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1977 Jeep Wagoneer - Simple Solutions

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 1, 2008
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There is nothing on Byron Hair's '77 Wagoneer that can't be easily duplicated or quickly repaired. In fact, the Jeep is so simple and bare bones you get to thinking that something must be missing. There are, however, a few trinkets that you'll spot on this Jeep that scream custom-machined. And that would lead you to this Spanish Fork, Utah, resident's day job. Anyway, all of the key components are virtually bombproof. This easy-to-achieve heavy-duty combo of Byron's not only works, he knows how to drive it. The Jeep and driver make impossible obstacles look easy for very little cash outlay.

Chassis And Driveline
Underneath the Jeep you'll find the factory '77 FSJ frame relieved of its original leaf-spring mounts. Byron moved the front axle forward 9 inches and the rear axle aft 14 inches for an increased wheelbase and more stability. Owner-built links locate the axles. Soft coils sit in custom mounts and Rancho 5000 shocks control the bumps. The steering box was tossed in favor of a full hydraulic steering system complete with an agricultural log-splitter steering ram. It's fed by a factory power steering pump with a rubber hose extension for more fluid capacity. All this rolls on severely grooved 19.5/46-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claws mounted to modified (bead locked) and reversed 20-inch, 2.5-ton military truck wheels. Tires are typically run at 5 psi.

The AMC motor was yanked and in its place went a near stock stump-pulling carbureted Buick 455 V-8 punching out 350 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The Quadrajet carb was spun around backward for better hill climbing capability. An Accel HEI simplified the ignition. Power whips a 1,500-rpm stall converter that spins into a two-wheel-drive GM TH400 automatic tranny. A divorced Dodge NP205 transfer case splits it via Six States driveshafts to the 2.5-ton Rockwell axles. Braking comes from homemade pinion brakes utilizing Dana 44 rotors. The rearend is welded for spool-like performance and the frontend features a Detroit Locker for easier steering.

Body And Interior
Copious amounts of fender, hood, and interior trimming were done to clear the huge tires at full flex. The front end is narrowed for additional clearance. All four doors and the tailgate were removed. The Waggy body and occupants are protected with an owner-built 10-point exoskeleton cage. Heavy-duty rockers made from 3-inch, 3/16-wall tube cover the sides and 4x2-inch tube makes up the front and rear bumpers. Up front a Warn 9.5XP winch resides mostly unused.

The Waggy has been stripped of most of its creature comforts. Junkyard seats and the center console are bolted to the bare steel floor. The factory gauge cluster was modified to accept Sunpro gauges and the owner-built NP205 twin-sick shifters rest in the middle. An intake snorkel is routed through the firewall and is mounted where the headliner used to be. Between the custom rear aluminum fenderwells you'll find a Harwood fuel cell, an Optima battery, a Hi-Lift jack, and a large tool box.

Good, Bad & What's It For
It's not a difficult Jeep to replicate and it's built with time-tested parts. Byron did bend his factory 2.5-ton tie rod early on, though. We suspect this machinist has a heavy-duty version in the works. Also, the modified military wheels are extremely heavy. The Jeep could benefit from lighter wheels. But these work, they're cheap, and sometimes free with the Rockwell axles. Oh, and we're still not fans of exo-cages.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: '77 Wagoneer
Engine: Buick 455 V-8
Transmission: GM TH400
Transfer case: Divorced Dodge NP205
Suspension: Four-link (front and rear)
Axles: Rockwell 2.5-ton (front and rear)
Wheels: Modified 2.5-ton bead lock
Tires: 19.5/46-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw
Built for: Utah rock trails
Value: $6,000

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