The $13 Jeep.
When Cappa and I came up with the title to this story, I had only sold off about $80 worth of parts, but I suppose I should start at the beginning. It all started when one of my buddies asked if I wanted a CJ-5. His dad had sold the land the Jeep was occupying and it had to go. It was free even though it had a 225 Buick V-6, a T-14a/Spicer 18 combo, an offset Dana 44 with one-piece shafts, and a perfect windshield frame. The catch was that the Jeep had been jumped hard and put up broke. In the interim between its moth-balling and my entrance into its life, the seats, rear floor and wheeltubs, tailgate, fenders, and hood had all been removed. Now, I should mention that at this time, I already had eight vehicles and needed another like a hole in the head, so naturally I loaded the thing on my trailer and surprised my wife with yet another lawn ornament.
The Pile O' 5
I put the CJ-5 on the side of my house for about a month before giving it a really good inspection. Aside from the aforementioned missing body pieces and the complete drivetrain, the Jeep had a mysterious power-steering conversion with a homemade pump mount on the 225 and a really scary steering-box mount welded together from angle iron. The front Dana 27 axle was severely bent, and the frame was severed on the passenger side behind the front spring. This Jeep had definitely been put to rest because of the jump and not any other mechanical reasons, so I was fairly confident the drivetrain would be a runner.
What to do?
At first I thought I'd try to register the CJ-5 and rebuild it with a resto-wheeler flavor, complete with replacement frame and tub. However, registering it proved harder than I thought. It seems my "Pile o' 5" was a conglomeration of several Jeeps, with no real paperwork for any of them. The tub is a '66 or earlier, as evidenced by the pseudo battery-compartment hatch on the cowl. The windshield is late '60s/early '70s with bottom-mount wipers and the taller glass. The frame and drivetrain are obviously a '70-'71 1/2, and the steering column and dash are out of '72-'75. As I contemplated whether to give the DMV a third try at getting a title so I could register it, finding another CJ-5 to transfer the drivetrain into, or blowing it apart and selling the pieces on the Internet, I stumbled across an online ad for a '71 CJ-6 with a clear title, lots of rust, and a bunch of cool Jeep trinkets. The best part was that the CJ-6 was an original V-6 model and only needed an engine to be a runner. There was a lot of surface rust, but very little rot. It had a Meyers half cab welded to the tub and various other Meyers top pieces in the bed to make another half cab, part of a CJ-5 hardtop, a CJ-5 replacement floor panel, and a brand new Omix tailgate. Sold!
The $13 Jeep, or Project Hatari!
I'll admit that I've seen the John Wayne movie Hatari! one time too many. If you've never seen it, go rent it, unless CJ-6s running down rhinos and getting driven so hard you can hear the stuntmen's spines snapping doesn't seem cool to you. While I don't plan on copying the Jeeps used in the movie completely, I do want to make a fun wheeler out of it -- with or without a Zebra catching seat on the front fender. It'll have small tires, stock springs, and we'll even keep the Dana 27 for a while. This month we'll be pulling all the pieces from the CJ-5 we need to make the CJ-6 run and selling off the rest to recoup our investment. In the following months we'll give you a walk-through of the Hatari Jeep and fix everything that needs fixing. Then we'll take it wheeling. And don't feel sorry for the CJ-5. It'll be coming soon to a Coke can near you.