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Custom 1973 Jeep DJ-5 4x4 Rock Crawler - Wrong-Side Drive

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 20, 2006
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We'll dispense with the going-postal jokes right up front. In reality, if anybody is going snap and run amuck with a weapon, it's probably going to be an underpaid off-road editor, not a government employee. Just to be safe, we'll be keeping a close eye on Trasborg.

We've run into Jeffery Holt's '73 DJ-5 Postal Jeep on the trail twice within the last year. The first time was while wheeling in San Angelo, Texas, in late 2005, then later at the '06 Moab Easter Jeep Safari. Both times we were struck with the vehicle's long, low, and wide stance, big tires, and understated drivetrain. And when we saw how well it worked in any terrain and learned that it was completely owner-built, we broke out the cameras and saddled Jeffery with a long tech sheet to fill out.

ChassisLike many multi-link, coilover suspension vehicles, only a portion of the DJ's original frame remains. From just behind the front seats rearward, it's all owner bent and welded tube. The forward portion of the frame was retained but boxed mounts were fabbed for the front upper three-link wishbone and lower control arms.

And speaking of control arms, Jeffery used some monster 2-inch diameter, .500-wall tubing for the suspension links. Bending the lower front bars for tire clearance required heating the tube with a torch, then using a cheapie hydraulic bottle jack type bender from Harbor Freight. Butch, true, but 1/2-inch tube walls are silly overkill. The rear four-link uses the same 2-inch, .500-wall DOM, and both front and rear control arms employ 1 1/4-inch rod ends on the frame mounts and poly bushings on the axle mounts.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: '73 Jeep DJ-5 Axles:Chevy Dana 60, 5.13 gears, Detroit Locker (front); Chevy 14-bolt, 5.13 gears, Detroit Locker (rear)
Engine: '00 Chevy 4.3L V-6 Wheels:15x10 MRW bead locks
Transmission: '00 Chevy 4L60E four-speed auto Tires:18.5/44-15 Super Swamper TSL (front); 19.5/44-15 Super Swamper Bogger (rear)
Transfer Case: Atlas II, 4.3:1 Built For: Wheeling
Suspension: Custom three-link wishbone front, four-link rear with 16-inch travel King coilover shocks Estimated Cost to Build: $25,000-$30,000

A quartet of 16-inch travel King shocks with 250 lb-in over 250 lb-in coils suspend the Chevy Dana 60 front and 14-bolt rear. The front Dana 60 was purchased from Boyce Equipment and is set up with 5.13 gears and a Detroit Locker. The rear 14-bolt was nabbed out of a late-model '02 GM 2500 pickup and still runs the factory GM disc brakes. Jeffery installed matching 5.13 gears and a Detroit Locker before building the over-the-tube truss and diff armor.

PhotosView Slideshow

DrivelineWith humongoid 1-ton axles under a relatively lightweight Jeep, you'd expect to find at least a stock TBI 350, but understatement is apparently the name of Jeffery's game. He got his hands on a wrecked '00 Chevy Silverado pickup and proceeded to liberate the vehicle's 4.3L V-6, 4L60E transmission, and full wiring harness. The drivetrain is dead-nuts stock, with the factory GM ECU controlling the engine and transmission. The only concessions made in the name of power are the open exhaust that runs from the stock manifolds and exits in front of the rear axle without a muffler or catalytic converter and a reprogramming of the GM ECU to account for the larger tires and steeper gears. The computer reflash also did a few tricks with the timing and fuel map to find an additional 17 hp at the rear tires.

PhotosView Slideshow

Behind the GM four-speed auto, Jeffery installed an Atlas II T-case with a 4.3:1 low range. The T-case is tucked up flat and allows a full-belly skidplate that is even with the bottom of the framerails. A pair of thick-tube driveshafts protrude from within and connect to the axles with 1310 U-joints. The exception is the 1410 joint on the rear axle end.

Body And InteriorIt's probably easier to list the modifications not made to the body and interior, but that's what we get paid for. For starters, just about everything - except the cowl and firewall - was cut away to make room for the rollcage and rear chassis that Jeffery bent up out of 2-inch, 0.120-wall DOM. Custom panels wrap around the rear of the chassis and keep stuff from falling out during climbs. Panels were also cleanly attached to the top of the rollcage and double as a roof and protect the Jeep from sinking into goo or sand in the event of a rollover. The floor, dashboard, Corbeau seats, and GM truck steering column, gauges, and heater controls were either built or installed by Jeffery.

In addition to retaining the vehicle's signature right-hand drive, the stock grille and windshield frame remain. The factory radiator was also modified to work with the Chevy engine by swapping the outlets from the driver to passenger side and vice versa. There's not a lot of creature comforts, but at least the goofy sliding Postal door hit the scrap pile.

PhotosView Slideshow

Wheels And TiresThere's nothing like a huge 120-inch wheelbase for making 44s look small. Jeffery compounds the illusion by running a set of 2-inch wheelspacers in addition to the 15x10 MRW bead locks' 3 1/4-inch backspacing. He told us the wheelspacers were needed to allow the 15-inch wheels to clear the big factory GM disc brakes. We think it looks sinister.

On top of the wheels, a pair of tried-and-true 18.5/44-15 Super Swampers up front and 19.5/44-15 Boggers out back make light of everything from gooey mud to razor-sharp rocks.

Good, Bad, & What's It For?With a setup this big and bad, it's a sure bet you're not going to be doing much street driving. To that end, a full hydraulic steering setup from PSC was hooked to the stock '00 Chevy Silverado column. The PSC orbital valve controls the double-ended ram and offers one-finger steering, no matter what the terrain.

Up front, a Warn 9500 winch awaits recovery duty, and the factory GM air condition compressor will become a source of onboard air some day.

We do think Jeffery gambles a bit by not having either a spare tire or source of onboard air. A severely gashed sidewall would really put a bummer on a trail trip.

What We ThinkThere's a U.S. Postal Service emblem on the hood, the driver sits on the right-hand drive, and it's low slung and stable. What's not to like? Aside from the fact that it borders on being a buggy, this is one bad-ass trail tamer that should be right at home in just about every situation - except really nasty, gooey mud. For that, we'd want a lot more power. Since the rest of the drivetrain would be up to the task, if Jeffery ever comes across a wrecked GM 3500 with a 7.4L Vortec and 4L80E transmission, we can only hope another swap may be in this vehicle's future.

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