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Project Hatari!, Part 3

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 29, 2005 Comment (0)
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Photographers: JP Staff

Project Hatari! Part 1
Project Hatari! Part 2
Project Hatari! Part 3
Project Hatari! To the Rubicon, Part 1
Project Hatari! To the Rubicon, Part 2
Project Hatari! To the Rubicon, Part 2 - Web Extras

My goal since buying a clapped-out CJ-6 in mid-December was to get it up and running in time for the Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari the first weekend in March. It sounded easy until I realized all the work that needed to be done. In addition to installing all the parts we showed you in the last issue (see "Project Tally" on Page 2), I also did a ton of other stuff there isn't room to mention. By the time I factored in a hectic magazine schedule (we do have more than one story an issue to write, after all), waiting on parts, going back East for the holidays, and changing poopy diapers, I found myself three days from leaving for TDS with no radiator and an unfinished rollcage. I planned on installing the radiator on Tuesday, finishing the rollcage on Wednesday, and heading out for TDS on Thursday.

After procuring a junkyard radiator and installing it on custom mounts, a buddy and I went for a testdrive late Tuesday afternoon. Aside from a major stumble right off idle, the Jeep pulled hard, the brakes worked good, and the gears sort of shifted, albeit with a lot of grinding. However, we noticed the temperature gauge quickly pegged past way-hot, so we headed home. A pull of the dipstick revealed an oil milk shake. Blown head gasket.

I was left with the decision of either finishing the cage and letting the Jeep sit in my garage for the weekend, or diving into the engine and finishing the cage another day. I'm a glutton for punishment, so Wednesday morning I went to Napa and ordered up a head gasket set (PN HS-1193-VC) for $56.60. Since the gaskets wouldn't arrive until Thursday afternoon, I went home and tore the top of the engine apart and got it ready for reassembly. The pistons in my 225 are 0.040-inch overbore units, indicating the engine had a rebuild not too long ago. Apparently the engine builder wasn't too familiar with the cylinder-head torque sequence of a Buick 225, as evidenced by the blown gasket.

The new gaskets showed up around noon on Thursday, and I had the engine buttoned back up for a quick testdrive just before it got dark. There were no major leaks, so I loaded it on the trailer and packed up my junk to leave first thing Friday morning.

Jp Editor John Cappa taking photos at TDS
(the online editor is NOT allowed to ride on the spotter's seat)

Wheeling the Hatari! Jeep
There's nothing quite like wheeling a vehicle you're totally unsure about. The Project Hatari Jeep had been abandoned for years before I got my hands on it. Every second is an adventure, and every squeak and groan is a potential disaster. Summoning the gumption to ignore the urge to pull over and investigate each of these cries is half the fun. I knew the brakes worked, that there were no fuel leaks, and that there was a fire extinguisher right between the seats. After all, the word hatari is Swahili for "danger." Time to wheel.

The first thing I noticed was how smooth the ride was as we took off across the wash. Sad as it may sound, this Jeep has more uptravel than any vehicle I've taken to TDS yet, so bombing down washes and over whoops without slapping bumpstops was a ton of fun. Cappa said I looked like I was chasing down Rhinos. Perfect. The second thing I noticed was how poorly the CJ-6 climbed the huge Truckhaven hills the first night. It was an effort to get to the top, requiring a good running start and lots of engine rpm. After a little investigating we discovered that one of the hubs wasn't working right, so there was no front drive.

In the morning, we pulled the hub off and discovered I had merely installed it incorrectly. With the front wheels pulling, the CJ-6 was a totally different vehicle. The replacement 11-leaf front and 9-leaf rear springs from 4Wheel Drive Hardware are surprisingly supple. More surprising was how well the High-Tec Retread mud tires worked. The lugs are super-soft, and with the tires aired down to 8 psi, they grabbed like crazy.

The Jeep Legend Understood
While I've built up plenty of Jeeps for gnarly trails, this is the first older Jeep I've hit the dirt in that's relatively stock. Aside from the 31-inch tires and fenderwell headers, this Jeep is factory Kaiser-spec, with open diffs, 4.88 gears, a torquey 225, and good approach and departure angles. I was constantly amazed at the places the CJ would go. The suspension flexes a lot, but so does the body: so much so, in fact, that you can feel the seat frame contorting under your butt. All the chassis flex helps the tires stay on the ground, but by the end of the weekend I could see new cracks in the body tub forming. Along with the flex, the 101.5-inch wheelbase of the longer '6 makes hard obstacles easy. If you don't make it through something the first time, just back up and hit the obstacle with a little more momentum. I did high-center it once, though, requiring a tug from a tow strap to get the T-case crossmember off of a rock.

Finally, I'm convinced after driving it all weekend that the Buick 225 V-6 is the most perfect off-road engine ever created. Thanks to the 50-pound flywheel, I could lug the engine down to what seemed like 50 rpm. It got so low that you could hear the individual cylinders firing, but it wouldn't stall. There's enough torque that it won't lose momentum going up really steep stuff and enough horsepower to blast down washes and merge with freeway traffic.

