The Jp Project Jeeps: Before-And-After Staff BuildsPosted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2012
It’s one of the numerous things that separates Jp magazine from the others. Unlike many of the project rigs built by our sister publications, we don’t do buildups for industry shows or one-time trail rides. Really, who in their right mind takes the torch to a brand-new $50,000 truck adds another $50,000 in parts and labor onto it, and then destroys it on the trail? Not you, that’s who! Which is why many of Jp’s staff-owned, staff-driven, staff-wheeled projects resonate so loudly with you readers.
Do you have a favorite Jp magazine project Jeep? Was it Hazel’s roached ’68 J2000 or Trasborg’s cute wittle ’67 Jeepster? Or maybe you’re a new reader and didn’t realize the staff has built so many Jeeps in the past ten years that we can’t fit them all in this story—or include any of those built by former Editor, John Cappa. For no other reason than “Why not?”, here’s a rundown of some of our former and current staff-owned project rigs from the past decade.
Hazel bought the skunked ’97 for cheap with a blown rear axle. After scoring a replacement rear for $50, he used it as a daily driver while it was built into a mild-mannered weekend warrior and long-range cruiser. When the factory 32RH got unhappy it was replaced with a TCI-built TH700R4 and the NV231 swallowed a TeraFlex Extreme Short Shaft kit. A pair of CV shafts from Tom Wood turned the mix on a pair of G2-prepped TJ Rubicon axles. Other than the Pro Comp 2-inch coil lift and MX-6 shocks, exterior niceties included Kilby Trail Boss rockers and a front bumper to hold the Superwinch EP 9.0 winch and a M.O.R.E. rear bumper with tire carrier. A two-piece Bestop hardtop covered the Mastercraft Baja RS seats. The thing got 17 mpg and was reliable as a hammer.
Vehicle: ’97 Jeep Wrangler Sport
Engine: 4.0L w/ Edge Trail Jammer system
Transmission: GM TH700R4
Axles: TJ Rubicon Dana 44 (front and rear)
Suspension: 2-inch Pro Comp w/ JKS upper & lower control arms (front and rear)
Wheels: 16x8 TJ Rubicon Moab
Tires: 265/75R16 BFG A-T
Other: 4.56 gears, ARB Air Lockers (front and rear); 30-spline G2 alloy shafts (front); 33-spline G2 alloy shafts (rear); Currie Currectlync steering; Novak aluminum radiator; Advance Adapters CPS relocation kit; Lokar shifter.
Best Mod: BFG A-T tires & Rubicon wheels
Worst Mod: TH700R4 – converter stall too low and tranny sapped perceived power.
Project Big Mini (aka YJ on 40s)
Originally destined to replace Trasborg’s other YJ, it soon became a project all its own. Fitting a TJ top led to squeezing 40-inch tires under the sheetmetal, which morphed into a V-8 swap performed in our office underground parking garage. Pretty soon, he did a paint job in a weekend in the garage using all mail order Summit Racing paint and equipment and then we slung a 4L60E and four-speed Atlas under it on custom homemade mounts in the driveway. Once it’s finished, this Jeep is going to be a driver, not a trailer queen—able to drive to just about any trail, run the trail, and drive back home afterwards.
Vehicle: ’93 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: GM 350ci LT-1 V-8
Transmission: Level 10-built 4L60E
T-case: Four-speed Atlas
Axles: Dana 44 (front); Ford 9 inch (rear)
Suspension: Homemade custom junkyard spring-under leaf packs with M.O.R.E. front shackle reversal and boomerang shackles
Wheels: 17x9 Trailready HD17 beadlock
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R
Other: 5.13 gears, Trutracs (front and rear); TJ half doors; TJ factory ’cage; custom dash; custom center console; CJ tailgate; full size spare on GenRight tire carrier; GenRight Off Road Hi-Tube fenders (front and rear), rocker guards; Painless Performance wiring harness.
Best Mod: 40-inch tires
Worst Mod: LT-1 – many stop-gap oddities between Gen 0/Gen I small-block and modern Gen III/Gen IV engines.
Future Plans: Finish the interior with a full ’cage and seats, wire it, wider axles under it for those 40s, and wheel it.
