If you didn't know already, we love CJ-5s. They aren't as expensive as flatfenders and often come with better drivetrain components. Plus, they retain the nimble size, lack of electronic nannies, and flat metal dashes that make flatfenders so appealing. If there is one downside to a CJ-5, it's the lack of interior room. This isn't a big deal if you're traveling alone or taking one passenger on an overnight trip. Want to take more than one passenger? Or leave town for multiple days? Better pack light. Or you could do what John Briggs did and build an off-road–specific trailer to bring everything you need with you on the trail.
John Briggs started with a 1967 Jeep CJ-5 and reinforced the frame using additional crossmembers to resist flexing. The front box-tube bumper ties together the two sides of the frame and is backed by a winch plate topped with a Warn M8000 and reinforcing around the mounting of the Saginaw steering box. A Currie brace also helps keep the steering box firmly in place. Another box-tube bumper is found at the rear of the Jeep, which is carrying a fullsize BFGoodrich Krawler spare tire and a heavily reinforced receiver hitch.
A typical ball hitch would bind on the trail, and pintle hitches can be noisy. Instead, Briggs built a custom hitch that allows the trailer to articulate and uses a hub that eliminates any binding. The hitch is built into a 2x2-inch box-tube frame that features fenders at the top of the tub to allow for 36-inch Super Swampers while keeping the trailer low. An offset axle, like a portal axle, is used in the trailer and provides gobs of ground clearance. Trailer springs are mounted above the axle, but no shocks are used on the trailer as most of the articulation comes from the hitch.
Suspension on the Jeep consists of Rancho RS5000 shocks and Full Traction leaf springs intended for a YJ Wrangler. The YJ springs are longer and wider than CJ springs and have a lower spring rate that improves ride quality and maximizes articulation. The springs are mounted over the axles, and Briggs added a shackle conversion at the same time as the YJ springs. This allows the front axle to move rearward when encountering obstacles, reducing the shock load to the frame. The downside to the shackle reversal is that when the passenger side suspension droops, the axle now moves forward, requiring a long-slip driveline.
The odd-fire Buick V-6 engine is the perfect powerplant for a CJ-5. It fits well in the engine bay, the distributor is up front, it makes gobs of torque, and the exhaust note is unmistakable. Briggs upgraded his V-6 with a DUI ignition and Howell throttle body fuel injection that runs at any angle. Power is then routed through a Ford T18 manual transmission using a bellhousing from Advance Adapters. The T18 has a 6.32:1 low range and is only 11.9 inches long, allowing enough room for a reasonable rear driveshaft length. The original Dana 18 transfer case is still present and backed by a Warn overdrive that offsets the 5.38 axle gears at highway speeds.
The front axle is a narrow-track, open-knuckle Dana 30 out of a '73 CJ and uses an ARB Air Locker with 5.38 gears. Alloy USA chromoly axleshafts have also been added with full circle-clip snap rings and larger 760X U-joints to avoid from snapping when the 35-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers get bound up in the rocks. The rear axle is the original offset Dana 44, but it has been beefed up with a full spool and a since-discontinued Warn full-float conversion complete with chromoly axleshafts, drive flanges, and disc brakes. Both axles use tubular guards over the factory diff covers to keep the covers dent free and off of the ring gear.
Body and Interior
Briggs tastefully trimmed the front and rear fenders to better accommodate the 35-inch-tall BFGoodrich Krawlers. The sheetmetal is otherwise stock, as is the interior. He did add a GM tilt column and a full rollcage with a Cobra CB mounted above the seats, which are covered with Wet Okole neoprene seat covers.
Most of the aftermarket goodies are hidden out of sight under the hood. The Quick Air2 electric air compressor is hard-wired inside the passenger front fender and plumbed to an air chuck in the front grille that allows the tires to be aired up without lifting the hood. On the other side of the engine bay, a Premiere Power Welder offers peace of mind on the trail, although Briggs seems to use the welder more to repair the vehicles of others than his own Jeep. An Optima RedTop battery mounted on the firewall powers the welder and air compressor.
Good, Bad, and What It's For
John Briggs' Jeep is built enough to tackle trails like the Rubicon and Dusy-Ershim without fear of breakage but no so overbuilt that it must be trailered everywhere. The addition of the trailer results in a Jeep that is much smaller and more maneuverable than a four-door JK but still has the cargo capacity for a family of four. Plus, when you get to camp, you can drop the trailer and go have fun.
Why I Wrote This Feature
This CJ-5 checks all the boxes for me when it comes to a Jeep that is memorable and feature-worthy. I love the green paint and black windshield frame, the strong and simple drivetrain, and most of all the fact that Briggs built this Jeep himself at home over the course of two years.
Vehicle: '67 Jeep CJ-5
Engine: Buick 225ci Odd-fire V-6
Transmission: Ford T18 four-speed manual
Transfer Case: Dana 18
Suspension: Springover w/ Full Traction YJ leaf springs
Axles: Dana 30 w/ 5.38 gears, ARB Air Locker, and Alloy USA axle shafts (front); Dana 44 w/ 5.38 gears, full spool, and Warn full-float kit (rear)
Wheels: 15x10 Eagle Alloy aluminum
Tires: 35x13.50R15 BFGoodrich Krawler KXs
Built For: Exploring the Sierra Nevada Range
Estimated Cost: $20,000