My first 4x4 experience was a '72 CJ-5 purple (plum) Renegade with a 304 V-8, manual transmission, and soft top with vinyl doors and zip-up windows. It was a great Jeep—fast and a great hunting vehicle, but COLD. I live in South Dakota, so you had to keep your ice scraper handy when driving in the winter to scrape the inside of the windshield so you could see. The defrost only cleared about the bottom quarter-inch. Plus, the heater was lucky to keep your feet warm. The soft top was nowhere equal to what we have on today's Wranglers. You could take your finger and pull back the vinyl at the top of the door and look right out.
I was in college in Brookings and had to drive to Sioux Falls, Iowa, for a rotation. It was 20 below and I had on a snowmobile suit, mittens, boots, and big snorkel parka to keep warm. But it sure was fun when the weather was nice.
We got caught in a huge snowstorm in 1976, and the Jeep was stuck at an intersection in Brookings. I had to walk home and get my snowmobile to get around. When the snow stopped, we shoveled the Jeep out; the inside was packed top to bottom with snow. We opened up the floor drains and it all melted out once it warmed up.
I drive a new '18 JL Sahara now—Firecracker Red with the optional 4-Hi auto. That option works great up here in the winter.
Here's a Scout
I noticed there were no pics of Scouts in the last issue. I've sent you some. This has an LS2, TH350, NP205, four-link rear and three-link front, 14-inch coilovers, locked Dana 44s with 4.88s, and 35-inch Boggers.
Here's Another Scout
First Scout I owned was a '61 80 with Slant-4, blue with white full top. This was sold and I bought my second Scout, which was a '70 SR-2. This one was red with white stripes and had a 304 V-8 with the automatic transmission. In 1978, I traded that for a Scout Rallye, which was blue with white stripes. It had a 345 V-8 with automatic, air, Lock-O-Matic hubs, and power locks in the front and back. I still own this one, but it needs restoration. My fourth Scout was a '76 Travelall. I had both tops for this one and it has been sold. My fifth one was a '78 parts-only Scout. My sixth one was a '79 Midnight Star in rough shape and was sold. It was a limited edition. These are photos of my '78 Scout. Hoping to get that one back on the road soon. As far as I am concerned, Scouts are the only real four-wheeler.
Meet Cherry Bomb
Before I was even old enough to drive, Cherry Bomb started life as a nondescript, canary yellow family grocery-getter and surefooted kid-hauler to travel safely to winter hockey tournaments, no matter how much snow the Canadian winters in Stoney Creek, Ontario, dumped on us.
My dad and I joined a local four-wheel-drive club and enjoyed weekend four-wheeling and club competitions together with the stock '76 wide-wheel Cherokee S. But once I started driving, it wasn't long before I talked him into letting me modify it for race and trail. A sinister black paintjob with old-school graphics and pinstriping, custom spring lift, 14x35x15 Gumbo Monster Mudders, and some mods to the 401 AMC V-8 soon transformed it into a beast on the muddy hills and trails where we 'wheeled. The off-road-racing bug also bit me hard and I was thrilled to drive my cool high school and college ride to many wins and podiums in sand drag and tough truck-style obstacle competitions.
Throughout my "Jeep life" to this point, I had also wheeled three Jeep CJs, including a Class 4 short-course racer, which fed my racing addiction. When I finished school and landed a career as a professional firefighter, I loved racing around making noise in a big red truck so much that I decided my ultimate goal was to transform my (by now handed-down from my dad—thanks, Dad!) Cherokee into a bright-red, street-legal Class 4 race Jeep. Cherry Bomb was born and has evolved through a slew of improvements and updates over the past 40-plus years into the show-quality pseudo-racer/prerunner it is today. Continued updates are in the works!
