Not All Parts Come From The Scrapyard!
Many of us have aspirations of building the perfect 4x4, and just like every other aspect of life we all have different ideas of how that vehicle should function. That's why our four-wheel rigs hail from different manufacturers, vary in functionality, and range from trucks and Jeeps to custom-built creations and SUVs. Some of us like our rigs rusty and archaic, while others have a penchant for state-of-the-art off-road machines they have to build themselves.
Fred Williams started project Fun Buggy a little over three years ago, and at just about the same time I started building my perfect 4x4: a scratch-built Jeep Scrambler. While Fred's scratch-built buggy represents a street-legal vehicle that can handle the extremes of the toughest rockcrawling trails, my project is a tough and dependable overland adventure machine. I wanted a vehicle I could pack with enough gear to sustain me for a week's time while negotiating thousands of miles of America's highways and outback. There was no way to have my perfect 4x4 other than to build and design it myself.
Most of the build has been completed at Extreme Gear Off-Road in Orangevale, California, with owner Scott Arntz. Since then I have moved the project closer to home, and I'll be completing the project with Extreme's help and the help of a few friends. The first thing I need to check off the list is the wiring. This will include the engine harness, lighting, ignition, and gauges. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming scratch-built Scrambler tech.
The list of parts for this build is long and distinguished, and the components have taken quite a few years to gather. I wanted a four-wheel machine I didn't have to worry about wherever I went, with the ability to buy spare parts at the local auto parts store. This project was started by a friend who gave me the frame-at that point, construction was kind of daunting. Where does a guy start? What I've learned from this rig is that you just have to roll up your sleeves and dig in.
A 5.9L Mopar engine will power the Scrambler. This Magnum 360 was salvaged from a wrecked Dodge truck. Its 245 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque are more than enough to motivate the Jeep. A 46RE transmission from a '98 Grand Cherokee was scavenged from J&W Jeep Recyclers. The four-speed automatic transmission should make highway travel a breeze. The hydraulic steering was supplied by PSC Motorsports, and BTB's new Master Booster brake combo will supply the braking power.
Sometimes repairing axles on the trail is just another part of an adventure, but the fixes are time-killers. I had custom Dynatrac high-pinion Pro Rock 60s built for the Scrambler for dependability. Since the 5.9L is cranking out decent horsepower and torque and the Jeep will be rolling on 37- to 40-inch tires, I shouldn't have to worry about snapped axleshafts. Both front and rear axles were fitted with Detroit Lockers for max traction.
Unfortunately, the Currie J-arm suspension I installed is discontinued, but the triangulated system includes Johnny Joint adjustable upper control arms that eliminate the need for a rear track bar, which in turn eliminates suspension restrictions caused by the track bar. The longer J-shaped lower arms mount on the backside of the axletube, correcting the stock geometry and providing a neutral rear suspension and increased travel. I don't have any plans to swap it out. I've used this suspension before, and it fits my needs perfectly.
There's a coolness factor in this Jeep, like the custom mandrel-bent frame. This is what started the project and the building block for the entire Jeep. The frame was designed to the size specifications of a Scrambler, but with all of the mounting points for Wrangler TJ components. The frame was originally constructed by Advanced Frame Works in Lewistown, Montana, but such frames are now built by Throttle Down Kustoms in Moore, Montana.