25 Classic Jeeps from Moab Easter Jeep Safari
Taking a look back at Flatfender, CJ-5, CJ-6, Willys, Jeep Wrangler, Scrambler, FSJ Pickup, and other off-road classic Jeeps from previous Moab EJS.
The Moab Easter Jeep Safari is a bit of every recreational enthusiast 4x4 activity rolled into one awesome week. You can go off-roading on dozens of world-class 4x4 trails, poke around back roads in search of potential early Jeep projects and yard art, cruise the main drag through town on Highway 191, go hang out at one of the many ice cream or burger joints that become impromptu show-n-shine lots, and gawk at the vendor displays at the Spanish Trail Arena.
In addition to the most cutting-edge, modern Jeep builds and products available, one thing you'll almost always find in Moab during the annual Easter Jeep Safari is classic Jeeps of all kinds. From completely stock flatfenders to Willys wagons and pickups, Forward Control FC150 or FC170s, CJ-5s, CJ-6s, Scramblers, early Wranglers, fullsize Jeeps of all sorts, and pretty much everything in between, it's all there for the spectating. So without Moab 2020 actually happening this year, we figured we'd browse our digital photo archive from the past 17 years of Easter Jeep Safari—sorry, before that we were shooting film—and show you 25 classic Jeeps that we've bumped into during Moab Easter Jeep Safari.
We shot this photo of Olympic 4x4 Products' CJ-5 at Moab EJS 2004 on the Pickle Trail. The early CJ was sporting a V-8 engine, spring-under suspension, clean orange paint, full-floating rear axle, and what looked like 35x12.50R15 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires, though they could be 33s.
Sleeper Jeep CJ-7
When we shot these photos in about 2006, this was a pretty radically built CJ-7. A full 'cage, upgraded axles, linked rear suspension, and custom mounts for the front leaf springs to bump the front axle forward were highlighted alongside things like—we're going from memory here—either 37- or 39-inch BFG tires, beadlocks, and from what we can remember, a V-8 engine. It definitely worked well.
Teraflex Willys M38 Flatfender
We spotted this little sleeper flatty owned by one of the guys from Teraflex parked near the stables at the Spanish Trail Arena on one of the vendor display days. The flattie has shortened Dana axles (44s front and rear by memory), 35x12.50R15 tires with a super low suspension, and a super cool Ramsey Pro Plus 9000 winch that was sold new circa 1998 or so.
1987 Jeep J20
We're cheating a little here with a photo of Jp magazine editor John Cappa's 1987 J20 shot at the entrance to Hell's Revenge trail. Cappa's J-truck build formula back then was to install relatively short suspension lift of about 4 inches and then cut off the steel fender flares to fit 37x12.50R17 tires. The rest of the '87 J20 was pretty much stock from the anemic AMC 360, auto transmission, and T-case, and he subsequently sold that truck to fund the purchase of a smog-exempt '70s J-truck with a manual transmission.
Low-Slung Jeep CJ-7
It doesn't take a crazy build to equal performance. The owner of this CJ-7 was making Potato Salad Hill look easy in his CJ-7 with a short suspension and tube fenders to clear what look like 35x15.0-15 Swampers. The closed-hub front axle tips off that there's a later-model Dana 44 swapped in front, and the daylight between the engine block and radiator point to a V-8. Otherwise, that's about all we can remember from this shot taken back during the 2010(ish) Moab Easter Jeep Safari.
Smurf Blue YJ Wrangler
We 'wheeled with these guys most of the day on Hell's Revenge Trail, but there's a lot of water under the bridge since that day in 2010, so the specifics on this Smurf-blue YJ sort of escape us. The bolt-pattern is stock YJ, so other than a short lift of perhaps 3 inches and some 33x12.50R15 tires, we think this little blue YJ was pretty much stock. Something tells us they purchased this Jeep just before Easter Jeep Safari to go 'wheeling in for the week, and they intended to sell it right after the event. That's a smart plan, and compared with renting a Jeep for the week, one that you might actually make a little money on if you're careful.
Willys Pickup Project
We remember this '50s Willys pickup parked off the side of Highway 191 for a couple years either before or after we shot this photo of it sometime in the mid-late 2000s. The front and rear axles were swapped in from a later model truck: a Dana 44 in the front and a "who-can-remember" in the rear. The flatbed wasn't done too badly, and we're betting with a new set of tires and some fuel this thing probably would've fired up and driven away.
