For those of you who are new to Four Wheeler, the Jeep you see here isn't one of those one-off prototype rigs destined for a big auto show. No, this is our project Teal-J, post-AEV Brute pickup conversion, which we covered in the August and September '07 issues. It all started when a showroom-stock '97 Jeep TJ was purchased by Four Wheeler back in May 1996. At the time, the initiative was a joint effort between Chrysler's top brass and then-Feature Editor Ben Stewart to bolster interest amongst consumers for a vehicle that eventually became a 4x4 benchmark. Without a doubt, our editors, as well as Chrysler executives, never imagined that Teal would reach the near iconic status she enjoys today. And thanks to you, our loyal readers, we're still at it more than 10 years later. Teal-J is all grown up now, and unarguably in her prime as a Brute pickup. As such, she gets more attention than ever before. We're not sure if that's due to a lack of familiarity with AEV's clever Brute kit, or just plain excellence in execution. Whichever the case, we can't take the rig anywhere without being engaged in conversation about her. In this episode, we'll delve into the sweet new paint job and equally impressive bodywork that was completed by DC Customs of Ukiah, California, prior to her grand reintroduction at Easter Jeep Safari '07. Next time we'll tackle our Brute's interior upgrades including some trick creature comforts and a sweet cargo tie-down system. 1. Last time (Sept. '07), we showed you how the Brute conversion kit from AEV enabled us to stretch Teal-J's wheelbase by 36 inches. Once all the framework was complete, the guys at DC Customs started on the extensive bodywork. When it comes to prepping a vehicle for new paint, there are several things that can make or break the results. Highest on the list is a clean working environment. Here you can see Dustin Chernoh masking off a section of Teal's rocker panel. Great care was taken to ensure that overspray didn't get on parts we didn't want painted.1. Last time (Sept. '07), we showed you how the Brute conversion kit from AEV enabled us t 2. At first, we thought these $50 tubes of seam sealer were unnecessary. Dustin, on the other hand, knew better. Seam sealer is a product used by all professional body shops. It fills in the space between body seams, giving a more uniform and consistent appearance. After applying the stuff, Dustin smoothed it off with his index finger. Seam sealer uses two separate chemical parts, similar to an epoxy, and a special mixing gun to combine and apply the gluelike substance. Once applied, it only took about 15 minutes for each seam to cure rock-hard.2. At first, we thought these $50 tubes of seam sealer were unnecessary. Dustin, on the ot 3. Dustin insisted on using genuine PPG paints and chemicals for the project, citing years of experience painting cars with other lesser-quality chemicals as justification. This wasn't exactly good news to our already-blown budget. PPG is a premium brand; as such, it carries with it a premium price, and although PPG products are sought after by those who care about the finish product, our boss wasn't going to like the cool grand we spent on supplies to paint Teal. So we checked around and found a local dealer (Central Paint, also in Ukiah) who had fair pricing and great customer service. The products you see here made up the bulk of what we spent on the paint job. Every chemical has a purpose, and each is equally important, because even the most expensive paint is only as good as the prep work that went into it.3. Dustin insisted on using genuine PPG paints and chemicals for the project, citing years 4. Matching the OE teal color turned out to be a little tougher than expected. It took three tries to find the right balance of pigment.4. Matching the OE teal color turned out to be a little tougher than expected. It took thr 5. Prior to spraying the primer, Dustin spent nearly two hours inside the paint booth wiping down each panel with these special antistatic towels to ensure that dust and other debris were not going to be an issue. Here you can see the initial coat of teal being sprayed.5. Prior to spraying the primer, Dustin spent nearly two hours inside the paint booth wipi 6. Once the front half of the Brute was painted, the crew from DC Customs started working on the back half of the frame. Several hours were spent hand-sanding each and every metal part from the middle of the frame back. This painstaking effort removed all of the light surface rust, years of road grime, and other slight imperfections.After the half-day sanding session, we pushed Teal back into the paint booth so that Dustin could paint the frame semigloss black. As you can see, the results looked awesome.6. Once the front half of the Brute was painted, the crew from DC Customs started working 7. Instead of waiting around to watch Teal's new paint dry, we took the brand-new windshield frame (supplied by Quadratec) to a local glass shop to have a new Speedglass polycarbonate windshield installed. We like Speedglass because it will not shatter into a million pieces during a rollover like conventional OE automotive glass. Instead, Speedglass simply pops out in one piece, leaving little or no clean up. Speedglass is offered by Percy's High Performance and comes in a variety of different applications for many popular vehicles. It's scratch- and chemical-resistant, shatterproof, and 50 to 70 percent lighter than glass, so it actually helps lower your center of gravity at the same time.7. Instead of waiting around to watch Teal's new paint dry, we took the brand-new windshie 8. Next up for paint was the new Brute bed. Out of the box, this bed is a very impressive piece. You can easily tell that AEV spent some time designing this to hold up over the long haul. Additionally we found sweet added touches like provisions to install wooden bed dividers and an integrated cavity to protect the gas filler neck from loose loads. All these, combined with the fact that it was constructed from 14-gauge steel, gave us confidence that this bed was built to last.8. Next up for paint was the new Brute bed. Out of the box, this bed is a very impressive 9. After a day in the paint booth, our new Brute bed was ready for the next phase. Dustin decided it wouldn't hurt to use up the remainder of our seam sealer on the bed's interior prior to being Rhino Lined. He said that this would help the liner adhere to the bed seams and corners. This little detail will also prevent moisture from collecting under the liner later on down the