Project Mini (aka Wrecking Yard YJ, aka Turbo YJ)
Trasborg got it in 2002, way before joining the Jp magazine crew. He drove it cross-country to California when hired by Jp, and it has been around ever since. Article highlights include a multi-day body mount replacement, a beginner’s how-to install with Poison Spyder Ricochet Rockers, and an at-home engine swap. Trasborg replaced all the factory gauges with Auto Meter units in Auto Meter gauge pods, swapped home-built junkyard axles under it, and showed you how to put a CJ-7 tailgate on it. He even showed you how to get six-cylinder power out of the 2.5L four-cylinder with a 505 Performance bolt-on turbo kit.
Vehicle: ’94 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: 2.5L w/ 505 Performance turbo
Axles: Dana 30 (front), Dana 35 (rear)
Suspension: Homemade custom junkyard spring-under leaf packs with M.O.R.E. front shackle reversal Wheels: 15x8 Mickey Thompson Classic
Tires: 31x10.50R15 Goodyear MT/R with Kevlar
Other: Factory 4.10 gears, open diffs (front and rear); Custom home-built tubular front fenders and front bumper; GenRight Off-Road rear tubular flares and short corners; 33 Engineering aluminum belly pan/skidplate; Ford Taurus two-speed electronic fan; Auto Meter Phantom gauges in custom flat dash; Bestop Sailcloth Replace-A-Top and sound bar.
Best Mod: 505 Performance turbocharger
Worst Mod: Going to 33-inch tires – sapped power.
Future Plans: Drive it
Trasborg got this M-715 in 2000 and since he had no garage of his own, it promptly took up every inch of his mom’s garage for the next four years. Only after a job interview with Jp did he get motivated to get it on the road. You first saw it appear in a how-to swap a cheap overdrive transmission into your fullsize Jeep article. Then, Trasborg thought if he took 70 days and nights he’d be able to take this truck that hadn’t moved under its own power in 20-something years and drive it across country to the new job. That didn’t happen, so he ended up shipping it, and you’ve since seen the truck in lots of overheating and electrical columns, as well as one ill-fated road trip, and an axle swap story that seemingly never ends.
Vehicle: ’67 Kaiser M-715
Engine: Tall-deck GM 366ci big-block V-8
Transmission: Spicer 3053A
T-case: Divorced Dodge NP205
Axles: Dana 60 (front); Dana 70 (rear)
Suspension: Stock leaf springs (front and rear)
Wheels: Factory 16x6 military split-ring
Tires: 38x13.00-16 Super Swamper TSL
Other: Factory 5.87 gears, open diffs (front and rear); BJ’s Off-Road lift shackles (front); ammo case seat mounts; S-10 Blazer seats; Auto Meter gauges; dual underhood batteries with Painless Wiring kit; custom heavy-duty front bumper; Hazel-modified tail lights (broken); PSC power steering with big-diameter box; Vanco hydroboost power brake system.
Best Mod: Vanco hydroboost – the truck is called Moses because the brakes were horrible when purchased and upon failure to stop once, all the little Jeeps were parted like Moses did with the Red Sea. The hydroboost fixed that (and then some).
Worst Mod: 366ci tall-deck big-block – the engine was intended as a placeholder for a 427ci engine, but the 366 is heavy, has cooling issues, and poor parts availability.
Future Plans: Some kind of engine swap: maybe diesel or LS V-8.
Project Mileage Master
Right when fuel skyrocketed in price, Trasborg picked up a smashed ’98 Cherokee for $1,000. The goal was off-road capability with no on-road mileage penalty. As fuel prices started dropping again, maximizing mileage wasn’t as important as it once was so he moved on to making the daily driver more of an off-road machine while not losing any on-road manners. He’s up-armored it and put bigger tires on it while keeping it low to the ground, and it isn’t even close to done yet.
Vehicle: ’98 Jeep Cherokee
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Suspension: Rubicon Express 3-inch coils (front); homemade junkyard custom leaf pack (rear)
Wheels: 15x8 MB Wheels, Model 72
Tires: 33x12.50R15 Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac
Other: Factory 3.55 gears, open diffs (front and rear); GenRight Off-Road rockers and 25-gallon tank; T&T Customs Unitbody stiffeners, belly pan skidplate, rear truss, and U-bolt eliminators; Iceland Offroad flares; M.O.R.E. rear bumper/tire carrier; JCR Off-Road corner armor with tail lights; WJ leather seats; Warn hub conversion kit; Currie Currectlync steering; Wilson Electronics cell phone range extender.
Best Mod: Iceland Offroad flares
Worst Mod: Iceland Offroad flares – seems like every time we wheel it hard we pop at least one of the mounting bolts off the flare.
Future Plans: Gearing, locker(s), aftermarket front bumper, and ’cage it so it doesn’t crack to pieces.
Project Scrambled (aka Cross-Country Swap Meet)
Trasborg has always wanted a Scrambler, but the prices are ridiculous. So when this one popped up in Kentucky and the owner was willing to trade it for a Warn 8274 winch, the cross-country drive seemed a small price to pay. It was really more of a rusted body and frame with a title, but Trasborg organized a crazy 8,000-mile, 14-day, cross-the-country-twice trip to pick up the Jeep, cover several events, and swap parts like a madman to hopefully come home with a complete Jeep. After swapping basically everything out except the axles and the Swiss-cheese frame he dragged it back to California. He is still planning a resto-mod type of build where the Jeep looks stock, but is anything but stock under the skin.
Vehicle: ’81 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler
Engine: 258ci inline-six
T-case: Dana 300
Axles: Dana 30 (front); AMC-20 (rear)
Suspension: Unknown aftermarket leaf-spring lift (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x10 Chrome steel
Tires: 33x12.50R15 Wild Country Radial RVT
Other: Unknown gears, open diffs (front and rear); NOS front fenders and grille; clean rust-free take-off hood; rust-free original take-off tub; factory half top and bulkhead; YJ Wrangler full and half doors; YJ Wrangler windshield frame; TJ seats.
Best Mod: Solid factory tub
Worst Mod: Bolting solid tub to Swiss-cheese frame
Future Plans: Get a solid frame, possibly do four-link and coils while keeping it close to stock height on 33s. Put the Insane Inline II under the hood and take it drag racing. Reapply the gaudy ’80s pinstriping.
Project Fire Truck
After the ’88 Comanche ordeal, Trasborg’s mission was to find a ’91 or ’92 Comanche with the HO fuel injection and more standardized parts. He ended up with this 2WD truck just in time for Jp magazine’s Sh!%box Derby. After losing the Derby, he then converted it to 4WD, tossed a Mopar 4.7L stroker engine in it, and wheeled it all over the Southwest. He’s tired of welding cracks in the body from too much flexing off-road. It needs a ’cage and the stock front and rear bumpers and lack of rocker protection need addressing. But for now, it’s a good test mule and parts-getter.
Vehicle: ’91 Jeep Comanche Eliminator
Engine: 4.7L inline-six
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Suspension: 41⁄2-inch-lift Rubicon Express coils with 2-inch spacers (front); spring-over rear with stock springs and T&T Customs truss and 11⁄2-inch U-bolt eliminators (rear)
Wheels: 16x8 Wrangler Rubicon Moab
Tires: 265/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler Silent Armor
Other: 4.56 gears, Truetrac (front); spool (rear); Crane differential covers; Novak aluminum radiator; mandrel-bent 21⁄2-inch exhaust; 505 Performance roller rockers; Painless Performance 68mm throttle body; THOR off road intake; custom bedside tire carrier; IBS dual battery kit; Eagle Eye HID driving lights; Al’s Liner DIY bedliner; ARB dual-piston high-output compressor .
Best Mod: Mopar stroker engine
Worst Mod: Spring-over rear – too much axlewrap in the rear off-road.
Future Plans: Bumpers, rocker guards, and a ’cage. Time to bring the rest of the truck up to the level of the drivetrain.
Project Red Truck
Like all of Trasborg’s projects, this ’88 Comanche was cheap. At $500, it was half-disassembled and 2WD, but that didn’t faze him. It was brought back to life with a lot of trial, error, and elbow grease. It was lifted and set on 33s. Later came a long-arm front suspension and Alcan custom spring-under rear leafs and 35s. A leaky injector sparked an underhood fire that killed the wiring and lots of the Renix-specific plastic parts. A ’97 Cherokee was procured as a donor and the MJ is currently awaiting installation of the H.O. XJ parts to bring it back to life.
