Imported Norwegian Jeeps Cruise Moab, the Rubicon, and More
Jeeping the USA, Norwegian Style
There are many different levels of Jeep dedication, from the guys that restore old flatfenders to those that build hardcore rockcrawlers with only a Jeep grille, and everything in between. There's no question that the United States is full of Jeep enthusiasts, but almost none of us have the level of dedication to partially disassemble six Jeeps, stuff them in a single container, and ship them across the ocean to another country. But a couple of years ago a group of crazy guys from Norway did just that with five CJ-7s and a YJ. They called it The Impossible Jeep Tour (TIJT), and they have the distinction of being among the few Norwegians that have 'wheeled the Rubicon, Moab, in Jeeps they built at home.
We caught up with a couple members of TIJT in Moab during the Easter Jeep Safari. What first attracted our attention were the mild but well-built CJ-7s having no trouble keeping up with the JKs on 40s on several red rock trails. Then we noticed that these Jeeps had funny-looking license plates, and their occupants had funny-sounding accents. After striking up a conversation with one of them, we were amazed to hear that there were a total of six Norwegian Jeeps running around Moab, and that they'd been traveling all over the Southwest for nearly a year. Easter Jeep was actually the tail end of their voyage, and after the Jeep Safari they would be making their way back to California, where the Jeeps would be loaded in a container and shipped back to Norway before each vehicle's one-year visa was up. They had quite a few stories to tell about their impossible Jeep trip to the U.S, and we were happy to hear it.
It all started when a few members of the group flew over to experience the Rubicon with some friends in some flatfenders. They had such a good time that a plan was hatched to do the Rubicon again, but this time with their own Jeeps. After quite a bit of discussion and planning, the group purchased a shipping container and got to work. They built a second floor in the container out of heat-treated lumber (required because of the international shipping) to make enough room for all six Jeeps. The rollcages of each Jeep were modified so they could be broken down and stored in the tubs, and the tires were removed so that the Jeeps could be rolled into the container on bare wheels. All of their tools, camping gear, and other equipment were shoehorned into the container, which was then trucked to the port of Oslo for the long boat ride to Northern California. After clearing customs, the container was trucked to some friends in Santa Rosa, where the Jeeps were re-assembled after the owners flew over from Norway. Most of the group simply purchased new tires here in the states rather than ship them over. Once re-assembled they embarked on a grand adventure where they would visit everything from junkyards to hot rod shops, not to mention doing some epic four-wheeling all over the Southwest.
They started with an obligatory trip over the Golden Gate Bridge and down Lombard Street in San Francisco. Other early stops included a tour of Brizio's hot rod shop and an Ultra 4 race before the making their way over the Rubicon during the Jeeper's Jamboree. Following the Rubicon, the group continued their whirlwind tour that included visiting Bonneville and various other point in Nevada and Idaho before the storing the Jeeps with some friends and returning home. The group returned in mid-March the next year and continued wandering around the Southwest, visiting Las Vegas and a few other places before converging on Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari. From there, they toured through Monument Valley and Arizona and San Diego before heading North to Cotati and their shipping container for the long trip home. One heck of a trip by any measure, but surely a bucket-list happening for these dedicated Norwegian Jeep enthusiasts.
Check out the photos to see how they managed to ship six Jeeps from Oslo to San Francisco, and then we'll take a closer look at how each of five Norwegian CJ-7s (four of which are 1986 models) and the lone YJ were built.
The Solo YJ: 1994 Jeep YJ
Tor Klovstad was our primary contact for information and seemed to be the unofficial ringleader of the bunch, coordinating much of the logistics behind the monumental task of shipping six Jeeps to the United States from Norway. He also has the distinction of bringing the only YJ on the trip, and an understated one at that. Don't let the mild appearance fool you, however, as Tor was able to tackle both the Rubicon and Moab with very few issues. The tried and true 4.0L under the hood is original but has been breathed on mildly with some larger injectors and tuning. The front axle was borrowed from a later model XJ to gain larger axle joints, while the rear 8.8 is apparently just as popular a swap in Norway as it is in the United States. Keep in mind the vehicle modification laws are much more restrictive in Norway than they are here, which is why Tor's and the other builds might seem to be on the mild end of the spectrum. The Jeep boasts a number of homebrew modifications, from the bumpers to the tummy tuck and rock sliders. It's also well equipped for extended off-road travel thanks to things like on-board air, full skid plates, and more.
