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1973 Jeep CJ-5 115-inch Wheelbase Rockcrawler You Must See

Posted in Features on March 30, 2018
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Eric Askins purchased this 1973 Jeep CJ-5 as a project vehicle while still attending college. At the time it had been modified somewhat, with a stretched tub and coil springs in the rear. It also had an AMC 360 V-8, TH400 automatic and an NP205 transfer case. It was not a shabby rig at all. After fixing it up and wheeling it for a while, he was forced to sell it to continue his education. Long after graduation, he found it for sale in New Mexico and was soon the owner again. By this time, the old CJ-5 was pretty trashed and in need of a serious rebuild. Given a second chance with this 45-year-old Jeep, Askins made it better than ever. Today it has an all-business interior, classic exterior, beefy drivetrain, and a powerful modern powertrain than can turn big rubber on hard-core trails.

Chassis
Askins knew he wanted to build the CJ-5 for southwestern rockcrawling, which means clawing over large boulders and up waterfall ledges. Eric felt that while short and skinny rigs can snake their way through a lot of obstacles, a rig with a longer wheelbase would be better on extreme inclines. The wheelbase now sits at 115 inches. A linked suspension provides excellent approach/departure angles and effective power transfer to the ground.

All along, the Jeep had some type of front leaf springs, until Askins took it to RPM Fabrication in Phoenix. Here, a new front half-frame with custom bumper was built to support coilovers and a linked suspension. A custom three-link setup in front is fitted with 2.5-inch, 16-inch-travel King coilovers with remote reservoirs. Two-inch-diameter Fox air bumps limit the front axle during compression travel. Steve Arlia at Arizona Precision Fabrication built the double-triangulated rear four-link that uses matching King coilovers and Fox bumps like the front suspension. The rear also uses a Currie TJ/LJ AntiRock sway bar that’s been modified to fit.

A custom six-point rollcage built from 1 3/4-inch DOM tubing provides occupant safety, is topped with a sheet-aluminum roof, and continues forward into the engine compartment and ends with a spare tire carrier tied into the rear of the ’cage. The custom front bumper supports a Warn 9.5cti winch with synthetic rope. A 17-gallon RCI fuel cell sits just inside the rear of the stretched tub and is secured with Artec mounts.

The Saginaw steering box was ported for hydraulic assist and fitted with a quick-ratio kit. A custom pitman arm now holds the drag link rod end in double shear and connects to the end of an 8-inch PSC hydraulic ram. A Howe cooler helps keep fluid temperature in check.

Drivetrain
While the CJ-5 had boasted V-8 power for some years, Askins wanted to step up to a modern powerplant with fuel injection. He had Arlia fabricate new motor mounts to accept a GM LS engine. Askins slid a 2006 5.3L V-8 from a Silverado between the framerails and backed it with a 4L65E automatic that's controlled with an Art Carr gated shifter. A cable-shifted Atlas II transfer case with 4.3:1 low-range gearing delivers the slow torque needed for crawling in the desert. A Northern radiator cooled with a Spal 2200-CFM electric fan works to keep engine temperatures reasonable.

Last year, Askins got a bit rowdy at the dunes and jumped his Jeep higher than expected. The landing resulted in two broken rear axleshafts and a Dana 44 housing with a smiley curve. Hence, it seemed like a good time to upgrade drivetrain hardware. A GM king pin–style Dana 60 was built for the front. Upgrade parts include Reid Racing knuckles and bronze bushings, Artec high-steer arms and truss, Yukon Grizzly locker, 5.38 gears, 4340 chromoly shafts, Super Joints, Hardcore Hubs, and a Dynatrac stub hub kit. A GM 14-bolt axle was chosen for the rear. It was clearanced with a Ballistic shave kit and trussed with Artec components. Inside the axle is another Grizzly locker and 5.38 gearing. Arlia worked his TIG-welding magic on all of the axle-strengthening components so the Jeep should be far more dune-proof in the future.

The CJ-5 now has Chevy 3/4-ton disc brake calipers on all four corners, with the rear mounted using RuffStuff Specialties brackets. Both driveshafts use 0.25-inch-wall DOM tubing and 1350-series joints. Underneath there's a smooth, flat belly with a full skidplate to protect the engine and transmission. Rolling stock on the Jeep consists of 40x13.50R17LT Nitto Mud Grapplers mounted onto Raceline RT232 Monster beadlock wheels.

Body and Interior
The body has been stretched some 34 inches and now the rig sits on a long 115-inch wheelbase. The rear of the tub was cut open, and the front fenders were cut and tubed flat for added tire clearance. With the longer tub, Askins now has good legroom plus cargo space for gear in the back of the CJ-5.

Suspension seats and full harnesses from PRP are tied into the rollcage. A custom console now runs from the dash and in between the seats, and holds a Lowrance HDS-9 Gen 3 GPS unit for backcountry navigation up high. The custom console also supports the gated shifter and control switches. Storage inside the ’cage and behind the seats provides room for a cooler, twin ARB compressors, and bags for tools and spare parts.

Why This Jeep
It’s cool to see owners update old Jeeps by adding modern hardware and shaping them to meet the needs of the trails today. Askins had a second chance with this one, and took the opportunity to create a great rockcrawling rig.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: '73 Jeep CJ-5
Engine: 2006 GM 5.3L LS V-8
Transmission: 4L65E 4-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Atlas II with 4.3:1 low range
Suspension: Custom 3-link front, Custom 4-link rear, King 16-inch coilovers, Fox bump stops
Axles: Front: GM king-pin Dana 60, 5.38 gears, Yukon Grizzly locker, axleshafts, locking hubs Rear: GM 14-Bolt, Ballistic shave kit, Artec truss, 5.38 gears, Yukon Grizzly locker, disc brakes
Steering: Ported gearbox with quick-ratio kit, PSC hydro ram assist, Howe cooler
Wheels: 17x8 Raceline Monster beadlocks
Tires: 40x13.50R17LT Nitto Mud Grapplers

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