Vehicle: ’88 Jeep Comanche Eliminator
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transmission: Peugot BA10/5
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Suspension: 61⁄2 inches total (front); 61⁄2-inch Alcan springs (rear)
Wheels: 16x8 ProComp 7023
Tires: 315/75R16 ProComp Xtreme AT
Other: 4.56 gears, Truetrac (front); Detroit Locker (rear); T&T Customs Y-link front suspension; Fabtech 2.0 remote reservoir shocks; in-bed Fabtech spare tire mount; $100 at-home paintjob; CurrectLync steering.
Best Mod: T&T Customs Y-link long-arm
Worst Mod: Car-B-Que – It wasn’t until after the fire that everyone said, “Oh, didn’t you know about the leaky injector problem?” Well, obviously we didn’t, or the truck wouldn’t have burned.
Future Plans: Reassemble it with the ’97 Cherokee parts and make it a ’97 Cherokee Sport Truck.
Project Jeepster Resurrection
The Jeepster had sat and rusted near the ocean for almost 10 years. Trasborg bought it with a busted-out driver-side window, a 1-inch-deep pile of rat turds inside, and worse—then tried to get it ready for Moab Easter Jeep Safari in about five weeks. He thrashed to replace the floor, body mounts, brakes, brake master cylinder, and all the fluids. Then welded the gas tank back into one piece and built a skidplate for it, bent a rollcage, and did lots of tuning and tweaking to the engine. Ultimately, it came back from Moab on a trailer. He’s still working out the bugs on this one to put it reliably back on the road.
Vehicle: ’68 Jeepster Commando
Engine: Buick 225ci odd-fire V-6
T-case: Dana 20
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Suspension: Unknown-brand multi-leaf spring packs (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x8 Centerline Hellcat
Tires: 32x11.50R15 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar
Other: 3.73 gears, open diff (front); Yukon Spartan lunchbox locker (rear); swapped-in CJ-5 Dana 44 (rear); JB Custom Fabrication twin-stick T-case conversion; DUI distributor; HID headlight conversion; custom trailer hitch for recovery and rear bumper protection; custom front tow hook mounts; Greg’s 4WD Extreme soft top.
Best Mod: Rear Yukon Spartan locker
Worst Mod: Custom rollbar – while it clears the front seat passengers even with the relocated seats, it interferes with every top we’ve had on the Jeep.
Future Plans: Retro goodness with period-correct winch, new rat-turd-free shag carpet, a new radiator, some ’70s-era driving lights and maybe a tranny and front axle swap.
Hazel bought the ’53 DJ-3A back in 2000 and subsequently learned it was actually one of roughly three DJ prototypes built on a CJ-3B blank chassis in Toledo. Willys started official DJ production for the 1955 model year. He pulled many of the Willys-built, VJ-esque trim pieces off and gave them to former Jp Editor Rick Péwé … who lost them. The buildup took one year and was completed entirely in Hazel’s garage. The original build used a Spicer 18 and genie Warn Overdrive, but was swapped to a more-hardcore Dana 300. However, the flattie will soon be going back to its original build configuration with a new Spicer 18 and ATV Mfg Overdrive.
Vehicle: 1953 DJ-3A
Engine: GM 3.5L DOHC LX5 “Shortstar”
T-case: Dana 300
Axles: Currie Ford 9-inch (front and rear)
Suspension: Factory YJ spring-over (front); 4.5-inch Rubicon Express YJ spring-under (rear)
Wheels: 15x10 American Racing; OMF beadlock
Tires: 35x13.50R15 BFG Krawler T/A KX
Other: 5.38 gears, Detroit Locker, 35-spline shafts (front); spool, 35-spline shafts, True Hi9 centersection (rear); 32-spline T-case output shafts; Centerforce Dual Friction clutch; Wilwood remote-reservoir brakes; Wilwood four-piston calipers (front), GM ½-ton calipers (rear); Colorado Customs billet steering wheel; Mastercraft seats; 15-gallon fuel cell; Ramsey Pro 9500 winch; Optima Blue Top battery; Powermaster onboard welder; 5lb Power Tank; fully boxed frame.
