Look, before you go getting riled-up, we realize that the only TJ parts on this "Jeep" are the grille and hood. However, there are other factors that make this rig interesting in its own right. Such as the fact that Brett Jerome missed first place by one point, and after the competition was all over, offered rides up and down the Tank Trap in his four-seater. That is to say, he was driving both ways (up and down) the event course that claimed more flops and rollovers than all the others combined, just for fun and liability-be-damned. That's the kind of spirit we like to see at these events, and we wish more people nowadays had Brett's attitude. So here's a look at the rig that missed winning Top Truck by a second.
Chassis and Driveline
A custom-built 2x4x3/16-inch rectangular steel frame provides the basis for this Jeep and runs from front to rear. Off of that, Brett used 2-inch diameter 0.120-wall tubing for most everything else. Under the hood resides a stock 8.1L Chevy Vortec V-8 fed by a 15-gallon RCI fuel cell mounted behind the rear seats. Brett left the internals and the engine itself stock for reliability, but changed some engine parameters such as fuel ratio with an EFI Live unit. The factory exhaust manifolds dump to a 3-inch exhaust system with Dynomax mufflers. A two-core aluminum radiator and a 9x12-inch oil cooler means the engine keeps its cool no matter what.
A TH400 sends power to the T-case and was modified with heavy-duty clutches and sprags, but still runs the stock torque converter with its 2500RPM stall speed. A B&M shifter controls the automatic and pumps through another 9x12-inch cooler mounted out back. Half of an NP203 was mated with an NP205 and is bulletproof, features three available low ranges, and it's easy to find replacement parts. From there, power travels via 3-inch diameter 0.120-wall driveshafts from High Angle Driveline out to the front and rear Rockwell axles.
Both front and rear are steering axles. Dual power steering pumps are mounted to the driver's side of the engine, one pump for each of the 3x9-inch PSC steering rams. The front axle benefitted from an Ouverson Engineering locker and 2-inch diameter 47-spline shafts. The rear axle has the same shafts, but is fitted with a spool. Tires are the 54-inch Mickey Thompson TTC-Edition Claws bolted to 20-inch Stazworks double beadlocks.Dual-piston slotted-rotor Ouverson pinion brakes do the stopping. The axles are hung off of front and rear double-triangulated suspension with 2-inch 0.500-wall lower links and 21/2-inch 0.375-wall upper links with 11/4-inch rod ends all around.
Body and Interior
The most striking part of the body of this thing is the dazzling orange hue, which is actually a powder, not paint. Brett had the entire chassis shot with Dormant Metallic Orange and a 500% clearcoat, then baked it in a huge powder-coating oven. The TJ hood and grille received the same treatment. Out front, you will find a pair of Lightforce lights tucked neatly into the TJ grille above a Warn 16.5ti winch. Inside, a quartet of Kirkey seats set the stage for the interior. A simple black-painted dash panel stuffed with Auto Meter gauges keeps track of engine and transmission vitals, and a 15-inch PSC steering wheel is used to control the front steering.
The engine intake pokes through the dash right in front of the passenger seat, and a 2-foot extension pipe puts the conical air filter up to the roof level for deep water crossings. The electrical junction blocks and relays are mounted in a simple Tupperware-like box under the dash in front of the passenger's feet, and the lid gets siliconed-on for water and mud runs.
Good, Bad and What's It For
We can't help but think that this thing was built exclusively for Top Truck, but in talking to Brett about it, Top Truck was a bonus. There is no way to guarantee you will get into Top Truck Challenge, and Brett knew that, so he built a rig that could handle anything he was likely find near his home, and then some. He had a good idea of what he wanted when he started building and stuck pretty close to the plan, resulting in a well thought-out rig that works great in just about anything. If he ran it down fire roads, the air-shocks could heat up and effectively change the spring rate of the suspension and there isn't a firewall, per-se, so if a fire were to break out under the hood, the passengers better get out in a hurry but other than those two minor things, this rig is flawless.
Model: Jeep TJ Buggy
Build time: 15 months
Owner: Brett Jerome
Hometown: Blue Springs, Missouri
Engine: 8.1L Vortec V-8
Aspiration: Stock Chevy multiport fuel injection with EFI Live modifications
Transfer case: NP203/NP205 doubler
Front axle/diff: Rockwell, Ouverson Engineering Locker
Rear axle/diff: Rockwell, Ouverson Engineering spool
Ring-and-pinion ratio: 6.72:1
Front suspension: 18-inch Fox 2.5 air shocks with a double-triangulated four-link
Rear suspension: 18-inch Fox 2.5 air shocks with a double-triangulated four-link
Wheels: 20x12 Stazworks double beadlocks
Tires: 19.5/54-20 LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC