Sometimes a deal is too good to pass up. Well, it probably wasn’t that good of a deal. Maybe we bought this Jeep because of all of those late night dreams of wheeling an early CJ-5. Maybe it’s because it’s good karma to take a Jeep that no one else wants and bring it back from the dead. Maybe it’s because after growing up on the east coast (where rust is a rule) it’s still absolutely mind-blowing that no one in Arizona seems to see the value of original, almost-complete, un-rusted, desert-patina’d sheetmetal. Any way you justify it, building a vintage Jeep from the ground up in this economy is not a great way to make any money. Actually, it’s probably a great way to end up with a Jeep that is worth less than the sum of its parts. It’s still fun and in the end we will have a very different early CJ-5 with a reliable drivetrain, bulletproof frame, and a more modern suspension that’s ready to drive practically anywhere on- or off-road.
The project started with an Internet ad for an almost complete ’56 CJ-5 body with a VIN plate and a title. The good news is that the body is really clean. The bad news is that all the little missing hardware is gonna nickel and dime us to death!
In this installment we’ll assemble our homebuilt frame and mount the body. In an upcoming installment we’ll toss in a 2.5L fuel-injected motor, five-speed tranny, NV231 T-case, a Dana 30 front axle, and a Chrysler Corporate 8.25 rear axle—all from a wrecked ’98 Cherokee SE.