Best Mod: Cage build tied to frame at eight points
Worst Mod: Dana 300 – miss the Warn Overdrive of the original build
Future Plans: Spicer 18 with ATV Mfg. Overdrive; offset rear housing for freeway use.
It started with a free CJ-5 given to Hazel that had a good drivetrain, but a totaled body and frame. Then he found an ad for a ’71 CJ-6 for $800 and jumped on it. Inspired by the John Wayne cult classic movie, Hatari!, the body of the heavily patina’d CJ-6 was left alone as the rest of the vehicle was turned into a rolling, wheeling workshop that retained almost all of the stock components. Project Hatari! served as a daily driver, off-road warrior, and field fix-it rig for years before being sent to its new owner, who dismantled it for a new tub and shiny paintjob. Last we heard, it was still in pieces in the new owner’s barn.
Vehicle: ’71 Jeep CJ-6
Engine: Buick 225ci odd-fire V-6
Transmission: NV3550 (swapped with Advance Adapters components)
T-case: Spicer 18
Axles: Dana 27 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Suspension: Stock replacement HD spring packs (front and rear)
Wheels: Stock 15x6 steel
Tires: 31x10.50R15 Treadwright retread
Other: 4.88 gears, open diff (front); TeraFlex T-Locker (rear); Premier Power welder; electric onboard air compressor/tank; Bestop front seats; Advance Adapters NV3550 conversion; home-built cage; Poison Spyder Customs (one-off) rocker guards; Cross Enterprises rear bumper; Warn SDP 6000 winch; Fiero radiator; Saginaw power steering conversion.
Best Mod: NV3550
Worst Mod: Fenderwell headers … or actually selling it.
We called Jp’s ’99 Cherokee “Project JR” because it was the badass from Dallas. Plus, it had a “Ewing” dealership badge on the tailgate. Google it, ya damn kids. After coming to California from Collins Bros Jeep in Wylie, Texas, Project JR was turned into an alter-ego desert prerunner that didn’t shirk daily driver duties. Indeed, we racked up over 60,000 miles under its long-arm suspension and swapped-in Currie 9-inch rear. Eventually, we updated the suspension, tires, and other components in our “Project JR 2.0” series, but here’s the original build from 2004.
Vehicle: ’99 Jeep Cherokee Sport
Engine: 4.6L stroker
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Currie 9-inch (rear)
Suspension: 6-inch Full-Traction long-arm system
Wheels: 15x8 American Racing Diamond Back
Tires: 33x10.50R15 BFG Baja T/A
Other: 4.88 gears, open diff (front); Truetrac limited slip (rear); Bilstein 5150 shocks; T&J Unitbody stiffeners; Daystar Four Real Steel bumpmers (front and rear); Currie Currectlync steering; Golen 4.6L stroker; N2O nitrous oxide system; Gibson header and after-cat exhaust; K&N FIPK; PIAA dual-beam lights.
Best Mod: K&N FIPK, Gibson header and after-cat exhaust
Worst Mod: Stoker engine
Project Evil Truck
We can’t remember if the reader contacted Hazel or he found the ad online, but the short story is he drove to Boise, Idaho, to bring back a ’68 M-715 that had the original axles, transmission, and not much else. Hazel tried to get the truck in running shape to make a trip to Ouray, Colorado (see “28 Days to Failure,” Nov. ’06), but after battling for four solid weeks in triple-digit temps, the M-715 won the war and earned itself the moniker “The Evil Truck.” What followed was a project that increased on-road drivability and off-road performance while without compromising the Spartan military character of the truck.
Vehicle: ’68 Kaiser M-715
Engine: GM 350ci V-8
Transmission: Ranger Over/Underdrive; SM465
T-case: 3.0:1 Atlas
Axles: Dana 60 (front); Dana 70 (rear)
Suspension: Stock spring-under (front); stock spring-over (rear)
Wheels: Stock 16x6 military split-ring
Tires: 38x13.00-16 Interco Super Swamper
Other: Stock 5.87 gears, open diff (front); Detroit Locker (rear); home-built cage (front and rear); Corbeau seating for six adults with two Empi child seats; Auto Meter gauges; Flex-A-Lite electric fan; Chevy conversion radiator for CJ-7; Premier Power welder; Optima Blue Top battery; Ford wheel cylinder conversion with factory drum brakes; Beachwood Canvas top; engine later modified to 390hp/400lb-ft with Vortec heads, Lunati camshaft, and a Powerjection III fuel-injection system.
