In 1951 the military awarded Ford with a contract to replace the M38A1. The new 1/4-ton 4x4 was called the Military Utility Tactical Truck, or MUTT for short. The MUTT utilized coil springs and independent suspension front and rear. Despite the horizontal grill slots, the MUTT is often mistaken for a Jeep. Manny Alvarez's CJ-5 is the real Jeep mutt though, not those rollover-prone Ford military vehicles. Manny picked up the CJ-5 in 2005 with a 21/2-inch lift and 33-inch tires. He purchased the Jeep to use for hunting trips, but after one trip to the Chile Challenge in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Manny was hooked on rockcrawling.
The first order of business was to box the stock frame to withstand the rigors of rockcrawling around Manny's hometown of Deming, New Mexico. New spring hangers were then added to accommodate the Alcan YJ springs fitted with Orbit Eye bushings for unhindered flex. The springs were slung over the axles and the shackles for the front suspension were relocated aft of the springs and under the frame. A traction bar was added to the rear suspension to limit axlewrap with the spring-over. Custom upper shock mounts are used up front in conjunction with long-travel Rancho RS5000 shocks, while no shocks have yet found their way under the back of the CJ-5. The new suspension stretches the front axle forward 4 inches and the rear axle back 6 inches with relocated spring hangers. The resulting 94-inch wheelbase accommodates 36-inch Super Swamper IROKs mounted on Mickey Thompson Classic Lock wheels. The wheels are a streetlock design, so Manny removed the stock rings and had wider, thicker rings CNC cut to protect the bead of the wheels.
The drivetrain is where things really begin to get interesting. The stock AMC 304 V-8 was retained. Howell throttle-body fuel injection now sits atop the Edelbrock Performer intake manifold and a Performance Distributors DUI ignition keeps it running smooth. The AMC engine is mated to an SM465 ripped from a Chevy pickup and mated with an Advance Adapters bellhousing and Centerforce clutch. The transmission's 12-inch length and 6.55:1 First gear make it an excellent choice for the short-wheelbase CJ-5. The short length allowed Manny to use a Klune-V underdrive between the transmission and the factory Dana 20 transfer case, which has been fitted with 3.15:1 Tera Low gears, twin sticks, and an Advance Adapters heavy-duty output shaft. "I thought that the transfer case gears would make the crawl ratio low enough," Alvarez admitted. "But it wasn't, so I added the Klune-V." The drivetrain sits atop custom crossmembers and provides an astounding 376:1 crawl ratio that offers enough control for the most technical of rockcrawling.
All that torque is routed through a 12-inch-long CV-equipped Tom Wood rear driveshaft to a Ford 9-inch rear axle. The 9-inch is fitted with 4.56 gears, an ARB Air Locker, 31-spline axle shafts, and Moser disc brakes. Manny says that the next step is to shave the bottom of the 9-inch for more ground clearance. Up front, he is running an axle from a Toyota mini-truck. The Toyota axle is light and offers great ground clearance on the trail. "Most of the guys that I wheel with drive Toyotas," Manny noted. "So it made sense to use parts that they had available and were familiar with." It is also plenty strong with the addition of 30-spline Longfield chromoly axles, 4.56 gears, and an ARB Air Locker. The Toy axle housing has been reinforced with knuckle gussets, a truss, and differential armor from Marlin Crawler. It's steered by a Saginaw power steering box on a reinforced frame mount. From there a 3/16-inch-wall 1026 DOM drag link and tie rod fitted with 3/4-inch rod ends connect to 4x4Labs steering arms that put the tie rod behind the axle and out of harm's way.
Body and Interior
One of the most appealing aspects of this CJ-5 is that it still looks like a CJ-5. No tube fenders and no comp cut rear corners. There are no flares on the Jeep, but it does have custom 11/2-inch DOM rock rails and diamond plate side protection that Manny added when he stretched the wheelbase. The front of the Jeep has a Champion 10,000-pound winch that hasn't ever had the cable spooled out and a chrome grille that was on the Jeep when Manny bought it. Out back he welded up the tailgate, added late model taillights, and built a bumper and spare tire carrier out of 2x3-inch and 2x2-inch box tubing. With the tailgate welded shut, there is no need for the spare tire carrier to swing open, eliminating any annoying rattles.
There is no need for a tailgate on this CJ-5 anyway, as the rear seat abuts the back of the tub. Under the rear seat, a custom 23-gallon fuel tank was added to create clearance for the stretched wheelbase. Up front, Corbeau Ultra seats and four-point harnesses are used for comfort and safety. A custom six-point roll cage constructed of 2-inch DOM tubing provides further safety. Between the seats, a cool .44 Magnum shifter rows the SM465, while a Pioneer head unit adorns the otherwise stock dash and feeds the Sony Xplod speakers mounted above the rear wheelwells.
Good, Bad, and What's It For
Just like the rest of us, Manny still has a "to do" list for his Jeep. The brackets on the front bumper were added for a tow bar, but they kill the approach angle. They will be removed, along with the bottom of the 9-inch housing for more ground clearance. Getting hung up is about the only thing that can stop this Jeep, since it has enough gearing to crawl up any obstacle the tires can reach. The mix of Ford, Chevy, Jeep, and Toyota parts works incredibly well on the rocks, yet the Jeep is still docile enough to drive down the freeway.
Why I Featured It
I saw Manny's CJ-5 at the '09 Chile Challenge, surrounded by TJs with comp cut corners and tube fenders. I like that his Jeep retains the original CJ-5 body lines, plus it has a unique drivetrain that works incredibly well while remaining affordable and lightweight. Couple this with the fact that Manny is a really nice guy and there, you have yourself a feature.Harry Wagner
Vehicle: '73 CJ-5
Engine: AMC 304 V-8
Transmission: GM SM465
Transfer Case: Klune-V and Dana 20
Suspension: Alcan YJ leaf springs
Axles: Toyota 8-inch (front), Ford 9-inch (rear)
Wheels: 15x10 Mickey Thompson Classic Lock
Tires: 36x13.50-15 Interco Super Swamper IROKs
Built For: Technical rockcrawling