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A 1974 Jeep J20 Overlander With An Edge

Posted in Features on June 1, 2018
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Troy Tertany and Tony Durbano are long-time friends and off-road enthusiasts, who have turned a hobby into a business. Builders of custom vehicles of all species, they do Jeeps especially well, and through their company iamroamr.com they’re doing even more. Their newest creation has been dubbed the Tomahawk and is based on a 1974 Jeep J20 pickup. We caught up with Tomahawk on the rocks above Moab, Utah, during Easter Jeep Safari. The finished product is like a wish list for those Jeep enthusiasts looking for an overland style rig that has more than six cylinders under its hood.

Power To Ground
The ‘74 Jeep J20 came with an AMC 401ci V-8, which was given a mild-performance rebuild and gained all new accessories. The guys swapped a Holley Terminator EFI system in for that aging carb, and installed a Be Cool radiator and fan to help keep the V-8 running extra cool. Also tucked inside the engine compartment and mounted to the driver-side inner fender well are the controls and connection to a Viair onboard air compressor system. A TH400 automatic transmission and a Borg Warner 1339 Quadratrac transfer case with a part-time conversion kit back up the 401. Custom Tom Wood’s driveshafts deliver the power to the axles.

This was a frame-off restomod, and all the “bad spots” as Troy put it, were made better than new. To begin with the body and frame were shortened 13-1/2 inches from the ends of each, but the wheelbase remained the standard 132 inches. Castle Fabrication and Miller Collision were called in to help with frame and body work where needed. A 6-inch MetalCloak suspension system meant for an LJ, MetalCloak 6Pak shocks, and TeraFlex SpeedBumps were used to hang axles from the frame. The front axle is the factory 44 that’s been trussed, fitted with a 4.88 Yukon Zip Locker, chromoly shafts, and Reid knuckles. The rear Dana 60 full-floater also carries a 4.88 Yukon Zip Locker. Hydro assist from PSC gives the Artec steering system the extra oomph it needs to turn and hold the 40x13.50R17LT Nitto Trail Grapplers wrapped around 17-inch B.A.D. beadlock wheels. A BJ’s Off-Road disc brake and hydro-boost conversion was also done on the J20.

Body And Soul
A Rugged Ridge front bumper offers a perch for the Warn Zeon 12-S 12,000-pound capacity winch with a Factor 55 Flat Link, and a Rugged Ridge rear bumper fits backup lights and provides a 2-inch receiver hitch. The “rhino” grille holds JW Speaker JK headlights, and a Wilco swing-out tailgate and spare tire carrier buttons up the bed. MetalCloak fenders were trimmed to fit all four corners of the J20, and Rugged Ridge rockers protect the span of sheetmetal between the wheelwells.

The cab interior offers an almost luxury-level custom refit that includes a plaid headliner that geometrically echoes the custom diamond-stitched covering on the front seats. An Alpine audio head and Kicker speakers fill the passenger compartment with sound. Although the J20’s dash has remained in an almost completely stock condition, and is very clean, it has been updated with a Dakota Digital gauge cluster, Switch-Pro auxiliary equipment switches, and the Holley EFI system and engine management interface module.

Acting as both tool/gear carrier and enclosure the bed-arching tube structure from Leitner Active Cargo System makes organizing and storing tools, spare parts, etc., easy with built-in lockable compartments and accessory racks on both sides. On the inside, we found a Power Tank system racked to the cargo system in a convenient location and the J20’s bed (which has been coated in Rhino Liner) made even more utilitarian with a Decked Drawer System that featured side-by-side full-length drawers.

What’s above the Leitner rack is of special interest. When the day’s travel is done and it’s time to camp for the night, the Tomahawk delivers. The roof top tent is a one of the manual pop-up Adventure Series from Freespirit Recreation that sleeps two. In front of the tent is a Rhino-Rack cab-top rack for things you want off the ground and secure but not inside the vehicle–it also carries six JW Speaker lights.

Why This Jeep
The imagination, craftsmanship, and hard work that Troy and Tony have put into Tomahawk stood out among the well-dressed rigs wandering town and trail at the 2018 Easter Jeep Safari. This ’74 Jeep J20 was repaired, rebuilt, upgraded, and polished into a showcase of what a properly equipped overlander with V-8 power can look like. Plus, I like the hood ornament.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: 1974 Jeep J-Series J20 pickup
Engine: AMC 401ci V-8, Holley Terminator EFI
Transmission: TH400
Transfer Case: BW 1339 Quadratrac
Suspension: Custom with MetalCloak 6-inch Jeep LJ long arm kit, MetalCloak 6Pak shocks, TeraFlex SpeepBumps
Axles: Front; J20 Dana 44, 4.88 Yukon Zip Locker, chromoly shafts, Reid knuckles. Rear; Dana 60 full-float, 4.88 Yukon Zip Locker
Wheels: 17-inch B.A.D. beadlocks
Tires: 40/13.50R17LT Nitto Trail Grapplers

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