1978 J-10 Gladiator Built for Hardcore Trails

    Doomsday Gladiator

    Trenton McGeeWriterTrenton McGeePhotographer

    If the big bomb gets dropped, the zombie thing happens, or that solar flare wipes out all the computers, we’re pretty sure Samuel MacIntyre’s 1978 J-10 would be the perfect vehicle for escaping the pandemonium of the cities and heading to the hills. But it turns out that’s not what Samuel had in mind when he built the truck. His goal was to create and anvil-simple, functional fullsize truck with all the trimmings to make it right at home on just about any hardcore trail. The fact that it also makes a good bugout truck is just a bonus.

    We spied Samuel’s creation at Area BFE during Easter Jeep Safari and had to get a closer look. The more we looked, the more we liked. Right off the bat we noticed the classic Gladiator grille, the exo-cage, and the bobbed bed. We’re not normally a fan of exo-cages but this one is unobtrusive and very well done, tying into the cowl and melding into a traditional bed bar rather than making awkward runs along the fenders on the way to the bumpers. Having the exo-cage not only protects the cab, but it also leaves plenty of room inside and avoids the inevitable down-bar trip hazards that are typical of an internal cage. The custom-made body armor looks like it could have been a factory offering, with breaks that match the original body lines and therefore disappear into it.

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    The J-10 was originally a long-bed truck, but Samuel chopped 14 inches out of the front of the bed and then bobbed another 14 inches out back, moving the rear axle to match the new location of the wheelwell opening. Some additional armor was added to the rear corners of the bed to add strength as well as hide the cut lines, but somehow all the added armor fits right in with the blue patina that is “a combination of 1978 Jeep, rust, and an unidentifiable blue that was applied by some guy in the early 1990s.”

    The drivetrain of this truck is all business and borrowed heavily from Chevy donors. The Dana 60 front and 14-bolt rear axle were sourced from a military CUCV. Both are filled with 4.56 gears as well as Spartan and Grizzly lockers respectively. The front axleshafts are 35-spline chromoly units from Yukon that spin Hardcore locking hubs. Upstream is a homebrew NP241/NP205 double T-case setup for a variety of crawl gear choices along with an NV4500 transmission. Samuel initially put the truck together with an SM465 but upgraded to the five-speed “when the adapted flywheel decided it didn’t want to be in the truck anymore.”

    The whole combination is hooked together with a variety of Advance Adapters goodies. Motivation comes from a 4.8L engine from a 2004 Chevy truck that runs thanks to a cut-down factory fuel injection harness and a custom tune. The 4.8L got the nod because it was cheap compared to other LS options while offering the same hammerlike reliability as the larger versions.

    Samuel’s goal with the build was to create something out of the ordinary that was still capable in a variety of conditions. Asked if he would change anything, he mentioned that he wished it was lighter and that he’s contemplating a dovetail, a dove nose, and boat sides (we told him not to do any of that).

    As it stands, the J-10 had no problem swallowing up the huge ledges at BFE during our brief time there, and the truck has been all over its home state of Colorado as well as several spots on the East Coast. Samuel may not have set out to build a doomsday truck, but we’d bet money it would fit the bill if the day ever comes.

    Tech Specs

    1978 Jeep J-10
    Engine: Chevy 4.8L LS
    Transmission: NV4500
    Transfer Case: NP241/205
    Front Axle: Dana 60, 4.56 gears, Spartan Locker
    Rear Axle: 14-Bolt, 4.56 gears, Grizzly Locker
    Springs & Such: 3-link front, custom rear leaves
    Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50-17 Toyo Open Country M/T on 17x9 Raceline Monster beadlock wheels
    Steering: Custom hydro assist
    Lighting: Stock
    Other Stuff: Chopped and bobbed bed; fully boxed frame; custom body armor, bumpers, exo-cage, and rock sliders; RCI fuel cell; Recaro seats