Normally when we build a vehicle for the Ultimate Adventure we dive right into the mix with a swoopy artist’s rendering and a budget rivalling that of a small island nation. Then a fab shop gets to work spinning wrenches and laying weld bead while the clock ominously ticks down to event time. But this year we are doing it a little different. The clock is definitely ticking, but we are trying (more or less) to keep an eye on the bottom line. We are not building this on a shoestring budget, but we are keeping mindful of the final build price. Ideally the cost will be close to how much one of them there fancy-pants JKs you see on the trail costs—but ours will be a whole lot cooler. Part of that is spinning wrenches ourselves in Senior Editor Verne Simons’ home shop. And there won’t be any super-custom parts. Whenever possible we are planning to use bolt-on components that are easily available through the aftermarket. We are calling it the UA CJ-6D: UA for Ultimate Adventure (obviously), CJ-6 cuz it’s a former Border Patrol CJ-6, and D for diesel. Booyah!
“Wait, you said diesel, right?” Yup! We have shared our buildup intentions in Facebook Live videos (facebook.com/4wheeloffroad) and Instagram posts (@4wheeloffroad), but in a nutshell we are going to take a JK Unlimited chassis that Simons wound up with through luck and happenstance and install under it a Skyjacker Curt LeDuc coilover suspension and a pair of Dana Ultimate 60 crate axles. Sure, we’d love to keep the stock CJ-6 frame and Rockwell axles the rig currently sits atop. But the 6.72:1 gearing won’t play nice with the rpm range of the 2.8L Cummins crate engine we’ll be using unless we run dual overdrives. And not only would the CJ-6 frame require extensive crack repairs and full boxing and reinforcement to survive the Ultimate Adventure, but it’s just not wide enough to squeeze the burly Offroad Design Magnum Box transfer case assembly we are going to be running.
The rest of the parts and pieces will fall into place hopefully rather quickly after we get the rolling chassis assembled by next installment. Simons’ brand new shop doesn’t have the electricity hooked up yet, so in order to get this build under way we borrowed a Miller Bobcat 250 welder/generator system from our friends at Miller Electric.
So that’s a bit of the backstory and build plan. We will be utilizing as much UA2017 sponsor product as possible on this sucker. First up is the 3 1/2-inch Curt LeDuc Series Coilover System from Skyjacker, Official Suspension & Shock Absorber of UA2017. Check back next time to follow the progress.
Roughly six years ago I found this former Border Patrol 1971 CJ-6 for sale online and quickly bought it the second my wife went out of town for the weekend. The Jeep hadn’t been used in 10 years other than as dry storage for Black Widow spiders, field mice, and raccoons. The ’cage will stay. The seats need a good disinfecting, but they may stick around as well.
Shortly after dragging it home, I changed the oil sludge, primed the engine, futzed a bit with the ignition components, and got the factory Buick 225 V-6 to fire. The cool old Warn 6000 winch dates between the Belleview era and Warn’s 8274. It is now in Verne Simons’ hands for use on his 1970 Smithsonian field vehicle Suburban, Dino. We will be running a brand new Warn 8274-50 winch on the UACJ-6D for the 2017 Ultimate Adventure.
When I was still the editor of Jp magazine I got the stupid idea to enter the CJ-6 in the Top Truck Challenge event of our sister publication Four Wheeler. I scored a pair of Rockwell axles, begged some shop space from the 4Wheel Parts in Temecula, California, and yanked the factory Dana 27 front and Dana 44 rear axles.
Since my TTC plan was to run the vehicle as stock as possible other than the Rockwells, I used RuffStuff Specialties Rockwell Simple Swap Kit (PN ROC-SS), which includes axle spring perches, U-bolts, U-bolt plates, and hardware. Each kit is enough to do one axle. With the offset mounting hole options, the axle was able to clear the oil pan, but the rear under-mounted fuel tank had to go.
This is admittedly absurdly cool. I really wanted to get this rig running with this double dualie setup, but in reality it’s not feasible for the on-road driving we encounter on UA. That said, Simons is now the proprietor of these axles and we are already planning a big, dumb mud truck build with them. Stay tuned! You’ll like it.
With the Rockwells installed, I used my 1973 J4000 tow rig to drag the CJ-6 back home, where it languished in my RV parking space for roughly the next five years with a few exceptions, like when it went on display at the Pomona Off-Road Expo.
Sometime after becoming editor of Four Wheeler magazine I decided to once again resurrect the CJ-6 project. Since the factory fuel system was fubar, I nabbed a 22-gallon Boyd Welding fuel tank left over from another project and built a working fuel system with components from Summit Racing Equipment. Since the Cummins 2.8L crate engine won’t require a lift pump, we will remove the Summit pump but will retain the 22-gallon tank and fuel lines. With the economical diesel we should be looking at long ranges between fill-ups.
With the fuel system built, I turned my attention to rebuilding the Warn 6000 winch and was prepping to install a PSC full-hydraulic steering system when I got the call to come back home to 4-Wheel & Off-Road. So this is pretty much where the old Jp and Four Wheeler projects leave off and the UACJ-6D picks up.
Once the game plan was in place to build this vehicle for UA2017, we had to get it from my Jeep storage facility in San Diego (my house) to the 40x40-foot shop that Simons’ wife got him for Christmas. Or, at least, we assume that’s where awesome home shops come from. But the stupid Jeep had been sitting on my trailer so long it had flat-spotted the bearings and the tires had dry-rotted. Always store your trailers unloaded, kids. Four sets of bearings and four new trailer tires later, it was ready to roll.
I spent a couple days rifling my storage shed and completely filling the interior up to the windows of the Meyers hardtop either with parts we will use on this project or stuff that Simons will soon make use of in future 4WOR builds. In order to pry the JKU chassis from Simons’ death grip, I promised him pretty much everything from the CJ-6’s sheetmetal down. Don’t worry, though, every bit of it will get used—kind of like when you butcher a cow and use everting from the lips for beef jerky filler to the hooves in Jell-O. We like the orange flavor best.
We did some Facebook Live videos of the UACJ-6D coming off the trailer after its arrival at Simons’. It is now snugged safely next to the JKU frame it will soon be sitting atop. Notice Simons’ insane Wicked Willys buildup.
By the time you read this we should have several hours logged on the Kohler gas engine of the Miller Bobcat 250 Welder/Generator that is going to power the fabrication and buildup of this project. Check back next time to see the chassis begin to take shape with a Skyjacker Curt LeDuc suspension system.