A ten-slot grille? On a Jeep? Yes, this is an actual Jeep, not some knock-off built in India or the Philippines. The relatively obscure CJ-10A was used at Air Force bases around the country as an aircraft tug. It is a short-wheelbase version of the CJ-10, which was available as a military cargo vehicle overseas, much like the current J8. When Jerome Jenkins picked up his '85 CJ-10A, it only had 11,000 miles on it and 3,000 hours on the Hobbs meter. What is even sweeter is that he paid under $2,000 for this low-mileage gem.
Well, "gem" might be a bit of a stretch, but Jerome saw the potential in this diamond-in-the-rough. When he first brought his CJ-10A home, he began by removing nearly a ton of ballast from the back of the vehicle. The ballast was added to the rear of the Jeep to offset the weight that these Jeeps are required to pull around and helps compensate for the stubby 88-inch wheelbase. The chassis under the CJ-10A is essentially a shortened Wagoneer frame, which Jerome lengthened at the rear with rectangular box tubing. The stock Saginaw steering box is still on the factory frame, but it now connects the 13/4-inch DOM drag link to a custom high-steer arm on the passenger-side knuckle. To save money the stock tie rod was retained and simply sleeved with DOM tubing to resist bending.
Up front, the stock offset-centerpin leaf springs were retained, but they were flipped 180-degrees to move the front axle forward 2 inches for increased approach angle and tire clearance. The springs are mounted atop the front axle and work in conjunction with Pro Comp ES3000 shocks on factory mounts. In the back, the spring mounts were moved rearward to create a 110-inch wheelbase. Cherokee springs are damped by Rancho RS9000 shocks and a custom traction bar located unconventionally between the passenger-side leaf spring and the brake drum to limit axlewrap.
Not everything about a CJ-10A makes for an ideal wheeling rig once you drag one home from a government auction. These Jeeps use a beam front axle and are two-wheel drive, but Jerome fixed that by slinging a Chevy Dana 60 axle under the front leaf springs. The Dana 60 is filled with 4.88 gears and dually hubs to match the width of the factory Dana 70 rear axle. The rear axle uses the stock 4.88 gears and Power-Loc limited-slip differential, while the front was welded for improved traction on the trail. Mile Marker premium hubs make steering the Jeep on the road possible and cut down on tire wear. The wheels are more military overstock in the form of 12-bolt Hummer units. Many Jeep owners recenter these double-beadlock rims, but Jerome kept the extreme offset to narrow his track width without having to narrow the fullsize dually axles. While 39-inch Pit Bull Rockers sometimes cap the rims, providing excellent traction in the rocky terrain found around Jerome's home of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, he also sometimes runs the cheapie 37x12.50R16.5 Goodyear military surplus Hummer tires shown in most of our photos.
The stock Nissan SD33 3.3L six-cylinder diesel engine was only rated for 90 horsepower from the factory, so it had as hard a time turning bigger tires as it did pushing around fighter jets. The Nissan diesel was offered in a turbocharged version in Scout vehicles, so to add more power, Jerome purchased a Garrett turbo and exhaust manifold from an '80s Scout he found on eBay for $500. He complimented the added airflow by removing the fuel-pressure spring of the KIKI injection pump to turn up the fuel delivery. The injection pump originally used a vacuum linkage, but Jerome was able to retrofit a mechanical linkage to allow easier adjustments. A 21/2-inch exhaust system and conical intake were added, but otherwise the engine was left stock to retain reliability. We're not Nissan diesel experts, but we'd wager the little oil burner is now churning out slightly more than the Scout version's 100hp and 170lb-ft output.
Behind the diesel, the stock TF727 three-speed automatic was retained since it had such low mileage and was in good condition. Bolted behind the transmission, the CJ-10A originally came with an NP208 T-case with a plate covering the shifter mechanism that locks the transfer case in low range. This 2.61:1 torque multiplication was intended to make up for the low horsepower of the diesel engine, since top speed was not a concern for an aircraft tug. Jerome ditched the 208 for a more traditional gear-driven Dana 300, which uses the same six-bolt, 23-splilne input as the factory NP208.
Body and Interior
The CJ-10 front end is a face only a mother could love, with the blank grille and wide-set headlights. Jerome trimmed the marker lights from below the headlights for a cleaner look and retained the factory green paint. In back he fabricated a trick bed out of a YJ tub to match the 22-inch wheelbase stretch. He cut the tub between the door opening and the rear wheelwell and then closed in the front with sheet metal from a computer server rack. A fold-down CJ tailgate was also added to the rear of the tub in place of the standard swing-open YJ gate. Jerome then laid down green paint to match the front clip before adding a pair of TJ fender flares for additional tire clearance. The factory 20-gallon fuel tank provides a range of nearly 400 miles given the thrifty diesel's 20mpg potential. The fuel tank was relocated to the front of the bed and capped with a TJ fuel filler.
Under the removable hard top and square corner doors of the '10A, Jerome built a four-point rollcage to which he mounted Suzuki X-90 seats. The stock dash was left unmolested with the only addition being a Grant steering wheel utilizing a Grant quick-release system.
Good, Bad, and What It's For
The addition of the turbocharger makes the power from the diesel engine good, but not great. Again, Jerome is lucky if he's getting 110hp out of the teeny inline-six. He plans on adding an NP203 range box in front of the Dana 300 in the near future to provide greater gear reduction on the trail. The stretched wheelbase of the tug Jeep will easily accommodate the added drivetrain length and also works quite well on the vertical climbs found on many New Mexico trails. With the welded front differential, hydraulic assist is also high on Jerome's wish list.
Why I Shot This Feature
Jerome managed to take what is admittedly an ugly Jeep and turn it into a capable wheeler that turns heads. That is, turns heads for the right reasons. He also managed to do so on a very reasonable budget, particularly when you compare the end result to a Scrambler, imported J8, or an AEV Brute conversion.
Vehicle: '85 CJ-10A
Engine: Nissan 3.3L SD33 diesel
Transmission: TF727 three-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Suspension: Spring-over w/ leaf springs
Axles: Dana 60 (front), Dana 70 (rear)
Wheels: 12-bolt Hummer beadlocks
Tires: 37x12.50R16.5 Goodyear Hummer Military
Built For: Being different
Estimated Cost: $6,000