You may have seen Wicked Willys in Jp Magazine, or in Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road’s Ultimate Adventure last year. It’s big, loud, and a definite eye-catcher. It was finished just before UA last year, and had a few new project problems, but in general did very well on that trip (despite some dubious driving on the first obstacle of the first day of UA 2016, and horrible fuel economy (what would you expect from a stroked big-block?). Since then it’s been on a few (shorter) off-road trips in the Southwest without any real issues…except one that has plagued the truck ever since we finished it. A mid-70s Dodge/Chrysler big-block has a mid-’70s alternator that puts out something like 60 amps. Running electronic fuel injection and two big electric fans on a 60-amp alternator wasn’t working. The Jeep was barely able to keep the battery charged on hot days…especially if we were charging a phone, running a GPS, and using our UHF radio, let alone the winch.
So what do we do? We could try to add a second alternator, but space is limited. We could look into modifying a stock replacement alternator to bump up the amperage, but research showed that these alternators, even when tuned up were only good for 85-100 amps…better, but still not good enough to keep up with the trucks intended purpose. Luckily we have resources and all our electrical gurus told us to talk to the folks at Premier Power Welder. Premier Power Welder makes a very cool and very compact vehicle mounted welding system…that among other things uses high-amp alternators. The folks at Premier Power Welder would know how to solve our low amp situation and into the bargain we could add a useful trail repair tool to our rig. That’s a win-win and makes spending money on cool new parts all that much more reasonable.
If you’re in Moab for Easter Jeep Safari and something breaks you do all that you can to fix it. Why? Because there are trails all around and only so much daylight to spend on them. Maybe we are masochists, but we’ve grown to enjoy the challenge of the parking lot fix, so why not do a parking lot tech install while in Moab for EJS 2017? The idea is crazy, but fits with the event. All we needed was a willing company to participate; enter Premier Power Welder. They make compact vehicle mounted welding systems that are used all over the world to fix broken trail rigs. It just so happened that we were desperately in need of a high-amp alternator (one of their specialties), and have always wanted an onboard welder. Greg Rogers from Premier was game and offered to help us install a new custom built 180-amp Premier Power Welder alternator while at Moab.
With a call to Greg Rogers at Premier Power Welder we knew we were in good hands. Greg knew the stock application we were having problems with and knew how to build us a high-amp alternator. With EJS 2017 rapidly approaching we came up with a crazy idea; why not install this high-amp alternator in a parking lot in Moab. If we don’t break, we can at least re-create the feeling by giving ourselves work to do during EJS. The idea fits well with a product aimed at making portable repairs, and makes for a different spin on a Moab story; a Moab tech story.
After talking to Rogers a few weeks prior to EJS he had a pretty good idea of what we would need and what we would need to get it installed on our 1974 Dodge RB big-block. The engine, a torquey mill, common to performance cars of the ’60s and ’70s as well as a few trucks and Ramchargers from the ’70s and ’80s has an old-school alternator that is only good for about 60 amps. Rogers replacement 180-amp alternator and external regulator should keep our Jeep fully charged despite the two large electric fans, electronic fuel injection, winch, and more.
Fitting the alternator into our engine bay took all the tricks Rogers could muster. The alternator has to sit within about 3/16- to 1/4-inch of our aftermarket cylinder heads. Rogers started by trimming down some studs that hold a cover on the back of the Premier alternator. Rogers also assured us that the Premier Power Welder would cover alternators that had been modified like this, to fit. The company knows that sometimes things need to be modified slightly for a custom application. Rogers used the Premier Power Welder mounted on his Jeep to power a 4 1/2-inch grinder for this task.
With the new slimmer alternator, Rogers test fits the alternator in place to see if the factory brackets are even going to be close to working.
Off-roaders are a tight and helpful group. Ultimate Adventure 2014 invited reader Jim Mueller happened to be nearby when we started the install and jumped in to lend tools, parts, and a helping hand. Rogers used Mueller’s bumper-mounted vise from Mac’s Custom Tie Downs to modify the factory upper alternator mounting bracket to fit the Premier Power Welder high-amp alternator.
Getting clearance is critical for this particular install so Rogers deftly trims down the plastic rear cover of the new alternator. The cover, once trimmed, will be replaced to keep parts of the alternator covered from potential shorts.
Reusing the rubber boot from the old main alternator wire and a special lead adapter Rogers modifies the alternator further to clear the tight space on our big Dodge/Chrysler motor.
Rogers then trims the excess of the exposed alternator charge lug using his Jeeps Premier Power Welder to power the grinder.
It’s a tight fit, but with slight modification of the factory alternator bracket and a nifty bolt-on bracket adapter for the lower mount the Premier Power Welder alternator fits.
Wiring of the new external regulator is simple with a keyed-on lead, ground, one that runs to the positive battery, and a plug that snaps into a plug on the alternator you are almost good to go. Rogers also made us a four-gauge wire to run from the alternators main post to the positive side of the battery. This is the same regulator that works with the Premier Power Welder Box which we will install when we have a bit more time on our hands.
With the regulator installed and wired we zip-tied everything in place and fired the truck up. The alternator instantly put out 14.3 volts at idle and should be more than enough for almost any situation the truck sees. We can now easily upgrade to a full Premier Power Welder. Premier is also debuting a new smaller onboard welder box at the Easter Jeep Safari Vendor Show, perfect for modern 4x4s with limited underhood space.