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Willys Flatfender With German TDI Power

Posted in Features on June 29, 2016
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Projects can take a long time, particularly when you are building with one-off parts rather than just placing orders for fenders or suspension kits. And if you are doing all of this at home in the garage after you put the kids to bed, it can take forever.

In Danny Jaquier’s case, forever lasted eight years. His resolve in chipping away at the monumental task of creating a diesel-powered flatfender with a custom suspension is remarkable. Nothing on this Jeep was ordered out of a catalog. Equally impressive is how, even after eight years, this Jeep is cutting-edge with its low ride height and use of lightweight components.

Pretty crowded for a four-cylinder! Power comes from a 1.9L Volkswagen TDI engine that uses a mechanical injection pump from a Land Rover in place of the factory electronics. The factory turbocharger combines with a water-to-air intercooler to make around 100 hp. The engine was mated to an AX15 transmission. A Jegs aluminum radiator keeps the whole thing cool.

The lack of a steering box allowed the frame to be cut for a better approach angle. Danny bolted up a Warn 9.5xp winch on the front of his Jeep and wrapped it in Olympus Off-Road winch line with a Warn Epic winch hook. The small size and amber lenses of the low-profile Baja Designs LED lights fit the military blackout theme well.

The front axle is a Dana 44 out of a Jeep J-truck and has been shortened 3 inches on the long side. It is filled with 5.13 gears and a full spool behind the Ballistic Fabrication diff cover. The RCV axleshafts are super-strong and allow for excellent turning and maneuverability with the Reid knuckles and Solid Industries spindles and wheel hubs. Spidertrax brake rotors and calipers were used to shed weight and improve braking at the same time. Win, win.

The front suspension is a three-link with a Panhard bar, which packaged well with the low lift height and 37-inch Pit Bull tires. The links are mounted inside the frame rather than under it to maximize ground clearance. The lower links are made from 2x0.250-wall DOM tubing and use Ballistic Fabrication Ballistic Joints at the axle end and 3/4-inch rod ends at the frame end. The uppers are 1 1/2-inch, solid-wall 7075 T6 aluminum for weight savings.

Some 14-inch-travel ORI struts suspend the relatively light rig. Weighing roughly 3,000 pounds, the struts solved a lot of potential problems on this compact rig. Owner Danny Jaquier appreciated that he did not need to add a front sway bar or external bumpstops with the use of the ORI struts.

The interior of the Jeep is all business, with MasterCraft Safety military seats and harnesses. The shifter is made from an authentic WWII bayonet and wrapped in parachute cord, as were the Advance Adapters twin sticks for the Dana 300 transfer case. The T-case has been upgraded with a JB Conversions 4:1 low-range kit and 32-spline output shafts front and rear. One of the little details we really appreciated were the vents added to the floorboards to serve as a makeshift heater in the winter.

Danny built his own rollcage out of 1.5x0.120-wall DOM material and tied it to the frame in six locations. The 19-gallon RCI fuel cell takes up most of the rear cargo area, so Danny had to get creative with storage. Ammo cans over each fender hold spare parts, and there is just enough room to securely store tools and fluids behind the cell. Also note how the fuel cell is captured by straps rather than bolted to the body so it can “float” rather than crack when the body flexes.

The rear Dana 44 was originally under an Isuzu Rodeo. It uses a TNT Customs truss as the foundation for the triangulated four-link suspension. The lower links are constructed from 2x0.250-wall DOM tubing and use 3/4-inch rod ends in conjunction with a Speedway Engineering sway bar and 14-inch-travel Fox air shocks that mount outside of the frame in the wheelwells. The axle has been upgraded with 5.13 gears, a Detroit Locker, and Spidertrax brakes.

Danny fit 37-inch Pit Bull Rocker tires under his flatfender with a low, stable right height. He enlarged the rear fenders and made his own front fenders from 1.5x0.120-wall DOM tubing; the fenders are 4 inches higher than the factory ones.

Tech Specs
1946 Willys CJ-2A
Engine: 1.9L Volkswagen TDI
Transmission: AX15 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Front Axle: Dana 44 with 5.13 gears, spool, RCV axle shafts, and Spidertrax brakes
Rear Axle: Dana 44 with 5.13 gears, Detroit Locker, and Spidertrax brakes
Springs & Such: ORI struts and 3-link (front); Fox air shocks and triangulated 4-link (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.5R17 Pit Bull Rocker radial on 17x8 Pro Comp steel
Steering: PSC double-ended ram, Trail-Gear pump and orbital valve
Lighting: Baja Designs Onyx lights, Hella headlights, ORO Litedot taillight
Other Stuff: Rover 300 TDI injection pump, Warn 9.5xp winch, Jegs radiator, RCI fuel cell

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