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.
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.
Anyone who has ever bashed a rock with their tie rod, then had to drive home hundreds of miles with the tires pointed toward each other knows it's better to upgrade to heavier steering linkages than to waste a perfectly good set of tires. We knew Big Daddy Offroad built its heavy-duty tie rod and drag link assemblies for both narrow- and wide-track Dana 30 axles, so we asked them to build a set for our Dana 27 with Advance Adapters' power steering conversion. Our conversion kit uses 1971 Jeepster-sourced 22 1/2-inch long tie rod and 35 1/2-inch long drag link. Big Daddy knocked out the parts in no time.
At under $200 for the set, we were floored with the quality of the components. Built from extra-heavy-wall tubing with machined ends and jam nuts for the tie rod ends, the parts fit like original and look great thanks to their powdercoated finish. The whole install took less than 10 minutes and really offers peace of mind for the wheeler who drives his junk to the trail.
We needed a rear bumper with a receiver hitch if we planned on using our Warn M6000 SDP winch for a rear pull. Precious few companies make anything bolt-on for 1955-1971 or 1973-1975 CJs, so we were stoked to find Cross Enterprises' bolt-on rear bumper for early Jeeps. The bumper has a submerged and reinforced receiver hitch, sturdy 3/16-wall construction, and bolts to the factory rear crossmember using the supplied hardware and reinforcement brackets. The company also offers an optional tire carrier and trail rack for use with its bumper, but we opted for the regular version. We also asked that the bumper not be powdercoated since we didn't have a rear crossmember and would need to weld it straight to the frame.
With a combination of our Miller Spectrum 625 plasma cutter, seven grinding discs, and three saber saw blades, we cut off the old 80-pound channel steel monster and welded our nice, new 35-pound Cross Enterprises piece straight to the framerials. We were extremely pleased with the quality and price of the bumper.
Unless you're running bead lock wheels, and sometimes even if you are, a source of on-board air for inflating punctured tires and reseating tire beads should be one of the first modifications you make to your trail rig. We like the simplicity, performance, and reliability of Advanced Air Systems' Powertank, so we dutifully mounted a 10-pound Powertank behind the driver's seat. We used the company's steel mounting bracket (PN PB10), and stowed the heavy-duty tire inflator and gauge (PN TIG60CO) in our tool box. We've been able to get several wheeling trips out of a single 10-pound charge of CO2 with 35- or 37-inch tires, so our tank should last a good long while with little 31s. Check out Part 2 to see if we needed to use it.