Best Mod: Corbeau seating and cage.
Worst Mod: Retaining factory 1¼-ton rear springs.
Just around the same time Hazel’s F-250 tow rig committed suicide on Wilshire Blvd, a reader offered to sell him his ’68 J2000 pickup for $800. In need of a hauler for greasy Jeep parts, Hazel scarfed up the Kaiser. It was in dire need of repairs, including the brakes, front axle kingpins, clutch throwout bearing, and the engine barely made oil pressure. But the original 232 engine wouldn’t die. Eventually, the stock suspension was axed, some larger 33s installed, and the factory drum-brake, 4.27-geared Dana 44 axles were swapped for a Dodge Dana 44 front and later-model J-truck rear with 4.56 gears and limited slips. The drivetrain was updated in the name of reliability and the interior freshened to create what we wanted to see Jeep build if it were still building J-trucks in 2008: a reliable, economical vintage hauler.
Vehicle: ’68 Kaiser J2000
Engine: ’92 Cherokee 4.0L
T-case: ’84 Dodge NP208
Axles: ’83 Dodge Dana 44 (front); ’73 J2000 Dana 44 (rear)
Suspension: Hell Creek Suspension 4-inch springs (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x8 Eaton simulated beadlock
Tires: 33x12.50R15 Pro Comp AT
Other: 4.56 gears, Truetracs (front and rear); Parts Mike crossover steering arm; Hotwire Auto 4.0L wiring harness; HESCO external fuel pump and regulator; Edelbrock header; Turbo City air intake; Smittybilt vinyl bucket seats and console; Auto Meter gauges; Optima Blue Top battery; BJ’s Off-Road carpet and sliding rear window. Best Mod: Hell Creek Suspension
Worst Mod: Dodge NP208 bought on Internet turned out to have cracked case.
Everybody has to start somewhere. For Hazel, his first Wrangler wound up being this ’95 he bought from some chick for almost four grand. She didn’t tell him the bank still owned the title, so what should’ve been a quick transaction turned into a huge day-long wait at the DMV. Still, he got the Wrangler and promptly went about rebuilding it into a trail-worthy vehicle with (as it turned out) some serious compromises. In the end, the new Bestop interior and replacement top and the Superlift suspension were flawless, but the choice to replace the stock Dana 35 rear axle with the factory Chrysler 8.25 from Project JR bit Hazel in the rear since at the time 4.56 was as low as you can go in an 8.25. The 2.5L really needed 4.88s or 5.13s to be truly happy. It looked good, but was undergeared and still something a chick would drive, so he called it his “Girl Jeep,” or GJ.
Vehicle: ’95 Jeep Wrangler
Axles: Dana 30 (front); ’99 Cherokee Chrysler 8.25 (rear)
Suspension: Superlift 3.5-inch spring-under suspension (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x8 Weld Racing Stonecrusher
Tires: 33x12.50R15 Firestone Destination MT
Other: 4.56 gears, Truetrac (front); Auburn limited slip (rear); Truckmaster Design aluminum bumpers (front and rear); Poison Spyder Customs aluminum rocker armor; Bestop Supertop and replacement front and rear seats; Grant steering wheel; Poison Spyder Customs weld-in rollcage; AEM Brute Force air intake; Banks header and after-cat exhaust; Flex-A-Lite electric fan; 58mm 4.0L throttle body.
Best Mod: Bestop Supertop
Worst Mod: Chrysler 8.25 rear axle (should’ve done 5.13s in an Isuzu Dana 44 and matched bolt pattern to the front with new knuckles and hubs).
