Does it get any easier? Chances are if you cant get something for a 76-86 CJ you didnt want it anyways. From Kevlar body tubs to replacement heater knobs, if you need it for your CJ someone makes it. So which CJ is the best starting point for the Ultimate CJ, you ask? Well, all the models have their weak points and strong points, but in our sick minds there lives a Scrambler that is a bit different than most.
We would start out with an 83 Scrambler for arbitrary reasons other than the fact that we now have the desired body and frame length and a Dana 300 we can sell. We would opt for the 86 so we could get a rear Dana 44, but since few Scramblers were made in 86 and a 44 probably wouldnt hold up to a high-horsepower motor and the 39-inch tires that also exist in our heads, we will stick with the 83 Scrambler. The CJ frames are not known to be the beefiest Jeep frames available, so we would either look into one of the aftermarket frames or start boxing and gusseting to keep cracks to a minimum. This would also give us a chance to hang four 2 ½-inch rear Wrangler lift springs on the frame, attach our traction bar from Sams Off-Road, as well as place motor mounts and relocate the body mounts. Now would also be a good time to set up the ram-assist power steering box.
Just to be a little different we would install a fuel-injected 5.0L Ford motor out of a late-model Mustang or Explorer. This engine is a good starting point because of the large aftermarket parts following, plus they sound cool. With the addition of a centrifugal supercharger we would have a light reliable V-8 with plenty of horsepower. The Explorer motor, or one out of a Mercury Mountaineer, comes from the factory with Fords iron GT-40 heads, so this may be the more desirable motor. Bolted to the back of our 5.0L would be an NP435 for its low First gear of 6.69:1.
We could have chosen an automatic since this Jeep is mainly for mud and mud- covered rock trails, but we prefer manual transmissions. We would select an Atlas II Highlander to delegate the power to the axles. The Atlas II allows us to choose between front and rear axles as well as high- and low-range ratios, and allows us to use a lower-than-stock low-range ratio. The 3.0:1 low-range ratio would probably be the best gearing for the trails we want to use the Jeep on. This gearing will allow slow crawling when necessary, but still allow us to generate some wheel speed when we need it. Since this is the ultimate CJ we would stuff it with high-pinion Dana 60s front and rear with the lowest possible ratio, as in the 5.38 gears recently available from Randys Ring & Pinion. The added strength of the 60 axles will come in handy, and the high-pinions will be good for keeping the driveline angles to a minimum while still being able to tuck the transfer case up high between the framerails.
To keep the rear tires spinning at all times we would drop in a spool for the ultimate in strength and reliability. The front pumpkin would be filled with a 35-spline ARB so that we can make some of the tighter turns with the front unlocked.
Body & Interior
We would start by hacking the back of the Scrambler off of the body tub just behind where the stock fiberglass half cab comes down. The result would be a bitchen pickup-like cab similar to the CJ-10 rarely found in the U.S. By doing this we have a cool, unique Jeep body, which can be placed strategically a few inches behind the original mounting points on the frame of the Scrambler. This is done for two reasons: for better weight placement of the cab and motor, as well as providing additional space for the front tires without adding excessive lift. By turning the Scrambler into a cab truck we can keep the center of gravity low as well as shift weight around for optimum balance. And to keep all occupants safe during full-throttle assaults on mud-covered rocks we would also build a custom cage that would fit inside our half cab as well as five-point harnesses and some comfy racing seats. To replace the now amputated back half of the Scrambler we would build some type of a mini-bed for storage and a minimum of rear overhang. Oh, and how about a custom Can-Back top for our mini-bed.
Tires & Wheels
Super Swamper Boggers could be the ultimate mud tires, and since we recently learned a quick way to make them even more aggressive at chucking mud we would have to duplicate this for our Scrambler. So stuffed under our CJ-8 would be a set of 39.5x18 Boggers with the little lugs removed and then mounted on some 15x14 Mudslinger bead-locked wheels from Stockton Wheel. Of course these huge tires may try to rub the front fenders, but we wont let them by trimming the necessary sheetmetal, and by adding some body lift as necessary.
Good, Bad, & What It's For
With a simple suspension setup, big tires, and a strong drivetrain, this Jeep should feel at home on East Coast mud/rock trails, but it should work well in mud, sand, and dry rock. It would also be one heck of an attention-getter with its bizarre body and huge tires. One place where it would be spooky at best is on the road. We would bet this Jeep would have erratic steering, lots of body roll in corners, and other than pleasurable noise output on the road.