: Four Wheeler, Hot Rod, European Car, and Low Rider.

The idea was for each magazine to purchase a project vehicle that was found on eBay, and over the course of eight weeks, build it using parts sourced exclusively from eBay. Once the vehicles were completed, they would be put up for auction (on eBay of course) with all of the proceeds going to the shop owner’s charity of choice. Over the course of the build eBay documented each rigs progression for the “Built from eBay” competition page (, which allowed viewers to vote on their favorite rig.

For the Four Wheeler build, we started with a ’70 Jeepster Commando and hauled the delinquent Jeep to the expert fabricators at Off Road Evolution in Fullerton, California. While we understand that the Jeepster is cherished by many classic Jeep enthusiasts, to us it simply provided a smog-exempt vessel that could be built uninhibited by modern electronic nannies and complex emissions devices. The goal wasn’t to rehash the rig with period-correct styling, but rather to create a great example of a no-holds-barred 4x4 that represents Four Wheeler and our industry well. Over the course of eight weeks, Mel Wade and his band of metal magicians cut, bolted, and morphed the classic Jeepster into an extremely well-built and modern 4x4.

Would you like to see how this wussy-white Jeepster got transformed into the badass-black one that you see today? Well, if you are connected to the interweb visit for complete episodes of the build-off.

Though eight weeks was the official timetable, the crew actually hammered out the build in nine long working days! In the end their hard work paid off as the Jeepster’s form matched its function. The true icing on the cake was that the Jeepster beat out the competition by raising the most money on the eBay auction. Raking in over $37,000 for the California Trail Users Coalition (, it was a great win for all parties involved. The California Trail Users Coalition is dedicated to keeping California Trails open and provides a forum where off-road enthusiasts can learn and participate in OHV land-use issues affecting California.

Under the hood the original 225ci Buick V-6 engine was tossed in favor of a rip-roaring Ram Jet 350ci. The GM Performance V-8 is a great powerplant for classic rigs as the simple wiring and compact design makes for an easy swap that delivers power levels that rigs of that day couldn’t imagine. A set of Hedman Hedders offers even more rumble, while a custom aluminum radiator works great to keep things cool.

When asked why Off Road Evolution owner Mel Wade picked the California Trail Users Coalition he replied “For guys like me, off-roading isn’t a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. My family spends our weekends and holidays doing this, but more and more trails are closing. Organizations like the California Trail Users Coalition are working to save the trails, making it possible to do what I love.” Ultimately, we enjoyed being part of such a great experience and can’t say enough about the guys at Off Road Evolution and the great companies that participated with eBay to make the Jeepster become a reality.

Behind the Ram Jet 350ci sits a three-speed TH350 transmission. A TCI 1,200 rpm stall converter helps deliver power, while the Flex-a-lite auxiliary cooler keeps fluid temps in check. Adding to the versatility of the rig is a two-speed Atlas II transfer case from Advance Adapters. The gear-driven T-case is fitted with a 3.0:1 low range ratio, which offers plenty of low-end grunt to crawl in the rocks, and enough wheel-speed potential to make it perform in the sand or mud. J.E. Reel 1350 driveshafts connect the T-case to the axles.
PhotosView Slideshow

At A Glance
Owner: One Lucky eBay Bidder
Stomping grounds: Southern California
Vehicle: 1970 Jeepster Commando
Build time: 8 weeks

Engine: GM Performance Ram Jet 350ci V-8, Hedman Hedders
Transmission: GM TH350, TCI 1,200 rpm stall converter, Flex-a-lite cooler
Transfer case(s): Advance Adapters Atlas II
Low range ratio(s): 3.0:1
Front axle/differential: Dynatrac ProRock 60, disc brakes, Detroit Locker, Dynalock hubs, Sierra Gear 5.13 gears and 1350 yoke
Rear axle/differential: Full-float Dynatrac Pro Series 60, disc brakes, Detroit Locker, Sierra Gear 5.13 gears and 1350 yoke

Front suspension: EVO MFG Double ThrowDown long-arm, King coilovers and triple-bypass shocks
Rear suspension: EVO MFG DD long-arm, EVO-Lever rear with King coilovers and bypass shocks
Steering: EVO MFG custom steering links, PSC hydraulic-assist

Tires: 40x13.50R17 Nitto Mud Grappler
Wheels: 17x9 ATX Slab beadlock
Armor: EVO MFG front bumper and stinger, custom side panels
Cool stuff: ’12 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited frame, EVO MFG high-clearance hood and fenders, Optima YellowTop battery, Warn 9.5cti winch, Truck-Lite LED headlights, Al’s Liner spray liner, Adart custom graphics, aluminum radiator, Trans-Dapt motor mounts, 20-gal aluminum fuel cell, custom 2-in DOM rollcage, Art Carr shifter, J.E. Reel drivelines, MasterCraft Safety seats and harness

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