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1983 Jeep Wagoneer - Hot Rod Waggy

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2009 Comment (0)
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We don't know if the Rev drives a Jeep, but he was the inspiration for the Wagoneer shown on these pages. In addition to being a huge Jeep fanatic, Brian Errea is also a fan of Reverend Horton Heat, so he used the Rev for motivation on his latest Jeep project: a lowered Wagoneer cruiser. Errea began this build with the idea of creating a stylish cruiser without spending a lot of money, and he accomplished that goal. It isn't the best looking or most capable Jeep we have ever seen, but it is definitely unique.

Chassis
The chassis on this '83 Wagoneer is mostly stock. Errea got the Jeep in good condition from a friend's girlfriend's stepfather. We have all heard about these kind of deals before. Errea showed up to check out a Wagoneer that was reported to have a bad transmission. What he found was a clean, nearly rust-free Jeep that would not drive because it was missing a drive flange on the front axle. All of the power would flow through the Quadra-Trac transfer case to that corner and the Wagoneer wouldn't move. After paying $200 for the Jeep, Errea dragged it home and replaced the drive flange and battery. The Wagoneer fired right up and drove fine, so the first modification was to pull all but the two longest leaves from the rear springs to lower the ride height. The shock mounts were also relocated to accommodate the lower stance.

Errea might be on to something, because stock-size replacement tires on the original steel rims cost way less than sticky mud tires and beadlocks. The staggered Dayton tires (205/60R15 in front, 205/65R15 in rear) are wrapped around stock wheels that were painted cream to match the accents on the body. Factory front hubcaps have a hole for the hub, but Errea used rear hub caps at all four corners on his lowered Wagoneer. In order accomplish this he had to machine the hubs on the 10-bolt for fitment.

Drivetrain
After replacing the drive flange, Errea yanked out the front axle and sold it to a CJ owner for more than he paid for the whole Wagoneer. In its place, Errea built a drop beam axle from box tubing and a junkyard GM 10-bolt front axle, producing a 6 inch drop. As a result the spring bolts barely clear the blacktop and the Wagoneer produces a shower of sparks at speeds over uneven pavement.

The AMC 360 was left relatively stock, benefiting only from a K&N air filter, Flowmaster muffler, and HEI ignition. The V-8 was also freed from the burden of the smog pump. The HEI ignition required Errea to machine the GM shaft to accept the AMC collar and drive gear, but he feels that it was well worth the effort.

Power is routed through a TorqueFlite 727 three-speed automatic and a modified Quadra-Trac transfer case. Since 2WD TorqueFlites that mate up to AMC V-8s are as rare as hens' teeth, there was no cost-effective alternative to simply keeping the transfer case in place. Errea disassembled the Quadra-Trac 'case, removed the viscous coupler, chain, and synchros, then welded the differential and used a piece of DOM tubing to span the difference from the removed components to allow 2WD operation. Hack? Maybe. Cheap? Definitely. The rear driveshaft spins the stock Model 20 rear axle, which still has the open differential, and highway-friendly 2.73 gears that it left Toledo with over 25 years ago.

Body And Interior
The stock sheetmetal was in remarkably good shape when Errea purchased the Wagoneer. His friend, Jason Paule laid down cream-colored scallops over the faded red paint and removed the factory roof rack, but otherwise the exterior was left relatively stock. The chrome trim, grille, and bumpers were all in excellent condition and did not require any attention. The plastic grille was replaced with a rhino grille, headlights and pie pan inserts from an earlier Wagoneer.

The interior, however had not fared as well. Errea stripped out the headliner and door panels, replacing them with more creative components that complimented the cruiser theme. Errea's mother made a new headliner from red velvet and his wife made bamboo door panels from window blinds. More bamboo accents were added to the dash and shifters to complete the theme. The only departure from the vintage look is the Alpine head unit in the dash that pumps out the Reverend Horton Heat 24/7 through Kicker components in the doors and a Polk Audio 12-inch subwoofer mounted inside the spare tire.

Good, Bad, And What's It For
The hub modification is a perfect example of the attention to detail that went into this Jeep. It did not cost a lot of money, but helps to complete the look that Errea was after. There are plenty of things that this Jeep lacks, like ground clearance, a front drive axle, or even decent fuel mileage. Those were not the design goals, though. With a low, wide, boxy stance and a V-8 under the hood it makes a great cruiser to drive around town with the whole family.

Why I Featured It
Vintage Wagons seem to be gaining popularity with the hot rod crowd, which means that the prices are on the rise. Wagoneers and Cherokees are still not on the radar though, as most builders seek out Nomads and Panel Wagons. Brian Errea could be starting a whole new trend of lowered, low-buck Wagoneers. Regardless of the style chosen, I hope others will follow Errea's lead and built unique Jeeps with high style-to-dollar ratios in the future.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: '83 Jeep Wagoneer
Engine: AMC 360 V-8
Transmission: TorqueFlite 727
Transfer Case: Quadra-Trac modified for 2WD
Suspension: Stock leaf springs with leaves removed
Axles: 10-bolt drop beam (front), AMC 20 (rear)
Wheels: Stock steel rims painted cream
Tires: 205/60R15 Dayton (front) 205/65R15 Dayton (rear)
Built For: Cruisin' around town
Estimated Cost: $800

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