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1966 Jeep CJ-5 - $8.40 Per Pound

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 1, 2008
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Even though this '66 CJ-5 is less costly per-pound than a good steak, Jeff Wood's 5,200-pound Jeep isn't exactly cheap. It is, however, built from easily obtainable wrecking yard parts found in and around Jeff's hometown of Fairacres, New Mexico. From the diesel engine and big rig steering box all the way down to the Rockwell axles, there is plenty of quality beef that hints at the fact that Jeff repairs heavy-duty trucks for a living. Although unlike the trucks at his day job, Jeff claims this Jeep build took a whole year and a trainload of beers to complete.

Chassis And Driveline
Jeff built his own frame with 2x3-inch square tube. He then fabricated a three-link front and four-link rear suspension. TJ lift coils provide the bounce and Rancho RSX9000 shocks do the dampening at all four corners. A '70 Wagoneer antisway bar up front helps keep the body roll in check. Directional control is done through a massive '00 Freightliner 18-wheeler steering box. Jeff reports that no ram assist is needed. The rear axle is steered via a huge hydraulic ram. A home-job cage-mounted gauge allows Jeff to keep an eye on where the rear steer is pointed without looking back over his shoulder

Obviously this '66 CJ-5 didn't always have a diesel engine. Jeff happened to have a service truck with a Cummins 3.9L 4BT turbo diesel. Perhaps after a few of those beers he and a buddy figured they could steal the powerplant from the service truck and have it in the Jeep pretty quick. A few hours later the swap was done and the Jeep was running on diesel. The 105 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque twist into a TH400 auto tranny and an NP203/205 doubler transfer case thanks in part to a Jed's Machine adapter. Huge 2.5-ton driveshafts send the power to front and rear steering Rockwell axles fitted with home-built pinion brakes with Wilwood calipers. The rear axle has been beefed further with Ouverson Engineering heavy-duty shafts and both axles have been shaved for more clearance. All this spins massive 49-inch Super Swamper Irok tires on 20-inch double bead lock wheels, which typically run at 5-4 psi.

Body And Interior
Jeff built his own rockers and bumpers. He then added a Warn 9.5XP winch up front for extractions. He claims most of the bodywork was done by Moab, Utah, and Las Cruces, New Mexico, but the dovetailed tubwork, trimming, and flat tan paint are all Jeff's doing.

Inside you'll find a home-job rollcage and a pair of Corbeau seats behind Stewart Warner gauges. Surrounded by the diesel and steel machinery is an eerily out-of-place hand-built Mexican Walnut center console, which sits in front of the Art Car shifter and the Easy button between the seats for when things get too tough for Jeff to handle.

Good, Bad & What's It For
There's not much mud in New Mexico so Jeff's terrain of forced choice is pretty much rocks exclusively. The Freightliner steering box has plenty of power but at five turns lock to lock, it's a little slow. A suicide knob on the steering wheel speeds things up a bit and the issue could be corrected with a steering quickener if it really were an issue at all. The Cummins/TH400 transmission oil pan is made from aluminum. During the competition it took a hit in the rocks and crumbled. Jeff plans to build a thick steel version or maybe add a skidplate.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: '66 CJ-5
Engine: Cummins 3.9L 4BT
Transmission: GM TH400
Transfer case: NP203/205 doubler
Suspension: Three-link (front), four-link (rear)
Axles: Steering Rockwell 2.5-ton (front and rear)
Wheels: 20x12 double bead lock
Tires: 21/49-20
Built for: Southwestern rocks
Value: $8.40 per pound

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