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A Mustang-powered 1983 Jeep Scrambler Built For Exploration

Posted in Features on December 3, 2015
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Jim Werkmeister had owned an XJ Cherokee for a while when he stumbled upon the option to purchase the ’83 Scrambler you see here. Of course it wasn't nearly the trail rig it is today, and the circumstances of the purchase are a little out of the ordinary. It seems a guy Werkmeister knew, unbeknownst to him, traded the Jeep in on a new truck at a Ford dealer. From there it got recycled to a pawn shop. When Jim got word where it was, he quickly laid down the cash and drove it home.

That was 1996 and Werkmeister has been wheeling and tweaking it for nearly 20 years. He admits he's never really had a master plan for it, but he has made upgrades to it here and there along the way. All the while, he's explored a lot of trails in New Mexico and now is hitting trails in Arizona where he lives.

Chassis
The factory original frame remains under the Scrambler, but the suspension has been greatly improved. Up front, it was converted to a spring-over setup using Rancho CJ-7 rear springs. In the rear, the Scrambler received a four-link setup using a GenRight Offroad kit with Johnny Joints meant for a Jeep TJ. The crossmember was cut apart and widened to fit the CJ frame, and it runs relatively short links but the lower link mounts moved back a little farther on the frame they don't often catch on the rocks. Aftermarket 2-inch lift coil spring are used from a Jeep LJ. A Currie Antirock sway bar helps control body lean along with 12-inch-travel Rancho RS9000 shocks at each corner. The wheelbase has been stretched slightly to 105 inches.

Drivetrain
Long ago a fuel-injected powerplant was swapped in for the factory engine. It now has a 5.0L HO V-8 from a ’93 Mustang GT and uses a ’78 Ford truck bellhousing to mate with the NP435 4-speed manual trans. The 6.68:1 First-gear ratio comes in handy in the slow stuff, but to go even slower Werkmeister installed a set of Tera Low 4:1 low-range gears in his Dana 300 transfer case. The rear slip yoke was eliminated using an Advance Adapters kit with an upsized output shaft.

Both axles are early Dynatrac units from the mid-’90s. They were attached to a CJ-7 but cannibalized for the Scrambler to replace an anemic front Dana 30 and an AMC 20 rear that exploded on him in Poughkeepsie Gulch.

The front disc-brake axle is a Dana 44 fully populated with chromoly axleshafts featuring 30-spline outer shafts. Outboard are Chevy-style knuckles from Reid Racing and Warn Premium hubs. An ARB air locker resides inside and spins 4.56 gears. The rear got a beefy high-pinion Dana 60, also with an air locker and 4.56 gears, though it's a drum-brake axle. It's trussed and armored with hardware from Blue Torch Fab. Pedal assist for the brakes comes via a Navajo booster from Off Again 4x4 in Farmington, New Mexico.

A PSC Saginaw steering box sits on the driver-side framerail and works in conjunction with a PSC pump, cooler, and hydro assist ram to make turning on the trail easier. With a high-steer setup using the Reid knuckles and four-bolt Ballistic Fab steering arms, the tie rod and draglink are close to parallel at normal ride height. This ensures the Scrambler steers and handles well on the highway.

The 38x12.50R15 Interco TSL Swampers look right at home on this rig and are mounted to Eaton 15x10 steel beadlocks. To enhance traction on boulders, Werkmeister bought a cheap tire groover and modified the tread blocks a bit more to his liking. For trips on the highway getting to backcountry trails, Jim swaps on a set of 37-inch Goodyear MTR tires mounted on standard steel wheels.

Body and Interior
The Scrambler body remains full length. Inside, driver and passenger benefit from a pair of Smittybilt Super Seats, and rear passengers ride on a Quadratec fold and tumble seat. The inside of the tub was shot with Rhino-Liner for an all weather interior. The factory rollcage has been modified up front with the addition of the front hoop and spreader bars. A Rock-Hard rear cage section was also added to allow for moving the rear seat farther back in the tub. This allows room for the spares/toolbox to be more toward the center of the Jeep for improved weight balance.

The circa-’83 headlights were pretty sad, so Trucklight 7-inch round LEDs were dropped in their place to light up the night. For inflation duties, there's an on-board Sanden-style air compressor by Extreme Outback Products sitting on a modified A/C bracket, which feeds a 2-gallon remote tank.

More serious hardware includes a vintage ’74 Warn 8274 with 150 feet of cable. Diamond plate (1/8-inch thick) is used strategically for armor and is combined with homebrew rock sliders. Werkmeister also fabricated a simple low-profile channel rear bumper to improve tail clearance. Paint was done by a friend many years ago and is traditional Jeep Red Flame color.

Good, Bad, and What It's For
What can we say? It's a Scrambler. Jeep didn't make a lot of them, and people simply love ’em. It's moderately long wheelbase means it climbs well and has plenty of room to haul his family of four, plus some added cargo. From an evolutionary point of view, some of the components are a bit dated, but the hardware works and gets it where it needs to go. The one “gotcha” out on tough trails is the rear hangover and departure angle. That means sometimes there's bumper scraping in the boulders. Werkmeister has options, too. Some days the Scrambler rides on a trailer to tough rock trails. However, with a tire swap, it can hit the highway or dirt headed for a favorite backcountry camp spot.

Why I Wrote This Feature
It's a full-bodied Scrambler that wheels hardcore trails. Cool! Werkmeister has owned it for nearly 20 years and has made it his by slowly morphing it into the trail machine he wanted it to be. That's a lot of blood and sweat. He's had help from friends here and there, but most of what you see fabricated on the Jeep he did on his own. That's a noteworthy accomplishment.
-Jay Kopycinski

HARD FACTS
Vehicle: ’83 Scrambler
Engine: ’93 Mustang GT 5.0L HO V-8
Transmission: Ford NP435 4-speed manual
Transfer Case: Dana 300 with Tera Low 4:1 kit
Suspension: Spring-over leafs front, Custom GenRight 4-link with coils rear, Rancho RS9000 shocks
Axles: Front: Dynatrac Dana 44, 4:56 gears, ARB air locker, Reid Racing knuckles, chromoly ’shafts, Warn Premium hubs
Rear: Dynatrac Dana 60, 4.56 gears, ARB air locker, Blue Torch Fab truss/cover combo
Steering: AGR steering box with ram assist, cooler
Wheels: 15x10 Eaton beadlocks
Tires: 38x12.50R15LT TSL Super Swampers
Built For: Rock trails and backcountry exploring

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