Click for Coverage
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler
Subscribe to the Free

Your Jeeps, Built Your Way, At Home

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 2012
Share this

We called out for you to send us your Jeep projects that you’ve built in your garage, and you responded in a big way. Originally we thought that this story would be about complete frame-off kind of restifications. But along the way we received a lot of partial rebuilds, engine rebuilds, Jeep repowers, and so forth. We always enjoy learning about your ideas, and for this story it’s no different. This story is influenced by you—the pictures are your pictures and the words are yours as well. Except for the stuff we made up, of course.

Unfortunately, as so often happens, the submissions that had the best pictures had the least information. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and even if it isn’t, we couldn’t bring ourselves to run postage-stamp-sized pictures that were often blurry. So we picked the best images we had and filled in what holes we could. That didn’t always pan out, so enjoy the modified Hard Facts section too. If we didn’t get the info, we guessed or just made stuff up that we thought was funny.

Gas shortages, taxes, and less power output due to smog equipment signaled the sunset of the muscle car horsepower wars. All the U.S. automakers were looking for ways to boost the perceived performance of their offerings. Like some of its contemporaries, Jeep teamed up with Hurst Performance Products to create the Hurst Jeepster. It was equipped with a Dauntless V-6 engine coupled to a TH400 automatic transmission. There were a lot of Hurst-only parts that made them unique. Things like the Hurst emblems, special stripes, hood-mounted tach, hoodscoop, and aluminum slot wheels are but a few of them. There were only about 100 Hurst-edition Jeepsters made, making them exceedingly rare today.

Russell Witkop has been a Jeepster enthusiast for quite a while. When the time came for him to own his own Hurst-edition Jeepster, he wasn’t about to pay the exorbitant prices that they sometimes fetch. Besides, all the custom stuff is normally missing or needs to be redone anyway. Rather, Russell picked up a complete basket-case ’71 that originally had A/C, power steering, and power brakes and set about bringing it back to life. Maybe he found the Jeep, maybe the Jeep found him; who’s to say? What we do know is that he did a heck of a job re-creating a Hurst Jeepster, and thanks to his efforts there are now stripe kits available for those of us who want to make our own Hurst replicas.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (as far as we can guess)
Vehicle: ’71 Hurst Jeepster Commando
Engine: 225ci Dauntless V-6
Transmission: TH400
Transfer Case: Dana 20
Suspension: Stock spring-under (front and rear)
Axles: Dana 27 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: 15x7 factory slot wheel
Tires: Sporting a lot of Armor-All in that “after” shot

MB Cancer Cure
Craig Groeger of Ridgeway, Pennsylvania, sent in his amazing rescue of an old (we assume) MB. From the pictures we saw, we think he reskinned the entire exterior of the Jeep. And, having some experience with northeast rust, he probably did a fair amount of work on the interior of it as well.

Pete Trasborg met him out at the Butler, Pennsylvania, Bantam Festival, and Craig had just painted the Jeep—as in it was painted the Saturday before the show. Naturally, the paint was still pristine when Pete saw it, but we are sure that by now it has at least a bit of custom pinstriping.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (as far as we suppose)
Vehicle: Willys MB
Engine: Yep, there is one under that hood
Transmission: Manual (as it should be)
Transfer Case: Got one of them, too
Suspension: Spring-under with heavy-duty aftermarket shackles (front and rear)
Axles: Unknown, but the rear one has discs and what appear to be cast GM-style U-bolt plates
Wheels: Old-school Jackman with custom beadlock
Tires: Interco Irok

Mira Emenaker is all of 11 years old. Or at least she was when she wrote us. We aren’t sure if it speaks very well of Mira or poorly of our other readers that she managed to give us more information with better grammar, spelling, and punctuation than we normally enjoy. In fact, we almost just copied and pasted her entire letter into this spot.

