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Garth Scovill's '83 Scrambler

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 2001
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You don’t go about building your dream of the coolest Jeep ever with the ill-fated concept of a budget. This is wiener measuring; you can’t be caught dead with less. And that’s just what Garth Scovill of Littleton, Colorado, figured when putting together his ’83 Scrambler. But it didn’t begin that way. It started out innocent enough one day after work when Garth spotted a pristine Scrambler for sale on the side of the road, complete with a 151 four-cylinder puking oil out of every gasket and orifice. A quick test drive revealed that not only did the four-popper run poorly but its exhaust was sure to keep mosquitoes away. The original idea was to swap in a 4.0L six and be on his way. But after some rethinking, Garth realized an inline-six would never do, he needed a way bad Jeep. It only took 4 ½ hours to strip the Jeep down to the frame but 18 months for it to move under its own power again.

The first buildup resulted in a polished aluminum LS1 engine with chrome accessories, an NV4500 mated to an Atlas transfer case, and Dynatrac Dana 60s front and rear. The tires and wheels were made up of 36-inch Swampers on 15x10 steel bead locks. Garth quickly found out why ceramic clutches and rocks don’t go together. In less than a year he had broken 10 driveshafts. Two of which were at the same time in front of our cameras at the ’99 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. It was time to try again. The Jeep needed 44-inch tires, coil-over shocks, an automatic transmission, and wider axles. Avalanche Engineering only got part way through the buildup before Garth had them tear it down again to build what he really wanted. He decided to just let Avalanche build it and he’d stay out of the way. Anytime there was a decision to be made, they were told to take the more expensive route. And so they ended up with the Jeep you see here. We hooked up with Garth on the Jeep’s third time out on the trail, however, Garth certainly didn’t treat it like a new baby. Shoot, we even got a chance to get behind the wheel and test it out. Check out one of the coolest Jeeps ever and the sidebar on what it’s like to drive.


For the Scrambler’s current buildup the frame was whacked off just in front of the rear axle and replaced with tubing. What’s left of the ’83 frame has been reinforced with 3/16-inch steel plate on both sides. The wheelbase was extended to 115 inches and custom four-link suspensions were built for the front and rear using 2 ½-inch Sway-A-Way coilover shocks. The links are made from 2-inch 0.500-wall DOM tubing with monster-sized rod-ends. A huge ¼-inch-thick skidplate protects the middle and provides a smooth surface to slide over rocks. Steering is controlled by full hydraulics. Matching double-ended Avalanche Engineering rams are mounted to the axles front and rear. The front is guided by the steering wheel, of course, and the rear is controlled by a lever between the front seats. A Howe pump and remote reservoir feed the system.


One of the few components that remain from the first buildup is the polished aluminum ’98 Chevy 350 LS1 engine. All of the accessories were chromed and polished as well. From there, power blasts through a custom 900-rpm-stall converter and a TH400 with everything but the kitchen sink in it. The transfer case is what Avalanche calls an Atlas III because it has 32-spline outputs and 1480 yokes and U-joints. The low-range ratio in the Atlas is 3.8:1. The huge 4-inch 0.375-wall dent-proof driveshafts spin power to Avalanche Titan axles. These feature chrome-moly plate housings with 4-inch-diameter 0.500-wall chrome-moly axletubes that bolt on. The whole shebang was then powdercoated. The centersections were pulled from a 2 ½-ton military truck and stuffed with Detroit Lockers. The original 6.72 gears remain in service. The outers of both axles are F-450 components including the giant calipers, rotors, and bearing hubs. Inside are 300M 40-spline shafts with removable billet chrome-moly yokes. The 40-spline stub axles also feature removable yokes but they slide directly into the splined bearing hub. There are no locking hubs or drivers. The U-joints are huge 1510s.


Most of the body is still steel. The tub was armor-plated with sliders under the doors, Avalanche Crusher Corners protect the back half, and a cool wraparound rear-mounted skidder does bumper duty without sacrificing departure angle. The factory vent on the cowl was removed and welded up. Tim Tucker, the fabricator at Avalanche, is very proud that it was done so well that no one notices. But he still likes to have it noticed that no one notices. A ¼-inch-thick Lexan windshield is mounted directly to the cage. The rear wheelwells were fitted with tubing to keep the tires from getting cut up at full stuff and they act as bumpstops. The grille is one of the three original parts left and is protected by an Avalanche Stinger, but Garth likes to call it a boner bar. Either way it protects the fiberglass one-piece hood and fender combo as well as the rest of the front end in case of a rollover. Also up front and staying with the biggest-parts concept is a Warn 15,000-pound winch. The body was sprayed with the brightest red Garth could get his hands on, known as Very Red. This is the pigment you use when you want to mix a red paint.

Inside, the Jeep sports Corbeau Targa II seats and a custom Avalanche rollcage bent up out of 1 ¾-inch 0.120-wall DOM tubing. Auto Meter gauges and a Premier Power Welder reside in the custom Avalanche smoothed dash. A removable Grant steering wheel, a Mico Lock, and a Lokar tranny shifter make up the controls. Out back are a small rear seat and a huge custom aluminum gas tank. The rear wheelwells are open to allow the coilovers to mount to the powdercoated interior cage.


Rolling stock is made up of 18/44-15 Super Swamper Boggers mounted on 15x12 MRT wheels with 3 inches of backspacing. The bead-lock rings are Avalanche pieces made from solid aluminum and feature countersunk Allen bolts so they don’t come loose or get broken off. A few nips with the grooving iron made the Boggers a little more grippy.


Even though Garth’s Scrambler had only been on three trail runs when we caught up with him, he already wants to make changes. The rear hydraulic steering has a little bit of a bleeding problem that allows the rear wheels to wander when a tire comes in contact with a trail obstacle. The current power steering pump can’t supply enough pressure and volume for both front and rear steering systems. The plans are to use a separate electric pump for the rear. This will cure the wandering problem. The heavy CJ is currently eating axle U-joints but Avalanche is working on a cure. Some of the things Garth plans to add in the future include a 1,000-watt stereo system, a 3,000-watt AC power inverter, and a second alternator to handle these two items. He also is considering a 502 big-block. Right now the front end is very light and the Jeep tries to rollover backward on steep ledges. Some Michelin 45-inch tires on Trailready 20x8 wheels are also in the works for street duty.

You would think that such a big Jeep would be difficult to maneuver on the trail. But the rear steering makes the long Scrambler turn tighter than most smaller Jeeps. The 44s allow it to roll right over rocks that would stop most Jeeps in their tracks. With the LS1 horsepower on tap we suspect this Jeep would work well in mud and sand too, but for now it hits mostly rock in the Colorado mountains. You can catch video of Garth’s Scrambler in action at the 4X Extreme Video Magazine Web site at

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