Although Jeeps military history dates way back to World War II, the Jeepster Commando wasnt introduced until 1966 as the first small, four-wheel-drive vehicle with automatic transmission. And though Greencastle, Indiana, isnt exactly known for its jungles and wild brush, Steve Johnstons 69 Jeepster Commando is a fully loaded, all-American trooper ready to roll at a moments notice.
Steve, a lineman at Indianapolis Power and Light, knew a good thing when he saw it. What appealed to him was the rarity of the Commando, and, frankly, the rebuilding process was every bit as fun as driving around in the finished product. The 10-week project covered virtually every facet of the vehicle. Steve and his buddy Johnny Cash of J.C. Paint and Body put in four to six hours nightly on the paint job and bodywork, and the transmission buildup caused even Steves 9-year-old daughter, Shelby, to roll up her sleeves and pitch in.
Little was done to the engine, which remains the stock Dauntless V-6. Behind the motor lies a T-14A three-speed manual transmission that feeds power to a Model 20 transfer case. Where the bulk of the work was concentrated, however, was on the exterior and chassis. To have it stand apart from the pack, Steve painted the Jeepster a bright Porsche Red. All exterior pieces were custom-made, including the front fenders, which were made from a 53-69 short CJ fender that was cut in half and welded to the bottom half of the Jeepsters original fender.
Because new parts arent an option for the Commando, all necessary components were reproduced. A result of the lack of parts available in the aftermarket is that Steve himself is manufacturing stock replacement rocker panelsthough he wont be quitting his day job any time soon. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if youre planning to build up a similar Jeep and would like to compare notes.
Steve tells us the unique features of his Jeep are its flawless paint job and the 16,757 actual miles it has accumulated. The white top it sports also distinguishes his rig from the rest of its class. What he learned most from this whole experience was patience, which he summed up as Working alongside my buddy Johnny, doing paint and bodywork without killing him.
At ease, soldier.