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Good Vibrations: 1966 Jeep CJ-5

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 1999
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Nearly 30 years in production, the Jeep CJ-5 enjoyed the longest lifespan of any Jeep model so far. Back in 1966, as the Beach Boys were crooning about good vibrations, the CJ-5 was sporting good vibrations of its own in the form of a variety of new upgrades including a new "Dauntless" V-6 option. The six-banger, and the other new upgrades, opened a new chapter in the Jeep CJ-5 saga, and it undoubtedly brought in new buyers much the way the four-door Wrangler Unlimited did in 2007.

What you're looking at here is Matt Hilton's incredible '66 CJ-5. During a four-year buildup, Hilton took the rugged, timeless CJ-5 and implanted it with a variety of modern components. Add to that an impressive collection of trick, custom mods, and the result is a rig that not only looks great, but is incredibly skilled on the trail.

The body of the CJ was modified to capitalize on trail functionality. Hilton analyzed every aspect of the rig's exterior to ensure that the big 42x14 IROK tires on 16x12 Rock Crawler wheels could travel through their full range of motion without contacting any part of the rig. The result also included outstanding approach and departure angles as well. Other exterior mods include a functional pair of '67 Camaro hood vents to help keep underhood temperatures in check; a custom grilleguard; a winch mount that holds a Warn XD9000i winch; a variety of lights; and custom frame- and 'cage-mounted 1-inch-diameter, 0.250-inch-wall rock sliders. The rig is painted "Coke" red.

Hilton, who was born 16 years after this rig rolled off the assembly line, says that after wheeling a stock rig for awhile, he wanted to build an extreme machine so he wouldn't have to go around the "fun stuff." He says that he chose to build this particular vehicle because he likes the looks of the CJ and its becoming rare to see them built up. Hilton says, "I do most of my wheeling at Fordyce and the Rubicon. I've been to the Hammers with it twice now and can't wait to make a Moab trip." He notes that the CJ has done everything he has asked of it and he's happy with the way it turned out. And the good vibrations continue.


  • Owner/Hometown: Matt Hilton/Dixon, California
  • Vehicle/Model: 1966 Jeep CJ-5
  • Estimated value: $28,000


  • Type: GM 305ci V-8
  • Aspiration: TBI, custom 2-in dual exhaust w/glasspack mufflers
  • Output, hp/torque (estimated):N/A


  • Transmission: SM420, aluminum bellhousing, Centerforce II clutch
  • Transfer Case: Dana 300, Advance Adapters 4:1 kit, 32-spline input/output shafts


  • Front: Four-link, Rubicon Express 5 1/2-in coil springs, Bilstein 5150 piggyback-reservoir shocks
  • Rear: Four-link, Rubicon Express 5 1/2-in coil springs, Bilstein 5150 piggyback-reservoir shocks


  • Front: Dana 60, Yukon axleshafts, Poly Performance drive flanges, PSC hydraulic steering/ARB Air Locker
  • Rear: GM 14-bolt/Detroit Locker
  • Ring and pinion: 5.13:1


  • Wheels: 16x12 Rock Crawler
  • Tires: 42x14.0-16 Interco IROK

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