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1982 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler: Big-Time

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2012
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Photographers: John Cappa

There we were, cleaning out former Jp Editor John Cappa’s office. Amongst the toenail clippings, jars of formaldehyde-soaked amphibians, and the entire Meatballs movie quadrilogy on Betamax, we came across the tech sheet and photos of Brian Boyd’s ’82 Scrambler. Unlike the toenail clippings, we were stoked about the feature, which Cappa shot during his last month at Jp during a trail ride in Cowan, Tennessee. Check out the story “Southern Spin,” (Oct ’11) for more info on the trails.

Brian’s Scrambler typifies most of the characteristics we expect to see in a vehicle built to tackle the snot-slick trails of the Southeast: big tires, big axles, big power, and big wheelbase. For southern wheeling, you gotta pick your line and stay committed no matter how gnarly the action gets, ’cause the mud-covered rocks won’t give you a second chance to back down and try again. Starting to bounce? Stay in the throttle? Getting pitched sideways? Stay in the throttle. Front tires four-feet off the ground? Stay in the throttle. You just gotta build the rest of the Jeep to cope with the violence and resist rolling over backwards. Hence the heavy stuff, like Rockwell axles, 44-inch tires, and longer wheelbases. We mean, when was the last time you saw anybody stretching the wheelbase of a Scrambler? Yeah, we thought so.

Brian took a perfectly clean, collectible Scrambler and did this to it. Yep, in a lot of ways he made it better. At least for what he wanted to do with the Jeep, which was take his family out on the local trails without having to worry about breakage. First, we’ll start with the factory frame, which is somewhere else. We don’t know where, because Brian ditched it to build his own out of 2x4-inch, 0.188-wall rectangular tubing.

Once the rails were laid out, Brian got to work building his own front and rear triangulated four-link with high ground clearance in mind. Since there are a lot of big ledges to climb in the terrain Brian frequents, the rear lower control arms were designed for maximum rear tire approach angle coming into ledges. The rear lower control arms are fabricated out of multiple pieces 1¾-inch, 0.188-wall tubing and the rear uppers are 2-inch, 0.250-wall. Up front, both the upper and lower control arms are 2-inch, 0.250-wall DOM; Currie 2.5-inch Johnny Joints are used at each end of all the control arms.

After the control arms that stretch the wheelbase out to 135 inches were wrapped up, Brian got to work building the mounts for his 14-inch-travel ORI ST struts. The ORI struts allowed Brian to forgo coil or coilover springs and have lots of high-tech features like internal bumpstops, adjustable rebound damping, and very lightweight construction. Despite the internal bumpstops, Brian mounted a quartet of Fox hydraulic bumpstops (3-inch-travel in the front and 2-inch-travel in the rear) because lots of time, and those ORI struts ain’t cheap.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room—or in this case, the pair of elephants. A couple 2.5-ton Rockwell steering axles from mid-’80s military M35A2 trucks were sourced and the double-reduction centersections stuffed with Detroit Lockers. You can probably tell by the wide stance that the hubs are flipped out. While the axles were apart, Brian chopped the “bowls” off the bottoms of the housings and welded in a “Mohawk.” In case you’re not up on your Rockwell terminology, what we mean is that he shaved the bottom of the housings nearly flat with the exception of the bull gear protrusion. The 6.72 gears and axleshafts were left stock, but the gargantuan drum brakes were pitched for some custom pinion brakes. For the rotors, Brian used cross-drilled parts from the rear of an ’87 Mazda B2000 pickup truck that were fitted to the yoke with some custom machining. Then, he hung some ’89 Toyota Tacoma calipers on some custom mounts. Pinion brakes have the advantage of multiplying the braking power by the ratio of the axle gearing, so as long as both axleshafts don’t bust in the front or rear, Brian has 6.72:1 times better clamping per caliper than a stock Toyota pickup. Additionally, Brian runs a custom Wilwood master cylinder setup that allows him the ability to run only the rear brakes (for cutting turns we presume), or both the front and rear brakes at the same time.

Moving up from the axles, Brian built himself a pair of super-heavy-duty 1410 driveshafts. The rear runs 3-inch, 0.188-wall tubing and the front has an extra-long slip spline and custom end yokes. The shafts connect to an Atlas II T-case with a 3.0:1 low range and a TH400 transmission was built to withstand hardcore assaults with beefed internals, a Transgo shift kit, a 2,200 rpm TCI stall converter, and a B&M pan for an extra 2-quart capacity. A B&M Hi-Tek tranny cooler keeps it from roasting itself in the rocks.

