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The Sh!tbox Derby: Cappa's Freefender Jeep CJ-2A

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 1, 2010
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If one free Jeep is good, two free Jeeps must be even better. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, overdue registration set me back nearly the initial cost of Trasborg's roadworthy MJ. Looking back now, I'm not so sure my free Jeeps were all that great of a deal. Oh well, at least I'm already ahead in the competition of who has the best clapped-out Jeep for the least amount of money. Plus, what better way to whoop Hazel and Trasborg than to do it with style in a vintage flatfender. Sure, my 60-year-old Go Devil four-cylinder will hardly muster its originally-advertised 60hp, and it won't even hold a candle to Hazel's AMC 304 V-8 or Trasborg's modern 4.0L inline-six, but this Jeep has simplicity, small size, and maneuverability going for it. Oh yeah, an ugly weathered paint job has to count for something right?

Free Jeep number one was given to me by a buddy. I was kinda looking for a flatfender to build up at the time and it's not often you get a phone call from someone offering you a complete '49 CJ-2A. After I saw a few photos of the mostly-red Jeep, I was on my way with trailer in tow.

A couple of the tires were flat so I filled them with my Power Tank only to find that one tire had a cracked valve stem that was leaking air out nearly as fast as I could put it in. This made things interesting, since I had to push and steer the Jeep out of a dirt lot all by myself. Eventually I got it up on the trailer using my Warn Works PulzAll. Once I got the Jeep home I gave it the once-over and found it only needed a little bit of elbow grease and ingenuity to get it running. Getting it to actually drive somewhat safely is gonna take a little more effort.

A few weeks later, Trasborg picked up a free flattie that he had seen on one of his many road trips. I say flattie, but it was more like a rolling pile of Jeep parts that somewhat resembled a CJ-2A. He didn't know he was going to give it to me at the time; he eventually came to his senses, though. A day or two later it was on my trailer and headed to the Cappa compound.

Upon closer inspection of Jeep number two I came to the conclusion that there wasn't much that was useable. Among other things, the body tub was a mess and it came with three fenders-two of which had been modified and repaired using aluminum street signs (yeah, it's as bad as it sounds), but this flattie came with some useable parts, too. There's a mostly-complete rollcage, a decent fuel tank, two mud terrain tires that hold air on 15x8 Jackman wheels, a windshield frame, a hood, a grille, and a fairly decent frame and rolling chassis.

Of course the Freefender isn't ready as is. It's in rough shape and needs more attention than a classroom full of two-year-olds drinking Red Bull. At least all the major parts are there, though. It's stock-from the factory rusty exhaust held on with bailing wire to the original radiator that still holds some form of red liquid. It's got a CJ-3A windshield frame, but no glass. Someone at some point must have figured they could slow the rusting process by painting the undercarriage neon orange. It still sports the T-90 transmission, a Spicer 18 T-case, a Dana 25 front axle, and the wormy Dana 41 rear axle. Originally I figured I'd use the body and drivetrain from Jeep number one and put it on frame number two, although I think body number one would simply fall apart if I were to unbolt it. Apparently this Jeep spent much of its life as a mobile fishing platform on the beaches of Mexico. So yeah, it's rusty. Not Northeastern-plow-truck rusty mind you, but there are holes in the floor, the toolbox looks more like a window to the ground, there's lots of Bondo, and plenty of shoddy body repairs done by people who had no business working on automobiles.

The plan is to do as little as possible to the Freefender using various components from the parts Jeep along with a few new replacement parts. Good news is that I'll basically be adding a battery and fuel while Trasborg is chasing down faulty TPS sensors and Hazel is futzing with an auto tranny rebuild. I'm gonna leave my competitor pretty stock. Of course, I'm sure my build plans won't go as smoothly as planned. Stay tuned, the ugly bullnose Command-Dumb and Electrical-Nightmare MJ are in for a world of hurt.

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