Mira and her dad are building this XJ up so that she has a Jeep when she gets her license. She is learning how to weld, wield a reciprocating saw, and break blades on a Dremel tool. The Jeep is being built on an 11-year-old’s budget and with a lot of hard work. The total expenditure thus far is listed above in the title. The axles listed below are going to be sourced from her dad’s LJ, as are the tires. Mira was bitten by the Jeep bug while wheeling in the LJ and can’t wait to take her XJ wheeling.

Hard Facts (or so we think)
Vehicle: ’93 Jeep Cherokee
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transmission: AX15
Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: Likely coil-sprung five-link (front); leaf spring (rear)
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: 15x7 factory aluminum
Tires: 31x10.50R15 BFG KM2s

While Kyle Follet didn’t tell us where he was from, he did give us a bunch of information about his ’93 Wrangler. It would appear that Klye rides a computer desk most of the day, so the fact that he replaced so many rusted-out and completely shot components with some help from his similarly mechanically disinclined friends is impressive. The windshield frame and doors both got the heave-ho and replacements sans ferrous oxide now stand in the originals’ stead. Aftermarket fenders are also present and accounted for. All of the bodywork, including the sanding, was done by Klye. Then a $500 Maaco paintjob in bright lemon-yellow was slathered onto the Jeep.

The interior got some owner-applied bedliner and a set of Corbeau seats, which were obtained in a horse trade for some design work. The front Internet-sourced custom bumper with stinger is saddled with a Smittybilt XRC8 winch. Klye tells us that he’s been working on the Jeep for over five years, so we figure that like most Jeep owners “over five years” is how long he’s owned it.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (as far as we assume)
Vehicle: ’93 Wrangler YJ
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transmission: Unknown. Presumably there is one.
Transfer Case: If you can believe there is a tranny, then logically there must also be a T-case. We’d bet on an NP231.
Suspension: 31⁄2-inch Tuff Country
Axles: Dana 30 with limited-slip (front); Dana 35 with PowerTrax locker (rear)
Wheels: 15x10 something of aluminum
Tires: 35x12.50R15 Kuhmo Road Venture MT

31-Year Itch
Charles Donaldson of Bradenton, Florida, has the distinction of being the original owner of this ’80 CJ-5. After almost 30 years of somewhat-underpowered service, the original Iron Duke 151-cube four-cylinder kicked the bucket. In a very brave move, he bought a V-6 out of an ’05 Blazer with the 4L60E automatic transmission, dual computers, front accessories, and wiring harness to put in his Jeep. Why was it brave? Well, he’d never done something like this and picked one of the most difficult swaps, what with all of the goofy security “features” those ’05s had.

So Charles pulled the nose off his Jeep, yanked the blown-up stock engine, and dove right in. Along the way he discovered that the V-6 needs to be mounted pretty far forward to give the little CJ-5 enough rear driveshaft to work. The “old guy down the road” built a decent exhaust, even with almost no room in which to work. And despite the multiple sensors, the 4L60E had to get pulled almost completely apart to replace the mainshaft and tailhousing so it would mate to the Jeep’s stock Dana 300. Nothing like learning on the job, huh?

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (as far as we infer)
Vehicle: ’80 CJ-5
Engine: ’05 Chevy 4.3L V-6
Transmission: 4L60E four-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Suspension: 4-inch lift with front shackle reversal
Axles: Dana 30 (front); AMC 20 (rear)
Wheels: What appear to be 15x10 Mickey Thompson Classic II
Tires: Trail Mark Radial DT (as near as we can see when zoomed into the picture)

Only a Mother Could Love
We make all kinds of jokes nonstop about the ’71-’73 bullnose Commandos. The truth is, under the skin they came with good drivetrain components and offer a lot to like. Marvin Keller can obviously see the beauty beneath the skin and must hail from somewhere in the Southwest considering that his Commando came out of Arizona and his Willys Wagon is from California.