The Gawk Factor
It's not every day you see a semi-stock-looking CJ-6 on the trail. It's even less often you see one with more patina than a cannon recovered from the bottom of the ocean and a seat mounted on the front bumper. Out of all the vehicles I've hit the trails with, this one is by far the crowd favorite. Besides the fact that it's low buck and it works, there are lots of little surprises when you look close. Lots of people thought the High-Tec Retread tires on BFG A/T carcasses were, in fact, BFG's new tread design. We set them straight, but it made for good comedy. Also, few could fathom how a rig that looks like a cat hairball could be outfitted with every piece of recovery gear you may need out in the trail, including a welder, spare parts, power tools, and a 10-pound Powertank.

Most of all, people dug the seat on the front. I built the mount with some trailer-hitch stock, and it comes off with the pull of the trailer-hitch pin. It has a working seatbelt and makes a killer perch for watching the action when parked. A few people actually got the reference to the movie, Hatari!, but most offered suggestions for its use, ranging from "government spotter's seat" to "mother-in-law seating." We joked about strapping Cappa on the front and running him down washes at 50 mph, but in reality it wouldn't be safe at all. The most we did was putt him around camp at 1 mph to take some photos, and even then we were afraid he'd wind up under the front tire.

What Now?
For now we're going to wheel the CJ-6 in its current state. It's just too much fun to mess up with a big engine and crazy running gear. Look for it to serve as the fodder for some early CJ Jeep tech in the coming issues. We'll be addressing the crappy Ross cam-and-lever steering, getting the engine running better, and probably even tackling some bodywork to make it a little more presentable. The T-14 tranny has no synchros left, so we'll probably do something about that as well. Stay tuned.

In the end, we accomplished what we set out to do: build a junk Jeep on a budget and have mad amounts of fun wheeling it. You can bet we'll pull a stunt like this again. I'm already talking Cappa into buying a flattie, and Trasborg is always mumbling something to himself about something. Who knows -- maybe there's a battle of the junk Jeeps brewing?

Here are our expenditures to date with all our Jeep wheelings and dealings. Call us cheaters, but we're not counting things we already had lying around, like the Premier Power Welder and Edelbrock front shocks.

Project Tally

Slightly used CJ-5:
Sold engine from other Jeep project:
$800 (+$800)
Bought CJ-6:
$800 ($0)
Registration fees:
$93 (-$93)
Sold Spicer 18 T-case:
${{{80}}} (-$13)
Sold T-14a tranny:
$40 (+$27)
Sold Dana 44/4.88 gears from Dana 27:
$250 (+$277)
Sold Jeep body/axle/etc. to scrap yard:
$12.45 (+$289.45)
Sold CJ-5 steering column and shaft:
$50.00 (+$339.45)
Sold CJ-5 grille and hood:
$60 (+$399.45)
Sold underseat fuel tank and hardware:
${{{100}}} (+$499.45)
Sold CJ-5 springs:
$40 (+$539.45)
Sold CJ-5 dash:
$20 (+$559.45)
Sold CJ-5 spindles, brakes, and hubs:
$45 (+$604.45)
Sold CJ-6 V-6 bellhousing:
$50 (+$654.45)
Sold CJ-6 taillight housings:
$5 (+$659.45)
Parts from 4Wheel Drive Hardware

PN 801158 - Round taillamp, pass. side:
PN 801157 - Round taillamp, driver side:
PN 945659 - Backup light assembly:
$45.{{{90}}} ($22.95 ea.)
PN GV10J - Universal wiring harness:
PN 601030 - 7-in K&N air cleaner:
PN 5357971 - CJ gas tank vent hose:
PN 7075 - 15-gal gas tank kit:
PN 663505 - Fuel neck plate:
PN 663502 - Fuel-tank neck grommet:
PN A1472K - Fuel-tank strap kit:
PN MGC25 - Nonlocking cap for underseat tank:
PN 992965 - Fuel-filler hose:
PN 257 - Stainless fuel-line coil:
PN 915664 - Knuckle seal kit:
$17.90 ($8.95 ea.)
PN 948185 - Tranny shifter boot:
PN 939995 - Tranny mount:
PN 926671K - T-case mount kit:
PN 906750 - E-brake cable:
PN 20722 - Monroe front shocks:
$39.90 ($19.95 ea.)
PN 20851 - Monroe rear shocks:
$39.90 ($19.95 ea.)
PN 999210 - Rear U-bolts:
$35.80 ($8.95 ea.)
PN 916047 - 9-leaf rear spring packs:
$219.90 ($109.95 ea.)
PN 999528 - 10-leaf front spring packs:
$179.90 ($89.95 ea.)
PN 982009 - Spare tire carrier:
PN 393358 - Bestop Trailmax low-back seats:
$239.90 ($119.95 ea.)
PN 29223 - Bestop Fold & Tumble seat cover:
PN 631 - Standard 60-inch seatbelt:
$71.80 ($17.95 ea.)
From High-Tec Retreading

Five OTR Mud tires:
$274.95 ($54.99 ea.)
From local Napa

Brake shoes and seals:
Head gasket set:
From Junkyard

Total parts:
Minus sale of parts:
Total expenditure to date:

Project Hatari! Part 1
Project Hatari! Part 2
Project Hatari! Part 3
Project Hatari! To the Rubicon, Part 1
Project Hatari! To the Rubicon, Part 2
Project Hatari! To the Rubicon, Part 2 - Web Extras


4Wheel Drive Hardware
Santa Ana, CA 92705
High-Tec Retreading


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