Back in Moab '09, Hazel and I were talking about what cool Jeeps were where, and this Jeepster came up in conversation. Hazel didn't have time to shoot it before he left for home, so I said I'd keep my eye out for it. The next day, I decided to go on a trail ride on Fins and Things with some industry friends. Lo and behold, this awesome Jeepster pulls in. The exact Jeepster Hazel had told me about the day before. Turns out it was built by Off Road Evolution, and owned by Terra Hagel, the wife of a guy I ran into on the trail a few years ago. Sometimes things just come together.
Once I saw it, with its V-8, auto trans, and custom coil-over suspension, I knew it was something Jeepster aficionados would love to see. A lot of tech in this Jeepster can be applied to other Jeepsters, and I knew I was going to write a feature on it. It really was just too cool to pass up.
The stock frame is still there, but with a ton of tube and custom work done to it to stiffen it up and hang the linked suspension. A combination of custom brackets and off-the-shelf parts comprises the suspension. Fox coilovers get the nod for elevation and articulation up front; out back, a modified Off Road Evolution Evo-Lever allows for plenty of suspension travel and shorter coilovers that don't necessitate poking through the body of the Jeep. Fox air bumps were located at all four corners to keep the massive tires out of the fenders.
Out back is a custom three-link suspension with a wishbone-style upper that works with a Currie Anti-Rock sway bar; the front is a unique three-link with Panhard bar (think stock TJ-esque suspension without a passenger-side upper link) for better articulation and clearance. The front and rear suspension conspire together and the Jeep got a 7-inch bump in wheelbase up to 108 inches. A custom tubular skidplate with 1/8-inch-thick sheet steel protects the transfer case and transmission.
Out front, a PSC steering box is covered in a 3/16-inch-plate framerail stiffener/winch mount setup. The pan hard bar mount is also 3/16-inch steel and is braced back to the passenger side framerail through a 11/4-inch, 0.120-wall tube to keep from stressing the factory framerails.
The Chevy 6.0L V-8 engine from a '04 Silverado has plenty of oomph for this Jeep. It was fitted to the framerails via some custom brackets and rubber motor mounts. The engine internals were left alone for maximum reliability, but breathe in through a custom U-shaped intake with a K&N filter. It exhales through custom David Chappelle headers and a true-dual exhaust with 3-inch Dynomax mufflers that dump in front of the rear wheels. A PWR performance radiator keeps things cool and is located in custom mounts.
Power is then handed off to a 4L65E from the same '04 controlled by an Art Carr shifter. A 4.3:1 Atlas II sends power out to the front and rear Dynatrac Pro Rock 60's with 5.13 gears and ARB Air Lockers. Big stopping power comes from Dynatrac's Big Kit upgrade and is pressed on by a Vanco Brake vacuum booster and master cylinder assembly. The tires are 40x13.50R17 BFG MT KM2s mounted on 17x9 Spyderlock beadlock wheels.
Body and Interior
The front fenders are custom Off Road Evolution pieces from tube and 1/8-inch plate steel. The stock Jeepster grille was clearanced on the back side for the aluminum radiator and 6-inch PIAAs were swapped in to serve as headlights. The rockers were trimmed back and are protected by tubular rocker guards that are tied into the cage, which is in turn tied back into the frame.
The rear inner fenders were cut from the body, stretched about 12 inches in length, modified to clear the rear Mastercraft seat for Buoy the black lab, and welded back in. Then the stock fender flares were chopped off, stretched to match, and moved up about seven inches; some custom sheet metal work filled them in for a stock look with a much bigger wheel opening. Once all of the bodywork was done, it was hosed down with House of Colors charcoal grey paint.
Behind the rear seat resides a Jaz fuel cell, a Power Tank in lieu of the complex engine-driven compressor, and a Mastercraft tool bag with a basic tool kit for emergencies. The custom Off Road Evolution cage frames a set of Mastercraft front seats with a tubular and aluminum console. The stock speedometer and warning lights are all still in place, but the headlight/heater/wiper switch panel has been removed and replaced with a simple aluminum panel with a couple of switches. The stock Jeepster ignition switch still lights things off and a hand-held Midland CB radio provides communication for those long trail rides.
Good, Bad, and What It's For
The fender and general body work on this Jeep is awesome. The front custom tube fenders mimic the stock units but add much strength, while the relocated rear flares and stretched inner wheelwells are done very well and keep the unique Jeepster look. The cage is hell-for-stout, but we would have preferred that the tailgate remain functional and the rear tire swing out. The headlights would fail inspection in many states, but the rear cantilever suspension is a really slick way to avoid poking monster shocks through the body and thus retain the interior space.
Why I Wrote This Feature
I like Jeepsters. VJs, C-101s, and C104s-I like 'em all. I'm on number four now, but way back when I got my first one, I wanted to build something like this with a Chevy V-8, big tires, coil suspension, and hog out the rear wheelwells to a normal size. This Jeepster is everything I hoped my first one would become, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to shoot it. -Pete Trasborg
Vehicle: '69 Jeepster
Engine: '04 6.0L Chevy V-8
Transmission: '04 4L65E automatic transmission
Transfer Case: 4.3:1 Atlas II
Suspension: Custom four-link (front), three-link (rear)
Axles: Dynatrac Pro Rock 60s (front and rear)
Wheels: 17x9 Spyderlock
Tires: 40x13.50R17 BFG MT KM2
Built For: Love of old Jeeps and of reliable new technology