Sixty years ago, "work Jeep" meant a rig destined for commercial or agricultural pursuits with special equipment installed. Back then it was common to see a Jeep groaning under the weight of a trencher or backhoe. Those days are pretty much done for the Jeep brand, but there are still Jeeps that go to work. John Conrad’s CJ-8 is one of those, but it ain’t luggin’ around a backhoe.
John is a well-known custom fabricator in Indiana with a rural shop just far enough west of Indy to be considered truly country. You are just as likely to see a combine or a soil sampling rig at JB’s 4x4 shop as you are a wheeling rig, given that he’s deep in the farm belt. Over the years, JB’s 4x4 has built some noteworthy 4x4s, many of which have graced the pages of 4x4 mags.
One of the John’s passions is desert racing, and he has long been associated with Baja racing. His technical background has led to his working as pit crew, lately for various teams that use BFG tires on Baja 1000 races. The BFG pit groups supply tires and fuel but also perform repairs. That’s what John does, and sometimes he needs to run out to a broken racer to do it. After using a variety of vehicle types, he decided to special-build a service truck.
He started with the remains of a CJ-8, but the finished vehicle bears only superficial resemblance to a Jeep. Most of the chassis is custom built. The suspensions is a custom three-link at both ends, and the Jeep is powered by a very warm 401. You could confuse Conrad’s truck with a SCORE Class 1 buggy, but this truggy is built to carry weight and volume while still being able to negotiate the course at a rapid pace, day or night.
1980 Jeep CJ-8
Engine: 401ci AMC
Transmission: TF-727 3-speed automatic
Transfer case: Dana 300
Front Axle: Dana 44 high pinion, Powr-Lok limited slip, 4.09 gears
Rear Axle: Dana 60, Strange spool, 4.10 gears
Springs & Such: Sway-a-Way coilovers w/ Eibach springs; custom 3-link front and rear
Tires & Wheels: 35x12.5015 BFG KM2 on American Racing 15x8