Project Comman D’oh
Craigslist is an evil thing, as the purchase of this $300 C-104 Commando in incredibly poor shape proves. Hazel thinks they’re the ugliest Jeeps in the world, so he didn’t plan on keeping this one: just parting it out. But after having it around the house for a while, he grew kinda fond of it—like that movie villain you love to hate. Hazel tossed some used YJ buckets in the interior, installed a new radiator, motor mounts, freeze plugs, and rebuild the Motorcraft 2100 carb on the original 304. The TH400 and Dana 20 were toast, so they were rebuilt. He fabbed up some new spring mounts for the front using Rancho RS44044 springs hung spring-under with a shackle-reversal setup, and welded the diff in the rear Dana 44 before using the Comman D’oh to win Jp’s Sh!%box Derby.
Vehicle: ’73 Jeep C-104 Commando
Engine: 304ci V-8
T-case: Dana 20
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear)
Suspension: Rancho RS44044 Wagoneer springs on shackle-reversal setup (front); stock spring-under with add-a-leaf (rear)
Wheels: 15x8 American Racing Diamond Lock (off Project JR)
Tires: 33x10.50R15 BFG Baja T/A (off Project JR)
Other: Stock 3.73 gears, open diff (front); welded diff (rear); B&M shifter; ’89 YJ buckets on custom mounts; Auto Meter gauges; Optima Blue Top battery; GM one-wire alternator; BTR heavy-duty radiator; Spidertrax wheel spacers; olive-drab spray paint.
Best Mod: Front suspension build
Worst Mod: Rebuilding the TH400 instead of swapping in a manual
The chick selling the Jeep didn’t know why it stopped shifting one day and just parked it. Hazel answered the ad and offered her half the $1,000 asking price, which was accepted. After trailering the Jeep home, Hazel filled and bled the clutch master cylinder, tossed a new battery and some fuel in it, and started driving his new Jeep. The Bestop sliding upper windows were sold, bringing the total purchase price down to $300. The Why-J Wrangler has been seen in numerous stories, including an on-the-cheap interior revamp, Quadratec aluminum rocker armor, homemade fuel tank skidplating on the cheap, Dana 30/Dana 35 upgrades, GenRight rollcage install, and more. It isn’t going anywhere soon.
Vehicle: ’89 Jeep Wrangler
Transmission: AX15 (swapped with Advance Adapters components)
Axles: Dana 30 (front); Dana 35 (rear)
Suspension: 2.5-inch Rubicon Express spring-under system (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x8 Summit Racing Series 50/51
Tires: 31x11.50-15 Interco Super Swamper LTB
Other: 4.88 gears, Eaton ELockers, 30-spline alloy shafts (front and rear); Superior Dana 35 truss; Optima Blue Top battery; GenRight Off Road rollcage; Bestop Trailmax II vinyl seats; JB Conversions slip yoke eliminator; Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts CV shafts (front and rear); Warn Tabor winch.
Best Mod: ELockers and 4.88 gears
Worst Mod: Retaining internal throwout bearing during AX15 swap.
Future Plans: Add power steering and probably a GM Vortec V-6 swap.
Project Monkey Bus
Hazel really wanted a ZJ or XJ on which he could do a super-fast build and go wheeling, so instead he paid $500 for this ’78 Cherokee Chief that needed absolutely everything. You’ve only just begun to read about the upgrades to the Monkey Bus, but in addition to the BDS suspension and Mickey Thompson wheels and tires, Hazel has already rebuilt or replaced very nearly every stock component on this pig with the exception of the engine and transmission. So what’s next: huge axles, 1,000 horsepower, ice-cold A/C? Wait and see.
Vehicle: ’78 Jeep Cherokee Chief
Engine: 360ci V-8
T-case: Quadra-Trac BW1339
Axles: Dana 44 (front and rear)
Suspension: 4-inch BDS springs (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x8 Mickey Thompson Sidebiter
Tires: 33x12.50R15 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC
Other: Factory 3.31 gears, open diffs (front and rear); Rebuilt factory Motorcraft 2100 carb, brake system, Quadra-Trac, fuel system, front axleshafts, driveshafts; replaced factory water pump, brake master cylinder, fuel pump, fuel lines, rear window motor, dash switches; Z&M Jeeps full wiring harness; MTS fuel tank; Optima Blue Top battery; retro Sun tach
Best Mod: Z&M Jeeps wiring harness
Worst Mod: Keeping factory brake components
Future Plans: GMPP E-Rod 5.3L Gen IV engine, NV4500, T-case swap; gears and lockers; onboard air; and working A/C.