We aren’t sure what exactly Marvin has done with his Commando, but you can see the pictures as well as we can, and it sure looks like a complete frame-off restomodification happened here. We also aren’t sure if the gold-colored complete Jeep is the “before” or the “after,” but either way it’s probably the cleanest and shiniest black frame and leaf springs we’ve ever seen.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (as far as we can guess)
Vehicle: ’73 C-104 Commando
Engine: 318ci Dodge V-8
Transmission: TF727
Transfer Case: Scout Dana 300
Suspension: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: Chrome steelie
Tires: Round and black

Multiple Man
Many of us magazine goons have fallen prey to the same trap that Dan Dinelli has, and that is too many Jeeps. No, wait, you can never have too many Jeeps. Maybe too little time to give to them all is more accurate. Dan has more than just the two Jeeps seen here. When we first saw these pictures, we thought the brown Jeep on its side was the “before” picture. Nope, that’s just Dan’s average run-of-the-mill ’80 CJ-7 with a 360ci V-8. The other Jeep shown here is Dan’s big-time time sucker: a CJ-8 of unspecified vintage.

Under the custom-louvered hood resides a rip-snorting 401ci AMC V-8. Of course, a V-8 was never offered from the factory in a Scrambler, so this one was a swap. The slushbox tranny and Atlas II T-case back that up and send power out to the monster axles stuffed with Detroit Lockers and 4.88 gears hung from custom Deaver leaf springs. The clean tub was pulled from Texas, and the tube fenders are GenRight Off Road parts. The full rollcage is tied into the frame and the gas tank is hand-cut, formed, and welded stainless. Beard has provided the thrones from which to guide the beast.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (pin the tail on the year)
Vehicle: Jeep CJ-8
Engine: 401ci V-8
Transmission: TH400
Transfer Case: Atlas II
Suspension: Spring-over conversion on longer-than-stock custom leaf springs
Axles: Dana 60 (front); Dana 70 (rear)
Wheels: Mum’s …
Tires: … the word

1951 Willys
You win some, you lose some. We know that Cory Kilvert hails from Pine Bush, New York, and that he’s got a ton of work and modifications into his Willys. We had already decided we needed to run it for this section, but didn’t we know what year it was until we hit his second email. Turns out that this pickup is a ’51 model, but there isn’t much left in it that is actually from 1951.

The engine is a ’96 4.3L Chevy V-6 with a reprogrammed computer and ceramic-coated headers. The engine is still backed by the 4L60E transmission and is cooled by a Novak Adapters radiator and electric fan setup. From there, power goes through the chaindriven T-case to the front Dana 44, which is still open but employs a custom high-steer setup. The rear GM 14-bolt houses a TrueTrac limited-slip differential. Both axles benefit from TSM disc brake kits. Inside are the stock gauges. The truck is still a work in progress.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (as far as we are told)
Vehicle: ’51 Willys Pickup
Engine: ’96 4.3L Chevy V-6
Transmission: 4L60E
Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: 21⁄2-inch Rubicon Express YJ springs (front and rear)
Axles: Dana 44 (front); Corporate 14-bolt (rear)
Wheels: none (yet)
Tires: 37x12.50R17 Goodyear MT/R

First Time
Chad Ronzano’s MJ and Trasborg’s white MJ could almost be brothers from a different mother. Over a period of almost two years, Chad chased several MJs before finally scoring this ’88 Comanche not long after Jp magazine’s Sh!%box derby ran. The Jeep ended up rolling on Rubicon-sourced wheels and running all over California.

Since he picked it up, he has swapped the head on the Renix-injected engine, tossed some low-buck 4.10 gears in it, mated an NV3550 to the factory engine, and backed the new tranny with a TJ NP231 T-case. Then he scored some 31-inch Goodyears and put ’em on Rubicon wheels for cheap. He picked up a heavy-duty rear bumper from a Pick-N-Pull for a song and then built bulletproof rear bumper brackets that tie into multiple places down the “frame.” All in all, Chad is doing a great job with his first Jeep.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (as far as we gather)
Vehicle: ’88 Jeep Comanche
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transmission: NV3550
Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: Stock (front and rear)
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: 16x8 Rubicon-TJ-sourced factory Moab
Tires: 245/75R16 Goodyear MT/R

Notta Nova
Lee Rottenberg set out to build something different. He didn’t want yet another Nova, Camaro, or Chevelle. It needed to be short enough to fit in his driveway behind the other vehicles, yet still have a provision for a third passenger. So naturally he turned his sights on a YJ Wrangler. What year? Go fish. Suspension, axles, lockers? Got us. Lee didn’t say. He did, however, manage to divulge a bit of information about the go-quick engine and its ancillary systems, so here goes.