1994 Jeep YJ
Owner: Tor Klovstad
Transfer Case: NP231 with SYE kit
Front Axle: Reverse-cut Dana 30, 3.73 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Ford 8.8, 3.73 gears, ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Old Man Emu 2.5-inch springs w/ U-bolt flip
Tires & Wheels: 33x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/As
Other Stuff: Larger injectors, custom tuning, On-board air, Tom Woods driveshafts, Warn gas tank slid plate, home built bumpers, high-clearance-crossmember / skid plate, rock sliders, and rollcage
Ramjet CJ: 1980 Jeep CJ-7
Apparently Chevy engines and classic Jeeps are just as popular in Norway as they are in the states, and Per's CJ looks right at home in the U.S. thanks in part to plenty of American equipment on board. The Ramjet 350 under the hood makes plenty of power to get the Jeep moving, and it's backed by a Turbo 350 and a Dana 300 filled with a LoMax 4:1 kit. He ditched the factory narrow-track axles in favor of a pair of Dana 44s. The front is a Dodge housing narrowed nine centimeters and filled with a mix of Dodge and Chevy components, while the rear is a matching Dana 44 narrowed 5 centimeters with Moser axles. The Dana 44s survive just fine behind Chevy power thanks to the 35-inch BFGs and judicious driving. Per is proud of the fact that he has built the Jeep entirely on his own, including plenty of homegrown modifications. The Jeep rides on 4.5-inch Rubicon Express YJ springs with a shackle reversal.
1980 Jeep CJ-7
Owner: Per Lysakerrud
Engine: Chevy Ramjet 350
Transfer Case: Dana 300 with LoMax 4:1
Front Axle: Dana 44, 4.10 gears, ARB air locker
Rear Axle: Dana 44, 4.10 gears, Detroit Locker
Springs & Such: 4.5-inch Rubicon Express springs
Tires & Wheels: 35x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2, 15x9 Poison Spyder beadlocks
Other Stuff: Front axle was narrows and uses a mic of Scout and Dodge components, wheelbase stretched 3 inches, front and rear CV driveshafts, homebuilt modifications too numerous to list.
The Mechanic: 1986 Jeep CJ-7
Erik Arntzen took a somewhat unusual approach to improving the power of his CJ-7. Instead of a small-block Chevy or Ford, he stuck with Mopar genes and has a 5.7L Hemi engine breathing under the hood of his CJ-7. One of four 1986 CJ-7s to make the trip across the pond, Ivan's Jeep packs some serious equipment aside from the engine. Behind the engine is a 545RFE tranny and Dana 300 with a LoMax 4:1 kit. A pair of Dana 44s sit at both ends filled with 4.10 gears and ARB Air Lockers, the front one being a shortened axle from a Scout. Fairly standard Rubicon Express 4.5-inch springs provide the necessary lift for 33-inch BFGs. We suspect that Ivan would have something a bit more fancy for suspension if he weren't hampered by the restrictive Norwegian laws. We were told that Erik is the Macgyver of the group and the go-to fix-it guy when things go sideways, and the Jeep is a mobile repair shop. The slick hand-made aluminum tonneau cover protects a bed full of tools, while there's both on-board air and a vise that can be deployed when necessary. He wasn't afraid the put the Jeep in harm's way, as we witnessed several times when we 'wheeled with him on Kane Creek.
1986 Jeep CJ-7
Owner: Erik Arntzen
Engine: 5.7L Hemi
Transfer Case: Dana 300 w/ LoMax 4:1
Front Axle: Scout Dana 44, 4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dana 44, 4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: 4.5-inch Rubicon Express springs, Old man Emu shocks
Tires & Wheels: 33x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/As, Pro Comp wheels
Other Stuff: Homemade bumpers, skidplate, rollcage, transfer case clocking rig, on board air, aluminum diamond plate cover, and more. Moser axleshafts front and rear, CTM axle joints, Warn winch, ARB fridge
LS CJ: 1986 Jeep CJ-7
We'd like to review the production and destination numbers for 1986 CJ-7s, because apparently AMC sold a remarkable number of '86 CJs in Norway. Ivan's green '86 also has the distinction of being one of two CJs among the Norwegians powered by a 6.0L- LQ4. There's a lot of wisdom running what your buddies do, as you can share spare parts. Unlike the other 6.0L Jeep, this one is backed by an NV4500 and a Dana 300, both of which send power to a pair of Dynatrac Dana 44s filled with 4.10 gears and ARB Air Lockers. We dig the home-built aluminum tonneau cover along with the home-built rock sliders. Ivan has the main body of a Hi-Lift mounted on one side and a giant aluminum pry bar on the other. He uses the pry bar to pry the Jeep off of obstacles when necessary, and we're told it often comes in handy on the trail.
