Is it a buggy or a Jeep? That is the first thing we asked Marcel Balda upon seeing his custom creation. Like a skilled politician he dodged the question and let us find out for ourselves. The Basque cabinetmaker has an eye for detail and is an admitted Jeep fanatic, with a well-worn numbers-matching MB in the garage and assorted Jeep frames and axles scattered behind his shop.
The fact that this flatfender has a round frame under it makes us want to call it a buggy, but what if it had a box tube frame instead? The title states that it is a ’78 CJ-5, and we rarely argue with the DMV. Plus, we have seen plenty of Jeeps with small-block Chevys, automatics, and Atlas transfer cases, so that doesn’t rule out Marcel’s marvel being a Jeep.
The MB grille, flat fenders, and fold-down windshield all scream authentic Jeep, as does the genuine Willys tailgate. Underneath the suspension and drivetrain have more in common with modern Jeeps than any flatfender. Fox coilovers sit at every corner and work in conjunction with a link suspension that is similar to a WJ Grand Cherokee, with a four-link and track bar in front and a triangulated four-link in the rear.
Confused yet? So were we. We stopped keeping score once Marcel took us for a ride. The wind in our hair and the dirt in our teeth made it enough of a Jeep for us.
Marcel’s flatbuggy has parts on it from his very first Jeep that he drove in high school (the gas pedal!)
1972 Jeep CJ-5 (?)
Engine: Ram Jet 350ci V-8
Transmission: TH350 3-speed automatic
Transfer case: Advance Adapters Atlas II
Front Axle: Chevy Dana 60, 4.88 gears, ARB Air Locker, Alloy USA chromoly axleshafts, CTM U-joints, Warn hubs
Rear Axle: Dynatrac Pro Rock 60, 4.88 gears, ARB Air Locker, 35-spline chromoly axleshafts
Springs & Such: Fox coilovers with custom link suspension
Tires & Wheels: 39.5x13.5x17 Super Swamper Iroks on 17x9 Walker Evans beadlocks
Steering: AGR steering box
Other Stuff: Custom frame, Willys tailgate, Premier Power Welder