We aren’t sure what displacement the V-8 is, but Lee tells us that it puts out about 450 hp, is cooled by a Griffin radiator and electric fan, and breathes through fenderwell headers with Gibson mufflers. The TH350 is a fully race-prepped unit, and the Jeep is 2WD. That’s right, no front differential here. The automatic sends power out to a Ford 9-inch rear, which puts power to the ground through a set of BFGs. The entire Jeep was rewired with a Kwikwire 14-fuse kit. There are nine Auto Meter gauges, and all the lines have -6 AN fittings. Up front is a pair of lightweight racing seats with a Bestop rear seat. All occupants are protected with a custom eight-point cage built by Gardner Specialty Auto and held in place with five-point harnesses.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (or “Semi-Rigid Facts”)
Vehicle: YJ
Engine: 450-horse Chevy V-8
Transmission: TH350
Transfer Case: Missing
Suspension: Spring-under leaves (front and rear)
Axles: From what we can see; beam (front); Ford 9-inch (rear)
Wheels: Mickey Thompson Classic II
Tires: BFG Radial T/A

Gone Postal
We could make bad jokes about the big postal Jeep for quite a while, but what’s the point? “Going postal,” “hide your guns,” or “out of business” all come to mind. What isn’t a joke, however, is that this thing just flat-out looks cool. Chad Edmonson of Charlotte, North Carolina, opted to leave most of his ’82 DJ-5’s body alone. That is, except for what got in the way of the 37-inch tires—that sheetmetal got chopped out of the way.

A unique combination of gears in the form of 5.43 rears (only available for the Ford 9-inch) and 5.38 fronts provides the grunt all the time. Inside, a full cage is planned with Corbeau seats, and the right-hand-drive will remain. We are curious if the Jeep already has the rare right-hand-drive power steering box or if it will be a manual steering Jeep until Chad can find one. It is only about half-done, but the first picture shows how it will sit on its 37x12.50R15 Interco Iroks wrapped around 15x10 Mickey Thompson Classic II wheels. At the time these pictures were taken, the Jeep was still waiting for its engine, transmission, and T-case. They’re being housed in the Cherokee that’s going to donate them. But nobody has told the Cherokee that yet.

Hard Facts (eh, you get the idea)
Vehicle: ’82 DJ-5
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transmission: AX15
Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: Leaf-spring with spring-over conversion using Cherokee leaves (front and rear)
Axles: High-pinion Dana 44 (front); Ford 9-inch (rear)
Wheels: 15x10 Mickey Thompson Classic II
Tires: 37x12.50R15 Interco IROK

The Appliance Found It
Brien Pippen is a Jeep nut from the Kansas City, Missouri, area and owns two appliance stores. Back in 2002-2003 he was out at a customer’s house on a service call and saw this ’93 Wrangler. Being a Jeep freak, he inquired about it and got the normal “Oh, it is broken but I’m going to fix it soon” response. Being a guy after our own hearts, he offers to buy any dilapidated Jeeps he finds, and this one was no different. Then, nine years later, he got a call out of the blue from the owner saying that they wanted to sell the ‘93. When he got there, it was the Jeep he remembered, but it hadn’t moved an inch in all the intervening years.

