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The Sh!tbox Derby: Hazel's 1973 Jeep Command'oh

Posted in Project Vehicles on November 1, 2010
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After reviving the transmission with B&M components and fixing the T-case with a Novak rebuild kit, my Command'oh project was technically a runner. That is, I could make it move under its own power. But not very far. And I had to sit on a milk crate to do it 'cause the seats and mounts were missing from day one. The biggest problem was the factory radiator was completely shot. Once the engine came up to temperature it spewed a geyser of scalding-hot water right onto the fixed-blade fan, which in turn, doused the driver. Nice, huh? I tried cans of radiator-stop-leak products, eggs, sawdust, and all sorts of home remedies to stem the radiator leak, but to no avail. Not that it mattered much, because with the bent front springs and permanently-inverted front shackles, this vehicle wasn't doing any road trips soon. Oh, did I mention that my battery tray was a piece of plywood laid across the valve cover to the fender? I couldn't close the hood when it had a battery in it. Butch-city.

I pulled the radiator and called a few local places to see how much it would be to rebuild the crusty two-core original. The best prices I found locally quoted me $250 to rebuild it with a replacement two-core or $350-$400 to upgrade it to a three-core. Then I stumbled onto BRT (Built Tough Radiators), who just happened to offer a heavy-duty drop-in four-core radiator for '72-'73 Commando Jeeps for a mere $229. You can't beat that with a stick, so I promptly ordered one.

The BRT radiator is billed as a heavy-duty replacement. Usually companies list any three- or four-core radiator as "heavy-duty" but this one really delivers. The cap, hose inlet/outlet bungs, and mounting flanges are all thick and beefy and are every bit as burly as the stock '73 unit's parts. And that's from an era where you could use a beer can to hold up a truck. None of that paper-thin import crap here. Furthermore, the unit was shipped nicely protected inside a heavy-duty box and arrived undamaged and ready for installation.

In the day or so while the radiator was in transit, I scoured my shed for front suspension options. I still had a pair of Rancho RS44044 Wagoneer lift springs that I once installed on Project Murderous Overkill. I nabbed 'em and built some custom mounts to put them under the Jeep in a spring-under fashion with a shackle reversal thrown into the mix. Don't worry, you can read the full suspension build story in an upcoming issue of Jp. With my pennies-on-the-dollar suspension wrapped up, I widened the track with a quartet of Spidertrax 1.25-inch wheel spacers the same day the BTR radiator showed up on the delivery truck. A mere 20 minutes later, I had the radiator in and the little Commando seemed to want to go for a drive.

I put in a call to Omix-Ada for the remainder of the components I'd need to get the Jeep functional for on-road driving. I actually ordered a bit more stuff than you'll see in this story, but you can read about the other things like the Rugged Ridge heavy-duty steering box mount when I do my post-Derby buildup on this sucker. Finally, I built a seat frame and grabbed the old seats from my '89 YJ. It's great to use a vehicle like this as a parts dumpster to get rid of all the stuff that's been cluttering your garage. Next stop: the Sh!%box Derby!

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Rancho Suspension
Monroe, MI 48161
Mountain Off-Road Enterprises
Delta, CO 81416
Spidertrax Off-Road
Longmont, CO 80503
Suwanee, GA 30024
Built Tough Radiators
Jefferson, GA 30549
(678) 382-2101

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