Another super-tidy early Jeep we ran into at the Spanish Trail Arena vendor display parking area was this really nice orange CJ-6. Those Pro Comp XTerrain tires worked really well, especially on beadlocks like this Jeep is running. The front axle was a later-model Dana 30, and the rear was a Dana 44. We remember speaking with the owner during the EJS event after spotting the Jeep and recall it having an injected V-8, but a lot of the other mechanical specs are failing us right now. Super nice Jeep, though, huh?
Jeep Scrambler CJ-8
A group of us were running Poison Spyder Mesa trail back in 2003, and we were hanging out by the little notch at the top of the trail when we heard a group coming up at us. Among the Jeeps in that group was this clean little Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler with a pickup half-cab, wooden bedsides, and a small lift to clear what look like 33x12.50R15s. Yup, those were the days before everybody and their uncle had 17-inch wheels.
A few miles south of Moab on the west side of Highway 191 is (or at least, was) a scrapyard that one year put up an old Willys flatfender on poles out in front of the business. We stopped in to ask—sincerely we might add—if we could buy the flattie, but the owner told us no, it brought in too many people for him to consider getting rid of it. As we remember the story, he or the person he got it from found it in an old wash somewhere in northern Utah and dragged it out. It looked remarkably intact, and we were betting if he got it down for us that we could've had it running by the next day. Oh well.
Again, we're cheating a bit using photos of our own vintage Willys flatfenders, but here's a shot of the Hazel Flattie sitting next to Verne Simons' flattie near the entrance to Hell's Revenge Trail. Just going by the time stamp on the photo properties, this would've been the 2010 Easter Jeep Safari. Christian Hazel's '53 DJ-3A runs a 3.5L DOHC LX5 V-6, SM420, and Dana 300 with Currie 9-inch front and rear axles: a low-pinion front with 5.38s and a Detroit Locker and a TrueHi9 rear with 5.38s and a spool. Verne Simons' 49 CJ-3A runs an even-fire 3.8L Buick V-6 with a Howell EFI, SM420, a Spicer 18 with a Wagoneer Dana 44 rear axle, and a shortened Dodge Dana 44 out of Hazel's old Ramcharger. Verne runs 5.38s and ARB Air Lockers in his axles.
Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler
This image was taken probably around 2010 or so when we had a lot more time at Easter Jeep Safari to just sit around Potato Salad Hill and see who wanted to come try their luck. One of the hill takers was this clean '80s Jeep Scrambler. With big tires, beadlock wheels, what look to be the factory axles, and a simple leaf spring suspension, this Scrambler looks like a nice timeless classic no matter when the photo was taken.
Wicked Linked CJ-7
We think we shot a full feature on this linked, 1-ton-axle CJ-7 when we ran into it on Hell's Revenge Trail at Moab Easter Jeep Safari sometime around 2010 or so. With big 40-inch Maxxis tires, a clean paint job, and solid-looking engineering and fabrication, we can't imagine that we didn't shoot a feature on it.
Mopar FC-170 Mobile Mechanic Detailer
Each year, Jeep unveils a bunch of concept vehicle to the public at the Easter Jeep Safari. One of the requirements in bringing all those show cars is the need to clean them every afternoon and have enough tools and spare parts to keep them running if and when ham-fisted journalists break something. It just so happens that for several years, the maintenance vehicle Jeep was using was this outstanding FC-170 with a fully stocked service bed. In addition to tools, cleaning supplies, and spares kept inside the bed boxes, the vehicle also had a portable pressure washer mounted on a cradle attached to the receiver hitch on the rear bumper. There's nothing quite like a vintage workhorse.
Clean CJ-7 on 1-Tons
We definitely shot a feature on this rig for Jp magazine back around 2005 or so when we ran into it coming off Hell's Revenge Trail. In addition to a shackle reversal, 1-ton axles, and a Chevy V-8 engine, the super clean sheet metal and attention-grabbing orange-with-silver flame paint were the icing on the cake.
5.3L Willys Flatfender
There's a little-known trail that peels off from the access road to Area BFE. This was the first year we remember seeing anybody running it, so when we spotted these three Jeeps, led by a coil-sprung flattie with a swapped-in 5.3L V-8, stretched frame and hood, and 1-ton axles drop in sometime around 2006 or so, we followed. This trail gets really difficult, but these Jeeps were handling it with no problem.