1986 Jeep CJ-7
Owner: Ivan Hugo Arntzen
Engine: 6.0L LQ4
Transfer Case: Dana 300 with LoMax 3:1
Front Axle: ProRock 44, 4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: ProRock 44, 4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: 4.5-inch Rubicon Express Springs with U-bolt flip
Tires & Wheels: 33x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A tires
Other Stuff: Lots of homebuilt components, includes the front and rear bumpers, aluminum rear dust cover, skid plate, and rollcage
Bronze CJ: 1986 Jeep CJ-7
Continuing the statistical anomaly of Norwegian 1986 CJ-7s is Finn Evensen's beautiful bronze example, which he says is a factory color for a Volvo C70. We think the color looks much better on a classic CJ than it ever did on a boxy Volvo. The beauty is more than skin deep, as Ivan's Jeep is powered by a small-block Chevy backed by a TH700-R4 and (of course) a Dana 300. This Jeep is largely unmolested, sporting the original Dana 30 and Dana 44 axles (yep, a stock CJ-7 Dana 44) and a mild 2.5-inch Old Man Emu lift. Finn did play with the spring mounts a bit in order to do a shackle reversal, stretch the wheelbase a total of three inches, and provide a total lift of four inches with the OME springs. All of this trickery was done to keep the Jeep under the radar with Norwegian authorities. The lift makes ample room for the 33-inch BFGs, and Finn was the only one among the group to opt for a full soft top. It was an unseasonably mild Moab, but most years the full top would have come in quite handy.
1986 Jeep CJ-7
Owner: Finn Evensen
Engine: Chevy 350
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Front Axle: Dana 30
Rear Axle: Dana 44
Springs & Such: Front shackle reversal, 2.5-inch Old Man Emu YJ Springs and shocks
Tires & Wheels: 33x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/As. 15x10 alloy wheels
Other Stuff: Shackle reversal moved the front axle 2 inches forward and new spring brackets for a total of 4-inch lift (to remain legal in Norway), homemade bumpers, 1-inch Daystar body lift
Junk in the Trunk: 1986 Jeep CJ-7
Sporting one of the very few names among the group that an American has a chance of pronouncing without butchering it, Roy's '86 CJ-7 differs from the others in that it has a third seat. But that seat left storage space at a premium, so Roy took the idea of a Rubicon rack one step further by mounting a truck box up high and behind the tailgate. We kinda dig the look and admire the resourcefulness. The Jeep is powered by a 6.0L LQ4 backed by a 4L60E and a Dana 300 with a Tera 4:1 kit. A set of Rubicon Express springs clears the way for a set of 33s, but unlike the others, Roy opted to make his own beadlocks from a set of steel wheels. We're curious if the wheels are frowned upon by the same authorities that apparently scrutinize suspension modifications? At any rate, the Jeep sports a high-clearance belly pan and a pair of Dana 44s filled with 4.10s and ARBs. Like all of the other Jeeps, Roy's rollcage utilized interlocking tube clamps that allowed the cage to be disassembled for container transport. The simple combination served Roy well during his American Southwest tour, as it should have with all of the American hardware on board.
1986 Jeep CJ-7
Owner: Roy Hovden
Engine: 6.0L LQ4
Transfer Case: Dana 300 w/ 4:1
Front Axle: Dana 44, 4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dana 44, 4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: 4.5" Rubicon Express springs
Tires & Wheels: 33x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2, homemade beadlock wheels
Other Stuff: chromoly shafts, auxiliary storage box, clocked transfer case, full rollcage