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Jeep 101: Jeepster Commando

Posted in Features on May 25, 2018
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Jeepster Commandos are a hot commodity lately, but to paraphrase George Jones, “I was Jeepster before Jeepster was cool.”

Eric Johnson comes by it honestly, with parents who raced a Jeepster back in the 1970s when he was born. He has never known a world without Jeepsters. They’ve been a part of his life since the beginning. In fact, it was his father who found this 1968 Jeepster rotting away in someone’s front yard in Tacoma, Washington. A deal was struck, Eric got a Jeepster of his own, and the Jeep received a new lease on life.

As the service manager at Northridge 4x4, Eric gets plenty of seat time in some of the most capable JKs in the nation. His Jeepster is at the other end of the spectrum, not in terms of capability, but comfort. It has no radio and no top, much less luxuries like cruise control and heated seats. Eric built the Jeep with the help of Rob Boardway at Stainless Brain Fabrication, who bent and welded all of the tube work, crossmembers, suspension mounts, and aluminum body armor. “Basically, all of the cool stuff,” Eric confesses.

We ran into Eric and Rob at King of the Hammers, where they were putting the newly completed Jeepster to the test and having a blast in the process.

The front suspension uses 14-inch-travel ORI struts in conjunction with a three-link constructed from 2-inch solid aluminum lower links and a 1 3/4-inch aluminum upper link from Rock Krawler. Rob Boardway at Stainless Brain Fabrication and the Jeep’s owner, Eric Johnson, had to get creative with the Panhard bar in order to clear the differential and oil pan at full compression, but Eric reports that the Jeep has zero bumpsteer.
If you are building a rockcrawler on a budget, axles are a good place to spend your money. Eric purchased 63 1/2-inch-wide Dynatrac ProRock 60s filled with 4.88 gears, ARB Air Lockers, and 35-spline chromoly axleshafts. The front framerails are tube, and Eric relocated the factory Saginaw steering box forward to stretch the wheelbase and tapped the box for use with a hydraulic-assist ram.
The rear suspension uses a triangulated four-link with solid aluminum links from Rock Krawler along with 14-inch ORI struts. Drivelines from Adam’s Driveshaft transfer power from the Advance Adapters Atlas II T-case.
Out back, the high-pinion Dynatrac ProRock 60 axle keeps the driveline out of the rocks. The axle is loaded with 4.88 gears, an ARB Air Lockers, disc brakes, and 35-spline chromoly axleshafts. The shape of the ProRock housing maximizes ground clearance while still providing the big, 9 3/4-inch ring gear of the Dana 60.
Radio? That just blocks out the growl of the V-8 engine. Eric did add Corbeau seats and an Art Carr gated shifter to row the gears in the C4 transmission. A tilt column was added. The factory gauge cluster was replaced with AutoMeter Phantom gauges that monitor water temperature, oil pressure, transmission temperature, and voltage.
Power comes from a Ford 302 that inhales through an Airaid filter and exhales through stock exhaust manifolds. No project is ever done though. Since our photos were taken, Stainless Brain Fabrication has built tubular headers and a new exhaust with Flowmaster Hushpower 2 mufflers.

Tech Specs

1968 Jeep Jeepster Commando C101
Engine: Ford 302ci V-8
Transmission: Ford C4 3-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II with 4.3:1 low range
Axles: Dynatrac ProRock 60 with 4.88 and ARB Air Locker (front and rear)
Springs & Such: 3-link with ORI struts and Rock Krawler links (front); 4-link with ORI struts and Rock Krawler links (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x9 KMC Machete beadlocks
Steering: Saginaw steering box, hydraulic assist ram, GM 1-ton tie-rod ends
Other Stuff: Custom rollcage by Stainless Brain Fabrication, Chris Durham Motorsports hood, Optima YellowTop battery, drivelines by Adam’s Drivelines, Stainless Brain Fabrication aluminum body panels, Corbeau seats, AutoMeter Phantom gauges, Art Carr shifter, Summit Racing Equipment aluminum radiator, 23-gallon fuel cell

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