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April 2013 Trail Head - Editorial

Posted in Features on April 1, 2013
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It’s always death opening up a public “how-to-build-it” forum for a magazine project. But when I openly pondered what to do with my roached ’71 CJ-6 in my November ’12 Trail Head column, that’s just what I did. Naturally, resto guys say restore or else! But it’s not rare and is too far gone for a proper restoration. Patina guys say leave it alone and drive it as-is. Been there, done that. Rockcrawl dudes want a linkity suspension and sloth gearing. Nah. And mud guys want a 1,200hp alcohol-chugging big-block between the framerails and stupid-huge tires. Mud guys get the award for closest to the pin this time.

To be honest, when I wrote that editorial I already had a plan in my head for this Jeep. I just hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. Click, bang. I’m building it to enter in Four Wheeler’s 2013 Top Truck Challenge. This is no April Fool’s mind f@#k. This is for real.

This will be the first TTC event that specifically excludes buggies. It should be wild and I wanna be a part of it. By no means do I expect to win, but I sincerely think (barring spectacular breakage) I won’t finish dead last, and I’ll provide some entertaining moments along the way. At the very least, it should make good video.

Coverage of the buildup starts in an upcoming issue of Jp, but here’s the lowdown.

Engine: The stock Buick 225 V-6 is tired, but good enough to just slap on a Motorcraft 2100 two-barrel and some zoomie headers. If I absolutely need more power after the shakedown run, I’ll either add nitrous or a junkyard turbo.

Transmission/T-case: The stock T-14 isn’t geared deep enough, so I’ll throw in an SM420 four-speed and steal the Dana 300 with 32-spline outputs from my flattie.

Axles: Yep, 2.5-ton Rockwells. I got a pair of take-outs and other than dropping in a couple Detroit Lockers, I’m planning on running them in as-is condition with drum brakes and all. Low buck.

Wheels/Tires: I’m still undecided there. My preference is to run dual front and rear 9.00x20 military NDT tires with paddles vulcanized to ’em, but when you factor cost, complexity, and time, I may go with 19.5/54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires. The Claws aren’t crazy like quad military NDTs on split-rim wheels, but they’ll sure as hell work a lot better.

Suspension: You don’t need travel if you have lockers, so either a spring-over with the stock springs, a spring-under with some BDS lift springs, or I’ll weld the axles straight to the frame. No, seriously.

Frame: It’s been welded back together at least a dozen times with angle iron patches and strap steel bracing but it looks like it’ll hold with a few strategic reinforcements. I plan on using the onboard welder at least a couple times during the event.

Body: The body is tattered and the pinch welds are all rusted out and separated so portions of the fenders and tub literally flap in the breeze, but with full-width 2.5-ton Rockwell axles the tires stick so far past the tub I won’t have to cut any of it away. I’m gonna run the vintage Meyers hard top, but I’ll probably pull it off for the Tank Trap for visibility and to avoid destroying it.

Other: The drums are huge. A Deuce master or a couple big Wilwood units will be needed. For steering I’m looking into electric pumps that’ll flow enough to run a full hydro orbital valve setup.

In the end, how exciting is it to watch a properly built vehicle with long-travel suspension and all the right stuff enter the ring? It’s like James Bond disarming a bomb. You know he’s gonna clip the right wire. Me? I’ll probably cut the one that makes the timer spin even faster till boom. So be sure to pick up a copy of Four Wheeler’s April ’13 issue and vote for me! If I make it I may clip the right wire, but chances are I’ll blow myself and anybody within range sky high. And in the end, isn’t that more fun to watch?

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