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American Expedition Vehicles J8 Crate Vehicle

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2009
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American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has figured out a way to offer us the first military jeep vehicle in a long time in the form of their J8MilSpec kit car. There are many legal and logistical cones that are needed to be maneuvered around to make this possible, but with some time, money and perseverance you will end up with a Hemi or diesel powered J8 that is three times stronger than your standard Jeep JK. Though this rig isn't for everyone, if you want something unique, an actual military jeep, or one of the strongest platforms to build a trail machine there is then keep reading.

You can get any color you want as long as it's green or tan. (actually you can get any other color you want also, but why wouldn't you want your MilSpec vehicle to be green or tan?)

First some back story, the Jeep J8 is the military version of the Jeep JK used by the Egyptian military, and assembled in Egypt, but with most of the components manufactured in Detroit, Michigan. These rugged yet utilitarian vehicles all have the longer 4-door wheel base, yet come as either three door (two front and a tail gate) or 5-door (4-door and a tailgate) versions. The military versions all use VM 2.8L diesel engines, 545 automatics, and Dana 44 front, 60 rear axles with front coil springs and rear leaves. Unfortunately they are not available to civilians anywhere in the world. Until now that is.

As it turns out there are programs that allow the end user (legally designated as the Manufacture of Record) to purchase parts and do the final assembly and then have a VIN number assigned to legally build their own component vehicle or kit car. Though every state is different, each state does have this type of program. AEV is simply offering the J8MilSpec as a kit car sans engine and transmission. Then the end user may purchase that engine and have it installed, or install it themselves.

The J8MilSpec will come to you as a rolling chassis, with everything in place except the engine and transmission. Then you will decide on the rugged VM 2.8L diesel or the Hemi 5.7 or 6.1L V8 and the 545 automatic or Getrag manual transmission. (Diesel only available with automatic at this time)

The AEV J8MilSpec's come completely assemble minus any Vehicle Identification Numbers VIN since it's isn't legally a vehicle, yet. AEV will not be selling the engines, since legally they cannot sell the whole vehicle, but rather you can purchase the Hemi V8 or VM 2.8L diesel through a separate but independent authorized dealer (AEV can put you in contact with a dealer near you who can supply the engine and install it if you wish). You may ask why you can't just buy the diesel for your JK, and the answer is two fold. First each 2.8L diesel is allocated to one J8MilSpec kit, and secondly the engine is far from an easy swap into a JK. The Hemi will include all factory emissions requirements making for a kit car that should run as clean as any late model Chrysler vehicle and pass all 50 state emissions. Plus the Hemi is also available with a manual transmission making it twice as fun in our view than the Hemi/Auto option. Again, your local laws on kit cars will dictate the exact steps you'll need to take, but AEV and their independent dealers can supply all the basic building blocks.

Underneath is a reinforced and upgraded chassis with coil spring front suspension and leaf spring rear suspension for added load capacity. The front axle is a heavy duty Dana 44 and the rear is a Dana 60, both have huge brakes in comparison to standard Jeep JK's and they both return to the classic Jeep 5 on 5 1/2 wheel bolt pattern. The J8's also come with 34-inch BF Goodrich tires on steel 17-inch wheels.

So why exactly would you want a J8MilSpec in the first place? Simple, it's one tough mother of a machine. Notice how we didn't call it a "Jeep", that is because although the components are built by many of the same companies that supply Chrysler it isn't an actual "Jeep Vehicle" in the legal terms, though we are happy to say that you'll be supporting many U.S. businesses if you purchase these parts and assemble your own J8MilSpec. And in some ways this will actually deliver on the elusive military jeep in a crate myth. Plus you will want one because the front 44 and rear 60 are heavy duty, come with 4.11 gears, 5 on 5 1/2 bolt pattern, and a rear limited slip, though other gears and locker options are available. The frame and body is also heavy duty such that the Egyptian military claims their Jeep J8's can haul 2,600-pounds, tow around 7,000 and endure three times the abuse of a standard JK. There are little things also that are very impressive such as brakes similar to Ram truck components, a tailgate with a burly tire rack, and tons of reinforcements all over the body tub and frame. However even though the tub comes very spartan with only vinyl seats, air bags, and AC, AEV will gladly upgrade everything to premium quality components such as carpet, stereo, leather seats etc if you want. We happen to like the no frills look.

The body, though originating from some of the same supply houses as those used to make Jeep's JK is unique with many additional braces and thicker double walled floors. Also you won't find any Jeep name plates as this kit isn't a Chrysler dealer option.

Plus with the heavy duty chassis, tub, and stout axles you have the perfect platform for building a long lasting go just about anywhere trail rig. AEV also offers a full line of suspension, wheels and tires and their special bumpers that can be added to the build sheet. (Stay tuned for images of their new rear bumper with built in water storage tanks, great for the long range exploration off roader).

So with so many great aspects you must be wondering what's the catch, first and foremost is the price. For the J8MilSpec kit expect to spend around $40,000. Add to that the engine (either gas or diesel) from the independent dealer and you'll spend another $8-10,000. The assembly is very easy and can be handled by a qualified shop in no more than 12 hours, but that adds the labor costs at your favorite 4x4 shop or independently trained AEV dealer. Plus all the extras from winches to radios will go on top of that price. The second catch is your local kit car rules and regulations, but AEV's independent dealers will happily work with you to navigate through your local DMV, and many states have all the steps up on their web sites. Plus SEMA, the organization dedicated to assisting aftermarket suppliers to all automotive genre's also has a staff dedicated to kit cars and the owners looking to build them. In the end it's nothing new, buy a bunch of parts, put it together, get a number assigned, and go wheeling, it's just that now you can get these parts to assemble into the latest military version of the most iconic vehicle ever made. Interested enthusiasts can contact American Expedition Vehicles to learn more or to place an order, / 248-926-0256.

J8 (built in Egypt)
Make: VM Motori
Model Type: 2.8L Panther Turbo Diesel
Max Power: 118 kW (158hp)@3800 rpm
Max Torque: 400 Nm (295 lb-ft)@2000 rpm
Transmission: Chrysler 5-45 five speed automatic
4WD System: Command Trac with 2.72 low range
Brakes: Four Wheel Disc with ABS
Electrical System: 12V or 12V/24V Switchable, 180A@12V
Body Styles: 5 Door (5 pass), 3 Door (2-6 pass), RHD Available
Optional Equipment: AC, Airbags, Soft or Hard Tops, Paint Color

AEV J8 (built in USA)
Engine: None - sold as a component chassis only
Make: n/a
Model Type: Chassis can be ordered setup for a 2.8L Diesel or 5.7 HEMI V8
Max Power: n/a
Max Torque: n/a
Transmission: Diesels set up for 5-45 Auto, V8 Models set up for 5-45 or 6 Speed Manual
4WD System: Command Trac with 2.72 low range
Brakes: Four Wheel Disc with ABS
Electrical System: 12V
Body Styles: 5 Door (5 pass), 3 Door (2-6 pass), LHD Only
Optional Equipment: AC, Airbags, Soft or Hard Tops, Paint Color

Dimensions (both)
Length: 4684mm
Width: 1876mm
Height (w/Hardtop): 1839mm
Wheelbase: 2946mm
Turning Radius: 6.2 m
Curb Weight: 2019kg
GVW: 3358kg
Payload: 1160kg

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