When Trasborg saw this Comanche roll into town during the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, he chased it down like a creepy old guy following the college cheerleaders back to their dorm rooms. He didn’t care that the MJ wasn’t completed. Regardless of the lack of a rear bumper, window, or rock rails, it was ’caged, locked, and running. So, rather than waiting a year for it to get completed, he had John Underwood agree to go wheeling the next day before it was even off the trailer.
The factory Unitbody is still in place, but the front frame-side control-arm mounts have been razed off to provide space for the 61⁄2-inch Rusty’s long arm suspension. Out back, a spring-over conversion and lift shackles provide the elevation and the shortbed truck still rolls on its factory 113-inch wheelbase.
Describing the rollcage might fit better in the “body and interior” section of this story, but the fact is that this ’cage is the only way to keep the Unitbody in one piece over time. The ’cage is made by The Rock Shop, and by tying the rear mounts of the leaf springs into the ’cage, which is then tied back into the front section of the Unitbody, Underwood has ensured this truck will last a long time.
Underwood didn’t mess with the powertrain of the truck much. Under the hood still lies the 4.0L Renix-injected inline-six, which breathes a bit easier thanks to a Flowmaster muffler. At the time of the photoshoot, the truck still had the troublesome closed cooling system and C101 bulkhead connector harness. Backing the engine up is the factory AW4 transmission and NP231 T-case. Out back, a Jeep Dana 44 was stuffed with 4.88 gears and an ARB Air Locker. Up front, a Dana 44 was swapped in along with 4.88 gears and another ARB Air Locker. The gears help spin the big 37x12.50R17 Goodyear MT/Rs wrapped around Walker Evans beadlocks.
Body and Interior
The first thing you notice about this truck is the bob-job bed. Not because it is a hack-job, mind you. Unlike a lot of bed bobs we’ve seen, the 8 inches pulled out of the rear of this truck was done cleanly and makes for a great departure angle. The fenders were trimmed away until they cleared the tires and then the lower corner of the bed was tied back into the Unitbody to keep it from flopping in the wind.
The PRP seats are mounted to the ’cage, which is a halo-style design and drops through the dash on its way to the floor. The carpet was tossed and there are tubes where the headliner fabric used to be, but otherwise the interior was left in all its disco-remnant blue glory. The bed-mounted tire carrier had yet to be completed when we saw the truck, but the location of the spare in the photos is right about where John plans on mounting it.
Good, Bad, and What It’s For
The bobbed bed takes care of one of the big drawbacks of wheeling a Comanche, and that is the rear overhang. A stock-bodied MJ almost always smashes its ass-end coming off of obstacles. The ’cage should prevent this truck from folding like a taco over time. Even with the relative light weight of the truck, we can’t help but wonder how long the Dana 44s are going to hang in with those 37-inch tires.
Vehicle: 1987 Jeep Comanche
Engine: 1987 4.0L inline-six
Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: Rusty’s long-arm (front), spring-over leaf spring conversion (rear)
Axles: Dana 44 (front), Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: 17x9 Walker Evans beadlock
Tires: 37x12.50R17 Goodyear MT/R
Built For: Wheeling
Why I Featured It
Anyone who has been reading this magazine for any time knows that I’ve got a soft spot for Comanches. Underwood has built his into the wheeling machine mine will probably never be. From the bob to the ’cage to the fender-trimming, this thing just does great off-road. Once he finishes it, it will be ready to tackle just about any trail he wants.