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1984 CJ-8 Scrambler - The Comeback Kid

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 1, 2008
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When Butch Clark's clean, mildly built '84 Scrambler was totaled he did what most of us would do. He used a bad situation as an excuse to upgrade the snot out of his trusty Jeep. Apparently, Butch's Scrambler used to be something of a hot rod in its former life. With V-8 power, no lift, and little tires, the sucker scooted on the street and made one sweet road runner. Ironically, the end of its first life came about with the Jeep strapped to Butch's trailer, when some lady T-boned Butch, sending the Jeep and trailer onto their sides. The Jeep tub, hood, and windshield were pretty much a wash, so after a whole bunch of arguing with insurance companies, Butch finally got a check in the mail and the rebirth began.

Chassis and Driveline
Since Butch hails from Montrose, Colorado, which is home to some of our favorite trails in the country, there's little wonder the new buildup was performed with a distinct slant towards off-road performance. The Jeep was dropped off at Rockworx 4x4 in Montrose for the transformation. For starters, Butch retained the '99 5.7L Vortec engine from a Chevy Tahoe the Scrambler was sporting when the clueless lady killed it. While it may almost seem mundane in today's world of all-aluminum, high-horsepower small-blocks, the reality is that the Vortec's 255 hp and 330 lb-ft will move any Jeep with ease. And the engine's availability, aftermarket support, and factory injection make it easy to find, install, and live with on the trail.

Behind the Vortec engine is a tried and true TH350 transmission that was rebuilt and then fitted with an Advance Adapters TH350-to-Dana 300 adapter. The little three-speed auto is ubiquitous and if a catastrophic failure ever occurs, it's a sure bet Butch can find a replacement in any junkyard in any corner of the country. Behind the TH350, a bulletproof Atlas II with the 3.8:1 Low was installed onto a 3/8-inch thick skidplate and connected to twin Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts 1310 CV shafts.

On the other end of the driveshafts is a pair of 1-ton axles out of a '79 Chevy dualie. The front Dana 60 was fitted with hubs from a single-wheel axle before being fitted with 5.13 gears, a Detroit Locker, and 35-spline inner and outer Yukon axleshafts and Warn hubs. An OX diff cover fronts the whole shebang and makes sure rock hits don't penetrate to the ring gear. In the rear, the dualie Dana 70 retains the stock shafts, but the drum brakes were swapped for some 1/2-ton Chevy disc calipers hung on custom brackets and 3/4-ton rotors. Like the front, 5.13 gears and a Detroit Locker bathe in the 90W, and a Great Lake Offroad diff cover provides protection from errant bullets.

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Since the factory Scrambler frame was salvageable, Rockworx stripped it and boxed the framerails before building the suspension. A pair of 14-inch travel Fox coilovers with Eibach springs were hung on custom hoops to suspend the front, and a pair of radius arm links locate the axle. A standard track bar setup keeps the axle centered under the Jeep and swinging in the same plane of movement as the drag link.

Out back, Rockworx used a pair of stock TJ coils and Skyjacker shocks hung on custom mounts. A four-link with heavy-wall lowers locates the axle and triangulated uppers do away with the need for a track bar. And, as should be the case with any coil-sprung vehicle, an antisway bar keeps body roll at bay. Butch went with an AntiRock mounted in the rear, which provides more stability without hindering front flex.

Body and Interior
Since the tub would've been more expensive to repair than to simply replace, Butch chose to go with an aluminum tub from Aqualu. Like many Aqualu customers, Butch found it mentally difficult to lay paint over the shiny aluminum body, so for now the Jeep proudly displays its exotic skin.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: '84 CJ-8
Engine: '99 GM 5.7L Vortec
Transmission: TH350
Transfer Case: Atlas, 3.8:1
Axles: Dana 60 (front), Dana 70 (rear)
Wheels: 17x9 Mickey Thompson with Champion Beadlock
Tires: 37x12.50-17 BFG Krawler
Built For: Another go around

A high-clearance fiberglass hood shuts down on top of the factory Scrambler grille, and a replacement windshield frame keeps both the wind and the cops out of Butch's hair. Down low on the tub, Rockworx built a set of custom rocker guards to protect the Jeep from rocks, and a clean rear bumper keeps the lower skins from getting peeled back when descending ledges. Up front, a clean, simple bumperette and a small stinger front the Mile Marker 9,000-pound winch. Butch has already put some dings in the tub corners, but we think they're more a badge of honor than an eyesore-and it's not like the scratches are gonna rust up.

Inside the tub, a pair of comfy Corbeau seats keeps the occupants happy under the custom rollcage that's safely tied to the frame. From his driver seat, Butch has a clear reach to the B&M tranny shifter, the Atlas twin sticks, and the controls for the Flex-A-Lite Mojave heater. A Tuffy center console, a smattering of aftermarket gauges, a stereo, and a CB round out the conveniences inside the cockpit.

Good, Bad & What's It For
There's a surprising amount of new in Butch's Jeep despite the fact he started the year-long build with what was essentially a complete Jeep. The entire power steering system has been replaced with upgraded parts from PSC Motorsports, including the box, pump, reservoir, and lines. The steering system is nicely tailored to handle the PSC ram assist cylinder and offers no-sweat, one-finger turning no matter how heavy the rocks.

Rockworx also upgraded to heavy wall drag link and tie rod components with chrome-moly rod ends. The kingpin-mounted high steering arms get the tie rod up out of harm's way while improving the drag link angle.

For stock stuff, the CJ-8's stock 15-gallon fuel cell was retained with the factory skidplate mount. We guess if it ain't broke... Speaking of which, the Vortec engine's air conditioning compressor lies in wait of some day being turned into a compressor for an on-board air system.

The factory Chevy engine management computer and harness take up a lot of space on the driver-side firewall, but the computer benefits from millions of dollars spent on tuning by General Motors, so we can see why Butch wants to retain it. On the other side of the coin, we're surprised to see the factory power brake booster and master cylinder from the CJ-8 strapped to the aluminum firewall since we get so many questions from CJ owners asking about swapping them out. However, Butch claims it stops the Jeep just fine with the larger GM axles.

Why I Featured It
Usually people go the other way when building an older CJ. By that, I mean they tend to take an old Jeep body and put it on a newer, aftermarket frame. Butch kept the old frame and put on the aftermarket body. Something about that deviation from the ordinary just strikes my fancy. Besides, an aluminum-bodied Scrambler is one of the Jeeps on my list of projects to build, so I can appreciate a like-minded basis for a buildup.-Christian Hazel

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