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Ultimate Summer Camp Jeep Finale

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on November 6, 2015
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Summer Camp is over. Our Jeep is done, and it’s time for a wrapup.

But wait! Jeeps are never done. Jeeps keep getting upgrades. So don’t call this a closer; it’s more of a finale-for-now, with more to come down the road.

Our Ultimate Summer Camp Jeep is a built-from-scratch Jeep made of half new and half recycled parts. It’s a Willys flatfender on a Jeep JK frame, but the frame was shortened and the Willys body stretched so it is longer than usual. The powertrain is beefy with a supercharged V-8, four-speed auto, a doubler-style transfer case, and high-pinion dropout-style fabricated axles all feeding 38-inch rubber. The Jeep is fast, loud, and fun.

We built the whole shooting match in under three months at Synergy Manufacturing and buttoned it up just in time for the Ultimate Adventure. If you’re new here and have no idea what the UA is, then go to and check out all the buildup stories and action for our annual weeklong wheeling trip. And if you still want more, watch the Dirt Every Day episode where we build up of the Ultimate Summer Camp Jeep and the week of UA coverage; you can find the episode on the Motor Trend Channel on YouTube and on the new site Then don’t forget to apply for next year, as applications are due by the end of March 2016.

Tom Wood’s Drive Shafts did it again. They saved our butt. Our suspension design with a track bar pushed the front diff toward the passenger side at full compression. Tom Wood’s not only made us a front 1350 CV shaft that has plenty of angle, but they also made it with a small enough tube to just clear our transmission at full compression—and they did it in record time.
The crew at Synergy buttoned up the drivetrain in the frame after it was returned from powdercoating as we all hustled to get the Jeep done before the Ultimate Adventure. We were running down minor parts like brake lines and bolting on the Falken rubber and TrailReady beadlocks.
We dropped the chassis and drivetrain off at Hanks Welding in San Luis Obispo and he bent up a tight exhaust system that dumps right under the passenger seat. The exhaust was loud but also awesome-sounding when attacking big climbs during the UA. After the trip we returned to Hanks and had a longer system built to quiet it down.
The driver’s side of the engine bay got very crowded as the Jeep came together because we had to pack the PSC steering reservoir that feeds the hydro-boost and ram-assist steering system along with the Fox coilover shocks. The Ron Davis radiator and dual fans were also inches away from the throttle body, requiring a custom-built intake.
Before any project fires for the first time there is that moment when you rattle through the mental checklist and try to cross off all the items you needed to do. We buttoned up the USCJ with all new synthetic fluids from Amsoil. Everything from ATF to coolant was double-checked before we bumped the starter over that first time and the 6.2L LSA fired to life. It was music to our ears.
Our Jeep breathes through an Airaid filter that lands right above the driver’s front fender. To do it again we would stretch the front hood an additional 3 inches for even more space for the intake and filter, but building a flatfender never allows much room for big engines.
Our Magnum-205 shifters from Offroad Design pop through the floor just beside the driver’s plaid PRP seat, and a Winter’s gated shifter finds the gears in our 4L80 from Gearstar. We were ready for a test drive.
After a celebratory test drive in the back lot of Synergy, we loaded the Jeep on the trailer. We had one more stop before the UA.
We headed to Tilden Motorsports / Pacific Fabrication and put the Jeep on their Dyno to get the best tune in our transmission. The transmission uses a Chevy Performance controller that allows adjusting shift points and we wanted it just right for a week of wheeling. We also found out that the engine was putting 341 horsepower and 361 ft/lb of torque to the tires, and Tilden said there was more to be had, but we left it alone for optimal reliability.

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