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2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ Unlimited Truck - Retro Truck

Side View
Verne Simons
| Senior Editor, Jp
Posted June 1, 2009
Photographers: Alex Scherb, Jeff Scherb

The Jeep That Jeep Should Have Built

Despite the extremely smooth Gladiator concept truck from a few years back, AEV's bitchin' Brute truck, and the recent buzz created by the Moab appearance of a couple of JK Wrangler-based Jeep trucks, the jive turkeys at Jeep corporate have not sold a Jeep pickup within the U.S. borders since 1992. This has prevented cool cats like us from laying any cargo between Jeep bedsides for some time. So when Jeep corporate can't commit to building the fly Jeep truck you are jonesin' for, you just have to build it yourself. That's exactly what one smooth operator named Jeff Scherb, a retired Information Technology and Operations Executive from Elmira, New York, did. The result is this well-engineered Jeep pickup that looks like the Jeep that Jeep should have built. This Jeep's look combines design cues from past and present.

Starting with an idea, Jeff did what all jeepers should, but very few do, he planned how to build this Jeep and gathered all of the necessary parts before any construction began. The plan was to assemble a Jeep truck that had all the modern comfort and conveniences of today's Jeeps along with retro-styling from other Jeep pickups including the '47-'64 Willys pickup, AEV's Brute, and the overseas-only '80s-era CJ-10. Other requirements were that the truck have a fullsize bed capable of carrying a 4x8 piece of plywood as well as having enough legroom for a 6-foot, 6-inch driver. Another amazing feat, Jeff was able to construct the truck in 17 days after 14 months of planning and parts gathering. This included the acquisition of a clean '06 Unlimited that would be the base of the build. As you can see Jeff's patience, planning, and attention to detail paid off with the retro-groovy Jeep you see. Dig it!

Chassis & Driveline
Adding a bed capable of holding a full sheet of plywood on to the frame of any recently-built Jeep is going to involve the addition of some serious length to the Jeep's backbone. Once it was decided to lengthen the frame Jeff contemplated using AEV's frame extension kit on his Unlimited since he had already sourced the cab closeout from AEV. This would yield a wheelbase that would work with Jeff's design, but would require two welds per frame rail. Another stronger option required grafting two TJ Unlimited frames together to yield the proper 126-inch wheelbase. This method of lengthening the frame might have been bit more expensive, but would yield a cleaner frame with only one weld seam per side. Jeff was able to source and buy a rear section of an Unlimited frame perfect for the Jeep truck project with the use of some groovy gadget called the Internet. To further strengthen the now-longer Unlimited's frame Jeff added a piece of 21/2-inch 0.250-wall square tubing to the bottom of each frame rail extending from just behind the transmission skid plate to the trailing arm bracket. Once the frame was all burned together and gusseted with plate steel the truck's frame was also lengthened an additional 11 inches behind the rear axle. This keeps the rear bumper and class III trailer hitch flush with the back of the truck.

The drivetrain of the low-mileage loaded '06 Unlimited was left unchanged to retain reliability, although the stock rear driveshaft was lengthened by a local shop to match the stretched frame and new longer wheelbase. Jeff went out of his way to find the last year model of LJ with the six-speed transmission for this conversion to ensure the most modern features and creature comforts available. Power comes from the Factory 4.0L and spins the tires via factory 3.73 ring-and-pinions in the front Dana 30 and rear Trac-Lok'd Dana 44 after power is split by the Jeep's factory NVG231 transfer case. Stopping power comes from all four factory discs while 2-inch coil spacers front and rear boost the Unlimited's original suspension. A set of Air-Lift airbags are inflated out back to help out when the Jeep truck's bed is put into service with a heavy load. The retro truck rolls on Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 16x8 Moab wheels wrapped in 265/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires.

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