Power comes from the original 401 V-8, which was relocated 11 inches farther back and lower in the chassis for better weight distribution, handling, and improved driveline angles. A K&N air cleaner tops a FiTech fuel-injection system that distributes fuel through an Edelbrock Performer aluminum intake. At the heart of the AMC mill is a Competition Cams 280H bumpstick, producing higher horsepower and a distinctly lumpy idle. MSD high-energy ignition lights the fire while DynoMax Jet-Hot-coated headers with dual Ultra Flo mufflers and 2 1/2-inch polished stainless tubing remove exhaust. A Howe Racing radiator and CBR/Spal fan combo keep things cool. Dual remote filters plumbed with Earl's stainless braided hose route Lucas engine oil through a remote Earl's cooler to keep engine temps in check and ensure clean oil is circulating. The engine is fed by a 22-gallon fuel cell with custom baffling to prevent fuel starvation under extreme trail and race conditions.
The Jeep's estimated 400 hp is handled by the original Turbo 400 trans, upgraded with a B&M shift kit and 2,200 rpm stall converter. Earl's braided stainless hoses route AMSOIL synthetic fluid through an Earl's cooler to keep trans temperatures down.
From the trans, power is directed to the original Quadra-Trac full-time transfer case with 2.5:1 low range, which splits power fore and aft through custom-length driveshafts to the original Dana 44 axles, which have been heavily reinforced, trussed, and equipped with chromoly Dutchman axleshafts to withstand the abuse of racing over punishing whoops and jumps. Inside both pumpkins are 3:54 gears and ARB lockers, protected from rock damage by fabricated differential skidplates.
The stock chassis was stripped down, the weak and high-stress areas reinforced and/or rewelded, epoxy primered, then tied together to the body with a 16-point rollcage, incorporating integral rocker and side-impact nerf bars tied into the frame and inner cage. This very safe and strong foundation would be base/clearcoated in Mazda Miata Classic Red, but not until the body was attached to complete the monochromatic paint scheme. Adding a little custom touch to the exterior paint are airbrushed Cherry Bomb graphics and striping.
A number of body modifications were made in an effort to reduce weight, improve accessibility for mechanical servicing, and boost handling. The entire heavy radiator support and front clip was replaced with a fabricated tube assembly tied into the front engine cage. Lightweight fiberglass front fenders were attached to the new clip with quick-release Dzus fasteners, allowing easy access to the engine compartment and front suspension. Dzus-fastened fiberglass rear fender flares went in place of the steel units and the heavy rear tailgate and glass window were replaced with a lightweight tailgate skin and Lexan window, once again held on with Dzus fasteners, providing quick interior access to the cage-mounted spare tire, ARB air-locker compressor, and dual AGM batteries. The battery location provides great accessibility and improves weight distribution. Race/prerunner-style bumpers with custom stainless skidplates were added to provide solid protection in the front and rear, and Bosch Rallye high-output long- and midrange lights with matching fogs line the front bumper, turning night into day. Both the front and rear bumpers incorporate hitch receivers with battery quick connects to accept a Warn Multi-Mount portable winch frame and/or Factor 55 hitch links and shackles.
The interior features a fabricated dash (to accommodate the relocated engine), filled with an array of AutoMeter Sport Comp gauges and custom, old-school airbrushing. Details include dual sunroofs, tinted windows, reupholstered headliner, doors, and interior panels in black, quilted Naugahyde, competition-mandated window nets, and Cobra racing buckets equipped with five-point harnesses to keep occupants safe and secure. Minimal creature comforts include a stereo radio for tunes and CB radio to stay in touch on the trail. A large Cold Fire cage-mounted fire extinguisher is within reach of driver or co-dawg, just in case things get too hot for them. Also within easy reach of the driver is the Winters Performance trans shifter; below it are the front and rear ARB Air Locker actuators, and adjacent and easily accessible for troubleshooting are the carefully crafted custom wiring harness, fuse block, and relays at the heart of the Jeep's electrical system.
The old-school fabricated suspension system is similar in design to those used by short-course and desert racers in the 1980s and 1990s before advances in coil spring and shock technology revolutionized off-road race design. It cycles 12 inches in front and 10 inches in the rear and features Rusty's Off-Road 4-inch tapered leaf springs with modified shackle mounts in the front. Damping is handled by triple Rancho RS7000 adjustable shocks in front and dual 7000s in the rear, while Rancho limiting straps and urethane bumpstops limit suspension travel. The Jeep currently rides on 35x12.50R17 BFGoodrich KM3s on Dirty Life Roadkill beadlock wheels.