A TJ-Saving Jeepster
When the wife gets tired of you beating up her TJ, what’s a guy to do? Why, take 6 years to build a clean and killer ’68 Jeepster at home with your two sons of course. Not only is the Jeep clean and capable, but Wesley Bornschein handmade basically every cool part on it. From the front bumper to the rear inner fenders to the transmission crossmember to the rear four-link and the rollcage, it was all made at home. They opted to put a CJ-5 nose on it and the wheelbase is stretched out making the Jeep really stable on climbs and descents. Everywhere you look on this Jeep the fit and finish are better than when it first left the factory. We knew we had to shoot it and show you what might be possible, if only you take your time.
Behind the homemade front bumper a PSC Saginaw-style power steering box was mated to the frame with a custom frame-side mount as well as custom sector shaft reinforcement. Behind that the CJ nose is mounted on a custom crossmember with the standard center-bolt mount but Wesley also took a page from later Jeeps and included rubber mounts at the corners of the grille between the grille and the frame to keep the grille square with the frame. A custom tubular crossmember goes from ’rail to ’rail and is bent on the passenger side to clear the front output of the T-case. Above the rear control arms are two more custom crossmembers. The forward one holds the forward edge of a tranny cooler, while the crossmember on the other side of the B&M cooler also holds the front of the custom fuel tank.
Up front, new frame-side leaf spring mounts hold the Rubicon Express 1444 leaf springs while custom upper shock mounts hold the top of the 14-inch-travel Fox shocks. Out back, a single-triangulated four-link locates the rear axle and works in conjunction with 16-inch-travel Fox coilovers hung off a bent tube upper hoop to provide plenty of rear flex. There are 10 more inches separating the front and rear axles for a total wheelbase of 111 inches. About the only thing not custom on the frame are the factory body mounts. But wait, those large OD 2-inch-lift aluminum body lift pucks are definitely custom. Once all the modifications were done to the frame, it was slathered in a high-gloss black.
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It all starts under the hood with a 350ci V-8 yanked out of an ’86 junkyard Chevy and hung off custom motor mounts. The connecting rods are aluminum but no one knows what brand as they were in the engine when it came from the junkyard. The mill also sports a double-roller timing chain set and some head work, again, as it was discovered in the junkyard. Aspiration comes in through the stock Chevy throttle body and dumps out through Hooker shorty headers and a full 3-inch-diameter exhaust that dumps out the rear driver’s side of the Jeep.
From there, Wesley backed the engine with a TH400 three-speed automatic. He used a Chevy case because of the Chevy engine, but swapped the Jeepster TH400 guts over into it. As you might imagine, he did the work himself and capped the tranny off with a low-stall B&M torque converter. Splitting power fore and aft, the Dana 20 is still hanging tough, but it’s gotten some help over the years. The T-case got lower-than-stock 3:1 low range, twin sticks, and a 32-spline Advance Adapters output shaft.
Tom Wood’s Custom Driveshafts built both the front and rear drivelines. They are a bit unique in that they feature 1310-series U-joints at the T-case but down at the axles they both run 1350-series joints. The front Dana 60 was snatched from a ’92 Dodge W350 and stuffed with 5.13 gears, a Detroit Locker and 35-spline Sierra Axle and Gear chromoly inner and outer axleshafts. The rear Dana 60 got similar treatment throughout, including the gears, the locker, and the chromoly shafts. Both front and rear axles are running disc brakes and Goodyear MT/Rs with Kevlar.
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Body and Interior
Out back some 3⁄16-inch-thick plates and custom inner wheelwells provided the room for a lot of the wheelbase stretch. Up front a CJ-5 grille, fenders, and hood were swapped in place of the Jeepster parts. Under the hood is a Dave’s Customs Unlimited vacuum booster and master cylinder. The stock windshield is still there and the whole thing was painted by Wesley with slver paint and the interior and underside of the body including the underside of the hood were all shot with pickup truck bedliner for durability and to kill noise.
Inside the Jeep is some fun stuff going on. Under the custom home-built six-point rollcage the aftermarket seats were covered in grey and black to match the rest of the Jeep and RCI harnesses keep the occupants planted. The driver sits down to look at the factory Jeepster speedometer cluster and switch panel with the addition of a Sony head unit and a Grant steering wheel atop the polished aftermarket steering column. The factory center console that the custom transmission shifter is sticking through was modified as well. Forward of the shifter are a quartet of Carlington switches and beyond that there are four AutoMeter gauges housed in a ’69 Camaro SS396 AutoMeter gauge pod. In front of the AutoMeters is a CB radio jammed between the dash and the console. To the right of the console, you can see the twinned T-case shifters and to the left are two levers that control the cutting brakes.
Good, Bad, and What It’s For
The attention to detail throughout this Jeep is amazing and everything works together just the way it should. The tires don’t hit the body anywhere and the shocks are about in the middle of their travel so it has about as much uptravel as it does downtravel. It does look a bit tall, but with no skidplates protecting the belly it would have to be. Normally we don’t like chrome and this Jeep has a lot of it. But then again, we didn’t even notice the oil pan was chrome until we sat down to write the story.
Why I Wrote This Feature
It is no secret by now that I like Jeepsters. The wheelbase lends itself well to wheeling and they have decent interior space. Wesley took this Jeepster and made it into an awesome wheeling rig while still leaving enough creature comforts that it could be driven both to and from the trailhead as well. Look, I realize trailers are useful, but I don’t want to be forced to load my Jeep on a trailer every time I wanna go wheeling, and Wesley has bridged that line between trail monster and daily driver pretty well.
Vehicle: 1968 Jeepster Commando
Engine: 350ci V-8
Transfer Case: Dana 20
Suspension: Spring-over leaf spring (front); four-link (rear)
Axles: Dana 60 (front & rear)
Wheels: 17x9 Raceline beadlocks
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Goodyear Wrangler MR/T w/Kevlar
Built For: Stop tearing up the wife’s TJ