We remember running into this Jeep playing around near Dump Bump, which was still open back in 2004 or 2005 when we spotted this stretched flatfender inspired by our 14-Day Flattie project. Highlights on this MB-grille flatfender included a stretched homemade frame, tub stretched around the door opening and hood, and a full GM V-8 drivetrain with high pinion Ford 9-inch rear and Dana 44 front. The feature ran in Jp magazine sometime in 2005 or 2006, if memory serves correctly.
RamJet 502 CJ-7
We heard this badass CJ-7 coming long before we ever saw it round the corner. If you're never stood near a RamJet 502 crate engine exhaling through Flowmasters, it's a visceral experience. So our interest was already piqued before this upper clean orange CJ on custom axles and coilovers rounded the corner. The owner was kind enough to stop long enough for use to pop several photos for a feature in Jp magazine and then motored on in a plume of 502 exhaust notes.
Warn 8274 Scrambler
Again from the same group of Scramblers, we spotted at the crack atop the Poison Spyder Mesa trail, was this nicely built tan Scrambler. We watched them go by without any issues whatsoever.
Coolest Jeep Ever CJ-7
Not only did we shoot a full feature on Drew Burroughs' CJ-7 for the September '03 cover of Jp magazine, but we got a big-air shot of it that was made into a pretty popular poster. At the time, there really weren't many Jeep builds that had the suspension to hang with real-world prerunners, so Drew's slick coilover suspension with bypass shocks and air bumps that could suck up big-air jumps and huge desert whoops was something special. Hell, it's still one damn cool Jeep even by today's standards.
Full-Hydro CJ-7 on 'Tons
You honestly don't see a lot of builds like this nowadays, but in the early 2000s these "Oklahoma-inspired" Jeep builds were fairly common. With huge ledges to climb, a lot of Oklahoma boys and girls would kick the rear axle as far back as possible and shoot the front axle forward. Simple coil springs with beefy four-link arms, 1-ton axles, and full-hydro steering were other trademarks of these types of rigs, which usually sported 42- or 44-inch Swampers. Even if this particular CJ-7 never set a tire anywhere near Oklahoma, that's what vehicles build like this always make us think of.
High Output 360 ZJ Grand Cherokee
The 1-ton axles under this Grand Cherokee were a necessity because as we recall this ZJ was sporting a heavily warmed up Mopar 360 engine and a built automatic transmission which routed a ton of power down through the axles to the IROK tires.
Junk Fun Willys Flatfender
Nowadays all sorts of people are jumping on the Willys Flatfender bandwagon, but back in 2006, there weren't too many folks building them like this. We ran into the owner of this old CJ-2A at Potato Salad Hill and fell in love with what he built out of an early production Willys CJ. Leaving the ratty, tattered tub as he found it, he swapped in a Pinto 2300cc four-cylinder engine in front of the T-90 transmission, shortened a pair of Wagoneer Dana 44 axles, fabricated a 'cage out of 1.5-inch tubing, and then drove it to Moab Easter Jeep Safari. We hope it's still going strong today!
Super Clean Intermediate CJ-5
We want to say this insanely clean, all original CJ-5 we ran into back in 2004 or so was a 1973 model. The 1972-1975 CJs are known as "Intermediate" Jeeps because their model run came between the '55-'71 "Early" and '76-'86 "Late" models. Blending some elements of each, the Intermediates had a longer wheelbase to fit AMC's inline-six cylinder engine, although this CJ-5 sported an AMC 304-cube V-8. Intermediates also have an open-knuckle Dana 30 front axle and 30-spline flanged Dana 44 rear, Dana 20 T-cases, and a frame-mounted Saginaw steering box. Pound for pound, they're the best-built, most trouble-free CJs Jeep ever built.
Inspired by Christian Hazel's '53 DJ-3A, the owner of this CJ-3A copied many elements of the Hazel Flattie. Although the full-width fullsize axles on this OD green flattie are actually quite a bit wider than the 61-inch WMS-WMS axles Hazel used, the 35x13.50R15 BFG Krawlers, shackle reversal, and relatively low stance are all in line. This Jeep used a 4.3L V-6 engine, either and SM420 or SM 465 transmission (sorry, we can't remember some 15 years later), and a Spicer 18 T-case. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we're flattered.