Finally, the money shot is the Chevy 350 engine that’s been warmed over with a slurry of parts from Edelbrock. For starters, the ’77 350 block was dropped off at Huntsville Engine in Huntsville, Alabama, and was punched 0.030-over and honed to the exact specs of the file-fit Total Seal rings loaded on the SRP forged pistons. The 10:1 slugs were hung on Eagle 4340 chromoly rods and balanced to the forged crank. That, folks, is a lot of money, but it’s also an anvil-durable rotating assembly that’ll survive blasts to 8,000 rpm if Brian wants. An Edelbrock Performer RPM camshaft delivers a respectable 234/244 degrees duration @ 0.050 and 0.488/0.510 lift that tickles the valves inside aluminum cylinder heads. Brian didn’t list what brand the heads were, but considering the Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, Edelbrock 1,000 cfm Pro Flow fuel-injection system, and Edebrock cam, we’d put money on the heads being Edelbrock Performer RPM units. A 7-quart oil pan with a windage tray, crankshaft scraper, and trap door keeps the rotating parts lubricated at angles and helps cut parasitic power losses from the crankshaft whipping oil in the sump. Brian didn’t hazard a horsepower guess, but based on our engine building experience, we’d wager output is very close to 450hp, and probably 425 lb-ft. To get the spent gasses out the back end, Brian fabbed up his own headers using 15⁄8-inch tubing and then sent it out a homemade 2.5-inch dual exhaust system.

Body and Interior
Yes, between the YJ front clip, ginormous tire size, and uber-long wheelbase you can hardly tell it is a Scrambler anymore. We like YJs, and Brian needs all that wheelbase. Let’s move on. The custom diamond-plate dash houses a mixture of Auto Meter Phantom Series gauges that are easily viewed from the PRP suspension seats. A bench seat is in the rear for Brian’s daughter and waterproof covers protect the foam. Don’t forget this is a family vehicle. The interface for the Edelbrock fuel-injection system is housed in the dash right where the stereo would normally be, and a Speedway steering wheel tells the orbital valve on the fully hydraulic steering which way to turn the wheels. The rear steer is controlled via a little joystick mounted between the front seats, and single-ended PSC rams front and rear throw the big tires to and fro.

The cage, if you can call it that, is really almost more an extension of the frame. The tubing is a mixture of 2- and 1¾-inch, 0.120-wall tubing. The same can be said of the front and rear fenders, which are tied into the rocker protection and look like they’ll shrug off major rock and tree hits with ease. The paint? Black on the cage and red on the body. Thanks for asking.

Speaking of the body, Brian used part of the original tailgate to obscure the view of the custom 24-gallon aluminum fuel tank that rides behind the rear seat. The firewall and tranny tunnel were custom-built by (you guessed it) Brian, and the hood is Lexan.

Good, Bad, and What It’s For
Rounding out all the other little feature vehicle trivia, you’ll find a Warn 8000lb winch on the front bumper, onboard air, the tranny and undercarriage skidplating is ½-inch-thick UHMW (cutting board plastic), and the super-cool rolling stock is custom-cut 18.5/44-15 tires on 15x10 MRW aluminum beadlocks with 7.5-inch backspacing. It’s big and it makes a statement, but that’s not to say it’s completely finished. Brian says he’d like it to sit a bit lower and would like the rear seating to be a bit more accommodating for humans that aren’t children. Also, the lack of a stereo seems to bug him, but we guess that built 355-cube V-8 makes sweeter music than anything you’ll download on iTunes.

Why I Featured It
I liked that Brian is meticulous, and he builds everything he can in his very own garage with a surprisingly limited number of tools. All of the suspension brackets are hand-cut with a gas torch, not a plasma cutter, and ground to shape. He used what he knows works and keeps things relatively simple to avoid overly complex problems on the trail. The fact that his 10-year-old daughter, Ryleigh, can drive the Jeep by herself over some pretty formidable obstacles is testament that it works, and works well. In my book, it doesn’t get much better than home-built functionality that has clean lines.
—John Cappa

Hard Facts
Vehicle: 1982 CJ-8 Scrambler
Engine: Chevy 350 V-8
Transmission: TH400 automatic
Transfer Case: Atlas II
Suspension: Custom triangulated four-link with ORI struts (front & rear)
Axles: Rockwell 2.5-ton (front & rear)
Wheels: 15x10 MRW beadlock
Tires: 18.5/44-15 Interco TSL

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