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  4. Butch’s 1997 Jeep Wrangler: Amazing Custom Bed, 5.0L V-8, 112-Inch Wheelbase, 1-Ton Axles, and More

Butch’s 1997 Jeep Wrangler: Amazing Custom Bed, 5.0L V-8, 112-Inch Wheelbase, 1-Ton Axles, and More

Inspired by the Jeep Gladiator, Butch Kemp created this amazing Jeep.

Brian SheltonWords and Photos

Butch Kemp's 1997 Jeep Wrangler stopped us in our tracks at the 39th Annual O'Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals in Indianapolis. This stunning Jeep TJ Wrangler is not only a looker, it's built for the trail.

Why Is This Jeep Wrangler Cool?

  • V-8 power
  • 1-ton axles
  • Dual winches
  • 112-inch wheelbase
  • Gobs of functional custom fabrication

Inspired by the Jeep Gladiator

Butch was inspired by the release of Jeep Gladiator pickup. He wanted his version of the Jeep truck to serve double duty, both as a capable off-road vehicle and also as an around-town rig. To accomplish his goals, Butch swapped in V-8 power, a proven transmission, legendary T-case, flexy suspension, and 1-ton axles, among other things. And to top it off is a multifunctional custom bed.

Power & Reliability

The 1997 Jeep Wrangler is powered by a Ford 5.0L V-8 pirated from a late-model Explorer. The V-8 is mated to a beefy Ford C6 three-speed automatic transmission. Power is routed to the front and rear axles via a stout NP205 transfer case. The engine's fuel system consists of a super simple Edelbrock 600cfm carburetor. Butch had originally planned on installing an aftermarket fuel injection system but ultimately opted for the simplicity of a carburetor.

Warn 8274 Leading the Way

The 1997 Jeep Wrangler's custom front bumper/winch mount is undeniably a work of art, and the Warn 8274 winch bolted to it gets plenty of use, both on the trail and around Butch's property. The front suspension is a four-link setup with F-O-A coilover remote-reservoir shocks. A Currie Antirock sway bar is used to help keep the Jeep stable on-road while allowing for maximum flex on the trail. The front axle is a Dana 60 procured from a Ford F-350 Super Duty, and it has 4.10 gears. The custom suspension and numerous body mods mean there's plenty of room for the meaty 37x12.50R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires on factory Hummer H2 aluminum wheels.

Custom Multifunctional Bed

The custom bed on the 1997 Jeep Wrangler is an amazing, multifunctional, impressive design. It's integrated into the Wrangler's custom rear frame that Butch built for the rig. He used square tubing from the cab rearward that was joined to the factory Jeep frame to stretch the wheelbase to 112 inches while also providing a solid foundation for the custom bed. Some of the bed's features include an easy-access spare tire carrier, winch mount for the rear-mount winch, and LED lighting, among other things. Like the front, the rear suspension is a four-link setup with F-O-A remote-reservoir coilover shocks and a Currie Antirock sway bar. The rear axle is a Sterling 10.5, formerly under a Ford Super Duty, and it has 4.10 gears. For now, the axle has an open differential, but Butch has plans to install some type of traction aid in the future. He has no plans to regear the axles because he's pleased with how the current gear ratio works combined with the V-8 engine, C6 transmission, and 37-inch tires.

At A Glance

Vehicle: 1997 Jeep Wrangler
Owner: Butch Kemp

Drivetrain

Engine: Ford 5.0L V-8
Transmission: Ford C6
Transfer case: NP205
Front axle/differential: Ford Dana 60, 4.10 gears/open
Rear axle/differential: Ford 10.5, 4.10 gears/open

Suspension

Front: Four-link, F-O-A remote-reservoir coilovers, Currie Antirock swaybar
Rear: Four-link, F-O-A remote-reservoir coilovers, Currie Antirock swaybar

Tires/Wheels

Tires: 37x12.50R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R
Wheels: 17-in stock Hummer H2

Miscellaneous

Armor: Yes, lots
Cool Stuff: Dual winches, custom bed, custom soft top

Want to See More 4x4s From the 39th Annual O'Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals?

See more cool 4x4s from the 2020 Fall 4-Wheel Jamboree here.