1948 Jeep CJ-2A Ice Racer
20 Years of Jeep Heritage
It didn't take long for Americans to realize that Jeeps are capable of far more than just travelling over rough terrain. Jeeps win wars. Jeeps plow fields. And Jeeps also give families a chance to enjoy the great outdoors together. For Kent Anderson and his family, the location of choice is Georgetown Lake in Colorado and the time is winter, when the lake is capped with a foot of ice. The Andersons have been ice racing their '48 CJ-2A with the Our Gang 4 Wheelers for the past thirty years.
Back in 1978, Kent Anderson was daily-driving a Ford Bronco and using it at ice races on the weekends. "This forced me to be very conservative," Kent admitted, "because I had to drive the Bronco to work on Monday." To remedy that issue, he bought his '48 CJ-2A for $300. The original frame is still under the Jeep, but it has been repaired and patched numerous times over the years. Under the frame, the 13/4-inch wide factory leaf springs are still under the axles, but they have been lowered 2 inches with blocks to lower the Jeep's center of gravity. The leaf springs are supplemented by Rancho RS9000 shocks and a modified Jeep factory swaybar mounted at the rear.
The use of short tires allowed the Andersons to lower the Jeep without concerns about the tires rubbing the sheetmetal. The family runs 29x12.50-15 Goodyear Terra tires in the Studs Class, and 205/60-15 street tires with 11/2-inch-long sharpened bolts in the Cheater Class. Steering for the Jeep is handled by a Saginaw box from a Z28 Camaro that offers a super-quick two turns from lock-to-lock. A NASCAR-style power steering pump keeps the fluid from cavitating when subjected to the high RPM and numerous turns of ice racing.
The 2A originally ran a 307 small-block Chevy and a T-90 manual transmission, but the drivetrain has been progressively updated over the years. The current engine is a 350 small-block Chevy punched 0.040-over to 358-cubes built by Ridge Reamer in Arvada, Colorado, that puts out close to 500 horsepower. Kent freshens up the bearings every few years, but the main components have been in place for a decade now. A steel crank and forged rods are used with 14.5:1 compression pistons and a roller cam to make for a snappy, high-rpm screamer. The block is topped with Air Flow Research aluminum heads, an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, and a 750 cfm Holley double-pumper. With the high compression ratio, 112-octane race fuel is necessary to keep the engine happy.
Power is routed through a TH350 three-speed automatic transmission with a B&M shift improver kit, upgraded clutches, and a 5,500 rpm stall torque converter that launches the flatfender off the line smack in the middle of the peak torque curve. Believe it or not, the factory Spicer 18 withstands all of that horsepower and is still used in conjunction with a Warn overdrive. The axles are vintage as well, although they are not original. A '71 CJ-5 donated its Power-Loc-equipped offset Dana 44 rear to the 2A after it was upgraded with disc brakes. The front axle is open knuckle Dana 30 from a later narrow-track CJ and has factory disc brakes and 5.38 gears to match the rear.
Body and Interior
The body on the flatfender is fiberglass, but it still retains the original look. No comp-cut corners or dovetailed tub here. Unlike the original rusty tub, the steel hood and grille were able to be salvaged and are still in use. The grille was chromed and the headlights deleted to make room for a larger radiator, but the rest of the Jeep is bathed in orange with custom pinstriping. Inside, a tilt column from a Cadillac accommodates a wide range of driver heights and holds a 5-inch Auto Meter Monster Tach. Additional gauges on the aluminum dash monitor coolant temperature, transmission temperature, oil pressure, and voltage.
Safety gear is abundant, as the Anderson's Jeep's primary purpose is competition. A six-point rollcage ties into the cab mounts and surrounds the occupants, who are held in place by RCI racing buckets and Pyrotect five-point harnesses. On the driver-side door bar of the cage, a toggle switch is tied in to line-locks that have been plumbed in reverse to keep the chosen wheel open (instead of locked) when the switch is activated. The line-locks are plumbed to the two front brakes and allow the Andersons to make incredibly tight turns at speed without having to mess with any levers.
Behind the seats, an aluminum fuel cell provides weight balance and feeds the engine. A rear driveshaft hoop keeps the driver safe should a U-joint let go, while a battery disconnect switch at the rear of the cage allows the Jeep to be shut down quickly in the event of a rollover. Kent's wife Calene once rolled the Jeep years ago, but it didn't seem to cause too much harm to Calene or the flatfender, as they were both back to race the following weekend.
Good, Bad, and What's It For
After years of fine tuning, this flatfender accelerates and handles exceptionally well, particularly for a vehicle that is so simple. Racing the Jeep has also become a way for Kent, Calene, Jason, and Heather to spend time together over the years. Of course much of that time is spent in the tow rig, as the Jeep does not have a top or a heater (beyond what radiates from the headers). Those items would just add unneeded complexity, and a good set of insulated Carhartt coveralls seem to do the trick nicely on windy race days at the lake.
Why I Wrote This Feature
It is a flatfender with a V-8 and spikes sticking out of the tires. What more reason do I need than that? "When it stops being fun, I'll let someone else do it," he told me. I kept secretly hoping he would get tired of the Jeep and let me have it after that, but so far that hasn't happened. -Harry Wagner
Vehicle: '48 CJ-2A
Engine: Chevy 358 V-8
Transmission: Chevy TH350 Automatic
Transfer Case: Spicer 18
Suspension: Leaf springs, 2-inch lowering blocks
Axles: Dana 30 (front), Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: Vary according to class
Tires: Vary according to class
Built For: Ice Racing with Our Gang Club