CJ-6 road trip to the world's most famous trail.
Let's just say for the sake of argument you had a 1971 CJ that had sat derelict for about 15 years after a lifetime of hard, thankless service. After installing a questionable drivetrain from another abandoned CJ, rewiring it, adding power steering, and rebuilding the front brakes you trailered it to a desert event for a weekend of wheeling. Once home, you drove it to the local ice cream shop a few times, but mostly ignored it until you tore it apart to install a whiz-bang NV3550 five-speed.
We'll let you in on a little secret: We're talking about our Project Hatari! 1971 CJ-6. For our annual staff trip to the Rubicon, Cappa and Hazel decided to take the rusted pile 'o Jeep. While tackling the 'con in a stock Jeep isn't anything new, we planned on driving the Jeep a meandering 650-miles up to the Rubicon, tackling the trail, and driving it back. All with a Buick 225 that could go boom at any time, a rear axle that's never had the diff cover cracked, front wheel bearings that may or may not have grease in them, and a brand-new five-speed that, other than a one-mile trip around Hazel's neighborhood that ended with the Spicer 18 main gear and tranny spud shaft rattling freely around the inside of the T-case (so that's where that snap ring goes), hasn't been tested.
While it may not be clear whether we'll make it the whole way to the trail or not, if we do there are a few things that would make our trail time go a lot more smoothly. Here are some of the things we addressed before tackling the Rubicon.
When we hopped-up our Buick 225 (Odd-Fire Ball, August, 2005), we rebuilt our Rochester 2GC carb using a kit from Napa but speculated that we could have sent it off to Jeep Carburetors for a like-new rebuild. As it turns out, our home rebuild didn't take and our carb was soon malfunctioning again. We didn't want a lot of glugging and stumbling on the trail, so to cure our Rochester's problems for good, we sent it to Jeep Carbs for the full-boogie rebuild. A week later, our like-new old carb was back on the engine and humming like stock.
Some folks don't agree with the use of wheel spacers, but we feel that if you use a quality product and install and maintain them correctly there's no danger. To increase our front and rear track width by 2 1/2 inches for better stability on- and off-road and to help keep the 31s from rubbing the springs when turning, we ordered five Trail Ready 1 1/4-inch wheel spacers from Trail Sport Unlimited. We needed the fifth for our side-slung spare so it didn't hit the rear tire. We installed the billet aluminum spacers using Red Loctite and a torque wrench, then retorqued the nuts after putting a few miles on the rig. Ultimately, we wound up only using spacers on the front since the rears don't rub the inner fenders too badly, and we didn't want our spare hanging too far out to grab trail obstacles.
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Mighty Mini Winch
With a low stance and a long wheelbase, we knew we might need a winch to get us through certain sections of the Rubicon. Unfortunately, the placement of our Saginaw power steering box on the front framerail prevents the use of an easily installed winch mount and complicates the fabrication of a custom mount for a full-sized winch. We looked over lots of options and concluded that the Warn M6000 Short Drum Portable winch was the best for our needs.
The M6000 SDP uses the same 2.1hp motor as the larger M8000 winch, but uses a much faster 156:1 gear ratio than the M8000's 216:1 ratio. Its shorter drum means the mount only needs to be 6x4.5 inches instead of 10x4.5 inches, so we could cleanly squeeze it in between our steering box and frame. The M6000 SDP comes with its own receiver mount, hawse fairlead, 50 feet of cable, and a quick disconnect cable. We also ordered Warn's optional 24-foot quick connect kit (PN 32966) for when we hook the winch up to the rear bumper for rear pulls.
Initially, we planned on mounting some sort of receiver hitch so we could quickly swap the winch to the rear if needed, but instead decided on building a high-clearance mount using some 1 1/2-inch, 0.120-wall 4130 chromoly and a 3/16-inch plate. The mount ties between the framerails and the front crossmember. We'll carry the receiver mount just in case we need to unbolt the winch for a rear tug.