Jeep Comanche Full of Custom Tricks
One Bad LSMJ
While everyone is clamoring for Jeep to build a pickup, Derek Moore took matters into his own hands and built his own. And proving that any Jeep can be a good Jeep, Derek started with quite possibly the worse Jeep pickup ever made. His 1986 Comanche came with a 2.8L GM 60-degree V-6, a Peugeot BA-10 transmission, and a Dana 35 rear axle. Not exactly parts with a stellar reputation. Derek saw a diamond in the rough, though. Over the years he has made his MJ bulletproof with a V-8 engine, a full-floating Dana 60 rear axle, and more (or should we say Moore?).
Derek tells us that wheeling is in his blood. Years ago his grandfather started the tradition with a CJ-2A. His father, Randy, has an MB with a 289 V-8 in it. Not to be outdone, Derrick stuffed a 5.3L engine in his Comanche. When we shot these photos in Moab the paint was still drying on his Rough Out Performance tube fenders, but that didn’t stop Derek from wheeling his truck hard. That is what it is for, and what he was taught to do from a young age.
Derek built his own from bumper from 1.25x0.095-wall tubing and 1/8-inch plate to maximize approach angle. The bumper holds a Badlands 12,000-pound winch that is recessed into the grille between two 7-inch AGPtek LED lights. Also note the conversion to a 97-newer Cherokee front clip.
Derek and his father, Randy, have been stuffing LS engines into anything they can get their hands on. The Comanche uses a 5.3L engine from a 2001 Silverado and a wiring harness and motor mounts from Novak. The accessory brackets are from lsbrackets.com. The engine breathes through an LS1 intake manifold and a custom exhaust with a Flowmaster muffler.
The vacuum-disconnect Dana 30 is long gone, replaced by a high-pinion Dana 44 out of a Ford F-250. The eight-lug axle is filled with 4.88 Nitro gears behind the Solid Industries diff cover and Nitro chromoly axleshafts with Excalibur U-joints. The front differential is welded for now, but an ARB Air Locker is on the short list of future upgrades. The axle is turned by the factory Saginaw steering box, which has been supplemented by a Surplus Center ram and PSC high-volume pump and reservoir. The tie rod is stock, but a drop pitman arm works in conjunction with a custom draglink that is mounted above the knuckle to minimize the draglink angle.
Derek built his own three-link front suspension nearly a decade ago using links constructed from 2x0.250-wall square tubing capped with bushings. The 38-inch-long links work in conjunction with 6-inch Rusty’s Off-Road coil springs and Fox 2.0 shocks.
Out back the full-floating Dana 60 uses 4.88 Nitro gears around an ARB Air Locker. The drums were swapped for 3/4-ton Chevy front disc brakes for less weight and better stopping power. They work in conjunction with a stock master cylinder that was mated to the factory brake booster.
While the front suspension is the same between the Cherokee and Comanche, the rear is unique. The MJ has a “frame” with a removable bed and uses longer leaf springs than an XJ, but they are under the axle from the factory. Derek relocated the leaf springs above the axle but had to build a custom traction bar to combat axlewrap after removing the overload from the long, soft leaf springs.
Derek cut the bed on his Comanche to maximize the departure angle and then protected the sheetmetal with a custom tubular bumper built from 1.25x0.095-wall tubing.
The sides of the Jeep are protected by 2x0.120-wall box tube sliders with 1x0.095-wall supports that ensure that the doors still open after hard wheeling. With unibody construction, tying rock sliders and bumpers into the chassis is a worthwhile way to stiffen the entire structure.
While fenders like this are common for Wranglers, there is decidedly less aftermarket support for the Comanche. So Derek built his own, and he offers them through his company, Rough Out Performance in Pocatello, Idaho. They are constructed from 1 1/4-inch-diameter tubing and welded it to 1/8-inch plate that is skinned over the factory sheetmetal.
Illumination comes courtesy of a 50-inch XPRite LED light bar above the windshield and two 7-inch AGPTek LED lights mounted on the front bumper. Derek built all of his own brackets to secure the lights.
Ground clearance comes from a set of 37-inch Nitto Mud Grapplers on 17-inch American Racing steel wheels.
1986 Jeep Comanche
Engine: 5.3L V-8
Transmission: 700R4 4-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NP231
Front Axle: Dana 44 with 4.88 gears, Nitro axleshafts, and U-joints
Rear Axle: Dana 60 with 4.88 gears, ARB Air Locker, and disc brakes
Springs & Such: Rusty’s 6-inch lift coils, Fox 2.0 shocks, and custom long arms (front); spring-over conversion, Rusty’s shocks, custom traction bar (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 37x13.5R17 Nitto Mud Grappler on 17x8 American Racing steel
Steering: PSC steering pump and reservoir, Surplus Center hydraulic ram, tapped factory steering box
Lighting: 50-inch XPRite LED light bar
Other Stuff: Custom front bumper, Badlands 10,000-pound winch, Rough Out Performance tube fenders, CFS radiator, Novak motor mounts and wiring harness, Flowmaster muffler, PSC steering pump, Surplus Center steering ram