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Building a Jeep CJ-5 Frame From Scratch

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 1, 2011
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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!

We drew up the simple framerails and decided on materials. We picked up 2x4, 0.120-wall tubing for the front and rear framerails, 2x4, 0.188-wall tubing for the center framerails and bumpers, and some cold-rolled 4x11, 3⁄16-inch plate cut at a 45-degree angle for gussets. TJ frames are bent out of 2x4, 0.120-wall tubing so our frame will be just as strong, if not stronger, and much, much, stronger than the ’56’s original C-channel frame—all without the use of an expensive mandrel bender.

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.

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Mountain Off-Road Enterprises
Delta, CO 81416
Phoenix, AZ 85043

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