Brien bought it for a song, got a tow truck to reclaim it from the dirt it was slowly sinking into, and is now in the process of a full frame-off restoration. He picked up a bead blaster to help with the restoration process. The reason the Jeep was parked in the first place was that the T-case ran out of ATF and fried. Good luck with it, Brien.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (almost totally guessing)
Vehicle: ’93 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transmission: AX15 Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: Stock 21⁄2-inch-wide leaf springs in stock spring-under configuration (front and rear)
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 35 (rear)
Wheels: None
Tires: None

Carter Killing
Benjamin Maynard from Hamlin, New York, kept his letter short and to the point. With only 89,000 original miles, this ’89 Islander-edition Wrangler was quite a find. Benjamin tells us he is working on it with his two sons and goes on to say that he’s replacing the 2bbl Carter pile-o-smelly with a Weber carb. We can’t help but wonder if this Jeep sat for so long because of the dreaded running issues that those electronic Carter carburetors are known for.

The Islander originally came with an upgraded alternator and battery to support that 258ci inline-six. Considering the low mileage, the Peugeot BA 10/5 turd tranny is most likely backing the torque-happy 258 engine. Backing that up from the factory would have been the venerable NP231. A front Dana 30 and rear Dana 35 axle would sit at either lower end of the Jeep, providing it’s still all original. Benjamin was in the middle of installing a 4-inch Rough Country lift and 11⁄4-inch-lift boomerang shackles when he snapped these pictures. In his parts pile he also has an aftermarket front bumper with stinger and flush-mount-style taillights.

Hard Facts (according to the factory)
Vehicle: ’89 Jeep Wrangler Islander
Engine: 258ci inline-six
Transmission: Peugot BA 10/5
Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: Rough Country 4-inch lift (front and rear)
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 35 (rear)
Wheels: 15x7 factory aluminum
Tires: 235/75R15 Goodyear antique

400 Bucks
Jeff Johnson hails from Pekin. What state? What country? Got us— apparently he ain’t saying. But what we do know is that he picked up this ’89 Wagoneer for only $400. We aren’t sure if he got it with a blown engine or just likes putting Ford parts under Jeep sheetmetal, but whatever the case, it took him only four months to make it his daily driver.

The 5.0L Ford V-8 was donated from a Mercury Mountaineer. The engine was fitted with an Edlebrock Torker II intake and an Edlebrock Performer carburetor and breathes easier through a set of shorty headers. The engine was bolted in with Fox-body Mustang engine mounts to lightly modified Wagoneer frame mounts. It’s backed by an AOD four-speed automatic transmission and NP209 from a Ford F-150. The transmission crossmember was moved back using factory holes and hardware and an adapter was made to mate the Ford transmission mount with the Wagoneer crossmember. Plans include new leaf springs to fight the sag and 31-inch tires.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (we only made up a few)
Vehicle: ’89 Grand Wagoneer
Engine: ’99 Ford 5.0L V-8
Transmission: Ford AOD
Transfer Case: ’87 NP209
Suspension: Factory leaf springs
Axles: Dana 44 (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x7 factory aluminum
Tires: Kuhmo Solus

Stretch Job
We talk a lot about lengthening wheelbases, but it isn’t often that we run across a Jeep that is running a nonstock frame that has been lengthened to pull the stretch off. Such is the case with Robert Isoldi’s ’91 Wrangler from Long Island, New York. He pulled a frame from a ’95 YJ, stretched it 41⁄2 inches, and slung it under this YJ. Front suspension includes rear Cherokee leaf springs with an added main leaf hung from a custom shackle-reversal. Out back, YJ leaf springs with an added main leaf hang from Blue Torch Fab hangers. The hangers were frenched-in 3 inches from the factory location for even more stretch.

Under the hood lies a TPI Chevy 350 V-8 mated to a TH700R4. A Dana 300 was flipped for a driver-side front output and the ’case clocked flat for ground clearance. Axles are easy: Both front and rear are Dana 60s with ARB Air Lockers and 5.13 gears spinning a set of 40-inch-tall Goodyear MT/Rs. Robert is waiting for more cash to roll in so that he can build the full rollcage and get a set of driveshafts built for it.

PhotosView Slideshow

Hard Facts (we actually do know!)
Vehicle: ’91 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: 350ci Chevy V-8
Transmission: TH700R4
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Suspension: Spring-over (front and rear)
Axles: Dana 60 (front); Dana 60 (rear)
Wheels: H2 aluminum
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Goodyear MT/R

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results