road.9. After a day in the paint booth, our new Brute bed was ready for the next phase. Dustin 10. We hauled the bed across town to Pick-Em Up Truck Store of Ukiah to have an application of Rhino Lining installed. We chose Rhino Linings because, besides being known worldwide as a leader in sprayed-on bedliners, they offer three different product applications, each designed to handle a different task. The TuffGrip product we picked offers excellent nonslip grip that's designed to outlast the vehicle. It likes to be sprayed on thick, has a somewhat softer texture than other products on the market, and it also aids cushion impacts to the steel below. It only took Pick-Em Up one afternoon to finish Teal's new bed, and the sweetest part was, it never even had to be removed from the utility trailer that we used to haul it.10. We hauled the bed across town to Pick-Em Up Truck Store of Ukiah to have an applicatio 11. With the bed painted and lined, it was finally ready to be installed in its new home. We didn't get a chance to weigh it prior to installation, but AEV told us they come in at right around 250 pounds. From our view behind the camera, it seemed a little heavier than that as the guys from DC Customs manhandled it into its new resting place.11. With the bed painted and lined, it was finally ready to be installed in its new home. 12. With the new bed mounted, the project really started to take shape. Seeing the cab and bed together for the first time provided the crew with a whole new sense of accomplishment. We all looked forward to seeing the new hardtop put in place.12. With the new bed mounted, the project really started to take shape. Seeing the cab and 13. While Dustin worked on painting the new hardtop, the rest of the guys spent their time bolting in parts like the new T-Max winch.13. While Dustin worked on painting the new hardtop, the rest of the guys spent their time 14. A longer front driveshaft was necessary because of the stretched wheelbase. The stout unit you see here was supplied by David Rodrigue Drive Line in Ukiah. It features 1350 Spicer U-joints and a CV-joint at the transfer-case end to help eliminate vibrations. The front driveshaft did not require any modifications.14. A longer front driveshaft was necessary because of the stretched wheelbase. The stout 15. The items you see here are part of the natural leak vacuum detection (NLVD) system that was required as part of our 5.7L Hemi engine's emissions-control system. At first, we were worried that they would have to be modified and relocated farther from the gas tank, but as it turned out, a perfect spot presented itself just to the right of the rear winch mount. We didn't even have to change any hoses or wires for the system to work. A couple of holes and two 3/8-inch bolts were all we needed to solve this problem.15. The items you see here are part of the natural leak vacuum detection (NLVD) system tha 16. AEV tells customers to reuse the stock rollcage minus the rear downbars for the Brute conversion. While this offers suitable safety for the average wheeler, it wasn't exactly what we had in mind for Teal. So DC Customs' fab guru Danny Howe went to work building a custom one-off cage to complement the Brute's interior. Howe spent hours getting every bend perfect so that the cage would hug the inside of the new hardtop, thus allowing greater interior space and comfort.16. AEV tells customers to reuse the stock rollcage minus the rear downbars for the Brute 17. We insisted Danny include a V-set of downbars to the front of Teal's cage. We like this arrangement because it adds significant strength to the front of the cage while also giving the cage a trophy-truck-like appearance. The placement of these bars-tubing diameter as well as V-angle-were all factors Danny considered prior to installation. In the end, these two simple tubes really set the cage apart from what we typically see on the trail.17. We insisted Danny include a V-set of downbars to the front of Teal's cage. We like thi 18. Here you can see Dustin working on the frame tie-ins for the front hoop of the cage. M.O.R.E. supplied us with brackets that made this installation a snap.18. Here you can see Dustin working on the frame tie-ins for the front hoop of the cage. M 19. Once the cage was completed, we turned our attention to the exhaust system. Much of our old exhaust system was cobbled together during last-minute wrenching sessions prior to trail rides. The results did not sound or look anything close to what we wanted to see near the new undercarriage. So we called our friends at Magnaflow to get a new muffler, high-flowing catalytic converter, and Y-pipe. The universal high-flowing spun cat you see here is perfect for such applications where you need better performance in tight confines.19. Once the cage was completed, we turned our attention to the exhaust system. Much of ou 20. Dustin introduced us to his local exhaust guy Bob Beeler. Beeler's shop is right around the corner from Dustin's so we simply pushed the rig over and unboxed our new Magnaflow parts. Beeler is one of those guys who really takes pride in the quality of his work. His shop was super clean and organized thoroughly. Once he started working on Teal, we knew we had the right guy on the job. Beeler spent four hours under the rig bending, cutting, and fabricating a 2 1/2-inch exhaust system that we can honestly say looks like a work of art. Every inch of space was used to tuck items like the crossover tube and Y-pipe up out of harm's way.20. Dustin introduced us to his local exhaust guy Bob Beeler. Beeler's shop is right aroun 21. Beeler even made us a custom turndown tailpipe with a three-bolt flange close by. This would enable us to replace the tail section of the system easily if needed. Notice the special attention Beeler took with Teal's new paint. This is the type of service we look for in shops. In the end, Beeler's exhaust system sounded awesome and was completely absent of booger welds and all those pesky little clearance issues we had before.21. Beeler even made us a custom turndown tailpipe with a three-bolt flange close by. This SOURCES American Expedition Vehicles (Aev) www.aev-conversions.com M.O.R.E. Beeler's Muffler Shop Percy's High Performance Speedglass www.percyshp.com Central Paint & Accessories Quadratec 8-00/-745-2348 quadratec.com David Rodrigue Drive Line Rhino Linings www.rhinolinings.com DC Customs 7-07/-463-2227 www.dccustoms.net T-Max Winch www.t-maxwinches.com MagnaFlow Exhaust www.magnaflow.com Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!