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1955 Jeep CJ-3B

Side View
Verne Simons
| Senior Editor, Jp
Posted January 1, 2001
Photographers: John Cappa

Enough Ingenuity to Make MacGyver Jealous

Step By Step

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  • Franks Vierra’s ’55 CJ-3B.

  • You can’t tell from here but that stubby front bumper is filled with lead melted down from old wheel weights. Nifty widget points: 100.

  • Check out the mini CV shock mount for extra pivot points. These keep the shocks from binding in almost any circumstance. Nifty widget points: 10.

  • More fabrication in the form of custom-made traction bars with color-coded springs to limit axle hop and wrap. Note the multileaf National springs and the fabricated crossmember holding up the Dana 300. Nifty widget points: 25.

  • Here’s that limiting strap that keeps the front driveshaft from splitting up during extreme droop. Nifty widget points: 15.

  • There is an ARB and a 5.13 ring-and-pinion hiding in that Wrangler-width front Dana 44.

  • Look, ma! A high-pinion Dana 44 with buggy springs, full-floating axles, and a Detroit Locker out back.

  • Cool points for keeping that big bus-like CJ-3B steering wheel.

  • Buick provided this 225 odd-fire V-6, and if you look closely you can see the Mr. Coffee next to and under the air compressor. Just kidding, but there are probably plans in the works for one later on.

  • (100+(10x4)+25+15 Nifty widget points)+ the original steering wheel + a million other homebuilt mods = one sweet high-hood, Mr. Vierra.

Despite the current trend to paint every early CJ olive drab green, Frank Vierra of Los Buños, California, chose a slightly different tint for his ’55 CJ-3B. And although this shade of green quickly brings to mind small British street cars of years gone by, Frank wanted a stand-out-from-the-crowd appeal, and the CJ-3B’s high-hood styling definitely fits the bill. Like the subtle difference between forest green and olive drab, this Jeep has a boatload of subtle modifications that greatly improve its off-road performance.

The first thing that screams at you are the not-so-subtle 36-inch Super Swampers. The next thing you notice is how well those 36s stuff into the wheelwells when the little Jeep creeps across the trail like a slightly drunken monkey looking for a banana. All of this incredible movement is provided by custom length 3-inch-lift National Springs and a spring-over conversion with a front shackle reversal. Buggy springs have been attached on all four corners to further enhance droop. Frank and his buddy Jorge Cota modified the frame to allow the buggy springs a flat place to rest when not in use, as well as strengthened the frame for the steering box and spring hangers. Next came the custom mounts, which let all four shocks pivot on two planes like a CV joint and allow for lots of droop, flex, and more flex.

The front axle is a standard-rotation Dana 44, locked by an ARB. A reverse-rotation Warn full-floating Dana 44 with a Detroit keeps pinion angles to a minimum out back. A custom-made spring-loaded set of traction bars keeps axlewrap and wheelhop to a minimum in the rear, while limiting straps attached to the front shackles keep the buggy springs from overextending the 15-inch-slip front driveshaft.

The little four-banger was axed in favor of a Weber-fed, custom-cam’d Buick 225 odd-fire V-6. The bent sixer provides more than enough torque when passed through the SM420’s 7.02 First gear to the Dana 300’s 2.62 low range and on to the 5.13 ring-and-pinions found in both front and rear Wrangler-width Dana 44s from Tri-County Gear. The Swampers rest on 15x10 American Racing solids and are slowed by front disc brakes and rear 11-inch drums. A GM steering box allows Frank to direct the huge Swampers via the stock steering wheel attached to a crossover steering system up and around many a rock.

The steel-bodied green beast holds a stout rollcage to keep its occupants safe, while a custom air tank helps the onboard air system fill flats and run tools while on the trail. The 2-inch exhaust routs the spent gases just past the CV’d rear driveshaft and over custom-fabricated crossmembers. The Warn winch rides just behind the damn-I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that lead-filled front bumper. The first Willys were marketed as streetable tractors, and Frank has taken this idea one step further by adding ballast to the front of this high-hood to keep things nice and steady while on the trail.

This forest-green CJ-3B is filled with many a twist or trick that would make anyone jealous of all of the MacGyver points that Frank must have received by fabricating so many functional little widgets. We wonder what Frank could do with a Swiss Army knife, a box of twist ties, and some super glue—perhaps build a Space Shuttle?

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