Ultimate Summer Camp Jeep Gets Pretty Paint & PowderPosted in Features on August 26, 2015
What is the Ultimate Summer Camp Jeep? It's this year's official Ultimate Adventure vehicle. Since we call UA our grownup dirt-head version of summer camp, and we're building what we consider the ultimate Jeep to go to this week of off-roading fun, it's earned this odd long name, appropriate for our long and slightly odd little Jeep.
The USCJ is a four-door Jeep Wrangler chassis with a custom stretched aluminum tub based loosely off a 1940s prototype Jeep known as the MLW2, for Military Long Wheelbase version 2. We started with a CJ-3B tub and stretched it almost 2 feet, but gave it a retired military look, so as far as model goes we like to say it's an MLW3B. But all pseudonyms aside, this is one fun little 4x4.
Under the stretched flattie hood is a 550hp Chevy Performance LSA V-8 feeding a four-speed GM automatic from Gearstar. Power is dumped to a Magnum 205 transfer case system, which then feeds Gearworks high-pinion 10-inch differentials in Spidertrax Spider-9 housings via driveshafts by Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts. The 5.43 gears spin 300M Spidertrax shafts attached to Ultimate unit bearings and Trail Ready beadlocks wrapped in 38-inch Falken mud tires. Custom BDS and Fox suspension parts were used by Synergy Manufacturing to build this Jeep and do it in record time.
The event is now done, and the Jeep worked great, but we still have more to show you. We have a few updates we'll address in the future, and we plan on getting this Jeep out as much as possible in the next year. If you want to see it, we'll have it at the Off Road Expo in Pomona, California, in early October 2015, as well as the Moab Easter Safari next year in Moab, Utah. To watch a video of the buildup, look up the Dirt Every Day show on YouTube. Our November 10, 2015, episode will be all about the USCJ, and the following week will feature our daily Ultimate Adventure coverage.
01-02 We flubbed last month when we showed you our new PRP seats but forgot to list the PRP contact info. These seats are wild and proud, and super comfy. We got retro VW bus plaid for the cushions, and PRP added some bright green vinyl to the backs and sides. We also sourced a set of PRP harnesses and felt safe and comfy all week long. And the seats dried out quickly after all the mud and rain! We even had in-seat heaters added but didn't get them wired in before the trip, thinking that we would be too hot to need them, but there were many wet days we would have loved a warm place to sit.
03 When we left off, our aluminum Aqualu tub was headed to San Luis Autobody (SLA) for color. Lots of folks suggested a full polish job, but we decided that a motley paint scheme would fit our build theme better. Bob Davidson, one of the SLA owners, started by coating the interior and bottom of the tub with the Eastwood heat and sound barrier coating. One thing we've learned over the years is that good heat insulation is important on long wheeling road trips like the UA to keep driver and passenger comfortable.
04 Bob Davidson and his son Russ coated the rest of the body in a primer for aluminum before coating the interior and cage in a gallon of olive-drab army green paint we had left over from a prior project. The goal we had in mind was an old army Jeep that was still OD inside but had acquired various other colors over the years from multiple owners, a look not too uncommon when you find old flatfender Jeeps that have had multiple owners.
05 On the exterior we went with a bright yellow, then an avocado green that Bob mixed up from Eastwood yellow and blue paint, and finally more OD green. Bob is a perfectionist and an awesome body man. He has an early 1980s Toyota that is better-looking than it ever was off the showroom floor, so when we told him to just throw different colors on the body as if it had been done that way randomly over the years, he almost had a conniption. But he obliged, and it turned out just as wacky and random as we had hoped—perfect to go with our wild seats and fun motor.
06 The paint may look funny, but the finish is picture-perfect thanks to Bob and Russ and SLA. The Omix-ADA tailgate was doused in black and the grille in Eastwood's Rat Rod Red, a matte color. We opted for different colors on those two because old Jeeps often get parts from other old Jeeps after trail or work abuse. So we'll just claim the original army green grille got smashed in the war. No use letting the truth get in the way of a good story. The rollcage is a permanent part of the tub, so it was painted to match the interior. The rear kicker on the cage is there to support the back of our future soft top; it is not for rear passenger safety, as the Jeep will only have front seats.
07 While the body was out getting painted we hustled to get the USCJ torn down and the frame finish welded. The chassis was cut and shorted then gusseted, tweaked, massaged, and redone more than a Beverly Hills housewife. We started with the JK Wrangler frame for its strength. Compared to an originally Willys frame, it's massive in length, height, and width. It's more like a truck frame than a little Jeep. It is wider to better accept a larger drivetrain and fully boxed for reliability.
08 Time was running out before we needed to get the Jeep to the start of the Ultimate Adventure, and we still had not even driven it! So when the Synergy Manufacturing crew suggested powdercoating the frame, we thought they were joking. But we soon sold our soul to the local powdercoater for an amazing overnight job and had the frame back in hand faster than we ever could have painted it. We still had a few more bits of welding to do, but the coated frame looks awesome and is tougher than paint. We can easily grind it down, weld, and paint it to match the semigloss black with Eastwood's Chassis Black spray paint.
09 Before the chassis came back from powdercoating, the guys from SLO Sail and Canvas arrived to start measuring for the soft top. For the UA we chose to run without doors or a rear cover, but just the sides and top in place. We saw plenty of rain on the trip, but our top worked perfect. We'll show you more next time.